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: email@example.com.
Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.
Saturday, January 31, 2009
Becoming a freelance editor; becoming a freelance proofreader; becoming a freelance indexer, Part 2 -- Building a clientele
Getting starting in freelancing can be hard. Being a full-time productive freelancer -- that is, where you are no longer marketing yourself to new clients -- can take an awfully long time.
When I am speaking to college students about freelancing, I say, "If you want to be a full-time freelance editor/proofreader by the time you are forty, set a goal of having two good clients by the time you are twenty-five." I have no real data on which to base these numbers, but they felt right the first time I said them, and I haven't felt it necessary to change my tune.
Looking at my client list, I can say that exactly two of the companies on that list were developed as a result of cold calling -- where I identified the company, let them know of my services, and they took the bait. The remainder came to me either by referral or word of mouth.
By referral, I am referring mostly to two people.
One lives in Atlanta and does what I do, and I came to know per because the company I worked for while I was writing textbooks would hire per for copyediting. When I wanted to begin freelancing in that area, I let per know. Per -- as far as I know -- does not freelance full-time, which is to say that while per is busy, per doesn't run the kind of operation where per takes on 10 or 12 books a month. But per has a great reputation and a great client list, and whenever per gets a call and doesn't want to take on any more work, per sends them my way. Per began doing so in 1990 or so and continues to do it to this day. Praise A.S. from whom many blessings flow.
The other person is an editor and a typesetter who was editing and translating major works of theology about the time I was getting bar mitzvahed. About 7 or 8 years ago, we worked on different ends of a project. Per liked my work and made me a deal. Per wanted to do more typesetting and get away from editing, so if I could take on a lot of the proofreading, editing, and indexing that was coming per's way, per could package all our services together, present to the company that per'd be a one-stop shop for the production, and concentrate on the typesetting. We don't work together as much as we did a few years ago, but I've been put in front of a lot of companies as a result, and some now come to me independently.
The best thing for a freelancer to do is to stay put, and these days because of email and cellphones (and blogs), that's easier to do. When I say "stay put," I mean keep yourself where someone can find you, even years later. Of course, in the current economy, who knows what's coming down the pike, but in the old days, when people would change jobs, my name might stay with Company A and travel with a mobile managing editor to Company B. Unfortunately that can work the other way, too, where someone new comes into a company where I used to have a good connection, but the new person has per's own list of freelancers, on which I do not appear. There's one company in particular where I fear a particular managing editor ever leaving because of the amount of work per sends my way, and per's next-door neighbor -- the other managing editor -- and I don't get along real well because an email I wrote some years back that was supposed not to be taken seriously was taken way too seriously. End of relationship. It happens. Lesson learned: if you're going to make jokes, maybe it's time to pick up the phone. Per used to send me some work, but sends me zero work now -- except for a pain-in-the-butt index I did last year because the author requested me.
So, get to know a few people, and build on those relationships. Get to know book designers, because they are very good sources of referrals.
And the Land on Demand credos:
Don't ever turn down work and make referrals only for very good reasons, because when you do, you're just opening up the door for your replacement. Having said that, even though A.S. has referred a ton of companies to me, I doubt per's business has suffered. Probably just the opposite. Per's reputation is enhanced because per made a useful referral that worked out well for the publisher. And for the most part, I'll bet we are now just working for some of the same companies. I don't think I've taken any food off per's table. (By the way, among the very good reasons to make referrals are that you would be unable to complete a job in a timely manner, or to help a good, young freelancer get started.)
Meet the deadlines. Always. At least for the first five years with a client. And if you need to miss one after those years, make sure you let them know well in advance and apologize profusely. (Inside information: a lot of times after you return a job to a managing editor, it sits on their desk for a while anyway. They just need to keep production moving and want the job available when it's time to work on it. For the most part, these gigs are not like Japanese Just-in-time production. Missing a deadline often will not put a managing editor in an immediate bind [although if it does, it would most likely be for an index], but the proper thing to do is to keep these folks informed. They are, after all, your source of income.)
Above all, do damn good work. Nothing beats that. I guess I'm doing something OK to have enough repeating clients to stay busy (fingers crossed).
I will work for anybody who does not advocate violence against me or my family directly. I've never really had this challenged, although this one individual who I used to help put out a monthly 8-page publication changed per's tone after some time and would go off on rants on per's website (which per didn't have at the time) about the Jew media. I was no longer working for per at that time, but it's the only situation in which I really would have had to consider continued employment. But for $25 a month, I probably could afford to take a stand. One time, in lieu of cash payment from per, I accepted a T-shirt with a Confederate battle flag on the front and a pointillist drawing of Nathan Bedford Forrest on the back. I don't wear it out of the house too much. Well, actually, never.
Next post: What about those cold calls? How did I identify who I would call, and why did it work?
Friday, January 30, 2009
"Houtos appears in TR, following )c P 046 and most minuscules; houtoms in ) A C 1006 2344 it[gig, 61] vg sy[ph, h] sa,bo arm eth al."
And trust me, as always, there are better examples. This one just happens to be on the page in front of me.
Which is why my little niche is providing some meager hope of comfort. It's not like I'm working for publishing houses that count on bestsellers. Having said that, believe it or not, the book in which this sentence appears will sell thousands (I'm pretty sure) because of the company that is publishing it, the series it's in, and the topic it covers.
Anyone care to venture a guess what all the above is about? No, it is not alien transmissions or transcriptions of CIA shortwave radio broadcasts.
PS: I know he's had his mind on other things, but do you think the new president has asked to see the Area 51 files yet? Or the soundstage where the moon landing was allegedly filmed?
Monday, January 26, 2009
Becoming a freelance editor; becoming a freelance proofreader; becoming a freelance indexer, Part 1 -- getting into freelancing
I’ve spent almost all of my blogging energy talking about what it’s like to be a freelance editor/proofreader/indexer. Now’s the time to talk about the journey into freelancing. All I can give you is my perspective. I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience.
What’s prompted this first of a number of posts are two emails I’ve received in the last few days:
My name is xxx and I am a freelance copyeditor/proofreader.
I am having a very hard time finding employment. I have a Bachelor's degree in education and have worked (freelance) with an educational publishing company for three years. I have also worked with two book publishers for 2 additional years. I have excellent references, a proven work ethic, etc. I have been turned down by Demand Studios and others I seldom get a response from. I have been accepted by many others but rarely receive a project. What's the catch? It seems like I spend a tremendous amount of time searching for jobs but to no avail.
Do you have any suggestions?
First, I would like to thank you for your blog. I stumbled across it while searching for information on Demand Studios and found your comments helpful.
I recently graduated with a B.A. in English and have been working in the “real world” for a little over two years now. In order to get a job in my field, I was forced to move five hours away from my family and fiancé. Now I work as an editor for a PR company, but my goal is to become freelance.
Can you offer me any advice on how to start out as a freelance editor? Am I being naïve to even consider going freelance with so little work experience?
I appreciate your time!
Both of these correspondents possess actual work experience, which is a plus. As I think I mentioned early in my blogging, I finally grew so tired of Tere (my wife) telling me that so-and-so heard about what I do, and they want to get into my line of work. What were their qualifications? Well, they were always catching errors in menus or in church bulletins or in the newspaper, so they figured they’d make good proofreaders.
Any maybe they would. And maybe, to delve into the vernacular, if my aunt had testicles, she’d be my uncle.
Being an armchair editor/proofreader is easy. (As far as I know, there are no armchair indexers. If there are, it’s time to get back on your medication.) Especially these days, when every sap with a keyboard fancies perself as a graphic designer and a typesetter, it’s easy to find mistakes in menus and bulletins and such because you have amateurs setting the copy.
(I’m realizing I'm going to go on like this for hours, but it’s what the times demand. I'll break this up into a number of different posts.)
A very dear friend of mine is an editor and writer who always seemed baffled when I tried to help a newcomer. What amazed him was that the first question out of my mouth wasn’t, “What experience do you have?” My first reaction to the newcomer was always more along the lines of “Go to this book, write this kind of letter, look for these kinds of companies.” But he was absolutely right. I don’t think I’d mind being a long-haul truck driver. At least one thing is keeping me from doing so. I can only drive an automatic transmission car. I have no illusions that a trucking company would have any use for me. I have no experience.
But these two people do have experience -- some, anyway. And that’s a good start. Where to go from there?
Coming up next: what is a realistic expectation for being a full-time freelancer?
Sunday, January 25, 2009
By the way, the answer to the parenthetical question above is simple: A half-page of type could have five times the number of indexable entries as a full page of type. Indexers would go crazy(ier) if they had to figure out how much substance was on each page and bill accordingly. Hence, the easiest thing to do is as follows:
Saturday, January 24, 2009
I was working for a typesetting and design firm in Atlanta (name forgotten) along with one of my all-time favorite typesetters, Jerry Ramsey. (Oh, god, once I get off on Jerry Ramsey, this story's not going to be so quick. One sentence into a freaking post, and I'm already off on a tangent.)
Tangent: Way back when, when I was essentially a kid (about 26 years old), I was writing and editing life and health insurance textbooks. One of the reasons I was hired into this company is that, unlike most English majors, I actually had worked in print production for about three years -- at a printing plant and at a typesetting shop. So I thought I knew a little more than my peers about typesetting. Maybe that's true, maybe not, but with the arrogance of youth, I cast about to find my own person to typeset the book that I'd been working on for the last two years.
I don't know how I found him, but into my life comes Jerry Ramsey. Jerry at the time was working for a typesetting firm that Coca-Cola had essentially bought (or rented) and brought in house. This is what Coca-Cola would do in those days: find a design firm, and bring them in to work on Coca-Cola's materials for a year or two, then replace them with someone else.
Jerry was, to put it mildly, a great typesetter, and a true character. He was extremely demanding of himself and of those around him, which meant we drove each other crazy, because I was at my all-time anal proofreading heights (or depths) at that time. At my freelance gigs, I'd point out leading problems that amounted to about 1/128th of an inch and keep sending 'em back to be corrected until they finally got fixed.
So, I hired Jerry to typeset my first professional work as an editor, Accounting in Life and Health Insurance Companies (winner of the 1987 Elizur Wright award for the year's most outstanding contribution to the literature of risk and insurance). Well, as great a typesetter as Jerry was of advertising materials, he was not a typesetter of books. There is a difference. (There are so many potential tangents here; I'm really restraining myself.) So I'm beating my head against the wall trying to make Jerry make this damn thing look like a book, and Jerry's doing all he can to avoid beating the hell out of me, and he could do it if he wanted to.
If you want to proof titles, send an e-mail with your resume to: TitlingTeam@demandstudios.com
They will send you a link to take a test. If you pass the test, and are immediately hired. They pay .08 per title. You proof 20 titles per page, and some proofers can edit the titles in 5 minutes. So, you can make up to $20 per hour doing. Not bad for flexible online work. They have hired many title proofers that don't have near your experience. If you pass the test, you are hired. Simple as that.
"Simple as that." Except when you don't hear from them. Ever. Gee, it couldn't be that they don't want to hire someone whose blog posts trashing them show up when others are doing searches for Demand Studios, could it? At this point, you can listen for the sounds of me washing my hands of the whole deal.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Yes, folks, smoking kills. I'd post the following lyrics to the blog, but to this point I've managed to avoid cussing and blatant sexual terminology, and I don't want to anger any innocents. Nonetheless, sufficiently warned, you should read the lyrics to Allen Ginsberg's "Put Down Your Cigarette Rag."
Tim was a friend/fellow freelancer/client. We worked together weekly for some years while he was putting out a political newsletter, and single-handedly he later was probably responsible for more clients (albeit small ones) than all but one of my other contacts.
Tim was a freelancer and could only be a freelancer. As soon as he signed on anywhere as a regular employee (known occasionally in these parts as a "sap with a day job"), it was only a matter of moments before he was looking for the exit door. But Tim would take my name along with him everywhere he went and get his new employer to use me. Inevitably, within a few months, Tim would be gone and my name would stick around, for a while anyway. I think he was also ultimately responsible for my work with the syndicated columnists I work for, through a referral or two.
A very funny man, Tim had plenty of good stories, and knew where the skeletons were in more than one Georgia politicians' closet. At South., a great Atlanta magazine that lasted only a year, he printed a picture from his personal files of Secretary of State Max Cleland and some staffers, which included a woman who the next month would be identified as the other woman in the Mike Bowers affair that (so far) has ended Bowers's political career in Georgia. Bowers was attorney general and was thought to have a good shot at being governor, but in those days (the mid-1990s), the family values agenda being what it was, a known adulterer (involved in a 15-year affair, not some one-night-stand) was not likely to be elected. Tim knew the story was getting ready to break, no one knew who the woman was, but Tim found a way to publish a picture of her beforehand without ever identifying her or directly making the connection. The snickering as this issue was going to press was infectious. Working for South. (the period is intentional) was like my gig for Georgia Trend. Once a month, I'd get the call from the editor that it was time to proofread, and I'd go to some industrial park in Stone Mountain and read the issue, except unlike Georgia Trend it was usually an after-hours deal. Well-written, timely articles . . . politics and business and art . . . and in my mind, the best Georgia magazine in the 20 years I lived there. Somewhere in my basement, I hope I still have the entire run of 12 issues.
Tim also worked for Zell Miller for a while. Now that Tim has passed away, I guess I can tell this story, or maybe I should be careful because, well, Zell is still alive. Tim said that if you ever wanted to make Zell real uncomfortable, ask him how he lost part of one of his fingers. For all of Zell's military Marines hoo-hah bluster, Tim intimated to me one time that Zell may allegedly perhaps have cut off part of one of his own digits to avoid a certain level of future military service. Emphasis, my dear attorneys, on "may allegedly perhaps."
Anyway, Tim was a very good guy, had been in bad health for a long time, and hopefully now is resting easy. Last time I saw him was maybe about 4-5 years ago in a Waffle House in Marietta. Seems appropriate. Two Georgia institutions.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Saturday, January 17, 2009
But not today. I'm just going to report being thankful that work continues to come in.
Over and out.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
I'm working on the third edition of a book. The second edition had a timeline dating from 6000 BCE to 2006. For the third edition, a new group of editors swooped in at the last moment and made some updates. The headline for the new timeline reads "6000 BCE to ACE 2008."
Ummm . . . what?
A few different thought processes went into this.
1. "Well, we said BCE, so we need to set it off with whatever its parallel would be."
2. "We are aware enough that if we were to use 'AD,' it would precede the date rather than follow it." (For this I give them two points.)
3. "If BCE appends the first number, then it would make sense that ACE would append the second number."
Well intentioned, huh?
I asked the in-house managing editor about this when I saw it, and per told me, "Before the Common Era and After . . ."
I'm ashamed to say I didn't let per finish the thought before "No, no, no" came out of my mouth. Can I occasionally be a jerk? Yes, indeed.
If you're new to all this, BCE/CE is for folks who want to deChristianize our modern Western calendar system. Instead of BC (before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, in the year of our Lord), you use BCE and CE (for Before the Common Era and the Common Era). How this helps, I've never really understood, because you're still defining the "Common Era" by the singular event of Jesus of Nazareth's birth, which isn't universally heralded, to say the least.
Once we get past the general confusion about Jesus perhaps actually being born in 4 or 6 BC, which I'm not even sure the calendar shifts can account for, we can begin to wonder about what "After the Common Era" might mean. I'll give you a minute or so to ponder this phrase.
. . .
Anyone want to venture a guess when the Common Era might have come to a close? Elvis on Ed Sullivan? Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis reunited on the Labor Day Telethon? Hendrix playing the Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock? Any freaking minute now?
Has anyone else ever seen ACE? Have I totally missed the boat? I've been corrected before, so I'll take my lumps again.
But wait. I just found this. There appears to be some slight precedent, but at least one person agrees with me. See post 5 of 19 and the replies.
Would someone with some sense chime in here? Moi? Don? Chip, you ever seen this?
PS: One of my favorite jokes. You might need to live in a relatively large population center to understand it. I'm not sure it would get many chuckles here in Bristol:
The Jewish calendar is now at 5769. The Chinese calendar is at 4706. What did Jews do for 1063 years without Chinese food?
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
So, too, just as human creatures' continued actual existence as creatures in their creaturely quotidian proximate contexts ultimately is based on God relating to them creatively, the theological claim that resurrected bodies are "imperishable" is grounded in the theological claim that the triune God is faithful in sustaining human creatures, in and with their proximate contexts, in community-in-communion with God.
Nine hundred and seventy-eight pages of this, people. And this is volume 1. Volume 2 comes next month.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Shouldn't the publisher be running this stuff by oh, I dunno, an in-house EDITOR, before it reaches your hands? Or are you, in the majority of cases, "it" so to speak? Which means, you're the only person standing between literacy and complete and total madness?
Back in the mid-1990s I had one of my all-time favorite gigs. Once a month, I would make the 60-mile drive from Atlanta to Athens to proofread Georgia Trend magazine. Georgia Trend, which I'd worked for under two or three different sets of owners and editors, was at the time in the hands of Mr. Millard Grimes, a venerable Georgia and Alabama newspaper owner/publisher who had retired into the magazine business, and who actually bought Georgia Trend twice. Going back to an earlier post, this was one of the four competing Atlanta business newspapers/magazines that I was freelancing for simultaneously -- all with the knowledge of the others. Fun stuff.
Why was this a great gig? Because of the presence of a guy who remains a friend of mine, even though I only see him once every six or so years at this point. Sitting together in a room and proofreading an entire magazine every month in about a 10-hour period forged an interesting relationship.
TB and I would settle in at about 9am in a large office in the presence of the ad person, the typographer, maybe an editorial assistant. Mr. Grimes was in another part of the office suite in case we came up against something we couldn't scratch our heads long enough to figure out.
TB was a journalist of some fairly long standing in and around Atlanta (great wit, great golfer, treated me to a round at East Lake Country Club [home of the PGA Championship] when it was just in the beginning of its turnaround period). He's still a member at East Lake, against all odds, because by now they've run most of the riff-raff out of there (people like freelance journalists), and it's just corporate central now. I remember TB driving up one year to my friends' annual golf outing and seeing his muffler bound to his car with a coat hanger and thinking, "I'll bet this is welcomed warmly in the East Lake parking lot."
Anyway, in an office with three or four disinterested women in it, TB and I would amuse ourselves with our sparkling wit and sarcasm while we were reading that month's book. I'm certain that the women thought we were drop-dead idiots. But we had a great time cutting up . . . until about 1:30 or so, when we realized we'd laughed half the day away, and we still had 70-something pages to go . . . and had to check the corrections as well, and there was more coming in.
Then we hit upon our time-saving methodology that I wish I could employ more frequently in the Land on Demand bunker. Taken from a line in William Burroughs's Naked Lunch, "As one judge said to the other, 'Be just. And if you can't be just, be arbitrary,'" TB and I decided that before lunch we would be just. After lunch, we would be arbitrary.
I'm not sure we ever put this into practice as much as we would have liked. We were, after all, both consummate professionals (albeit mighty smug ones). But for 10 hours of laughter, there was rarely a better stretch of time than my monthly stint in Athens. I think some of the women even occasionally found us amusing. But nowhere near as much as we would laugh along with each other.
I saw TB earlier this year at the annual golf thing. It was about 7:30 in the morning, and he'd just gotten back from running. I looked at him like he had three heads. He said, "I haven't missed a day." In how long? "Eleven years. I started after the first year I met you guys [my friends] and haven't stopped."
TB, known among my pals as "Hack" -- like all good nicknames, one that works on many levels -- is one of my favorite folks in the world, and I wish I'd see him more often.
Not long after I left, Mr. Grimes sold Georgia Trend and Hack was eventually gone. The world of Georgia journalism suffered. But he still writes, I believe, for a number of publications in Atlanta. If you ever see him around the newspaper offices or an Atlanta Press Club meeting, tell him Czar says "Hi."
Saturday, January 3, 2009
2. The term "blacklisting" dates back to the 1950s.