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 and proofreader, and occasional indexer. 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, June 30, 2008

discipline; getting the nomenclature right

To the extent that I have any discipline, it's deadline- and debt-driven. Without deadlines and debts, I'd be a goldbricker of the first order. But I'm going to try to devote 15 minutes a day to a post here, and 10 minutes getting my name out on blogs and sites elsewhere. Beats keeping up with news and gossip.

An ongoing problem in my little world is that prospective clients don't know the difference between proofreading and copyediting. And when they call me and sound like they know what they're talking about, it seems odd to step back and ask them if they know the difference between, say, an arm and a leg.

Copyediting is done at the manuscript stage, when changes are still cheap and easy. Proofreading is done after the book has been typeset. Changes are more troublesome because a book designer has already spent a good deal of time and effort in making lines look right, and to go in and make changes at that point ruins their work. With copyediting, you get some aspects of proofreading thrown in -- although not of the kind that address typography. And I am a hardass when it comes to typography, having grown up in the old school of proofreading and having been trained in the late-night hours by some damned good and self-demanding typographers. I've been crawled by some young typographers for asking me to make adjustments of 1/64th of an inch. I'm not sure my eyes can do that anymore. But also, when I'm proofreading, I might let things slide that I wouldn't as a copyeditor. A publisher I worked for recently gave me a hard time for correcting things at proofreading stage that I should have let pass (basic grammar errors). If they paid more than 50 percent of the going rate for copyeditors, maybe these errors wouldn't be appearing at the page proof stage, and thus in their books. Email me if you'd like to know which of America's largest publishers cares so little about quality in their books.

A few items in the last couple of days:

An author had asked me months ago to copyedit and index her work. The manuscript itself would be short (it's a travel guide; many pictures), but the book longer. I quoted the author based on a projected word count. Come to find out that she really wants me to proofread the final pages. It's a case where the proofreading is going to come out a good bit more expensively than the copyedit (reverse of the standard), because now rather than dealing with 35 pages of double-spaced copy in Word, I'm looking at 200-plus pages of exquisitely designed pages. More money for me (more time, too, which is at a premium these days), but I don't like giving an estimate and then having to change it. Feels like bait and switch, not my intent at all.

I've been dealing with bidding on a job for a professional services firm. They asked me if proofreading included checking for spelling errors. Once I stopped laughing (or crying or picking my jaw up off the floor), I forwarded this question to a bunch of folks in the business. The main response was to charge them extra for catching spelling errors. Moi, dear heart that she is, picked up the thread of earlier posts here and said we might as well all move to East India. Love that Moi.

What bothers me, too, which I may have addressed before, is when clients bypass the copyediting stage, and then ask for some extra clean-up at proofreading. Basically, this is a cost-saving measure for the publisher, but does nothing to increase goodwill. I've begun instituting a proof/edit charge that splits the difference between copyediting and proofing rates.

Oops, out of time. Discipline, discipline.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

at it again

I've sent a few folks here recently, and it probably doesn't look good that the site's not been updated. So, I'm checking in.

To say that I've been too busy to post is not an exaggeration. I really have not had the time. Potential clients, take note: Don't use this admission as an indication I don't want to hear from you. I always want to develop new relationships, because the old ones can come and go. I came damn near to firing perhaps my best client today because I just can't continue to accept the invariably impossible jobs they routinely send me. Admittedly they don't put out many easy ones, but when I look at their catalog I think, Hell, they could have sent me that, for a change. I just finished indexing another book from them that was right over my head, and I'm embroiled now in reading a dictionary that's like the vegetables your parents gave you growing up -- the more you chewed, the bigger they grew in your mouth. It seems like the more I work on this book the more I have left to do on it. And it's not a particularly difficult one. Just . . . so . . . damn . . . long.

And I've had some contact lately with potential new clients for whom I'd like to make some room, and then there are those to whom I have emotional ties, and then there are actually some where I enjoy the reading. I shouldn't have reason to complain, as I'm busier than anyone has any right to be, but, well, I'd like to see my family once in a while. Both my boys are home, and I feel like an absentee father, while they're walking around on the floor above me. However, they are the occasional source of relatively inexpensive labor for tedious tasks. And they're not bad at it. I'm not trying to give them career advice at this point by any means. For all I care, they can become indie rock gods or CIA agents or both or neither. I did tell one of them the other day though, that if he remembers nothing else that I've told him over the last 18 years remember this: Don't ever get yourself into a position where working 24 hours a day is not enough. That's about where I am now.

But, hell, I'm not in a coal mine or being shot at. I did have a potential new client ask how I got to be doing what I'm doing, and I explained that it's this or working at the Amoco station down the street. I have no other marketable skills. Thankfully, I have a market. I know at least one designer who is out of work, and a good friend is hanging on by the skin of her teeth as a newspaper reporter. I've received 2 newspaper articles in the last 2 days about papers either getting rid of copyeditors or outsourcing the task to India. An author I know (the father of a friend of my son's) who writes law texbooks when he's not lawyering says that his company has recently begun outsourcing copyediting to India. When I asked him how it was going, he said that they queried or tried to change all the jokes or puns because they didn't understand them. He finally told them just to let it slide and to trust him. The readership will understand.

I could go on, but my 24 hours are slipping away. Thanks for reading.