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.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

RANT, not publishing related

A few days ago, some jagoff opened fire in a mall in Omaha. Killed eight people, then himself. Don't you wish these idiots would just reverse the order? Would save a lot of headache.

Anyway, the inevitable headline today is: Omaha Mall Reopens With Extra Security.

My favorite phrase of recent times is "Closing the barn door after the horse has gotten out."

Now extra security is needed? We're gonna have a rash of copycat psychokillers at that particular mall? Wasn't the time for extra security beforehand? And would it have helped? (No, no, undoubtedly, unlikely)

A few years ago, some dolt had some stuff in his shoes that could maybe have made a bomb, if he knew what he was doing. Now every traveler in America should wear bedroom slippers to the airport to make security go quicker. And someone had some bad liquids on a plane, so let's make it so you can only carry three ounces of something on a plane. (There's no doubt that even 3 ounces of the proper substance could create a whole lot of hell. I remember what a friend of mine said could be done with a small amount of magnesium.) A radio talk show host pointed out that you can file down a credit card edge to be as sharp as any box cutter. You going to ban credit cards in airports? Oh, hell no. Can't do that. Hmm. Wonder why.

"Reopens with extra security." Give me a break.

APA-style author indexes: The forecast calls for pain

New task, bad move.

I’ve spent much of the last few days battling an APA-style author index. Allow me to explain.

I’ve referred elsewhere to the Chicago Manual of Style, one of the style books that guides what people like me do for a living. It’s designed generally for people working in the humanities. Other style manuals, all of which I’ve used, are from the Associated Press (the formerly called AP Style Book and Libel Manual [I love that title]), the Society of Biblical Literature (great for classical works, not just scripture), the MLA (mostly for literary criticism), and the American Psychological Association (mostly for social sciences). Individual publishers also have their own style manuals. I have one for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series which looks just like a Chicken Soup book. Shows what you can do when you have the printing press in your basement, as this particular publisher does.

This wonderful new client of mine, who essentially created the paradigm under which I now work (see earlier post), wants me to do an author index for a APA-styled book. OK, no biggie. I’ve done indexes for books that seemed to be in foreign languages (see earlier posts), I’ve done extensive scriptural and classical work indexes (pains in the butt on a major scale), I’ve done proper name indexes. What’s the problem?

The problems (note the plural) are that you’re not just identifying individual authors, but you also have to identify them by their initials. So, you might have 10 different Smiths. You might only have one McKinney, for example, but because of the individual chapter authors’ styles, he might be X. McKinney in one place and X. S. McKinney somewhere else, and those have to be kept different, because X. and X. S. might not actually be the same person (could be father and son, for example), so being precise is important.

Which brings up another problem. What if the only thing different is the authors’ styles from one chapter to the next in a multiauthor book? What if one only cited one initial, and the other cited two? Do you merge the listings? And if you do, at what point do you stop second-guessing the author and copyeditor? Best answer is, you don't second-guess them at all.

Problem 3: et freaking al. OK, so you have a listing of Smith et al. in the text. All the names aren’t listed, so you have to go to the list of references at end of chapter or book, which means twice the work. This book includes some listings in the references that read Smith, Jones, Brown, Black, Johnson, Grillo, McCarthy, Weinstein, Lee, Li, Garrity et al. That’s not an indexing problem, as much as a commonsense issue. If you’ve listed 11 names before the et al, you gotta wonder: how many people are needed to screw in a lightbulb?

The only other client that follows APA for whom I’ve done indexes had an interesting approach: only cite them in the index if their full name was mentioned in the chapter, which happens rarely in most APA books, because they use an author-date citation style (Land, 2007). So there are not many opportunities to use a full name, unless it’s, I guess, the author’s friend.

Already I’ve gone through three possibilities of how to build this author index, which have involved PDF searches building from the references list, keying in the names of the researchers as I’m going along, having my wife read the names to me . . . . 40-something hours later I am left with an 18-page, 10-point, two-column list that seemingly has more questions than answers, mostly revolving around initials. I’ve probably got about 6 hours of dicking around with that document until I get it right. Oh, and now I'm writing the subject index, too.

Then, at about 5 this morning, the solution hits me for the authors. Key in the references exactly as they appear in the chapters: name, year, everything. Alphabetize/sort at end of each chapter. Compare this list with the end-of-chapter references, adding initials and deleting years. Then also, the et als will be right where I need them. Then re-sort. I did this for about five pages of a chapter just as a test. Works beautifully. Looks wonderful. I am considering going back and scrapping the previous three days of work and rebuilding the index this way. I might not tell my wife, though, as I don’t want her thinking her efforts were wasted. But I guess in the long run they weren’t, as it took a bit of trial and error to get to the proper solution. And I need to remember that that’s the way it was when I started indexing about 10 years ago. I didn’t have all the tricks I do now, so there was a learning curve.

Irony: The book on which all this is happening deals with growth following trauma. Life imitates art.

Back to work.

Friday, December 7, 2007

India: the rant rising

Around our house, we have a name for customer service people from India who we end up talking with on the phone: Priscilla. If I tell my wife or sons that I had a long talk with Priscilla today, they know exactly who I'm referring to. In the past it's usually been representatives of CompuServe or Delta Air Lines. And it's always frustrating.

These people are taught how to interact with Americans . . . sort of. They are fed some warm and fuzzy catchphrases that if you're lucky will jibe with the time of the day you have called them. They are coached in losing their delightful accents, and sorry to say, they probably have to stuff a good bit of their IQs to deal with the folks who call. But some things still just don't get across.

Mostly with me it deals with my name: Bob. Not a hard one. Pronounced almost universally through the contiguous United States as "Bahb." When I’m speaking to Priscilla or her boyfriend, usually it comes back to me as “Bawp.” Kind of like the Ramones when they’re singing “Blitzkreig Bop.”

OK? So why "Priscilla"? Because invariably these obvious South Asians do not have names that go with their country like Aruna or Swaminandahili or well, anything else that’s fourteen syllables long with a vowel for every second consonant. After their scripted spiel, it’s always, “This is Priscilla” or “My name is Oliver Wendell Douglas” or “Hi, I’m Joseph.” And they will meet every one of my requests perfectly and I will leave the phone happy. I was actually told exactly those words one day. I hope they have since discarded that script.

So, I’m on the phone with Joseph one day, and he has my account information in front of him as I’m reciting my name, rank, and serial number. Over the thousands of miles and dozen time zones, I can tell that Joseph is having trouble processing the information. He stops me and says, “You say you’re name is Bawp. So who is Rawbert?”

Quickwitted as I was that day, I put on the friendly downhome American voice and say, “C’mon, Joseph. All your friends call you Joe, don’t they? It's the same thing."

Silence.

I really like my current Internet provider because they are 24/7, and they are almost literally right up the street here in Bristol. The best time to call them is about 4 in the morning. You have their undivided attention, they always know the answers, they don't give me any guff for being an idiot (because you're always an idiot when you're calling), and not a freaking one of them is named Priscilla.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

India

Libera nos, domine.

I think I've got my Latin right there. What I'm trying to say is "good lord, deliver us."

Most of the last five days were spent proofreading a 920-page psychiatry manual. Not only was it 920 pages, but it was also in 9/11 type. For you nonproduction folks, that's got nothing to do with terrorist attacks, but means 9 point type on 11 point leading. And on a 7x10 page, and did I mention 920 pages of it? Well, folks, that's a lot of damn reading. If I had to guess, it'd probably be in the 300- to 400,000 word range. And 9/11 type is, well, small for the task.

I'd have been bitching a whole lot more, except for the roughly 60 percent markup for rush charges.

This job comes to me courtesy of a company that lays claim to being the first in the US (about 40 years ago) to deliver outsourcing services for publishing company production. That is, proofreading, copyediting, typesetting is not done by the publisher, but by an outside firm. This is common practice today, and that 40-year-old innovation allows me now to do what I do in the friendly confines of my own basement.

Problem: the company I'm working for did not handle the typesetting. That particular task was parceled off to India.

Good god.

I had heard some months ago that work done in India comes back sloppy, and that's what happened here. They do exactly what they are told to do and not a centimeter more. No extra thought goes into the process. The queries come back in some form of pidgin English. The tabular material looks like hell.

I have no doubt it's cheaper to do business there. Will it in the long run remain that way? What about the charges for printers' errors? Directions lost in translation? Frustration trying to interpret queries?

I'm too tired to work up much of a rant on this topic. I've got three indexes to get done by next Wednesday, on (1) Catholic Social Justice, (2) the psychological effects of terror and trauma, and (3) the history of Christianity in Micronesia and Melanesia in the late 19th century. Who says this stuff isn't exciting?

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Side note, speaking of excitement: one of our neighbors was arrested Thanksgiving morning for attempted murder. There's much more to the story so it's not as lurid as it seems. Frankly I'm happy to have him close by.