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.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Land on Demand Hits Las Vegas: I Get the "Loathing" Part

Not impressed.

I think what I needed was Raoul Duke and his attorney, the Brown Buffalo, at my side — to keep my mind off everything else.

What is it? Ninety-five percent of Nevada is missile testing range? Couldn’t the government get something entirely right for once? Is it too late?

Sorry, Moi, to diss part of your region of the country, but I just don’t get Las Vegas at all. It’s like the worst of the worst of some things that I think are pretty bad already. And the state has a Mormon U.S. senator? Can someone please explain what the hell is going on here?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How Not to Do Business

1. Get my name from another freelancer.

2. Call and give me details on a job, and ask me to work up a bid and schedule.

3. Approve the bid and schedule, telling me in no uncertain terms to put the job on my calendar.

4. Email me fifteen minutes later, saying, “Thanks, but your rate is too high. You’d probably do better work than the person we’ll be paying to do it, but we’re going to go with the other person anyway.”

What’s wrong here? If you’re an author or publisher calling around for a variety of bids, that’s fine. Tell me so. And if I don’t get the job, that’s fine, too. Well, it’s not fine, but it’s part of business.

What you don’t do is tell a vendor to ink the job on the schedule, and then cancel. Dont make the original commitment. Your certainty makes you look worse when you backtrack on it. 

Not that it’s a huge deal. It’s just poor form, and my typical conclusion is that an organization which acts this way would likely have created more troubles once the project was in progress.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

When the Author Pushes Back on an Index

Sometimes authors make suggestions for indexes after the indexes have been written. That’s understandable, although as an indexer it drives me crazy—maybe even a little crazier than when authors submit their own lists of index terms. The nice thing about the latter is I can largely ignore those if they are not helpful.

But letters from authors to a press’s managing editor when the book is days away from going to print are harder to disregard.

Authors are not indexers, God bless ’em. And I’m not an author.

But indexing has certain rules, and they’re not complicated. I’ve managed to pick most of them up just by doing, only later finding out that the way I work is generally accepted practice. Simple, but not easy.

Also, retrofitting an index—moving certain concepts around or creating new entries after the index has been edited and submitted—is almost harder than writing the index to begin with, especially when the request comes a week later, and time to work on it comes later still. At that point, the memory of the book is washing pretty quickly into the dead zone.

For a book I indexed recently the managing editor sent me an email with some issues the author had. Here’s what I sent the managing editor. We ended up reaching a mutually agreeable conclusion. All's well that ends.



I’m working on this now and will have it to you this morning. But I’d like to hear from you before going too far down the line.

Now that I’m comparing her comments to the index and the book itself, I’m seeing a number of issues that I can explain and that just might stem from the author not being an indexer. Nothing wrong with that. I’m not an author. But indexes are written a certain way for a reason.

I see what she wants/means by thematic entries, but much of what she wants already appears—and there’s a reason that some of what she thinks is missing doesn’t appear.

Her first suggestion is for an entry on

“Destruction of housing, nature, individual properties, family life and religion.”

Individual entries already cover all of this, under the concepts she mentioned that are important to the reader. The author is asking for a main entry of “destruction,” and I don’t think readers will go there. And destroying a house is much different than destroying family life. People interested in homes, farmland, deforestation, family, and religion can find entries.

“Crimes: thieves, robberies, prostitution.”

To me, a main entry of “crimes” is a value judgment and a difficult call. The author pretty much (and understandably) defends any human action up to and including cannibalism when faced with mass starvation. Is forced prostitution a crime? And again, all these are covered in individual entries.

Then there’s this: The word “crime” appears 45 times in the book. Forty-one times, it’s in the listing of the cannibalism police reports. The others are mentioned in passing. “Crime” is not a topic of this book.

“Death and disease”

Not appropriate for the index to this book. That’s what every page of much of the book is about. It would be like having an accounting book with “dollars” as an entry.

“Letters of Complaints”

This is a chapter title and, thus, is not indexed.

“Starvation and brutality should be their own entries, not under provinces”

I’ll see what I can do here, but it’s kind of in the same league as death and disease.

“Entry for Children, why not for Women?”

Why not for Men? This isn’t a book about women’s rights or women’s issues, although some come up. Again, “children” seems like a natural for a reader here. I guess there are some folks who pick up every nonfiction book and might look for an entry on “women,” but I don’t see that it’s necessary for this topic.

I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this stuff. As the length of the email shows, it’s not like I’m trying to avoid work.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Quotes: You Can't Unring a Bell

Graphic content here. Not for the weak of stomach. 
Just letting you know. 
Skip it if you want. You won’t hurt my feelings.

Bloggerizing of these quotes indicates neither agreement nor disagreement on the part of the blogger.

There is a story, possibly apocryphal, that about this time emissaries representing the building of New York’s Red Brick (Presbyterian) Church visited Carnegie seeking support for their new church building. Carnegie was unenthusiastic about the project, so he sought to discourage them by saying that he would give $1 million for the project if they could find a single donor who would match it. It seemed an impossible task. However, the committee experienced good fortune and found such a donor. They returned to Carnegie to announce their success. The chagrined Carnegie sat down to write a check and then paused to ask, “May I ask who is the matching donor?” The committee chair smiled and said, “Of course! It is Mrs. Carnegie.” 
—Everett C. Goodwin


[In Wanxian region, local cadres] unlawfully set up private courts, jails, and labor camps. The methods of torture included hanging people up, beating them, forcing them to kneel on burning charcoal, piercing their mouths, clipping off their fingers, stitching their lips, pushing needles into the nipples, force-feeding them feces, stuffing dried beans down their throats, and so on. They also punished ordinary peasants by making them wear tall hats and marching them in front of the local populace. 
—A report on how to mobilize the masses and rely on the poor peasants to reveal the problems in the commune, as well as suggestions for future work, by the Wanxian Region Party Committee [Sichuan province], 1961

To distribute resources evenly will only ruin the Great Leap Forward. When there is not enough to eat, people starve to death. It is better to let half the people die so that the other half can eat their fill. 
—Mao Zedong

Date: July 2, 1960. Location: Kangjia village in Hannasigou. Culprit’s name: Zhao Bannai. Victim’s relation to the culprit: Daughter. Number of victims: 1. Manner of crime: Exhumed the victim’s corpse and consumed the flesh. Reason: To survive.

Date: January 12, 1960. Location: Qiaojiaping in Hanzhai commune. Culprit’s name: Ma Ba’nai. Culprit’s status: Poor peasant. Number of culprits involved: 1. Victim’s name: Ma Naimai. Relation to the culprit: Daughter. Number of victims: 1. Manner of crime: After the victim died of illness, the culprit cooked up her body and consumed the flesh. Reason: To survive. Result: Died. 
—A study of cases of cannibalism in Linxia municipality, by the Ningxia branch of the Government Solicitude Group [Gansu province], March 3, 1961


In early 1968 HES did the rounds of a number of large customers for IBM equipment, for example, Time/Life and the New York Times. All these customers based their business on the printed word. But HES was too far out for them. Writing was not something you did at a computer screen. They had seen programs that set type, and maybe some programs for managing  advertisements, but the concept of sitting in front of a computer and writing or navigating text was foreign to them. “The best I ever got was from people like Time-Life and the New York Times who said this is terrific technology, but we’re not going to get journalists typing on computer keyboards for the foreseeable future.”

In late 1968 van Dam finally met Doug Engelbart and attended a demonstration of NLS at the Fall Joint Computer Conference. This presentation was a landmark in the history of computing, and the audience, comprising several thousand engineers and scientists, witnessed innovations such as the use of hypertext, the computer ‘mouse’ and screen, and telecollaboration on shared files via videoconferencing for the first time. The unveiling of NLS is now known affectionately and with great respect as the Mother of All Demos
—Belinda Barnet (emphasis added; talk about a big bang)


The fact that my grandmother belonged to an extremely wealthy family was clear from her maiden name, Goldberg. The reason that this was clearly a rich family’s name had to do with a law passed under Austrian domination. The law banned Jews from using their patronym (as in the case of a character in Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz, Jankiel, whose patronym was Ben Isaac [son of Isaac]) and required them to use last names instead. Last names were literally bought from the Starosta, a sort of city hall, and some were more expensive than others. The most expensive were the ones that contained the word “gold,” like Goldberg, but also Goldberger or Goldmann. After the most expensive came a wide range of last names without any meaning at all, like Huppert or Korn. These meaningless names were also fairly expensive, because in the long list of last names that had some sort of meaning, even if one could pay more for a flattering name (like Kluger, from klug [wise]), there were many less dignified names, like Hosenduft, which literally means “trouser smell.” Such a name could easily give someone the wrong idea.
—Jerzy Kluger

Friday, March 16, 2012

BSL 101: British as a Second Language

A book had been lurking on my schedule for months. Author told me about it last fall and sent me a draft in November to begin working on it. A few weeks later came a replacement chapter, then another. Thankfully I hadn’t begun working on the original yet, but I requested that when the entire manuscript was set, that’s when I should receive a complete new version. Author agreed.

Then the author said, I believe, one of the other chapters was undergoing heavy revision, or there was a new chapter or something, so everything’s on hold. OK.

Revised manuscript comes in February, followed by an email that some of the documentation needs to be reworked, and here’s what needs to be done. I wrote back and said, again, when you have a complete, finished manuscript, please send it to me. My point was not to be a jerk, and I explained that to the author. I’m not the one closest to the material. I’m not the subject expert. It’s not up to me to make substantive decisions about what’s in or not in the books.

About five hours later, the author sends me the completed manuscript, which I’ve now returned to the author, edited and tidied up. Great book, author is very pleasant. All’s good, although I do have one concern. Author said that the publisher’s deadline for the manuscript is August. I have a feeling the copyedited manuscript will not reside unmolested until then; rather, I fear that the author is going, by way of fact checking, to show this manuscript to a bunch of potential buyers of the book and tweak it for the next five months.

So, of course, down the line, some poor sap of a proofreader might be seeing When Versions Collide.

Oh. That would be me. Happy days.

The author is publishing the book with a UK press, so when the original manuscript came in last November, I had Colleen (dba interngirl) go through their 20-page style sheet and try to highlight all the differences from Chicago and any weirdness that didn’t look Amerkun. She marked plenty.

All her work was mostly for naught as I needed to refresh myself on all of it five months later anyway (formatting, a lot of things), but the press’s style sheet did spell out for me some things about British English that had baffled me. I’m not sure it does any less now.

Full point after abbreviation only where last letter of word omitted: Dr, Mr but etc., Prof., but not after contractions or in acronyms: Dr, St, Mr, BBC, UNESCO, USA. Note especially: ed. / eds, vol. / vols, Ch. / Chs, but the exception: no. nos.

Let that roll around in your head for a minute.

I’d always wondered why I would see “ed.” but “eds” in bibliographies when dealing with British works. Now I know. I probably miscorrected it in some volumes years ago. Live and learn. But to me, that’s too much to think about. Just put a damn full stop at the end of the abbreviation.

Include ‘e’ in forms such as: ageing, judgement, likeable.
> Use –ize and –ization; recognize, criticize; but use analyse, paralyse, electrolyse. Note that a number of verbs have no alternative to the ‘ise’ spelling, including: advertise, advise, circumcise, compromise, despise, devise, enterprise, exercise, franchise, improvise, revise, surmise, supervise, televise.

What the British taketh away in punctuation, they add back in unnecessary letters. I’ve never liked “judgement,” and of course. “acknowledgements” is the bane of editors and proofreaders everywhere in the United States. I don’t know what’s up with Use –ize and –ization. Nor do I understand the -lyse exception, which they don’t identify as such. In the book, I ran across other -lyse words. Do they fall under this rule? Could be argued either way.

Ellipses: … No space between points; space after only if leading to new sentence, no extra point if at end of sentence.

OK, class. Think about this one. Not only are the butt-ugly “points” (wait, here they’re not full points?) set tight, but no space around them, unless the following bit of copy is a sentence. Let me demonstrate:

The umpire was hot...and tired.

The umpire was hot, tired... He threw the manager out of the game for dropping the M-bomb.

I actually grew to like this style in the course of copyediting the book. Not saying I’d want to change to it, but it is efficient.

The ellipses, that is. Not the umpiring.

Round brackets should be used within round brackets where necessary. Square brackets should normally be confined to editorial comment.

By this point, I’m enraged. It’s like, “What the hell have you people done to our language?” I want to go into a Sam Kinison rant, “Have you ever heard the word ‘parentheses,’ people? What the hell is a ‘round bracket’?” So, in this book we have some parenthetical — I guess that would be round-bracketal — in-text citations that read “(blah blah blah (Smith and Jones 2000)).” Joyous.

Use minimum numbers for number spans except in ‘teens’, e.g. 25–8, 136–42, 150–1, but 12–16.



En Rules (and Em Rules)
> An en rule is longer than a hyphen and is used to replace ‘to’ in number spans, e.g. ‘24–8’. As there is no en rule key on the standard keyboard you should indicate en rules between numbers using the normal short hyphen.
> The en rule is also used to link two items of equal weight, e.g. ‘Nazi–Soviet pact’. To indicate words which should be linked with en rules (rather than normal hyphens) type a double hyphen, e.g. Nazi--Soviet pact.
> Spaced en rules are used as parenthetical dashes or pauses. Type a single hyphen with a space before and after to indicate a dash.
> Only use em (—) rules to indicate a deliberately obscured word.

So, em dashes don’t appear. An em dash is for their purposes an en dash with spaces around it. In the bibliography, instead of the 3-em dash for a repeated author, they use an en dash.

And what everyone wants to know:

> If following UK style, always use single quotation marks for dialogue and quoted material in the text. Reserve the use of double quotation marks for quotes within quotes, e.g. ‘Edward found the trappings of “royalty” hung heavily.’
> In UK style the full stop only falls inside the quotation mark if the material quoted is a complete sentence, e.g. He called it “my house”, even though it belonged to Clara.

Now, I think I get it. But why oh why did they use double quotes in the last example, and why did they refer to a “full stop” when a comma appears? Is a comma also a “full stop”?

I’m going to have to relearn all this stuff again at some point. I think I’ll see this book again even before it goes to the publisher. Just a guess.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tales of Brave Ulysses and Matters Mystic

The title of the post is for the Paisan, but the post is all about me. I mean, this is a work blog, right? My work blog?

And the point of the blog was originally to serve as a site to hawk my wares. Evidence over time shows that the approach has worked. I’m presently editing a nifty and utterly fascinating book on the history of hypertext. The author came referred to me from an Australian professor who found the blog and me and whose book I worked on a few years back. Now he’s spreading the love around the world to his peers. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

Occasionally my readers might not be authors but managing editors who have sent work my way. It’s all good.

Those of you keeping score may remember that I’ve been proofreading since 1974. First for my high school newspaper (perpetual gold-medal winner at the Columbia Scholastic Press Association), and then beginning in 1981 with a now-lengthy series of paying gigs (in addition to and wrapped around editing, etc.). It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that I’ve forgotten more companies that I’ve proofread for than I remember.

The only time in the last 38 years that I’ve not been involved in some way with printing or publishing was during my three-plus years as an English major in college -- time during which I avoided publishing . . . and the classics. Don’t ask why. I can’t say I always make the best or most appropriate decisions.

During those college years, I met a friend with whom I’ve recently reconnected over the last few years. He’s always had one foot firmly planted in matters mystic. In a recent email from him, he warned, “Be careful about what you invite into your life.” I think the point was that if you want a door to open, you’d better be ready to handle whatever’s behind that door. It might be way more than you bargained for.

And a few posts back, I pondered . . . How would I handle it if Gertrude Stein’s The Making of Americans were to come in over the transom these days? And what if it required a read against the manuscript, which is rarely done anymore? Nine hundred pages of one of the English language’s most unreadable novels . . . that I would have to read under deadline pressure . . . and where mistakes carry consequences.

I thought the 900-page family history that came into my life which I edited, and which I may soon be indexing, was the universe’s little giggle on my behalf.

Be careful what you invite into your life.

Even unknowingly.

I give you a moment from last week’s Land on Demand inbox:

* *

Dear Bob:

[OUR] press is publishing an e-book edition of Ulysses based on [OUR] World Classics print edition. We are going to create this e-book edition by optical character recognition (OCR) scanning of the print book. We need to get it proofread because this kind of technology is, of course, imperfect and we want to avoid the introduction of the kinds of errors one often sees in quickly made e-books.

I am sure I don’t need to tell you that this particular book is going to be a challenge to proofread. Joyce was not a conventional speller or punctuator. There are existing typos and other errors in the book that have to be retained for historical reasons, so this will be a careful check against the original. What you would read are Word files containing the output of the OCR process. Only errors introduced during OCR will be fixed.

Anyway, I thought of you immediately. We should have the files around the 23rd of March and were hoping to have them back a month later. I don’t know exactly how many pages it will be in Word terms, but the print edition is 980 typeset pages.

* *

As an English major, a lifetime proofreader, and one whose business relies on the graces of scholarly presses, I can think of no greater capstone than to be “thought of immediately” when [OUR] Press wants to republish its definitive version of Ulysses in an in-demand format for a new millennium.

Here's lookin' at you, kid.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Sage Words in a Scribbled Hand

My older son is an actor getting ready to graduate college. I can hear him thinking while growing up, Yeah, when it comes to job uncertainty, I want to put to shame being a freelance editor like my dad. 

Mission accomplished.

Imagine the audition process that he will have gone through half a dozen times by the end of this school year: ninety seconds to show your stuff (60 sec. acting, 30 sec. singing). Ninety seconds of your job performance -- on demand, in front of scores of strangers -- to determine your future employment. And I've heard people say that casting directors know within the first ten seconds if they want you.

You've got your ninety seconds, and within fifteen seconds, some of the people watching you start checking their emails or scoping out other people in the room. And you have to maintain. Can you imagine?

A few weeks back, my son asked me to scan a few audition reports for him that he wanted to show to one of his professors. As I was doing so, I noticed the comment scrawled on one of them,

What do you want? Who are you talking to?

And I thought those would be good words for authors to keep in mind.

I work on so many books in which the author doesn't seem to know where to go or what to do with the reader. When I'm on page 200 of a manuscript, I don't want to read about what this book is going to do. If it's not doing it already, spare me the anticipation.

When I'm reading, unless I knew your name when I picked up the book, I don't necessarily want to have forty-five pages of front matter telling me your life story and what brought you to write this book. A few pages are fine. I think that front matter like this probably comes screaming in at the last minute, and the in-house editor and writer are probably so tired of the process by that point that the path of least resistance comes into play.

I guess what I'm saying is that I like books that are nonintrusive. As actors learn, don't tell me page by page what you're going to do and who you are. Show me by the content. I'll take it from there. 

Monday, March 5, 2012


I’m working on an institutional history—a mostly scholarly book, not a coffee-table book. What I’ve come to realize about every one of these histories regardless of format, and I’ve worked on plenty, is that each merits a lengthy subentry or entry titled “financial difficulties,” not to mention “leadership changes.” For most of the organizations, the financial difficulties occur about every two decades, following either the national economy or the fact that the organization's early years were the product of a prophet who took action without waiting to determine demand.

Anyway, an index that relates financial difficulties point by pointwhen they take place in every chapter, sometimes more than once, and overwhelm the content (not necessarily the case here)makes for a rather tedious index. Moreover, I don’t do sub-subentries . . . especially when I'm not dead solid certain that the press's designers would get it right.

The only time I've ever done sub-subentries was for a Sandy Koufax biography. The structure of the book necessitated itto me, at the time. I wish I had more sports biographies cross my desk.

Anywayhow many tangents so far?this time, I am resolved not to have an entry in this institutional history on “financial difficulties.” I might tend more toward a proper-name approach, which I do . . . never. At least not intentionally. But this book is the same story in virtually every chapter, and sometimes with the same characters. Ugh. What was that quote below? Same bed, different dreams? Does it apply? I'm still trying to get my mind around it.

[Interlude: I’ve spoken or blogged about how themes repeat in my work, and how a concept I’d never heard before often shows up in rapid succession in unrelated projects. After reading the book that included “Same bed, different dreams,” I worked on another book representing an aspect of Asian history (the famine in China, 1958 to 1962; ugh {my next quotes posting will come with a warning and a disclaimer}) that also referred to “Same bed, different dreams.”]

I also proofread this institutional history first, which helps me lay out an indexing approach before beginning the work. Yes, reading the book first helps. Folks have asked over the years if I proofread and index at the same time. I guess I could, but both jobs would be the worse for it, and it would take longer, maybe. I don’t want to test it, although it is a time for changes.

Authors or benevolent editors perform a great favor for indexers by including subheads in their books. Some days I’d rather index a tedious, out-of-my-mental-range set of proofs with a subhead every couple of pages than a more accessible work with forty-page chapters and no break . . . and no clue about where the chapter is going.

The ultimate in indexer friendliness is a client of mine that publishes self-study textbooks, with three levels of heads, key terms BF ital with alternates ital, and a list of key terms at the end of every chapter. As an indexer, that’s about as close to ooh-la-la as it gets.

Production notes: Hardly in the interest of greening the LandonDemand intergalactic corporate HQ, I’ve gone to mostly paperless indexing. Back in the old days of 2011, I’d print out the PDF and have it next to the laptop while my head would dart back and forth as if at a tennis match some distance away. Now, instead, I open the PDF and Word, set the windows next to each other, and go from there.

Benefits: Less time in glancing back and forth, and flipping pages (it adds up); can copy and paste names, particularly names of institutions. That’s huge.

Drawbacks: Paging through the book in hard copy to see how long a section is seems quicker. But that’s not a big deal.

You’d think I’d have figured this out years ago.

Gone on long enough. Avoiding work.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Men (and, oh yeah, women)

Two books just came through the bunker that raised issues of sex, or gender. From what I understand, “sex” is the preferred nomenclature for what I thought used to refer to "gender." I'm talking here not really about men and women, the original title of the post, but about men-without-women and women-not-without-men.

Book 1

A legal guide. The book was written entirely in the male gender, except for the occasional example. In running text, every plaintiff, defendant, judge, arbitrator, and innocent bystander was referred to as “he.”

I changed as much as I could, given the time and money constraints. Sometimes I see books like this from much older writers, but this author graduated law school in the late eighties. No evidence of a prior career. Younger than me, which is getting older all the time.

I always hate woefully underbidding jobs, but I might have learned something on this one. The rate sheet might soon reflect my charging more for not keying in editorial changes rather than less. That’s another blog post.

Book 2

A history of a women’s club in a major metropolitan area. Not until the very late chapters does a reader see any club member referred to as other than, for example, Mrs. John Smith. Often with such books, at least by the 1970s the author is referring to the women by their own first names.

This approach has always stunned me, and invariably the author is a woman. I mean, this isn’t a history of the Gotham Wives’ Club. These women are making positive contributions to society and living lives of their own, and I don’t need to know their husbands’ names.

One could say, “Finding out those names would take a lot of research.”

Yes, it would. Tell that to the author of the 900-page family history I recently finished, who managed to track wives’ first names back 300 and 400 years. And not refer to them as Mrs. Caleb Smith.