A couple of individual author stories. I edited and proofread a book for a previously published author who definitely had per own way of wanting things done. I think I covered some of this under a blog post titled (new pet peeve of mine: titled vs. entitled; I don't care if "entitled" might be correct. If it's referring to the title of a work, the landondemand creed mandates "titled" rather than "entitled") "Remind Me Why You Hired Me Again." As I've said, it doesn't matter to me what you do with my suggestions or changes once it's off my desk, but please don't ask me to do the work, then second-guess everything I do, particularly if you're not in the publishing field.
(I do have one client who second-guesses--or tries to argue me out of--most things I do, but it's kind of a running joke at this point. And I like per too much to fire per, anyway.)
So, after I'm done with the proofread of the author's book, per sends me the jacket copy for a copyedit. (Another growing pet peeve: I think I'm done with a project and then comes, "Oh, would you mind looking at the promotional copy?") I tell per, "I don't think I should copyedit this because the bulleted lists don't start off with parallel words and very few of the bulleted items on why someone should purchase this book flow logically from the lead-in to the list."
Per responds (paraphrasing), "Thanks anyway. I'm going to leave it the way it is, because I like it that way, and I don't think we need to hold up the jacket copy to the same editorial standards as the inside text."
I just responded with an "OK, thanks. Nice working with you. Keep me in mind for the next book." I mean, how do you respond to that? You've got the jacket copy, where you're trying to sell the book, and you don't want it to make sense? You want the first thing people read to leave them scratching their heads wondering if the inside of the book is going to contain the same type of editorial problems?
But I knew the author well enough at that point that when per said, "I've decided to keep it the way it is," that was it. I suspect per paid someone to write the copy and didn't want someone else changing it. Just a guess.
But we parted on good terms. No harm, no foul. Per did keep me on the phone a long time over the course of the project, but whatchoo gonna do?
Author 2. This is from a project for which I've been hired, although I've not yet received the final draft of the manuscript. I need to be a little careful here because per checked out my blog before contacting me. Never know when per might check in again.
Per and I are trading emails laying down the ground rules for what I would do and charge, etc. Then per lays this one on me:
I would also like some sort of quality control/warranty statement. Hypothetically, what if I paid a copy editor to do this, then the MS goes to the publisher and they reject it and tell me that it is loaded with typos and misplaced periods. I’d have to re-copy edit because the guy who did the copy editing the first time did a sloppy quick job. Am I paranoid or is that a real possibility?
My cordial response:
Nothing wrong with a touch of paranoia, but hopefully in my case a sloppy quick job is not a real possibility. I cannot guarantee that any publisher will accept your work after I copyedit it, though. Remember, too, that copyediting is just the first quality control step, and no copyeditor is going to catch 100 percent of errors, and then there's the keying-in process, too -- during which the random error may be missed or instituted. That's why the book is proofread as well -- still not a guarantee of perfection, as any honest author/publisher/editor will tell you. But loaded with typos and misplaced periods? I hope that's not what you'd find with me. If it were, I wouldn't have publishers who've been using me as a copyeditor for years and years, and dozens and dozens of projects. Again, I can give you plenty of references if you have any doubts. But guarantees about pubiisher's acceptances, I can't make.
I got fired in 2009. That's always fun. Here's the post I wrote at the time, but which I never published. Might as well do so now, just to clear the conscience:
I'm going to take a page from one of the most offensive yet most popular Internet sites, the Drudge Report, and break the news here. Anytime someone tries to put out some dirt on Drudge, he immediately posts the article on his own site, as if to say, "I got nothing to hide." This is another way of saying, "The best defense is a good offense." Yes, indeedy, folks. Far and away my most bizarre client has given me the heave-ho. I'm not going to get into too many details, to preserve per's anonymity (I am fair, after all) and thus to preserve my own hide. Let's just say this: Per is a Bible-thumping prophet (like an apocalyptic, see-the-future type) and an America-loathing rabble-rouser. Per foresees the end of America as we know it unless we all come to Christ and change our ways. I can go on and on about per, as I have come to know per over the last year or so, but I will let the slightly edited correspondence speak for itself.
Yes Bob I will send the western union today although I am not going to pay you for re-editing your own work in chapter 26. The other day when you ask me, where did I get this copy from. . . I got it from you. That is the reason why I run everything through you before including it in the manuscript, so the entire manuscript will have to be re-edited because it is my opinion you either farmed it out originally or you did not do such a good job that you have found your own work to be problematic with errors. I know you by now (not using any gifts of foresight) that you are not going to re-edit this entire manuscript again, and do it right at no charge, but in my opinion you should because I have already paid you for it, and even if you did go through it, it is further my opinion you would not go through it with a fine tooth comb, so my only option at this point is to hunt for a new editor and wish you the best. I will send you some money but frankly in my opinion, I have wasted about [dollar figure here] and the manuscript is not ready to go to press. Goodbye Bob.
On to larger matters:
You've received all the tracked versions of every document you've sent me (all of which I've kept), so you've seen exactly what I've done along the way -- no portion at all of which has been farmed out. I don't farm out my work any more than you farm out your prophecies.
You've had no complaint about the work until now. You've had scores of opportunities to say that you didn't think my work was up to snuff and to end our relationship based on the quality of the work you were receiving from me. I've never heard a single word from you along those lines -- even though you claim that you've been rereading and rereading the manuscript. If there were really something seriously wrong, you would have noticed it long before now, and you would have terminated the relationship long ago. You obviously felt comfortable enough with my work to continue to send me regular updates for nine months after editing the original manuscript, and to send me emails asking for advice, which have always been answered. Along the way, you'd mentioned at least twice all the money you'd be sending me once the book came out because you treat well those people who treat you right. Those aren't the actions or words of an author who is unhappy with the editing.
I can guess at any number of reasons you now no longer want me to work for you, but I'm not going to try to get into your head.
Every person who is in publishing full time will tell you that copyediting is part of a process, which includes proofreading as well, and proofreaders often catch what a copyeditor has missed, especially in a manuscript that at this point is being slapped together totally haphazardly, with a sentence here and a sentence there out of context going out for editing. If the manuscript overall is now not reading the way you want it to, it's largely because of the process you've undertaken since last November.
I've been getting emails since last November with documents titled things like, "last change before typesetting" and "one last thing." You can attribute it to [ . . . ] or your desire to have this book be its best, but I've worked with any number of folks who also have issues with [ . . . ] and who want the best for their publication, but who also intuitively understand what it takes to make a publication its best and how to work with an editor to bring that about. Your approach to the text of the book at this point is akin to a dog who keeps digging up a bone and looking for somewhere else to bury it. You just can't leave it alone, and confusion is the inevitable result. If you want to blame me for that, that's your decision. The corrections you've been sending my way have resulted from your claims that you had a better way to say something, or you've been adding new material (election, Michael Jackson, new interactions at churches), or you've been qualifying your experiences in [ . . . ] to make sure you don't land in additional legal trouble. Never have you said, "I didn't like the way you did this. Please review." Never. Not once. And that you kept sending me material clearly showed you thought I was doing something right.
According to your own account, you've gone through photographers, web designers, cover designers, and editors before me -- blaming them for all the problems and their inability to do what you want them to do. I'm now added to the list. Without the gift of foresight, I suspect the pattern will continue with typesetters, proofreaders, indexers, printers, distributors, bookstore owners, publicity people, and so on. When I read in your book that you'd been in 20 car wrecks, 19 of which were not your fault, that about summed it up. And when I read repeatedly in your book about your lack of faith in the United States and the American judicial system, yet when I look online and see that you are constantly in court, asking that very same American judicial system to clear up your problems for you, I see that I've been dealing with a bundle of contradictions all the way along.
You are certainly correct that I would not reedit the manuscript again at no charge. And I'd be wary of vendors who give you rock-bottom rates and claim decades of experience. I don't think you'll ultimately be happy with their work either, or you'll find that they'll start charging you for continually making changes and adjustments (as they should), which will make their original low price end up not so low in the long run.
You say that this book will come out on God's time and according to God's plan; if that's the case, then your dealings with me have just been part of a grander scheme in which you claim to have complete trust. Or maybe it's like the judicial system: it's something you fall back on when it suits your purposes.
I wish you the best of luck with the book.
Well, now that's off my chest. And needless to say, he never sent me the final check.
Clients came and went in 2009 -- mostly went. I managed to keep my head above water, well, most of it. It's like they say, when you're up to your chin in water, it only takes one big wave to drown you. Knock on wood, things are holding together, but some significant income producers in 2008 and years past sent me nothing or next to nothing in 2009. On the other hand, some folks who were relatively small potatoes in prior years really stepped it up last year. And I received this nice note from a client after Christmas:
"We at [publisher] wish you a very merry Christmas. Thank you for all your great work this year. We look forward to working with you much more in 2010."
That's what I call good news. And I'm hoping that the economy turns around enough that some of the regulars get on their feet again and start sending out books. My guess is that the freelance pool is somewhat fluid -- that in the big markets where full-timers were laid off, there are a lot of freelancers looking for work, but on the other hand, people who might have been freelancing part-time and for whom the work has dried up . . . they might go try to find real jobs (if such are to be had), thus taking them out of the freelance pool. One of my clients used to say, "I need you to stay busy as a freelancer or you might have to find something else to do."
As I've said before, at this point in my life I am otherwise unemployable, so this is all I got. If you've read this far and you're looking for someone to proofread, copyedit, or index your book, I'm not going anywhere. People around the country will vouch for my work, and I'm confident enough to let you know when I get fired, even if it's by someone who might be a taco short of a combination plate (smart individual, though -- per's wires are just a bit crossed).
Well, this has probably gone on way too long.
Your humble and obedient servant,