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, December 29, 2008

Money money money followup

First day after the long Christmas weekend, and I got some answers and some feedback on the late-payments issue.

I spoke with a managing editor with whom I have a particularly frank relationship, and asked per what per thought of the idea of a late-payment surcharge. Per chuckled nervously, ultimately saying that while per is a firm believer in paying individuals promptly for work performed, such a stance on my part would be viewed unfavorably among the higher-ups. Per said without much hesitation, "Don't even try it," and the tone in per's voice was even more discouraging than per's words. "In this economy at this time, no." As to the fast-pay discount, per encouraged that, saying that 2 percent would probably be effective. And I believe this particular publisher has indeed offered this option in the far-distant past.

Three responses from late payers. Freelancers, tell me if these sound familiar:

From an individual: "Boy is my face red. You beat me to the punch. I failed to complete my bookkeeping as promised. Prior to lunch today, I wrote your check, placed it in an envelope, and have put it in the mailbox to be picked up by the postman today. If you do not have it by the end of the week, please let me know. Sorry about that."

From publisher one: "I'm very sad to hear that you haven't received the checks. This new accounting system is giving everyone in our organization, and beyond, a heap of trouble!"

From publisher two: "I apologize for our extreme delay in getting payment to you. I just spoke with the accounting department, and the [project 1] check is cut and awaiting signature. I, however, have to confess that my own human error delayed the [project 2] check. I must have overlooked it in early November and did not submit it in a timely fashion. This check will be cut early in the new year. I apologize for our tardiness and will make a point to get payment through to you as quick as possible on future projects in 2009."

I feel bad (sorta) for the editor for publisher two, because I enjoy working with per, have met per personally, and know that per just made an honest mistake. Per also followed up with a copyediting job about an hour after our exchange, so that's good.

Unfortunately, late payments on their end means late payments for me on an outgoing basis, which has consequences that last way longer than the temporary inconveniences. And the question I always want to ask these folks is, "How would you feel if your accounting department said, 'Oh, by the way, the payroll check for the last two weeks you were expecting this Friday? Nope. And we don't know when you'll be getting it either. And your boss has some more work for you to do."


PS: This does not even include the two companies that are 3 and 6 months behind now. On the one that's 3 months behind, and which keeps sending me work, all I can say is that they've treated me well for years, and I'm trying to hang in there. They say by mid-2009 they should be back on track with timely payments. For the one that is 6 months behind, all I can do is trust the line they are giving me . . . that they've not yet been paid either. And as I've said, what are my options?

As my profile says, quoting Allen Ginsberg, "When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks and my hard work in the garden?" But frankly, I don't work hard in the garden, and there's a reason that my czar icon is a bespectacled basset hound.

post and prayer answered

Unbelievable. Got an answer within hours. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Feedjit's amazing . . . well, if you're looking for distractions from 800-page manuscripts.

Over the last few weeks, traffic on this blog has been split between the usual suspects (which seems to include a few new ones -- welcome, whoever you are; let me know what you think) and people around the world searching for images of Neil Armstrong and Louis Armstrong. Lord only knows what they think when they see the blog . . . not that it's written in their native languages anyway.

But you never know where things might lead or when. And probably I should just load up the site with iconic shots to drive traffic: Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate, FDR and his cigarette holder (I once worked on a book about FDR that showed him strolling up Broadway, I believe, in a parade -- before the polio took hold), Warhol's Campbell's Soup can. . . .

What I personally really want to see on the Internets, though, is the old dog food commercial with the bulldog speaking in Winston Churchill's voice: "This is dog food's finest hour." If that ever shows up on youtube, someone please let me know.

Back to the wheel.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Money money money

My list of clients who are late in paying me -- past 30 days -- is getting a little long. And that's mighty frustrating. These are reputable companies with long histories. They are repeating clients. And they (well, all but one of them; maybe two) generally give me what seem like valid excuses, or maybe I'm just gullible.

As a freelancer, what leverage do I have?

I saw another freelancer's website the other day in which per claimed 20 percent markup for invoices paid after 30 days. Now, unless you have a spouse who is an attorney from hell who doesn't mind doing collections work, what are you supposed to do? Say it's 35 or 40 or 60 or 120 days, and the check comes in for the invoiced amount. What do you do? Return the check? Or just deposit the thing? And when that client calls the next time, what do you say: "Oh, sorry. I won't work for you anymore because the check didn't include the markup"? Uh-huh. These are the policies of someone who doesn't need the money. I can only imagine the laughter I would get on the other end of the phone from some of my clients if I were to suggest a late-pay fee.

Having said that, I'd love to institute a 3- or 5-percent-off incentive if it's paid within 10 days. Let's see: on an $800 job, would I take $760 for a quick payment? Yeah, I probably would. Maybe I'll experiment with some invoices and see if I can get anyone to take the bait.

A pet peeve: Some of my clients don't give me FedEx or UPS numbers to ship jobs back to them. So I pay for Priority Mail (or my old favorite: DHL Ground, RIP) and then add the amount to the invoice. So what happens? I'm reimbursed for the shipment as part of the regular check, so naturally it appears as income on the 1099. So I'm paying income taxes on the amount they are refunding me for shipping a job to them.

I know these companies have UPS or FedEx accounts. I can't imagine them not having such accounts. I have just finished proofreading a job for one of these clients, and I'm tempted to say, "I'll ship it back to you when I get an account number. There is no reason for me to be paying taxes on the shipping refund." To me that makes perfect sense.

One particularly enlightened client pays me for printing out jobs on my end, as opposed to them printing the job and sending it to me. And they cut me two separate checks. Somehow, I suspect that the check for the printing is not included in the year-end 1099.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mystery solved . . . and an ominous answer

A few posts ago, "Work extra hard so someone else doesn't have to," I wondered about a client that told me to pay particular attention to copyediting the documentation because it probably wouldn't be proofread. In an email exchange regarding the project, I asked the press's managing editor about this comment. The response I received is rather chilling:


Many presses no longer proofread, given that manuscript goes straight from electronic Word file into typeset files without rekeying. This still makes me woozy, because I know copyeditors don't--and can't--catch everything. (Princeton UP had a recent book it pulped and reprinted because of all the errors that slipped through.) We stopped proofreading notes on scholarly books--which generally have fewer than 1,000-copy printings--about a year ago as a cost-saving measure, under the assumption that many people don't read them, so lingering errors there are less likely to be noticed than they would be in the general text. I'm no big fan of the idea, but unfortunately with an ever-tightening budget, we're having to make some tough choices.

We do use freelance proofreaders, if you're interested. Our rates are between 65 (trade) and 75 (scholarly) cents per book page, though--not much if one's trying to make a living off of the task.


Frankly, I could rant about these comments for quite a while, but I believe I'll let them stand alone.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quote from the current project

Sorry to double-dip in one day on quotes, but this is just too good. From a series on politics and culture in the twentieth-century South . . . a book about the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina:

Of course, most Citadel backers [believed] instead that the mere presence of women in the classroom or the barracks would destroy the school. Besides the previously stated arguments calling females a distraction, many offered a far more intriguing analysis of how women would compromise their ability to build men. Contrary to the notion that the college's system spawned crude, loutish behavior and attitudes, several students claimed that The Citadel allowed them to establish intimate bonds with their cadet brothers. When referring to the barracks as "a place where a man can be a man," several cadets felt most free to express themselves in the communal showers. One cadet explained that, especially as freshmen, "We are in the showers, it's very intimate. We're one mass, naked together, and it makes us closer. . . . You're shaved, you're naked, you're afraid together. You can cry." Another continued, "I know it's all trivial but all of us in one shower, it's like we're all one, we're all the same, and--I don't know--you feel like you're exposed, but you feel safe. . . . I just can't explain it, but when they take that away it's over. This place will be ruined." One summed it up succinctly, "With no women, we can hug each other." The irony lies in the fact that these students believed that by shutting out the judgmental eyes of the outside world, their closed, all-male environment helped them become men by giving them the freedom and security to be more intimate and sensitive, traits some of them might have deemed feminine. (Macaulay, Marching in Step: Masculinity, Citizenship, and The Citadel in Post-World War II America, UGA Press)

oscar peterson "nigerian marketplace"

Quote from the current project

The survey results of Gallup pollsters John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, assembled in their important book Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, lead to some startling and counterintuitive conclusions: Muslims around the world do not see the West in stereotypic terms. They criticize or celebrate countries based on their politics, not based on their culture or religion. Muslims everywhere and non-Muslim Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally justified. Those who condone acts of terrorism are no more likely to be religious than the rest of the population. What Muslims around the world say they admire about the West is its technology and its democracy--the same top-two responses given by Americans when asked the same question. And what Muslims around the world say they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values--again, the same response given by Americans when posed the same question. Americans look askance at the apparent desire for the integration of religion and politics in Islamic societies, unaware that a majority of U.S. citizens also want the Bible to be a source of legislation. (Myers, Living Beyond War, Orbis Books)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Comfort? I don't want no stinking comfort

You know, as much as I've railed against them on this blog, style manuals are one place in my life where I desire heavy doses of totalitarianism. Tell me what to do, so when I'm pestered about it, I can blame it on someone else.

I was wondering about the possessive of "corps" -- corps's? corps'? -- and was directed to CMOS 7.21, where they give their rule, such as it is, and then go on to say, "Opt for this practice only if you are comfortable with it and are certain that the s is indeed unpronounced." (By the way, no 's' after the apostrophe when the 's' at the end of the root word is unpronounced.)

What is this "only if you are comfortable with it" jive? What the hell does my comfort level have to do with anything? Isn't that the whole point of style guides, to give me some standard to go by, even if it makes me uncomfortable as hell? If all I needed to rely on was my own comfort, publishers throughout our fair nation would be in a world of hurt. Multiply that by the comfort of all the other freelancers out there, and you'd have anarchy. Anarchy, I tell you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Perhaps the worst sentence I've read this decade

"One of the important contributions made to secondary theology by studies of these texts governed by, and subject to the disciplines appropriate to, literary, historical, and phenomenology of religion interests is the way they serve to discipline study governed by, and subject to the discipline appropriate to, theological interests (in ways in which God relates to all that is not God, who the God is who relates in these ways, how to understand other realities as God-related, and what counts as appropriate ways of responding to God's relating) by making unavoidably clear the concrete particularity of each of the texts on the canonical list, how they differ from one another in literary genres and rhetoric, their cultural assumptions, their theological assumptions and affirmations, their concrete historical occasions, and the particular situations to which they are addressed."

I am bouncing this one right back to the author. I mean, what are you supposed to do with something like this? Grammatically it is essentially correct, is it not? And it is by no means the most difficult concept presented in the book--far from it.

One of my other publishers would say to leave it alone--that it's the author's style, and anyone reading this tome would probably be right there along with per.

And this particular publisher's managing editor told me recently--in discussing some of the troubles with other publishing houses not sufficiently editing their books before they come to me for copyediting--that when a book comes to me for copyediting, I can pretty much assume that it's the way they want it, aside from the quality control function that a copyeditor brings.

Authors, if you're typing in 12-point Times and your sentence exceeds four lines, it's time to drop back and rewrite, unless you have a real solid reason not to do so. I don't think the passage above qualifies. I am querying it and saying, "Please try to break up into 2 or 3 sentences," but that's not even the point. The point is, who in their right mind composes something like this and thinks it's OK?

Monday, December 15, 2008

comprise; book sales

1. Observation: An inverse correlation exists between extent of author's use of the word "comprise" and author's ability to use it correctly.

I mentioned this to a managing editor today, and he informed me that Merriam-Webster's 11th now allows the wrong use of "comprise"--that is, " . . . is comprised of." He doesn't agree with it either. I opined that Merriam-Webster's 12th and Chicago 16 will both be about three pages long: a copyright page, a page saying "Do what you want to but be consistent," and an order form for the next edition.

2. Speaking with an editor/typesetter last week, he mentioned that one of the publishers he used to work for once said that all he hoped for out of a certain volume was that the "sales exceed the page count." If you want an idea of the kind of stuff typically on my desk, that just about sums it up.

On the other hand, I received word today that I'd be receiving for proofreading a book of daily quotes and meditations on recovering from sex addiction. Should be a nice change of pace.

PS: Thanks to you regulars out there who have been checking in during my nonposting last few weeks.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quote from the current project

"There's no point in burying a hatchet if you're going to put up a marker on the site." --Sidney Harris