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.

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.


moi said...

Well, I didn't start my blob as a way to advertise my services – had I done so, I would certainly want to know who was following me and why. But I don't think that even had I planned something like that, it would have gotten me much work.

What you do is much different, more highly specialized and technical, so your blog most definitely serves a triple duty – as portfolio, an info site, a place of your industry-informative musings.

As for anonymity, I think anyone should be concerned over how much or how little to stick one's neck out in the virtual world. While many people who read my blob know who I am in real life, I keep a veneer of "anonymity" because while Moi is in many ways "me," she's an amped up version.

Basically, how comfortable are you multiplying by a bazillion the number of people who know who you are in the real world? But I think that concern is really only valid if you are doing or saying anything that would piss a whole bunch of people off on a regular basis.

czar said...

Here's more what I'm interested in: from your uberlibertarian perspective, is my watching my readers too Big Brotherish? I go back and forth on whether I should be doing it. But I guess your first paragraph addresses that question.

And has the blog actually gotten me any work? I don't think so, but like I say in my intro, it gives people something to look at . . . and it also gives me a rate sheet to hold to, so that I don't cut deals.

czar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
moi said...

from your uberlibertarian perspective, is my watching my readers too Big Brotherish?

No. Most people who follow blobs know about this tracking software. And anyone who thinks the Innernets guarantee anonymity hasn't been surfing very long. And besides, you only know which city they live in, and what their blobbie name is. Not their street address and shoe size.