Tuesday, September 23, 2008
back to normal and financial meltdowns; also electronic indexing revisited
Lot of stuff to cover here.
1. Back to normal: I have six jobs to complete this month. Only one is an index. That makes me feel tingly all over. I finished two indexes in the last two days, and my last four jobs were indexes. For the most part they were easy indexes (well, easier than the obscuria I usually work with), but it's the task as much as the topic. Sometimes easier books are harder books, and hard books are hard enough. To think I used to like this stuff. But if it's what's paying the bills, I can't complain.
2. Financial meltdown: I am experiencing a perversion of the trickle-down theory--that is, what happens when the haves become the have-nots, and there's nothing left to trickle down? I am presently owed too damn much money from organizations that oughta know better.
One of them, and I'll talk out of school here, is my adopted home state of Georgia. (Yes, Georgia still feels like home. I spent 20 years of my life there and much time going back, and my dearest friends are still there, and I get a warm feeling crossing the state line the same way I do crossing the Goethals, Outerbridge, or Verrazzano; not so much the Bayonne, as I've probably been on it no more than half a dozen times in my life.) Because one of my clients is a syndicated columnist who is basically the grand old man of Georgia journalism, I still know more about Georgia politics than I do about Virginia's or than I did about Florida's for the two-plus years I lived there. And through that work I know that the state of Georgia is in crappy financial straits, and that the current governor has done everything in his power to decimate the state of education there. This is not a good combination as one of my clients had me do an index (of course) for one of the state's universities, which is coming up on being almost three months late on paying an invoice. World of hurt 1.
World of hurt 2: another client who is also running about three months behind. The combination of these two circumstances is not a good one.
3. Electronic indexing revisited. I just received this email (edited) from another editor:
XXX referred me. I am editing a book (third of a trilogy). We need an index. I did the index for the first book on Pagemaker. Second book was done by someone else and the author not happy with it. She has asked me to do this index because I am familiar with the material (metaphysical subject). The book designer uses InDesign which I don't have. I was hoping you might answer some questions for me as I try to decide if I can do this job or need to pass it to someone like yourself.
Can I use Word to do the Index?
Will Word then transfer the markers, etc. to InDesign? The designer does not know the answer to this question.
Is there some other better software to use to do this task?
What fees do Indexers charge? I don't think I should charge my editing fee for this.
You might also tell me your experience in indexing unfamiliar, dense, and highly repetitive material (the same terms are used in different instances, e.g. the would "group" probably appears 100s of times).
Any regular visitor to this blog knows what my answers are going to be. In reverse,
1. The prevalence of a particular word in a book is not necessarily an indicator of its prominence in the index. Someone is thinking more of a concordance than an index.
2. My experience in indexing unfamiliar, dense, and highly repetitive material? God, is there any other kind?'
3. Fees? Check the blog.
4. The best software to use to write an index is the one that delivers to a designer a clean document from which they can typeset an index, not indexing software or certainly page design software.
5. Will the markers transfer? Here we go. Time for Land on Demand either to face what might be the future, or to rage, rage against the dying of the light. Markers? I don't need no stinking markers.
None of this is meant to criticize in any way the person who wrote me this email. But it just goes to show what an arcane deal indexing is. I am presently working with a first-time self-publishing author who as part of the manuscript I received included terms for an index. Actually the terms comprised a better list than I've seen some professors submit, but it's still putting the cart before the horse.
Authors, I can't say it enough: Write your book. Write the best damn book you can. Leave the indexing and book design and editing to real professionals, people who do it every day and are paid a real wage to do so. I edit and proofread and index for a living. Does that qualify me to write your autobiography, or a book about the spiritual aspects of nursing or a book about the Memphis public school system or a book on the mystical theology of William Law? (These are all books I've worked on recently; the authors have done nothing to cause me any offense.) Nor does your having written a book qualify you to proofread, edit, or index it.
Anyway, probably tomorrow, I will hear from the email correspondent above, and we will have a very pleasant conversation, during which I will attempt to tell my side of the story. And, gee, maybe I'll get another indexing job out of it. Imagine my joy.