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.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

out of nowhere

So, I'm indexing this rather thoughtful tome entitled Quenching Hell: The Mystical Theology of William Law. On second read, I am getting an idea of what the book is about, but as with most of the stuff I work on . . . right over my head.

Then comes the first A-level head in the last chapter: "Baby's on Fire." There is no subsequent text in the chapter to justify the use of this header.

Folks, "Baby's on Fire" is one twisted Brian Eno song that appears on the most excellent album pictured here (as well as on Here Come the Warm Jets). If you can't read the type, this is a concert album featuring Kevin Ayers, John Cale, Eno, and Nico. Plenty of good stuff to recommend.

The lyrics appear below. And if anyone can tell me what the connection is, or if the author -- one Alan Gregory -- happens upon this blog and can explain the reference, I would be most appreciative.

Baby's on fire
Better throw her in the water
Look at her laughing
Like a heifer to the slaughter

Baby's on fire
And all the laughing boys are bitching
Waiting for photos
Oh the plot is so bewitching

Rescuers row row
Do your best to change the subject
Blow the wind blow blow
Lend some assistance to the object

Photographers snip snap
Take your time she's only burning
This kind of experience
Is necessary for her learning

If you'll be my flotsam
I could be half the man I used to
They said you were hot stuff
And that's what Baby's been reduced to

Juanita and Juan
Very clever with maraccas
Making their fortunes
Selling second-hand tobaccoes

Juan dances at Chico's
And when the clients are evicted
He empties the ashtrays
And pockets all that he's collected

But Baby's on fire!
And all the instruments agree that
Her temperature's rising
But any idiot would know that.
Late update: I just wrote to the author. We'll see.

tired of being sick and tired

I'm tired of writing indexes, and I'm tired of writing about indexes. I have four to do or finish up this week (two to go). On three of them, I also copyedited or proofread the books, which helps, but not enough.

I received a query the other day from a university press whose indexer had an emergency medical issue and could not complete the index s/he was working on. The only work thing worse at this point in my life besides another index would be writing half an index and then trying to merge the work of the person who started it and my own. What can I understand from this situation? That the indexer had an emergency medical issue. I can relate. Maybe it was a failed suicide attempt.

Clients who might be reading this: send me something to proofread, will ya?

Friday, August 22, 2008


From an author for whom I edited a short piece:

I'm thrilled. This is exactly what I want. . . .
Thanks so very much. You're an answer to prayer. I'm elated.

It's been a tough week on a number of accounts. The health report, following up on the last post, is not ultimately a bad one -- a case of diverticulitis brought on by a bacterial infection, for which I'm now on a pair of antibiotics -- but the good prognosis doesn't mean I've felt wonderful, although I'm getting better. And a few other ongoing matters, none of which I'm going to discuss here. But messages like the one above make things a whole lot better.

So, actually, thanks are in order to the author, and those are not words that often come from me.

Monday, August 18, 2008

been a while

Sorry for you regular reader(s) out there. I have not been so diligent about posting. More work to do than thoughts about it these days.

The indexing onslaught continues. Did come across this in a book about the downslide in Protestant seminaries in the U.S.:

Some kinds of activities cannot be made more efficient. It probably takes about as much preparation and effort to produce Hamlet or perform a Beethoven symphony in the 21st century as it did centuries ago. Activities that have at their core human effort, training, practice, attention and presence cannot be made much more efficient. No technological invention or social innovation makes it possible to reduce the level of input into such activities and still get the same level of output, so enterprises organized around such activities cannot be made more efficient without a reduction in quality.

Nicely put.

Received a book today from one of my clients that is trying to position itself to produce all the books in this one publisher's new series. Because they want to do a particularly good job on the book, the production manager said to me, "This was sent to our best proofreader." That felt nice. I've often said, although perhaps not here, that proofreading is the one what brung me, and unless I'm really tearing into something good, my proofreading skills rank above my other tasks, although judging from business these days, no one is finding much fault with copyediting or indexing either.

Well . . . perhaps not so fast. In the interest of full disclosure, I did have a publisher recently bounce an index back to the authors (not me) for additional work on the subentries because mine perhaps were too detailed and did not point readers in the correct overall direction. I take this as constructive and not totally unwelcome criticism, but I place part of the blame on two issues: (1) the use of run-in entries, and (2) the slavish adherence on the part of this publisher to have all entries and subentries begin with nouns.

I won't address the latter as much as the former here. To me, run-in entries are absolute hell to read and reduce the value of an index. Very difficult to pick out topics in a run-in index, as opposed to an index with tabbed entries. Sure, they save space, but at what cost? Hell, set the dedication on the copyright page, shorten the acknowledgments, and let the book dictate the index and its quality.

I have a 178-page book coming up where the publisher says, "No more than a four-page index." I can see this sometimes where a publisher wants not to convey the idea that a book is particularly dense, but when you actually have a dense book, detail is what the nonnovice reader will want.

Medical note: I've been semi-sidelined lately with odd gastrointestinal distress. Went to the doctor today, and will be having a CAT-scan tomorrow to check for diverticulitis or colitis. I am hoping it's neither, of course, but the doctor seemed to be somewhat concerned after pressing on my belly and also doing the one-finger wave Down There. First time I've had that, not counting the non-chemically-aided flexible sigmoidoscopy back in '96. Yow.

Actually working on an interesting book now about a private industrialist in Franco's Spain. Knowing nothing about Franco before picking up this book, I'm learning a lot, which of course I will forget in a day or two. Maybe the tiredness I feel these days is the effect of a constant spiking of my IQ while I'm reading/working and then the rebound effect back to the addled, slackjawed slug I am at rest. My lovely wife back in our early years used to not believe me when she'd ask me, "What are you thinking about?" and I'd say, "Nothing." Now I think she understands.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

to be paid for nonproduction

I'm not sure I can tell this story quickly, but I'll try. Bear with me, because there's some type of moral here.

I received a job for copyediting from one of my regular clients. Typically very easy to work with and the books are usually interesting -- a nice combination. What's different about them is that they pay me on a project basis. I don't take the pages they send me, multiply it by a piece rate, and send them a bill. They tell me up front what the fee will be. I think it's based on some page rate on their end, perhaps on a word count basis or something, but they usually do some of their own formatting and coding first, so it rarely comes to me with the same page count they mention.

So the most recent project comes in, and to me the rate seems too high for what they are asking me to do -- like by a difference of about 100 pages, in my favor. Because I am generally an honest guy who doesn't want to take advantage of regular clients, and what might be a mistake on their part, I ask the managing editor if the project fee is correct, and did he send me the correct files? In order to show him what he sent me, I email him back the files I received, with the comment, "attached are the files I received."

So I get an email from the client yesterday asking where the invoice is. I say I've not yet completed the job. The client writes today, a little indignantly, saying that he wishes I had made it clearer in my original email asking about the rate that the files attached weren't the edited files, because he's just spent most of the day cleaning up the files I returned to him for the author to review.

I wrote him, "Sorry about that. I thought 'attached are the files I received' would have taken care of it. I also always return the files with a different file name, such as adding 'edited' or 'bl' to the end of the document name. But I apologize for the inconvenience and the time wasted on your part."

And the apology was sincere. I do feel bad that he wasted his time.

But here's my question: don't you think he would have noticed that there were no editorial changes in the book -- that I didn't change a single character? But even as I'm writing this, I see another side. This client is unique in that they ask for an electronic edit, but without the changes being tracked. I always presumed that they ran a "compare documents" when they received the files back from me to see what I've done, but I guess not.

Which leads me to a number of possible conclusions: (1) they really trust their editors; (2) they really leave the ultimate responsibility to the authors, or some combination of the two.

Well, whatever. I didn't end up making the point I expected to make.

Going to Atlanta tomorrow/later today to see Return to Forever, one of my favorites of all time, whom I last saw 32 years ago. At that time I was 16 years old, and if you had told me at that time that the next time I saw them as a group (I've since seen three of the four individually) I would be in the company of my wife, college-bound son, and 15-year-old son, I would have looked at you like you had two heads. The last thing I could have imagined myself at age 16 was married with children. Things do change.