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.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007


Libera nos, domine.

I think I've got my Latin right there. What I'm trying to say is "good lord, deliver us."

Most of the last five days were spent proofreading a 920-page psychiatry manual. Not only was it 920 pages, but it was also in 9/11 type. For you nonproduction folks, that's got nothing to do with terrorist attacks, but means 9 point type on 11 point leading. And on a 7x10 page, and did I mention 920 pages of it? Well, folks, that's a lot of damn reading. If I had to guess, it'd probably be in the 300- to 400,000 word range. And 9/11 type is, well, small for the task.

I'd have been bitching a whole lot more, except for the roughly 60 percent markup for rush charges.

This job comes to me courtesy of a company that lays claim to being the first in the US (about 40 years ago) to deliver outsourcing services for publishing company production. That is, proofreading, copyediting, typesetting is not done by the publisher, but by an outside firm. This is common practice today, and that 40-year-old innovation allows me now to do what I do in the friendly confines of my own basement.

Problem: the company I'm working for did not handle the typesetting. That particular task was parceled off to India.

Good god.

I had heard some months ago that work done in India comes back sloppy, and that's what happened here. They do exactly what they are told to do and not a centimeter more. No extra thought goes into the process. The queries come back in some form of pidgin English. The tabular material looks like hell.

I have no doubt it's cheaper to do business there. Will it in the long run remain that way? What about the charges for printers' errors? Directions lost in translation? Frustration trying to interpret queries?

I'm too tired to work up much of a rant on this topic. I've got three indexes to get done by next Wednesday, on (1) Catholic Social Justice, (2) the psychological effects of terror and trauma, and (3) the history of Christianity in Micronesia and Melanesia in the late 19th century. Who says this stuff isn't exciting?


Side note, speaking of excitement: one of our neighbors was arrested Thanksgiving morning for attempted murder. There's much more to the story so it's not as lurid as it seems. Frankly I'm happy to have him close by.


moi said...

You had Moi at 9/11. And not in a good way. In a way that instantly gave me a galloping migraine just thinking about even being in the same room with type that small. That and the fact that some U.S. company somewhere is outsourcing typesetting to India. On what planet does anyone even dream of that being efficient?

On a lighter note, I await news on the neighbor.

Anonymous said...

More power to you Bob!

What is even more frustrating is that some companies are willing to abandon 20+ year relationships with American typesetters without even allowing them to try and compete...if you are not in India or China then too bad...they won't even talk to you anymore!

Maybe there are some ethical standards that need to be developed in light of the growing global marketplace...

czar said...

Moi: Unfortunately, there's not just one publisher doing this, and more are threatening. It's not a matter of effiency. It's purely bottom line. India typesetters are charging, oh, a dollar a page, while stateside typesetters are charging more like 5 to 7 to 11 dollars a page. But the U.S. typesetters will give you back a product you're proud of, will do more than just match a template, will take the time to make your book as good as it can be. I see in Writer's Digest people who charge 75 cents a page for copyediting. God bless 'em, I don't know what they're doing for 75 cents a page, but I figure if my own clients thought in the long run it would behoove them to pay someone 25 percent of what they're paying me, they'd do so. But I have repeat clients, and I'm not holding a gun to anyone's head.

Frustratedpublisher: Thanks for checking in. I think in the long run, companies will realize that the long-term headaches and lack of quality in going overseas will not be worth it. Some of these folks still care about quality. Most of the publishers I'm working with are relatively small (between 10 and 70 books a year), and they care about every book . . . except when the author seems not to care and refuses to bring a manuscript up to code or is just a pain in the butt. Then whatcha gonna do? I've only gotten wind that one of these companies is threatening the move to India, but it's not happened yet.

Soon I'll tell the story of when India tried to outsource to me. Yes, it happened.