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.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What Do Jay Leno and Land on Demand Have in Common?

From the AP story today about Jay Leno's final show as he moves from The Tonight Show to prime time:

There was a lengthy "Best of Jaywalking" segment, highlights of Leno asking people on the street questions about history and other topics. A sample: A woman correctly said the first man to land on the moon was Armstrong, but when asked his first name offered "Louie," not Neil.

From this blog:


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I'd subscribe to Publishers Weekly if the subscription price was a lot less than the $200/year they charge. Not that I'd likely ever read the thing. My long-suffering spouse bought me a two-year subscription to the New Yorker for Christmas 2007, and I'll spend the rest of my life reading those 100 issues. The New Yorker is an amazing piece of work, but, well, reading's not high on my list of leisure activities for obvious reasons. Great cartoons, though.

But I did figure out recently what I should have known long ago: that Publishers Weekly has a daily email news thingy you can sign up for, as well as a weekly update on religious publishing, so for free, I'm pretty happy to find out daily publishing industry news. I'm not going to read the book reviews or want ads or other stuff in the magazine anyway. The only reason I'd read the book reviews -- required reading for librarians -- would be to see if they've reviewed anything from any of my clients.

So BEA is going on now, the big U.S. booksellers' convention, and today's religious publishing update comes in, and the lead story is that my biggest client has no presence at this year's BEA. Decided not to go. Couldn't get any of the big-name authors to commit to being there, so they decided to punt. I'm thinking, this ain't good.

About three hours later, I get a call from my managing editor pal at the publishing house, wanting to know if I'd take a proofreading job. The kicker is that I copyedited this book a few months back (and actually complained about it in this very space).

Now, folks, having the same person copyedit and proofread a book is virtually verboten in the publishing world. Separation of duties and all that. There's some accounting/auditing equivalent that I should remember from my days of writing accounting textbooks, but don't. But basically the division is put in place so that the proofreader doesn't just miss the same stuff per missed at the copyediting stage, or that per avoids marking stuff as a proofreader to keep per from looking like a bad copyeditor.

So I ask my pal, "Proofreading? I copyedited it. What's up?"

Pal says, "Everyone else is busy. We've got all our other copyeditor/proofreaders busy with other projects."

So on the one hand, they're not sending a soul to BEA; on the other hand, they're so busy that they are breaking one of the cardinal rules of print production.

Hell, maybe they don't need BEA this year, so why not save the money? How nice that must be.

I've long forgotten the details of this book anyway. And I won't mind pointing out my own errors. What good would it do me to cover up my copyediting errors with missing stuff as a proofreader?

So, here it comes back, one of the worst projects I've done this year. At least it's volume 2, which is shorter and not quite as obscure as volume 1. From what my pal told me, the indexer is complaining mightily about the book. I think I mentioned in this space that I told the managing editor back when I was copyediting it that there was no way I would index this book. No way in the world. And it probably would be about a $3500 paycheck. But for that $3500, it would have been about $100,000 worth of pain.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Farewell Column to Bill Shipp

http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2009/05/19/bill-shipp-types-30/ (Beware the inevitable troll-like comments.)


Bill Shipp came into my life personally in the last quarter of his career, and in the early to middle stages of mine. As a freelance copyeditor and proofreader working for almost all of Atlanta’s business and political periodicals in the mid-1990s, I received a call one day in 1997 from Tim Bentley, another great and unfortunately late-too-soon Georgia political journalist, saying he’d heard Bill Shipp needed an editor, and could he pass my name along?

Me? Work for Bill Shipp? Pinch me, I’m dreaming. Having lived in Atlanta since 1977, I was more than familiar with Mr. Shipp’s work. (And I called him “Mr. Shipp” for years before he invited me to call him “Bill.” I was just raised to talk to my elders that way, especially one as esteemed as he was, yet I know he didn’t stand on formality. That’s just how it went.)

So I’m sitting in the DeKalb County Public Library near Northlake one day, and my pager went off. I found a public telephone (remember those?) and dialed the number. Bill Shipp’s number.

“Bob, I heard about you. My editor just quit, and I need someone to read my columns and newsletter. I don’t want just someone to check grammar. I need someone who will tell me when I’m off-base and tear up my writing when it needs it. Can you do that for me?”

Pinch me.

Off we went. Via fax and e-mail. The very occasional phone conversation. For 12 years. I worked with him anywhere from two to four days a week, 15 to 60 minutes at a time. I believe I met him face to face exactly three times: twice very early on in the parking lot of Channel 5 when I was working on his book The Ape-Slayer and Other Snapshots and once with my wife Tere and his daughter Michelle about two or three years ago at a restaurant in Kennesaw.

My life for the last 12 years has been the steady drumbeat of Sundays and Thursdays, editing his columns before they were distributed to his syndicate. And Bill Shipp’s Georgia before it became Matt Towery’s property. And his columns for Georgia Trend. And the every-so-often special-occasion piece.

When I started using a laptop, I’d take it with me, mostly so I didn’t have to miss a column if I was traveling somewhere. If I didn’t get the column, I’d write to his assistants over the years, concerned that I’d missed something or, later, concerned about him.

Bill was a unique writer in that he had absolutely no fear of the editing process. Just the opposite. Some years ago, if I went for, say, 4 weeks without bleeding all over one of his columns — in some cases rewriting or trying in my own clumsy prose to say what I thought he was trying to say or even should have said — he’d call me up and give me a hard time.

“I’m not paying you just to pass over these columns. You need to tear them up more often than you have been. I know they need it.”

But they often didn’t. So what’s a poor editor to do, given good material?

Bill’s political leanings were hardly concealed. And in the days after the Republicans took over Georgia, his voice became more noticeable. Every once in a while, he’d pen some piece that seemed a little too moderate, too conciliatory. I’d email him and ask what was up? His response: “I’ve got to write one of those every so often so my newspaper editors don’t think I’m a communist.”

Then the email hits my account today that Bill is hanging it up. Effective immediately.

I want closure, a different kind anyway. I want a farewell column. I want the dean of Georgia’s journalists to give one last wave to the first rumblings of integration in Athens while he was a student, Billy Graham, Zell Miller, his dear departed son Ernie and wife Reny, Jimmy Carter, Ernest Vandiver, Tom Watson Brown, Lester Maddox, Romeo Richardson, the AJC, the Talmadges, Roy Barnes, Mike Bowers, Tom Murphy and a hundred others. Even Sonny Perdue. I want the perspective of history. I live in Virginia now, but Georgia still feels very much like home, and a big reason for that is Bill Shipp.

I’d have worked for him for free (although I don’t think I ever offered), but now I’m feeling a far greater loss than the monthly, promptly delivered check. He was no doubt my smallest regular client measured by dollars, but dollars are an entirely insufficient measure of the last 12 years.

Mr. Shipp — Bill — thanks for taking me along for the ride.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

index entry of the day

Clarke, Kent

personal interlude

My work comprises, on many different levels, ongoing battles with matters theological. My life, to some extent, has gone the same way, and from a much earlier age. I'd even say the personal theological battles predated by some years my introduction to the standard canon of proofreading symbols, which occurred at about age 14.

I visited a Unity church today. Very, very interesting. And I will leave it at that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Extension Course Correspondence

Just received the following email:

Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 2:27 PM
Subject: Question

I was pleased to stumble upon your blog. After earning an M.A. in English in 1999 and being a stay-at-home mother for the last 10 years, I am contemplating taking courses through Berkeley Extension in order to become an editor. I have no prior editing experience. Do you think I'll be wasting my money ($2000 for a four-course certificate) given how difficult it seems to be to get employment in this field?


My response:

Thanks for reading the blog. I hope you found something in there worthwhile.

I'm not sure that it's impossible to get employment in this field, although times are tough all over. But with improvements in self-publishing and the huge amount of website content that companies must have written, I'd say a lot more is being written and published these days than 10 years ago. It's a matter of finding people and companies that recognize the value of editing.

With an M.A. in English, you presumably have pretty good editorial skills already (which I can also see from your email). I'd be curious about the course content. Would they be reviewing style manuals, editing for different types of publications, marketing . . . or just reinforcing what you already know about where the commas go and when you should use semicolons?

Here's a question to ask yourself: Do you think potential employers would be any more likely to hire you seeing that you've taken an extension course in editing? There are a lot of laid-off editors out there with experience. And $2000 is a lot of money.

Not knowing any more about your background than what you've told me here, and not knowing what part of the country you're in -- particularly whether you're near a big city, where the need for editors is always greater -- my guess would be that if you spent the time you'd take in completing the course in trying to develop contacts for whom you could apply your editing skills, you'd probably end up with clients quicker just by putting your thinking cap on and being really creative in considering who you can hawk your skills to than by taking the course.

Because even after you've spent that $2000, you still have to find the clients. It's Step One in either case. The course would be a prelim.

Have I answered your question? And remember this is just one person's opinion. I'm sure you're not going to make the decision based on my input. Check around. Ideally you can find some people who have been through the course and see if it helped them.

Best of luck. Let me know how things turn out.


Agree or disagree? Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cognitive Decline, parts 1 and 2

Two things.

Perhaps my longest-term client, other than a former employer of mine who has used me as a freelancer since I went freelance, is a syndicated newspaper columnist. Per has been an editor and a writer since before I was born and is rather esteemed within per's own geographic niche. Suffice it to say that when you've been doing something for 50-something years you're (a) pretty good at it and (b) probably pretty well respected as a result. I think of Count Basie who, when asked about perfection, said something along the lines of, "Find something you like to do, do it well, and keep doing it for about 70 years." I guess he was talking about himself, the master of the well-timed, sparse note.

Sidetrack: Back in my younger days, I was ridiculously shy around females. I used to blame that on being educated at a boys' school for 8 years, but the problems were elsewhere -- like in the mirror and inside my own head. It took me many years to stop blaming my parents' choice of school for me for my own social backwardness. Anyway, when I was in college, the Count Basie Orchestra -- with Count Basie -- was playing at a high school about a block from my college. Ohmygod. For like six bucks. This says as much about the lack of appreciation for jazz in the late 1970s as anything else. So I get up the nerve -- and trust me, it was virtually impossible for me to do -- to ask this really cute girl in my philosophy class if she wanted to go with me to see Count Basie. I'm not sure she even knew who Count Basie was, or how amazing it was that he was going to be within walking distance of the school. She didn't give me an answer right then, but the next time the class met, I followed up and asked her if she'd decided, and she said, "No, thanks." No explanation, no apology. Needless to say, this response did not do much for my already long-cratered self-esteem. Well, I went anyway (alone), enjoyed myself, and she ended up dating the head of the college's Young Republicans chapter. Maybe she knew something I didn't.

Back to the story. So, this columnist loves it when I tear up per's work. This is what the good writer-editor relationship is about, class. Per used to give me a hard time if I went too long without essentially rewriting one of per's columns. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I told per I didn't like the column per had written. Per suggested I write one. So I did. Per submitted it to the syndicate (about 100 papers, I believe), saying that "I wrote a column for this occasion, but my editor Bob Land didn't like it. So here's what he wrote instead." That was the beginning of the column. And thus it was that I am on record during the week around 9/11/2002 essentially stating that, "Hey, guess what, folks? We're probably not going to change as a nation as a result of last year's events. We're going to end up being the same self-centered, self-absorbed jerks that we've always been. And besides that, not everyone who was killed on 9/11 was a saint. Just by the law of averages, there were probably wife beaters and child molesters among the 3,000 dead who we might as well be better off without." Per got more than a few positive reponses to that column. If per ever got any negative responses, they didn't find their way to me.

Am I back to the story yet? So, I've torn into the last three or four of per's columns pretty drastically. I receive a (very rare) call from per this morning, with per asking me very sincerely if I think per's lost the cognitive ability to continue working. Per's got some health issues, lost a spouse within the last few years, etc. Per's asking me if per still has what it takes? Who the hell am I to judge? Per's got more chops than I'd ever know what to do with. But per also respects the value of an editor who will wield a heavy hand when necessary, and per said, "If you think I can't do this anymore, let me know. I don't want to go out after my time has passed. I realize I'm not going out at my peak, but I don't want to be doing this too long either." I was humbled and honored and amazed and saddened and felt a little bit lost after the conversation. I guess I still feel that way.

Cognitive decline, part 2: My own. I've gotten into this thing lately that many days, when I wake up in the morning, if I lie in bed a little while -- not even in a half-asleep state, but pretty much awake -- I start having literal visions of the manuscript I'm working on, but the words are all wrong. The topic is right, but there are all kinds of problems with the book that don't necessarily exist in real life (that is, in the bunker, where the manuscript is residing). The words are a jumble, the language is wrong, it goes off track repeatedly. Needless to say, this doesn't provide me with any extra restful moments, so all there is to do is go downstairs and get back to work.

This hasn't happened once or twice, class. It's, like, dozens of times now. I don't know what it means, but if I had to put it into the good or bad side of the ledger, umm, I'm thinkin' bad.