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.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Money money money followup

First day after the long Christmas weekend, and I got some answers and some feedback on the late-payments issue.

I spoke with a managing editor with whom I have a particularly frank relationship, and asked per what per thought of the idea of a late-payment surcharge. Per chuckled nervously, ultimately saying that while per is a firm believer in paying individuals promptly for work performed, such a stance on my part would be viewed unfavorably among the higher-ups. Per said without much hesitation, "Don't even try it," and the tone in per's voice was even more discouraging than per's words. "In this economy at this time, no." As to the fast-pay discount, per encouraged that, saying that 2 percent would probably be effective. And I believe this particular publisher has indeed offered this option in the far-distant past.

Three responses from late payers. Freelancers, tell me if these sound familiar:

From an individual: "Boy is my face red. You beat me to the punch. I failed to complete my bookkeeping as promised. Prior to lunch today, I wrote your check, placed it in an envelope, and have put it in the mailbox to be picked up by the postman today. If you do not have it by the end of the week, please let me know. Sorry about that."

From publisher one: "I'm very sad to hear that you haven't received the checks. This new accounting system is giving everyone in our organization, and beyond, a heap of trouble!"

From publisher two: "I apologize for our extreme delay in getting payment to you. I just spoke with the accounting department, and the [project 1] check is cut and awaiting signature. I, however, have to confess that my own human error delayed the [project 2] check. I must have overlooked it in early November and did not submit it in a timely fashion. This check will be cut early in the new year. I apologize for our tardiness and will make a point to get payment through to you as quick as possible on future projects in 2009."

I feel bad (sorta) for the editor for publisher two, because I enjoy working with per, have met per personally, and know that per just made an honest mistake. Per also followed up with a copyediting job about an hour after our exchange, so that's good.

Unfortunately, late payments on their end means late payments for me on an outgoing basis, which has consequences that last way longer than the temporary inconveniences. And the question I always want to ask these folks is, "How would you feel if your accounting department said, 'Oh, by the way, the payroll check for the last two weeks you were expecting this Friday? Nope. And we don't know when you'll be getting it either. And your boss has some more work for you to do."


PS: This does not even include the two companies that are 3 and 6 months behind now. On the one that's 3 months behind, and which keeps sending me work, all I can say is that they've treated me well for years, and I'm trying to hang in there. They say by mid-2009 they should be back on track with timely payments. For the one that is 6 months behind, all I can do is trust the line they are giving me . . . that they've not yet been paid either. And as I've said, what are my options?

As my profile says, quoting Allen Ginsberg, "When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks and my hard work in the garden?" But frankly, I don't work hard in the garden, and there's a reason that my czar icon is a bespectacled basset hound.

post and prayer answered

Unbelievable. Got an answer within hours. Enjoy.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Feedjit's amazing . . . well, if you're looking for distractions from 800-page manuscripts.

Over the last few weeks, traffic on this blog has been split between the usual suspects (which seems to include a few new ones -- welcome, whoever you are; let me know what you think) and people around the world searching for images of Neil Armstrong and Louis Armstrong. Lord only knows what they think when they see the blog . . . not that it's written in their native languages anyway.

But you never know where things might lead or when. And probably I should just load up the site with iconic shots to drive traffic: Marilyn Monroe over the subway grate, FDR and his cigarette holder (I once worked on a book about FDR that showed him strolling up Broadway, I believe, in a parade -- before the polio took hold), Warhol's Campbell's Soup can. . . .

What I personally really want to see on the Internets, though, is the old dog food commercial with the bulldog speaking in Winston Churchill's voice: "This is dog food's finest hour." If that ever shows up on youtube, someone please let me know.

Back to the wheel.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Money money money

My list of clients who are late in paying me -- past 30 days -- is getting a little long. And that's mighty frustrating. These are reputable companies with long histories. They are repeating clients. And they (well, all but one of them; maybe two) generally give me what seem like valid excuses, or maybe I'm just gullible.

As a freelancer, what leverage do I have?

I saw another freelancer's website the other day in which per claimed 20 percent markup for invoices paid after 30 days. Now, unless you have a spouse who is an attorney from hell who doesn't mind doing collections work, what are you supposed to do? Say it's 35 or 40 or 60 or 120 days, and the check comes in for the invoiced amount. What do you do? Return the check? Or just deposit the thing? And when that client calls the next time, what do you say: "Oh, sorry. I won't work for you anymore because the check didn't include the markup"? Uh-huh. These are the policies of someone who doesn't need the money. I can only imagine the laughter I would get on the other end of the phone from some of my clients if I were to suggest a late-pay fee.

Having said that, I'd love to institute a 3- or 5-percent-off incentive if it's paid within 10 days. Let's see: on an $800 job, would I take $760 for a quick payment? Yeah, I probably would. Maybe I'll experiment with some invoices and see if I can get anyone to take the bait.

A pet peeve: Some of my clients don't give me FedEx or UPS numbers to ship jobs back to them. So I pay for Priority Mail (or my old favorite: DHL Ground, RIP) and then add the amount to the invoice. So what happens? I'm reimbursed for the shipment as part of the regular check, so naturally it appears as income on the 1099. So I'm paying income taxes on the amount they are refunding me for shipping a job to them.

I know these companies have UPS or FedEx accounts. I can't imagine them not having such accounts. I have just finished proofreading a job for one of these clients, and I'm tempted to say, "I'll ship it back to you when I get an account number. There is no reason for me to be paying taxes on the shipping refund." To me that makes perfect sense.

One particularly enlightened client pays me for printing out jobs on my end, as opposed to them printing the job and sending it to me. And they cut me two separate checks. Somehow, I suspect that the check for the printing is not included in the year-end 1099.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mystery solved . . . and an ominous answer

A few posts ago, "Work extra hard so someone else doesn't have to," I wondered about a client that told me to pay particular attention to copyediting the documentation because it probably wouldn't be proofread. In an email exchange regarding the project, I asked the press's managing editor about this comment. The response I received is rather chilling:


Many presses no longer proofread, given that manuscript goes straight from electronic Word file into typeset files without rekeying. This still makes me woozy, because I know copyeditors don't--and can't--catch everything. (Princeton UP had a recent book it pulped and reprinted because of all the errors that slipped through.) We stopped proofreading notes on scholarly books--which generally have fewer than 1,000-copy printings--about a year ago as a cost-saving measure, under the assumption that many people don't read them, so lingering errors there are less likely to be noticed than they would be in the general text. I'm no big fan of the idea, but unfortunately with an ever-tightening budget, we're having to make some tough choices.

We do use freelance proofreaders, if you're interested. Our rates are between 65 (trade) and 75 (scholarly) cents per book page, though--not much if one's trying to make a living off of the task.


Frankly, I could rant about these comments for quite a while, but I believe I'll let them stand alone.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quote from the current project

Sorry to double-dip in one day on quotes, but this is just too good. From a series on politics and culture in the twentieth-century South . . . a book about the Citadel, the military college of South Carolina:

Of course, most Citadel backers [believed] instead that the mere presence of women in the classroom or the barracks would destroy the school. Besides the previously stated arguments calling females a distraction, many offered a far more intriguing analysis of how women would compromise their ability to build men. Contrary to the notion that the college's system spawned crude, loutish behavior and attitudes, several students claimed that The Citadel allowed them to establish intimate bonds with their cadet brothers. When referring to the barracks as "a place where a man can be a man," several cadets felt most free to express themselves in the communal showers. One cadet explained that, especially as freshmen, "We are in the showers, it's very intimate. We're one mass, naked together, and it makes us closer. . . . You're shaved, you're naked, you're afraid together. You can cry." Another continued, "I know it's all trivial but all of us in one shower, it's like we're all one, we're all the same, and--I don't know--you feel like you're exposed, but you feel safe. . . . I just can't explain it, but when they take that away it's over. This place will be ruined." One summed it up succinctly, "With no women, we can hug each other." The irony lies in the fact that these students believed that by shutting out the judgmental eyes of the outside world, their closed, all-male environment helped them become men by giving them the freedom and security to be more intimate and sensitive, traits some of them might have deemed feminine. (Macaulay, Marching in Step: Masculinity, Citizenship, and The Citadel in Post-World War II America, UGA Press)

oscar peterson "nigerian marketplace"

Quote from the current project

The survey results of Gallup pollsters John Esposito and Dalia Mogahed, assembled in their important book Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think, lead to some startling and counterintuitive conclusions: Muslims around the world do not see the West in stereotypic terms. They criticize or celebrate countries based on their politics, not based on their culture or religion. Muslims everywhere and non-Muslim Americans are equally likely to reject attacks on civilians as morally justified. Those who condone acts of terrorism are no more likely to be religious than the rest of the population. What Muslims around the world say they admire about the West is its technology and its democracy--the same top-two responses given by Americans when asked the same question. And what Muslims around the world say they least admire about the West is its perceived moral decay and breakdown of traditional values--again, the same response given by Americans when posed the same question. Americans look askance at the apparent desire for the integration of religion and politics in Islamic societies, unaware that a majority of U.S. citizens also want the Bible to be a source of legislation. (Myers, Living Beyond War, Orbis Books)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Comfort? I don't want no stinking comfort

You know, as much as I've railed against them on this blog, style manuals are one place in my life where I desire heavy doses of totalitarianism. Tell me what to do, so when I'm pestered about it, I can blame it on someone else.

I was wondering about the possessive of "corps" -- corps's? corps'? -- and was directed to CMOS 7.21, where they give their rule, such as it is, and then go on to say, "Opt for this practice only if you are comfortable with it and are certain that the s is indeed unpronounced." (By the way, no 's' after the apostrophe when the 's' at the end of the root word is unpronounced.)

What is this "only if you are comfortable with it" jive? What the hell does my comfort level have to do with anything? Isn't that the whole point of style guides, to give me some standard to go by, even if it makes me uncomfortable as hell? If all I needed to rely on was my own comfort, publishers throughout our fair nation would be in a world of hurt. Multiply that by the comfort of all the other freelancers out there, and you'd have anarchy. Anarchy, I tell you.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Perhaps the worst sentence I've read this decade

"One of the important contributions made to secondary theology by studies of these texts governed by, and subject to the disciplines appropriate to, literary, historical, and phenomenology of religion interests is the way they serve to discipline study governed by, and subject to the discipline appropriate to, theological interests (in ways in which God relates to all that is not God, who the God is who relates in these ways, how to understand other realities as God-related, and what counts as appropriate ways of responding to God's relating) by making unavoidably clear the concrete particularity of each of the texts on the canonical list, how they differ from one another in literary genres and rhetoric, their cultural assumptions, their theological assumptions and affirmations, their concrete historical occasions, and the particular situations to which they are addressed."

I am bouncing this one right back to the author. I mean, what are you supposed to do with something like this? Grammatically it is essentially correct, is it not? And it is by no means the most difficult concept presented in the book--far from it.

One of my other publishers would say to leave it alone--that it's the author's style, and anyone reading this tome would probably be right there along with per.

And this particular publisher's managing editor told me recently--in discussing some of the troubles with other publishing houses not sufficiently editing their books before they come to me for copyediting--that when a book comes to me for copyediting, I can pretty much assume that it's the way they want it, aside from the quality control function that a copyeditor brings.

Authors, if you're typing in 12-point Times and your sentence exceeds four lines, it's time to drop back and rewrite, unless you have a real solid reason not to do so. I don't think the passage above qualifies. I am querying it and saying, "Please try to break up into 2 or 3 sentences," but that's not even the point. The point is, who in their right mind composes something like this and thinks it's OK?

Monday, December 15, 2008

comprise; book sales

1. Observation: An inverse correlation exists between extent of author's use of the word "comprise" and author's ability to use it correctly.

I mentioned this to a managing editor today, and he informed me that Merriam-Webster's 11th now allows the wrong use of "comprise"--that is, " . . . is comprised of." He doesn't agree with it either. I opined that Merriam-Webster's 12th and Chicago 16 will both be about three pages long: a copyright page, a page saying "Do what you want to but be consistent," and an order form for the next edition.

2. Speaking with an editor/typesetter last week, he mentioned that one of the publishers he used to work for once said that all he hoped for out of a certain volume was that the "sales exceed the page count." If you want an idea of the kind of stuff typically on my desk, that just about sums it up.

On the other hand, I received word today that I'd be receiving for proofreading a book of daily quotes and meditations on recovering from sex addiction. Should be a nice change of pace.

PS: Thanks to you regulars out there who have been checking in during my nonposting last few weeks.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Quote from the current project

"There's no point in burying a hatchet if you're going to put up a marker on the site." --Sidney Harris

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Work extra hard, so someone else doesn't have to

Folks, I've been doing this kind of work for quite a while, as you can tell from this blog, but that doesn't mean I can't be surprised.

I received a job the other day from a press for which I have a lot of respect. Not only are their projects prepared well before they come to me, but their books typically are interesting, too. For me, this is not a common combination.

One problem I do have with this press, though, is that each job is accompanied by literally about 9 pages of notes and instructions for the copyeditor. I guess this speaks some to their attention to quality and detail . . . but I'm not getting paid to read those 9 pages. On the other hand, if I don't follow the instructions therein, I'm not getting more work from the press.

Anyway, I'm giving the latest list of instructions the once-over before the file goes into the stack of jobs I'll be tackling later. Screaming off the page comes this sentence: "Please pay extra attention to the documentation, because the proofreader will not be reading it."


First, I don't pay any more or any less attention to the documentation (notes and bibliography) because I'm told to do so. As I've ranted about in a previous posting, one of the things that grinds my guts is when a copyeditor does a bang-up job on the running text and feels like it wasn't worth their trouble to do a decent job on the documentation. So I always try to do as good a job on the documentation as I do on the rest of the book. It's not like I take the approach of, "Well, I'll give 90 percent on these pages and 110 percent on these pages." They all benefit, I hope, from the same approach and quest for quality.

But to be told that the proofreader will not be reading the notes and the bibliography . . . (1) Why the hell not, and (2) Where do I sign up???

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Choosing text for running heads . . . subtitles

Unless I go off on some tangent, this won't be the most exciting post you've ever read. And with a opener like that, is it any wonder I did not follow my forebears into sales?

One of my presses requires me, as part of the copyeditor's duties, to compose a running head list for the typesetter. Running heads are the identifiers that appear with the page numbers to show, for example, book name and chapter title, or chapter title and chapter section, or in the case of the project I just finished, author name and chapter title, because it's a Festschrift.

(Now, there's a word I never came across until I was an editor. A Festschrift is, according to the trusty Merriam-Webster's 11th, "a volume of writings by different authors presented as a tribute or memorial especially to a scholar.")

So, the verso (left-hand) pages carry the author's name, and the recto (right-hand) pages carry the chapter name.

But what do you do when the chapter name is too long? Or if the chapter includes a title and a subtitle?

Take a look at a list of recent nonfiction books or peruse the shelves at your local library or bookseller. The title is a hook, something catchy, something that will fit on a spine. And for the most part, the title tells you very little about the subject of the book. For most books, the subtitle is the phrase that's doing the heavy lifting.

Given that most of the books I work on carry heavy bibliographic information, I can say that the same is often true in peer-reviewed journal articles and, often, dissertations.

I am working off and on with an author who is agonizing over the title of his book. He's trying to cram as much information into about five words as he can to tell what the book is about. And so the title changes every few months because he can't settle on something . . . and none of it is catchy.

Finally I told him: forget the title. If the book is ever accepted for publication, it wouldn't surprise me if the publisher has its own ideas anyway because of how the book should be marketed. To tell your potential readers what the book is actually going to do for them, you should put that information in the subtitle.

So, back to the running heads. Here are the titles and subtitles of the chapters for the book I just packaged up:

“. . . Under Pontius Pilate”: On Living Cultural Memory and Christian Confession
“Faith” as a Christological Title in Paul
Hypostasis as a Component of New Testament Christology (Hebrews 1:3)
“Mingling” in Gregory of Nyssa’s Christology: A Reconsideration
Flesh and Folly: The Christ of Christian Humanism
The Corporate Christ
Forces of Love: The Christopoetics of Desire
“But you, who do you say I am?” A Homily on Ideological Faith from the Gospel of Mark
Christology and Diakonia
Children, the Image of God, and Christology: Theological Anthropology in Solidarity with Children
“On earth as it is in heaven”: Eschatology and the Ethics of Forgiveness
“We Knew Him Once from a Human Point of View”
Personhood and Bodily Resurrection
From Easter to Parousia

Obviously, some of those titles are not going to fit on the 4.5 or so inches allotted across the top of a 6x9 page. So what to do?

In some cases, I instructed the typesetter to set the title and in others the subtitle. It came down to which would be more helpful to the reader.

For example, “'On earth as it is in heaven': Eschatology and the Ethics of Forgiveness." Now if you are a reader flipping through a book, and you see a running head that reads, "On earth as it is in heaven," you're going to presume that the chapter has something to do with the Lord's Prayer. And you'd be right, but only partially. More what's going on is that the Lord's Prayer is used as a jumping-off point for the real meat of the chapter, eschatology and the ethics of forgiveness.

(Well, actually, if you're like me, you're reading titles like this and wondering how come no good sports books or lesbian science fiction has come across my desk lately.)

But in another chapter, "Children, the Image of God, and Christology: Theological Anthropology in Solidarity with Children," I went with the title as opposed to the subtitle, thinking that the title was descriptive enough. And when space allowed, I recommended that the title and subtitle both appear. And in most cases, I would prefer just to go with the title -- unless space is an issue and the subtitle says it better.

Another hour in the life of the freelance editor. Boy, if it were any more exciting than this, I'm not sure what I'd do.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Sweet words at a needed time

From a new client:

Dear Bob:

There is nothing like reading the corrections of a professional copyeditor to make you say, "Now why didn't I see that?" (Oh dear, is there a period at the end of the previous sentence?)

I thank you for finding things that I think we should have caught, as well as making modifications that required your knowledge and expertise.

Your suggestions for some rewriting are right on target, and I think the author will find them useful and worth following.

Thank you for doing a fine job quickly. I look forward to working with you in the future.



Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why the blog?

The whole blogging thing is making me scratch my head.

It's interesting the way people find this place. Other than the few regulars, I think many happen upon it through searching for images. They see the image in context, realize that the blog is not what they were looking for, and leave . . . never to return. Of course, this is common behavior. I've done it myself.

Some people link to it through a friend's blog, or they see my comments at her place and might be curious enough to look a little further. And maybe they come back.

Admittedly, the blog is of narrow interest . . . and it doubles as a commercial site, which probably violates any number of commandments right there.

And I try to do a little cherry-picking. I'll troll the Internets looking for people or organizations that might be interested in what I do and then plant the seed. One never knows at what point it'll bear fruit.

Years ago, more than I care to think about right now, I sent out a number of letters to publishing concerns in Atlanta. One night while I was proofreading at one of my side gigs, Tere calls me to say that a magazine editor had called wondering if I was still freelancing. He'd saved my letter from 18 months prior just in case, and was very excited that I was indeed still a freelancer. (Actually at the time, I might have also been a full-time employee somewhere else.) But the point is that he saved that letter. The seed was planted for when he needed it.

The situation for me was rather difficult the first time I went to work for him. A new owner had purchased the magazine and instituted severe cost-cutting measures, most of which entailed getting rid of about 90 percent of the staff. So my first meeting with the editor of the magazine took place after I walked through the work area to his office . . . past all the other former staffers who were packing their boxes because they'd been fired. And here I come to do some of their work. As the editor told me, "I've been left to put out this magazine by myself and need some help."

So, if you're just happening on this blog, or you're one of the folks or organizations I've cherry-picked to get you to consider my services, please don't take it as just another cold call or intrusion. You never know when you might be in a bind and you need some proofreading, editing, or indexing done. Maybe your usual freelancers are unavailable, maybe you're overloaded, whatever.

I'll still be here. Contact me.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Catch of the day

Footnote from the current project:

224. Paul VI, “Message to the American cosmonauts: Luis Armstrong, Edwin Aldrin and Michael Collins (July 21, 1969).”

Good ol' Luis Armstrong, known ever after to his buddies as Satchmoon.
(In the interest of accuracy, Neil Armstrong is the photographer here. The photo is of Buzz Aldrin.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

On Demand? Not Land. Copyediting for Demand Studios; Proofreading for Demand Studios

Well, I've had it. If any circumstances emerge to change the nature of this post, I'll take it down. But in the meantime, there might actually be someone interested in what's happened here. And far be it from me to provide a teaser and then disappoint my vast public.

I've already relayed this information in an email to bloggoddess extraordinaire Moi, so what mostly follows is the text of my email to her. I have a few things to add afterward, but here goes. This is the story of my interaction with Demand Studios, an internet film and publishing website that advertises for copyeditors and proofreaders, among others.


This goes on for a while. You might grab a few fingers of your local poison and sit back.

Through the feedjit widget on my blog, I saw that someone found boblandedits by searching for proofreading for Demand Studios. I looked them up, and they claim to have all kinds of copyediting and proofreading (and writing) assignments for websites and film titles. You pull up the jobs you want, work on them, post them back to the website. You can take as much or as little work as you want, and it might pay from 8 cents up into many more dollars (I guess the 8 cents would be like for a title page or a simple screen credit). They pay by PayPal every Friday. So I'm thinking, I waste enough time in front of the computer; I might as well get paid for it.

So I send 'em my resume, which is barebones because I never use it and want it to fit on one page, and a link to my blog, which should establish my cred pretty quickly. I'm thinking that since they are a Web-based organization, a look at my blog should do the trick.

In response, I get your basic, "We have no assignments for you at this time."

I write them back saying, "Your website shows you have thousands of proofreading and copyediting assignments available. If there's something in my resume or on my blog that turned you off, it would be helpful for me to know."

This is what I get back:


Hi Bob,

Thanks for the inquiry. Your resume did not reflect the extent of the editing experience that you seem to have. It did not provide enough details as to the type of editing you have performed nor the breadth of your experience in editing. In addition, aside from your freelance work, your job title does not imply that editing is your main duty in your current company.

However, if you do indeed have 30 years of copy editing experience, then I can pass your resume along (with that footnote) to the lead copy editor for further consideration.

The Demand Studios Team

Please reply back to this email without changing the subject line if you need further assistance.


* * *

No shrinking wallflower me, here's my response [I'm thinking of posting it to the blog, so you'd be reading it anyway :) ]

Dear Demand Studios Team:

Thanks for the second look.

From 1984 to 1988 and then 1990 to 1994, I was a full-time writer and editor of university-level business and insurance textbooks for what was at the time the world’s largest self-study insurance education program. I wore many hats while there: developmental editing, substantive editing, and copyediting, in addition to working with permissions, review panels of industry experts, and printing and other types of vendors. (Before 1984, I was a full-time proofreader.)

In the interim years of 1988 to 1990, I was the lead editor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, where my main task was substantive editing and copyediting of the Economic Review—four research articles on a bimonthly basis written by the Ph.D. staff economists at the Atlanta Fed. In addition, I was responsible for editorial oversight of two monthly newsletters and various smaller publications. We also published a book-length history of the Atlanta Fed while I was there, and I served as the main editor for that volume.

Since 1994, I have been a full-time freelancer—proofreading, copyediting, and indexing. Since 2000 in particular, my copyediting tasks have focused mainly on university presses—University of Georgia and Tennessee, and Baylor University Press—and for denominational and religious/spiritual presses: Westminster John Knox, Crossroad, Orbis Books, Templeton Foundation, among many others. I work steadily for all of them and am more than happy to provide references.

On the not-so-scholarly side, I also work for trade presses, such as Health Communications, which handles the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, and I have served as editor and copyeditor for many of those books over the last 10 years, in addition to others that they publish. Because they had no one on staff who knew anything about golf, they basically turned over primary editorial duties for Chicken Soup for the Golfer’s Soul to me, including story selection. When HCI sends me a book that I think is beyond copyediting, they give me a free hand to rewrite as necessary. I have rewritten a number of books for HCI over the years.

I also edit three columns each week for two syndicated newspaper columnists in Georgia, whose names I’d just as soon not provide. I edit for a local columnist here in SW Va/NE Tenn, as well as for a Korean American businessman of some prominence in Atlanta whose written English needs some help.

At one point when I was living in Atlanta in the 1990s, I was copyediting for four competing business publications. That was fun.

I presently serve as the managing editor for the America’s Greatest Brands series, now preparing its seventh volume—editing text, working with designers, and handling traffic with many of the nation’s largest brands and ad agencies.

I am a one-man operation. I am an editor, proofreader, and indexer. I know of no fancy job title to put on that. My dozens of repeating clients don’t seem to require one.

Please refer to my blog for a complete client list: boblandedits.blogspot.com. You can read the posts relative to editing and proofreading and indexing if you have any lingering concerns that, indeed, working as a freelancer in publishing consumes my life and I am up to my neck in it seven days a week. Actually, to save you a minute, here’s a list of my clients, all of which I’ve worked for during the last couple of years:

America’s Greatest Brands
American Human Development Project
Barter Theatre
Baylor University Press
BlueBridge Books
Bookhouse Group
Chapel Hill Press
Continuum Publishing
Crossroad Publishing
Dogwood Institute
Executive Books
Health Communications
Indigo Custom Publishing
John Wiley and Sons
Johns Hopkins University Press
Lexington Seminar
Mercer University Press
Oakhill Press
Orbis Books
Paulist Press
Pilgrim Press
Publications Development Company
Riverbend Books
Shambhala Publications
Sweet Earth Flying Press
T&T Clark
Templeton Foundation Press
Texas Tech University Press
University of Georgia Press
University of Tennessee Press
Vineyard Stories
Westminster John Knox Press
Wipf and Stock Publishers
Yale University Press

Here is a sample of books I’ve copyedited just over the last three months, in addition to my proofreading and indexing work:

Why Did This Happen? Content, Perspective, Dialogue: A Workshop Model for Developing Young People’s Reflective Writing (Wilcox, for Brotherhood/Sister Sol)

Spiritual Leadership for Church Officers (Gray, for Westminster John Knox Press)

American Cancer Society Tobacco Atlas, 3rd edition (American Cancer Society, for Bookhouse Group)

The Historiographical Jesus: Memory, Typology, and the Son of David (Le Donne, for Baylor University Press)

A Century of Quality Refreshment: The Story of Absopure Water Company (Distasio, for Bookhouse Group)

Philippians and Philemon, New Testament Library Series (Cousar, for Westminster John Knox Press)

A Memoir of the New Left: The Political Autobiography of Charles A. Haynie (Haynie and Miller, eds., for University of Tennessee)

Insights: Reflections on the Life of Faith (Barth, for Westminster John Knox Press)

Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture, 2nd ed., rev and exp. (Sanneh, for Orbis Books)

Prairie Miracles: The Story of the Valley Hope Association (Pogue, for Bookhouse Group)

My work mostly involves use of the Chicago Manual of Style, but I am also well versed in AP style, APA style, and the Style Manual for the Society of Biblical Literature.

As I say, without a second thought I can provide you with a dozen references at publishing houses around the country who can vouch for my work, my reliability, and my attention to detail. I really don’t know what else I can offer you, but if this isn’t enough, well, I can’t say I didn’t try. And, frankly, if you have a stable of editors who match or exceed this level of experience, my congratulations to you for assembling a hell of a team.

Bob Land


So, as of November 24, about seven days after sending this response to Demand Studios, I have heard nothing.

Let's take a look at the people whom Demand Studios shows on their website as copyeditors and proofreaders, shall we?

"Working for Demand Media as a title proofer has been a great opportunity for me. As a teacher, the flexibility has been the best aspect. This job allows me to work from home around my school schedule. In addition, I am able to take on more work during the summer months when I have extra time. Another perk about this job is once an assignment is complete, the paycheck soon follows."

"Working for Demand Studios as a copyeditor has allowed me to find success in navigating the often uncertain waters of freelancing. Demand Studios gives me as much work as I can handle and allows me flexibility in scheduling so I can work around other projects. I count myself very fortunate to be a part of the DS team."


Now, I have nothing against teachers or people who are just finding success in navigating the often uncertain waters of freelancing. But, damn, judging from their pictures, I was working 70 hours a week in a proofreading sweatshop before these folks were born. And if they are teachers or are finding the freelancing waters uncertain, they damn sure aren't copyediting or proofreading anywhere near full-time.

Maybe they think I'm kidding about who I work for. Maybe I'm overqualified for the gig, but I also figure that I should be the one to make that determination. And when you consider that I spent many years working a full-time job and multiple part-time gigs simultaneously, and when you factor in that I've put in 80- to 100-hour weeks for most of the last few years, when I say I've got almost 30 years of experience, that's just on the calendar, and based on what most folks would judge by: a 40-hour week. My mileage exceeds my age by a long shot.

Sour grapes? Perhaps. Am I bitter? Maybe so. If anyone has any experience or knows someone who has worked with Demand Studios, I'd love to hear their story. Because at this point, I'm just baffled.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

trying one, II: Two geniuses named John

Nothing related to editing here, either. Just figuring out the form.

Different things you can do with an acoustic guitar in your hands. Interestingly, these are from the same stage (different years).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

trying one

Just experimenting. Nothing edited related here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

En as in Nancy

Ah, the en dash. What you are looking at below, if the bloggergods are cooperative, are, in descending order, a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash.


Hyphens are universally known, though occasionally troublesome when trying to remember whether or not they appear in common compound words, as I've covered in an earlier post. Aside from the words listed in that post, the ones that would often show up on my style sheets—that is, if I ever created style sheets—are fund-raiser, decision making (as a noun), and health care/health-care (noun and adjective, respectively; not healthcare . . . all per Merriam-Webster's 11th). For all I know, when MW12 comes out, all those might be different.

Em dashes are the longest dashes, often used in my editing almost as parentheses, but without the connotation that parentheses give as text that might be superfluous. They are also used for breaks in thought, to give a longer mental pause than a comma, and in bibliographies to indicate that the author of the reference you're citing is the same as the one previous—hence the wonderful 3-em dash. To me, the most common misuse of the em dash is in place of a semicolon. Do not separate what could be complete sentences with an em dash. Don't do it. Don't. I'll change it. I promise.

And then there's the glory of the en dash. En as in Nancy.

(Aside: The name "Nancy" will forever make me think of two things. [1] The apartment we lived in on Staten Island for seven years. We lived in apartment 10-N, and when ordering pizza from Pal Joey's or Joe and Pat's we'd have to specify the letter so they wouldn't deliver it, say, to 10-M. Thus "10-n-as-in-Nancy" rolled off the tongue probably hundreds of times in that and other contexts over those seven years. [2] Before we lived in the apartment [shown here, thanks to the wonders of the Google], we lived next door to a family that had a daughter named Nancy who was about a year or 18 months younger than I was [at this time, I'm about 6 to 9 years old]. We were good friends as children. I remember playing make-believe Batman-and-Robin with her, running around our houses. After I moved to the apartment, all of about three or four miles away, we didn't see each other again until about six years later [except at my Bar Mitzvah, and we barely spoke], when my mother and I went to dinner at the former neighbors' house. I was at the height of my social awkwardness, and trust me, going to an all-boys' school I was about as awkward as it gets. I was, when I wasn't at summer camp, just about emotionally incapable of speaking with any girl my age. Well, that might be hedging a little. Totally incapable is more like it. I think Nancy picked up on this and retired to her room for most of the evening. Very painful for both of us, I am sure, as we were close in our childhood. In my childlike mind years before, I'd grown up thinking I'd eventually marry her. Well, the next time we saw each other was about four or five years later at her brother's wedding. I guess we were both in college. We spent the time dancing in each other's arms and walking around the facility and talking and laughing and looking at each other like, wasn't this the way it was always supposed to be? She probably remembered the night, as I did, when Mom and I came to dinner. I have not seen Nancy from that day to this. Actually, my family and I went to see these neighbors some years back on a visit to Staten Island, and they made reference to a picture of Nancy and her husband and kids being on the piano or something. I didn't look. No regrets, mind you. I'd just as soon not deal with adolescent postmortems . . . well, except in this ridiculously public forum.)

So, the en dash. It is generally unknown outside of book/scholarly publishing, because it is not a topic in the AP style manual, doesn't appear in newspapers or magazines, and of course, most people would pass it right by if they saw one.

It's not the purpose of this post to give a class on the en dash (I've already blown that with the Nancy anecdote), but rather to complain about its frequent misuse in a lot of books I've seen recently.

One of the functions of the en dash is to join two words and one word when used as an adjective. The example that Chicago gives is a New York–London flight. Another good example would be a Pulitzer Prize–winning author. This makes more sense than a New-York-London flight or a Pulitzer-Prize-winning author.

But what I have seen a great deal lately is the use of the en dash to join two proper names when used as an adjective; an example would be the Ali–Frazier fight or the Obama–Biden ticket.

Did I miss something along the way? Has Bill Gates pulled another fast one on us and made the en dash in that context one of his auto-correct features? Or, as I say, have I totally missed the boat?

We have a few wordsmiths and editors out there. Let me know if I'm off base. If I am, I'll admit my error. But I'll probably keep up the post about en-as-in-Nancy. And that great photo of some of New York's Finest at my old apartment building. And, if I'm not mistaken, apartment 10-N is actually in the photo. If you consider the first floor you see as 3 (because the second floor was the mezzanine), count upward to 10, and trace your cursor over to the right, I believe that would have been my mother's bedroom window.

Quote from the current project

I'm working on a book that is about half quotes from other sources -- most of which are too scientific for me to make much sense of -- but I've still got a great font of material. For instance,

"What we do not know is an ocean." --Fred Hoyle

Land unDemanded, teaser

The story on the internet publishing dust-up is still pending, dear readers. I'll give it another few days before I tell the story of what will either be triumph or sour grapes, or some entirely unsatisfactory result in between. As a college friend used to say, "It's either Sydney or the bush." It took me a few passes before I realized what the hell he was talking about. And once I figured it out, this always seemed a curious metaphor, given that he was from south Florida and Chicago (parents divorced and he spent time in both places).

Avoiding work momentarily, I'll give the genesis of the Land on Demand name. People find it clever -- although I'm often asked if I'm in real estate -- but it came about rather serendipitously. Certainly it was not the result of any intensive marketing brainstorming session, or even of a particularly positive mix of chemical elements.

About 12 or 13 years ago I had started my full-time freelancing endeavor, and Tere (my wife) was working at a law firm about a mile from the house. This was, of course, in the days before emailing documents became standard, so same-day couriers were rather important in the legal community. And because of the importance of their service, they were able to charge ridiculous amounts for getting a document from point A to point B in a hurry.

Because my freelancing was (a) just getting off the ground and (b) almost entirely for Atlanta clients for whom I worked on-site (ad agencies, typesetting firms, etc.), I spent a lot of time in the car or in a position of downtime. I was talking with Tere while she was up at the office, and she mentioned that the attorneys were getting a courier service to take some documents somewhere. I said, "Hell, I'll do that for half of what those other services charge. It'll be Land on Demand."

And thus, dear readers, was the birth of a moniker that I spent about 7 years trying to build up, because I treated it not only as a name on a business card but as a mission statement, and 5 years trying to convince people that, no, really, I actually need some time to work on your document.

So Land on Demand began as a budding, almost imaginary courier service with exactly one client . . . who took me up exactly one time on my offer. And I wonder how many courier services have been put out of business by the ubiquity of email.

Back to work.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

errors and omissions

I just finished another work where those flashes of light that occur in the sky were routinely spelled as "lightening." And this wasn't a compilation of unedited third-graders' weather reports. What the hell is going on these days?

And another book in which the sun was referred to as being 96 billion miles away from the earth. Come on now. I am far from being Mr. Science, but, damn.

Personally, I think people write and spell crappily and can't get the most basic facts right because they don't read.

One author in particular for whom I've edited four novels in the last six or so years cannot master the basic structure of questions in dialogue. I charge about a 40 percent markup on per's work because 400 pages of changing the following sentence structure just drives me nuts:

"Where is the party," Jim said?

Now, you'd think that after seeing three books that I've worked on of per's, per would get the point. I think the underlying issue is that per's either not read enough to see what looks correct, or per's just too damn dense to understand. I really don't think the latter is the case, so I'm left with the former conclusion. Per's opuses (opi?) now constitute about sixteen hundred pages of the most implausible plots and characters I've ever read, but they've won awards and I'm sure garnered per no shortage of recognition. And per can die with "author" on the tombstone, for writing four books of what started out as a trilogy.

But per keeps writing and writing. And I hope per keeps at it. Man does not live by theology alone.

And no word yet on the aforementioned internet publishing dustup. I am waiting and will report.

PS: I had to go through seven pages of google.images to find an image posted of "lightening" that did not refer to lightning.

spiritual confusion

Any regular readers of this blog and anyone who peruses my client list knows that I am often up to here with theology. And that my own religious tendencies could at best be described as agnostic.

I read material now from all over the spectrum. While the Christian left (yes, it exists) has generally consumed the last 8 years, a local author has recently found me who refers to the authors I work for as "theologians" (scare quotes intentional). I think that's because they generally voice a theology with which per does not agree. But per has been very open-minded in the emails I've sent, challenging per on certain issues and making no bones about my general feelings regarding the whole religious what-have-you.

And while I read theology most days, I've never been able to formulate any stance of my own, except in a negative way. In the last few minutes, that's begun to change, and I want to capture it before it goes away.

What I'd be looking for religiously/theologically would be

the social justice work of the Catholics
the autonomy of the (non-Southern) Baptists
the acceptance of minority opinions of the Jews
the welcoming nature of the United Church of Christ
the Buddhist recognition of suffering
the Taoist perception of cycles

oh, and probably no God.

Anyone have any ideas?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quote from the current project

"So long as a man is not horrified at himself, he knows nothing of himself." --P. D. Ouspensky

pending dust-up with internet editing site

Watch this space for developments.

Monday, November 17, 2008


According to the Dashboard, this is the 100th post to my blog. Maybe someone's learned something along the way. Maybe I've gotten a dollar or two out of it (questionable). I've certainly spent/wasted/passed enough time fooling with the thing. And feedjit is a hoot. Might as well continue.

I just wrapped up an index and sent it to the author, which happens maybe one out of ten times. Usually my indexes are sent to the publisher or the book designer, and what happens from there is not my concern. Sometimes, as I believe I've said before, the publisher doesn't even run them by the author before they are printed. I guess the author was probably given the opportunity to write it perself, and passing on that opportunity also gives up the right to any input.

When I send an index to the author, there's about a 1- to 2-day breath-holding period. The responses vary from (paraphrasing) "Looks good" (i.e., "Looks like an index") to "Needs some work" to "Let me try to make connections in the index that I neglected to make in the book."

Of course, I love response 1, which means the index is sent to the publisher and the author gets the invoice. Response 2 generally comes with suggestions for changes, which I implement pretty much thoughtlessly, and then continue on. If the changes aren't specific enough, I go back to the author. Presumably I've already taken my best shot at writing the index I thought was appropriate for the book, so if the author thinks changes need to be made, per needs to tell me what they are. Response 3, I just shrug my shoulders and do as I'm told.

When I was writing textbooks for a living -- part of the inevitable and not-so-fascinating descent into my basement/garage -- we would always have a peer as an editor. A quickly established rule was that one could not just circle a sentence and write "Fix this" in the margin. I take the same approach to indexes that are reviewed by another. I've already done what I thought was my best work. If author wants to see something different, per had best tell me what that is.

I think the fastest response I ever received on an index was about 10 minutes. It was a book about nuclear nonproliferation treaties -- sorta difficult text, multiauthor book, one of the co-editors was my contact. Sent him the index, got back a "Looks good." I think he was so over the process at that point that as long as whatever I sent him had tabs and was alphabetized, it was going to look good to him.

I know the feeling, and I hope it's one shared by my current client.

On to 101.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Come on, boss. Let's lam on outta here."

That's a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Petrified Forest (1934), starring Bette Davis, Leslie Howard, and Humphrey Bogart. The last time I watched it I thought it was occasionally sappy and overwritten, but it remains a fave. The first time I saw it, I think it must have been a day off from work back in the early '80s, or perhaps I was working night shift and it came on one morning or afternoon, and I was just entranced. Leslie Howard is a wandering romantic, and it's Bette Davis in a pre-uberbitch role -- playing a beautiful downhome girl working at her family's gas station in the middle of nowhere and dreaming of Paris. And then the plot thickens.

What brings this up? The topic I am going to address is the kind of thing that would get me laughed off of editorial freelancing websites as being a know-nothing ne'er-do-well, but (1) I am shameless about admitting my own ignorance and (2) I'll put up my work schedule and repeat client list against anyone who probably knows a lot more than I do. So I must be doing something right. Or maybe, as one of my clients once told me, I'm just a whore.

Anyway, "immigrate" vs. "emigrate." I can't sort the two out. Well, I can, but why bother? As far as I can tell, you are supposed to immigrate to and emigrate from. Fine.

"Juan Ton immigrated to the United States." Well, he had to leave somewhere to do so, didn't he? Here's what Merriam-Webster's 11th says:

emigrate : to leave one's place of residence or country to live elsewhere *emigrated from Canada to the United States*

immigrate : to enter and usually become established; especially : to come into a country of which one is not a native for permanent residence

Using the example the dictionary gives, isn't Juan emigrating . . . to the United States? If the sentence structure was shifted around, would it be that he "immigrated to the United States from Canada"? And does this make a lick of sense?

Between Bristol and Asheville, in northwestern North Carolina, there's an exit on NC 19/23 (which in some future century might become I-26) for Mars Hill/Marshall. How confusing must this juxtaposition be for people who aren't familiar with the English language -- not that the Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways is really designed to be foreigner-friendly. I'm amused by the one random sign among thousands that gives miles and kilometers. What's up with that anyway?

Man, if the Republicans really wanted to beat Obama earlier this month, that's something they could have said that would have scared people more than Rezko/Ayers/Wright/Oprah. "Hey, everybody, if Obama is elected, he's gonna force us all to go metric."

Can you tell I'm avoiding work?

Quote from the current project

For my son and the industrialist:

Train travel in the “Gay Nineties” was anything but swift. On another of his treks Whitsitt noted, “The distance from Raleigh to Greensboro is 81 miles and the regular time in which to traverse it is 8 hours & a half. We left Greensboro at 11:00 P.M., but we failed to make the time, but we were only one hour & a half late. We reached Raleigh at 9 A.M.”

1s and ls; old style typography

This probably happens 20 times a year in books I read, and it begs the question: Just how old do you have to be to still use the 'l' character on a keyboard rather than the '1'? What element of muscle memory draws a writer over there on occasion? What did we do without an exclamation point on the keyboard? When will we have a keyboard with an interrobang, and what character should accompany it?

A designer I know once sent me an email with the hot-type reasons for a lot of the cold-type typography rules that (good) proofreaders and book designers still follow. Interesting stuff. And class, do you know where the term "leading" comes from? And "upper/lower case"? Do proofreaders or designers under the age of 30 (or 40) even know what leading is anymore?

Might be time to start preparing my room at the Old Proofreaders' Home. Ah, to be a crusty relic. May or may not beat the alternative.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quote from the current project

Every book I work on seems to have (at least) one sentence or concept that jumps out at me as being fun or interesting or stated in a particularly pithy way. Not that I always agree with the statement or care about its content (to me, content is tertiary at best at this point), but I'm going to try to remember to pull one statement out of each project to post here.

Today's entry:

Unfortunately my religious education was pretty awful. I think my mother and father really didn’t realize how much Catholic education had changed soon after Vatican II. They really didn’t realize how much content had been sucked out of Catholic education at that point. It mostly consisted of, “God loves me and let’s make felt banners.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

hyphenation, compound words, building freelance clientele, strange times

It's the easy words that'll trip me up. You'd think that after 34 years of marking up galleys (give or take), some things would stick . . . or at least I could proofread without a decent dictionary an arm's length away.

But that's not the case, and it's not because with my impending cognitive descent I am forgetting how to spell. But compound words and the (non)hyphenation thereof always send me scurrying to the Merriam-Webster's 11th, which must be followed.

Consider the following examples:

redheaded or red-headed
piggybacked or piggy-backed
bathwater or bath water or bath-water
good-bye or goodbye
grown-up or grownup
wood-burning or woodburning

It's this kind of stuff that I have to look up time after time. It's an offhand (off-hand?) application of the Pareto rule or the 80/20 rule, or however you know it: I spend most of my time looking up the same few words over and over again.

(By the way, MW11 says that the first instance of each of the above groupings is the correct spelling.)

American vs. British variants of English words I manage to remember. Class, if you're living in the United States, it's gray, not grey; leaped, not leapt; worshiping, not worshipping -- and if you are spelling "towards," "upwards," and "downwards" with the 's' at the end, you'd better be on the east side of the pond.


Intern news: a local college is sending an intern my way beginning in January for her to complete her requirements as a technical communications minor (she is an English major). The last time I worked with an intern, I think it worked out well for her. I ended up referring some work to her and thus gave her a client (or part of one) to start a budding freelance career of her own.

And that's what I tell college-age groups when I speak to them. Don't plan on being a full-time freelancer right out of school. Go and get a real job (boy, would I love to put some scare quotes there), and start trying to freelance on the side. Set a goal of having two freelance clients by the time you're 25 years old, and then let it snowball with references and marketing and staying in place while all the full-time workers switch jobs and take your name with them. Aside from the age, that's how it worked with me -- although it was hardly that methodical. Many lucky breaks and connections, and in one case, the benefit of a writer/editor friend who never stayed at one job more than nine months. At one time I had eight different clients that resulted from places where he'd darken the doors for a little while and then leave. But he'd bring my name with him and leave it behind when the door hit his butt on the way out. Thanks, Tim.


Interesting weekend, not all good. Went to a wedding party of a longtime (not long-time) friend whom I met while proofreading at a printing plant right out of college. We became very fast friends, the kind of thing that happens when you work with someone in cramped quarters under high pressure for little money for 70 hours a week -- and you have common interests to boot. At this party were people I'd not seen for anywhere from 10 to 15 to 25 years. While we've all grown older, whether or not we've grown up much is up for questioning. But a great time was had by all in reconnecting. A friend who hadn't seen me in years told Tere that she couldn't believe how talkative I've become -- like a different person. I think it's partially the effect of spending most of my waking hours these days in even more cramped quarters under higher pressure, alone. But I think what blew this friend away was seeing me even being chatty with strangers. Yes, I am a different person than I was in 1985/1990. I'm not sure I've grown up as much as figured out partially what it's like to act more like a human.

We spent the night in that town and then drove straight to the family visitation hours for a funeral of a 22-year-old we watched grow up, the son of our longtime next-door neighbors in Atlanta. Very, very sad. I won't go into details of the death, which apparently are a little sketchier than first believed, but suffice it to say that no 22-year-old oughta die, leaving behind parents and a younger brother. The late 22-year-old, his 19-year-old brother, my 19-year-old son, and my soon-to-be 16-year-old all grew up together, and we kept connections even after moving away from Atlanta, and we remain very good friends with the parents and surviving son, so it was a tough couple of days.

But speaking of reconnecting, we also at the funeral and visitation saw a bunch of people whom we hadn't seen nor spoken to since leaving ATL in 1997 -- and not all of whom we necessarily looked forward to seeing again, unlike the wedding. And we also saw a lot of the kids we knew back when they were 6 and 9 and 12 years old, now into late teenage and early adulthood years. Now, no one's kids are perfect -- certainly not my own -- but, well, if looking at most of them is any indication, I'm glad we moved away. I don't think any of them or their parents will happen upon this blog, and those who might get a resentment based on what I said will just be adding to the resentments they had 11 years ago. A few of the kids looked like they turned out all right (alright?), but, well. . . . 'Nuff said. Probably too much.


Working on a book about the women of Opus Dei, as well as the memoirs of a Hungarian woman, mostly during WWII. Horrifying material thematically in the latter, the stuff of nightmares. But in comparison to most of the work I get, this reading is bordering on the pleasant. I know it won't last long.


Found out over the weekend at the wedding party that most of my international readership is actually a globetrotting industrialist friend of mine checking in from foreign locales. So, instead of Moi and a cast of a score or two, I've got Moi and the industrialist, bless their souls, and someone who keeps checking in from NYC (could be my bro.) and a curious soul from Amherst MA. I think I'm the more curious one about that. Perhaps some things are better kept a secret.


Gone on too long. Opus Dei awaits, and thence to bed.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Quote from the current project

"The worst part about being self-employed is that you have to work eighteen hours a day. The best part is that you get to pick which eighteen." (Author unknown)

Gates of hell, part 2: Don't trust Bill with grammar ideas

I received this email today from a freelance writer friend:


I thought I’d share a laugh. MS Word grammar doesn’t always make the best choices.

For the sentence (part of an informational flyer about screening for colorectal cancer) that reads, “Women should have no more than 1 drink a day,” Word suggested the following substitution:

“Women should have no more than 1 DRUNK a day.”

I agree. In fact, one drunk a day is MORE than enough!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Proofreading and Editing Style Sheets

There's a little widget off to the right-hand side of this blog from a company called Feedjit. It allows me (and perhaps you, I don't know) to look at where people come to this blog from and what brings them here. I don't know specifically who is checking in, but I can see that I get a lot of repeat viewers from some towns, and I can also see what terms they were searching that might have led them here for the first time.

Deep down, I have mixed feelings about this little gadget. On some level, I wonder if I am part of the move toward invasion of privacy (Moi, give me a gut-check here. What do you think?) in that I'm monitoring people's actions in cyberspace. On the other hand, this is my little piece of real estate -- actually designed as a marketing tool for my services -- so to the extent that it might help me draw more people to an awareness of my services, I should mine it for what it's worth. Hence, the title of this blog entry, which I might get around to eventually.

A favorite story of mine is a guy who moved to a small town and wanted to establish himself as a regular at the local diner. So he goes into the diner every day for six months, sits at the counter in front of the same waitress, and orders the same thing. Every day. Six months.

Finally he gets up the nerve to test whether he's established himself as one of the locals. He sits down at the counter and, screwing up all his courage, tells the waitress, "I'll have the usual."

She says, "You mean the regular."

He says, "OK. The regular."

And she responds, "Fine. In your case, what would that be?"

As my kids would say, "Pwned." (If you don't know any teenagers or gamers, you'll have to look that one up.)

I used to guard against this, because private individual that I wanted to be, I would go into restaurants where I was indeed a regular, or a usual, and intentionally order something against type once in a while just not to be so predictable. This was especially the case in Atlanta when I was single and tended to frequent the same places to eat . . . where the waitrons would think they'd know my order, and I'd ask for something else.

(Why are people so weird? More to the point, why am I?)

So, I'm looking at feedjit, and there appears to be more interest in style sheets; that is to say, people often find my site looking for information on style sheets. And I've made my point in a number of posts on this blog what I think about style sheets: that they are largely a worthless endeavor because most typically they either (1) repeat what is already in Chicago or Merriam-Webster's, (2) are rarely accurate because the people who create them often don't bother to follow through on what they are trying to standardize, or (3) seem to be a way for copyeditors to show off how meticulous they can be. As a proofreader, do I really want a 15-page, 2-column list of every proper noun in the book? Do I have time to check every proper noun I read against this list? As a copyeditor, do I have time to compile this list? For proper nouns as a copyeditor, presuming I receive an electronic copy of the manuscript, I can create a custom dictionary that will capture these names, but stopping as I'm editing a book and writing them down or keying them in? Hell, that's hard work.

And it would be nice to think that one could trust authors to get their own information right, but, well, they are authors -- the banes of the publishing industry. When you work regularly with PhDs who don't seem to know how to compose a footnote, let's just say that skepticism comes easy.

If you've happened upon this blog looking for information, and you're not finding what you want to read, send me an email, or post a comment, and I guarantee I will respond to you. Guarantee.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to demystify the process of what I do. An accountant friend of mine once said that I should have been a CPA, because my greatest skill is the ability to stick with incredibly boring materials for a long period of time. And he might be right. There are editors out there who know more about grammar than I do, and who can improve people's writing better than I can, and who might actually have some knowledge about what they are reading. I wish them all the best. Can they do it day after day, night after night, year after year, oblivious to the content but focusing on the task, and hopefully maintain some sense of humor about it and not turn into prima donnas?

I've seen some freelance editing websites where it seemed like most of the people were intent on keeping all this stuff a secret, or not telling people their rates, or going to the mats over the difference between "complicated" and "complex." And I've seen people's websites where they list all their areas of expertise, but don't name a client and don't post a rate sheet. Not that what I'm doing here should be a model for everyone else. It's just my approach, for better or worse. Only a few of my clients I think have ever visited here, and actually I think they were prospective clients for whom I ended up doing a book or two. Probably the last thing my regular (usual) clients need to know is what's going on in my head. As I've said, the best verification I get for my work is repeat business and timely paychecks. And if you look at my client list on this blog, just about every one of those clients is an organization I've worked for in the last 18 months, and many of them are pretty steady. For one in particular, I probably work on about 30 titles a year, at least. Praise Dan, from whom many blessings flow.

So, back to the privacy issue. I'd love to know who some of these folks are who check in regularly. I know Moi, obviously, because you can see her comments and I know where she lives. But there are a few localities that I just wonder. I have some suspicions, and in the interest of keeping things private, I'm not going to call them out here.

If you are a regular visitor to this blog (you know who you are, even if I don't), thanks for checking in even if you don't post a comment or send me an email -- although I'd love to hear from you. And I really mean the following: if you are legitimately looking for answers to questions about copyediting or proofreading or indexing, get in touch with me via email or phone or whatever. It's to my benefit that the overall tide of freelance editors remains as high as possible, because it helps everyone and convinces people of the worthiness of this service if people are receiving quality editorial help for their money. And if you learn more or get some knowledge from me, you're not going to take away any of my business. There's enough business to go around -- for the people who are good at this and get their name out there.

There's one convention I go to every few years if it's close enough to where I live and I have a more or less free place to stay when I get there (yes, I'm cheap; the entrance fee to the convention is expensive enough). And when I get down to the convention display floor -- essentially for a few days the world's largest religious bookstore -- I am amazed and perturbed at how many of the exhibitors are not clients of mine. While I might be working for 15 or 20 of them, there are another 100 that have never heard of me and that are getting along quite well without me (and vice versa). But they're using someone. And that's just religious publishing. There are dozens of publishing fields out there that use freelancers like me. And if you happen to be a publisher of (I saw this category in some publishers' listing a few years ago) lesbian science fiction, hey, I can use a break now and then from reading yet another book about the baby Jesus. Give me a call.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

back in the saddle

I guess it's bad pun time. After 5 chiropractic treatments and actually paying attention (mostly) to what the chiropractor told me to do, I'm back [ugh] at about 95 percent health. The price I'm paying: I'm doing all my proofreading and copyediting work standing up.

This approach is interesting. I think it's making me a little sharper so far. On top of my picnic table/desk I have 19 coffeetable books, a few days worth of the Bristol Herald Courier (which makes up barely the first two sections of the Sunday NY Times), and a DHL large box, which brings stacks of paper up to about my fourth rib. It's probably not ideal for my neck -- the pile needs to be a little higher -- so I might add another DHL box, or perhaps a FedEx box, just to keep things even.

Of course, my legs get a little tired, but I sure don't want to revisit the near-paralysis of last week. If I'm sitting, I'm supposed to stand and walk around and stretch every 20 minutes or so, but this weekend we are going to a friend's postwedding party near Chapel Hill, about 3.5 to 4 hours from here. I guess that'll be a test run for the 11-hour drive to Suffield CT in December, during which, god willing, there will be no snow.

Indexing thus is a pain, literally and figuratively, and I have three to do in the next week or two. I'm about 2/3rds through one, but have put it on hold; 1/3rd through another, which I started working on by marking entries in the margins -- another new approach, but really only possible because the publisher wants a light index; and on the third, it looks like it's not that academic, so hopefully, it won't be so hard to get through rather quickly. Oh, and there's a fourth as well, which is really more of an update of an older edition's index. The authors and publisher were happy with the first edition, so they mostly want me to update page numbers and write entries for new material. Sounds easy enough, and it's more of a practical than an academic book, so maybe I can sit through it without dreading it too badly.

I heard there was an election this week. Did anything interesting happen? Actually, I worked at the polls handing out "sample ballots" for about five hours on Tuesday morning, which was nice, because I was standing up the whole time. I appear to now be facing a life operating against the credo of my dear deceased Aunt Muriel: "I am never standing up when I could be sitting down, and I am never sitting down when I could be laying down." I guess if I had spent more time laying down, I wouldn't have been to the chiropractor. It's the middle step that's troublesome.

The local congressman ran unopposed here. He is a wildly popular Democrat in a largely Republican district; to give an idea, the Obama folks worked their butts off here hoping to get 35 percent, and the local Democratic representative ran unopposed. I am considering saving my pennies and running against him (or, more precisely, just putting my name on the ballot) as a Republican in 2010. I would pony up the fee and do absolutely no campaigning. I'd answer any questions the media asked me, probably going against the Republican Party line on most issues. But I figure if I'm on the ballot as a Republican in this district, I'm pulling 30 percent right off the bat just for being there, even against a very popular congressman. I'd probably lose half of that once people figured out who I was and especially if they bothered to read what I thought, but hell, how many people ever get 15 percent in the ballot box running for Congress? Could the Republicans disown me if I qualified to run in their primary and ran unopposed? I just don't like seeing no choice on the ballots. Never have. I might even get a few votes just for chutzpah, but first I'd have to define chutzpah for the locals. And should I run as a long-hair or a bullet-head? Choices, choices.

Back to work. Plowing (standing up) through a too-long tome about the ins and outs of being a landlord.

Dear landlord,
Please don't put a price on my soul.
My burden is heavy,
My dreams are beyond control.
When that steamboat whistle blows,
I'm gonna give you all I got to give,
And I do hope you receive it well,
Dependin' on the way you feel that you live.

Dear landlord,
Please heed these words that I speak.
I know you've suffered much,
But in this you are not so unique.
All of us, at times, we might work too hard
To have it too fast and too much,
And anyone can fill his life up
With things he can see but he just cannot touch.

Dear landlord,
Please don't dismiss my case.
I'm not about to argue,
I'm not about to move to no other place.
Now, each of us has his own special gift
And you know this was meant to be true,
And if you don't underestimate me,
I won't underestimate you.

Copyright ©1968; renewed 1996 Dwarf Music

Boy, those lyrics hit the mark.

PS: Alaska, thanks for checking in on the blog. Now I'm just waiting on Russia. Ukraine, Kiev . . . come on, you wacky Muscovites. What's a guy gotta do?

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Taken aback

I never thought much about the physical toll of spending most of my waking hours sitting on my butt editing, indexing, and proofreading.

Until about 24 hours ago.

It's three in the morning. I'm at my wife's office at the theatre because I can often get more done there in the same amount of time. I stand up to get a drink of water . . . and all of a sudden I can't sit down again. My lower back had totally seized up, and movement became impossible.

I do not understand the mechanics of how this kind of thing happens all of a sudden--although the chiropractor today said it is an inevitable result of what I do, and that it hardly happened all of a sudden. But what I mean by "all of a sudden" is without warning, no pain preceding it.

Not that there's sharp pain now. I just can't move. Well, not very well. The first step anywhere is virtually impossible.

But to avoid spending the rest of my life like this, I'm going to have to apply some ergonomic changes to the patent-pending LandonDemand work methods. I might be doing most of my proofreading or copyediting standing at a lectern and swaying back and forth like Al Gore doing the thorazine shuffle. I managed an hour or so ago to stack a bunch of coffee-table books I've worked on to elevate my reading space. I'm going to put a milk crate under the laptop so I can type standing up. Hopefully the printer cord is long enough to still reach the printer.

Class, I'm in a world of hurt, although I just managed to walk around the block with the help of an elephant-headed staff that my younger son bought for $5 at Universal Studios a few years ago on a band trip. Creeping around the neighborhood in the middle of the night in a light snow with an elephant-headed staff in my hand and a flask of Wild Turkey in my pocket in case I collapse in someone's front yard -- just to keep me warm until they wake up to go to work and call 911 or Animal Control. That's exactly what I need in this town: another dinger on the eccentricity scale. As if being a New York Jew book editor who works at home and sends his kids away for schooling and has been a skinhead and a longhair and everything in between in my time here weren't enough.

Well, I'm going to attempt to stand up and proofread some book about process biology. Or maybe try to write a short index, but that would entail sitting down (more; I'm sitting now). Something. But whatever I do, I'm supposed to stand up and walk around every 20 minutes or so. Wonderful. At age 48 I'm going to turn into the Mexican Jumping Czar.

I slept from 5pm to 2am earlier, and at this point I'm not looking forward to the climb back out of the bunker. Back to the chiropractor at 2pm today.

Wish me luck. Unselfinduced immobility is new ground for me.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Fat? Blame Edison and Carrier

From the recent project:

"Ever since the invention of the lightbulb, our days have been lengthened and our nights have been shortened. Add to this artificial heat and abundant food, and our hormones constantly tell us we are in a perpetual summer. Summertime to a caveman meant eat energy-rich food and get fat for the coming winter. The only problem is, if winter never comes, hormone balance is never restored."

Books aren't a bad thing

I spent a little time tonight (too much, given deadlines) looking around at some blogs that have a good bit of partisan political comment. I saw one in particular that was full of rants about the election: words heaped upon words, invective, mean-spirited, ill-informed, BIG PRONOUNCEMENTS about the EVIL of one of the candidates.

I looked at the profile of the blogger. Under books per likes to read, the answer was essentially, "I don't read books, except for Clancy and Grisham." It seems that most of per's viewpoints come from bloggers, youtube, television . . . and it didn't really come across that per spent a lot of time balancing per's viewpoint with others. I daresay that each encounter with information was undertaken with a filter the size of an iron skillet, and one with about as much opacity.

Any visitor to this blog knows that I've got problems with books, in that my life is essentially an ongoing tug-of-war with them. But they do teach me a great deal. I daresay that books are largely responsible for my worldview these days, much more than the TV or the Internet or how I was brought up or what a religious body tells me to think.

And the books I read are generally exhaustively researched. They are not screeds. I'd have a lot more fun if they were. A look at the client list shows a hefty number of university and denominational or theological presses. These are not lightweights who can afford to sully a reputation.

My guess is that the person's whose blog I looked at could look at this list and say that I read the output of a bunch of ivory-tower academics and leftist religious institutions.

But you know what? I'd rather read books that ask a lot of questions than just spout out a lot of dogmatic answers. And while the questions might make people uncomfortable (as they do me sometimes), I've learned a lot in my discomfort . . . and I've had to open my mind to do so.

My wife had a conversation a month or two ago with someone who starting talking politics in a place where it probably shouldn't have been brought up. He went on a mild rant about the candidate whom Tere is supporting and said he'd read a lot about that candidate. When asked to name one book he'd read on the topic he was discussing (and he is a bright individual), he couldn't. Tere suggested to him that when he'd read a book, perhaps his viewpoint would be a little more meaningful. And I couldn't agree more.

If the only books you read are potboiler fiction, and you restrict yourself to the input of people who agree with you, and you enter into every encounter with information as a battle to defend the truths you already hold -- and moreover to insult the millions of people who might not happen to agree with you -- AND YOU DO IT IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, please don't be proud or public about your lack of intellectual stimulation.

That is, unless you have a book you want to publish. Then by all means, get in touch with me. I'd be happy to read whatever you have to say -- and I'm housebroken enough not to give you a hard time about it.

The long-established LandonDemand corporate credo has been: "I will work for anyone who does not advocate violence against me or my family directly."

But these days, it might be hard to tell the players without a scorecard.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

copyediting and design

Sometimes my publishers will ask me for design input, and I defer by default. I am no designer. Don't ask about fonts, layout, spacing, and so on -- not because I don't have opinions, but I have no training as a designer. I've worked on literally (and depressingly) probably a thousand books or more in my freelance career, and I can tell you what I like or don't like, but I couldn't really tell you why. I can also tell you if pages are laid out consistently, or if your leading or spacing is off by some minuscule amount that most readers would not see, but don't ask me -- except for the basics -- what a page should look like.

Having said that, for a number of my publishers, part of my job as a copyeditor is to give the designer instructions on how to lay out a book. This is done typically through Word style sheets or a series of codes. Examples:

PN (part number)
PT (part title)
PST (part subtitle)
CN (chapter number)
CT (chapter title)
CST (chapter subtitle)
1 (1-level head)
2 (2-level head)
3 (3-level head)
4 (4-level head)
BL (bulleted list)
NL (numbered list)
UL (unnumbered list)
2C (two-column text)
FM (front matter)
BM (back matter)
BIB (bibliography)
PE (prose extract)
VE (verse extract)
BOX (I'll leave this one to you)

Such codes are highlighted, placed in square brackets or angle brackets . . . whatever will catch the designer's attention so that per can search for the codes and apply the proper typographical attributes to that section of text. Whatever is not coded is presumed to be body text.

One publisher in particular has a list of codes that goes way beyond this and gets down to specific characters, such as for an apostrophe at the beginning of a word (for an elided character) that if left uncoded would appear as a single opening quote.

Where am I going with all this? Because of this coding function, the copyeditor becomes a de facto designer -- not in terms of fonts and spacing and the overall look of the book -- but how certain text is to be treated.

For example, paragraphs that begin with numbers: should they be treated as numbered lists, or just as paragraphs that begin with numbers? What about chapter-ending questions in a book of curriculum? Should the header for that list of questions be treated as a 1-level head, or have some different typographical treatment? Should some copy that doesn't apply directly to the running text be treated as a box or as a prose extract (PE)? Should heads for front matter be treated as chapter titles?

These are not life-or-death decisions. Ultimately a page designer is going to work with the in-house editor to determine what looks best. But the first pass at book design is often made by the copyeditor, especially when a publisher does not simply work off a series of templates for all of its books. Even then, deciding what code to apply to a given portion of text can be a conundrum.

This message brought to you by the Editors-Trying-to-Avoid-Real-Work Committee at the Land on Demand Intergalactic Corporate HQ.