What It Is (posts below left; rate sheet, client list, other stuff below right)

My name is Bob Land. I am a full-time freelance editor, indexer, and proofreader. This blog is my website.

You'll find my rate sheet and client list here, as well as musings on the life of a freelancer; editing, proofreading, and indexing concerns and issues; my ongoing battles with books and production; and the occasional personal revelation.

Feel free to contact me directly with additional questions: landondemand@gmail.com.

Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Staying Out of the Author's Way . . . and My Own

A few years ago, I got over the idea that every manuscript I was paid to read needed to sound like I wrote it. That's a good thing, because my writing style was largely stifled after 10 years of editing and composing self-study insurance textbooks.

A fellow editor brought to my attention that I need not feel obligated to alter the beginning of every sentence that starts out "It is," "There is," and so on. Certainly not every sentence should start out that way, but the occasional one is not too troublesome, especially if the end result is more tortuous than how it started out. And this editor had a vested interest in the matter, because as the typesetter who was inputting my changes, I was creating a lot of unnecessary work for him.

Then there's the case of the press that often tells me, "Don't change too much of the author's writing. We know the author writes in a lot of passive tense, but ignore it. He'll just change it back the way he wrote it originally, and besides, most of his audience writes the same way he does, so it's OK by them." Ironically, I receive this instruction on books of literary criticism, from English professors who should know better.

The way I look at it, being sent a job and told not to edit it is like being a farmer and being paid not to plant. If you're still going to pay me the same amount, and I have a choice of producing 100 widgets or 10, what should I choose? What would you choose?

Not all publishers approach books and editing this way. I certainly have some that say, "Change everything you want, and if you have to rewrite, feel free to do so." As a copyeditor, I have contacted publishers to say that a book was uneditable, and that all I could do was rewrite. They were more than happy to have me do so. I don't know how the author reacted, but it's the publisher's book too. The product must reflect their desire for quality (we hope) as much as the author's.

So, am I a better editor now than I was 5 or 10 years ago because I'm letting more of the author come through in the work? I guess it depends on the author. What's important is that I'm flexible enough to realize that each project (author, publisher, etc.) requires a different level of attention.

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