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 7, 2009

Proofreaders in history, and a lesson

Readers: Chime in with your own lesson from the story below, and -- without looking it up on the series of tubes -- who can name famous people who used to be proofreaders?


Value Line’s Sam Eisenstadt Says He Was Fired After 63 Years

By Sree Vidya Bhaktavatsalam

Dec. 7 (Bloomberg) -- Samuel Eisenstadt, the research chairman of Value Line Inc., said he was fired from the investment advisory firm where he worked since 1946.

Chief Executive Officer Howard Brecher informed him on Dec. 4 that his services were no longer required, Eisenstadt, 87, said in an interview. Brecher took over as acting chairman and CEO last month after the New York-based firm agreed to pay $43 million to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges that its mutual funds charged investors “phantom” trading fees.

“There was no explanation,” said Eisenstadt, who was not involved or implicated in the SEC settlement. “I’m not retiring. That would imply that I’m ready to leave the business, which I am not.”

Eisenstadt helped develop Value Line’s quantitative models that provide independent stock evaluations and recommendations to individuals and other investors. Value Line, whose predecessor was formed in 1931, sold its recommendations by subscription to investors and became a household name in the 1970s and 1980s. The flagship Value Line Investment Survey covers about 1,700 stocks, according to the company’s Web site.

Value Line spokesman William McBride said the company does not comment on personnel matters.

SEC Charges

Apart from selling investment research, Value Line also managed mutual funds. Last month, the SEC said Value Line improperly billed investors for trading services. As part of the settlement, Value Line’s Chief Executive Officer Jean Bernhard Buttner and Chief Compliance Officer David Henigson were barred from the industry.

Buttner became Value Line president in 1985 and took over as chief executive officer in 1988 after the death of her father, Arnold Bernhard. Bernhard, who founded Value Line’s predecessor in 1931, hired Eisenstadt 63 years ago as a proofreader. He rose through the ranks, and became research chairman in 1987.


Sam, welcome to the world of freelancing. I suspect someone else will snatch you up in no time. According to the actuarial tables, at 87, you've got years of productivity still left in you.


Another Sam:

Mark Twain's comments on proofreaders:

"Yesterday Mr. Hall wrote that the printer's proof-reader was improving my punctuation for me, & I telegraphed orders to have him shot without giving him time to pray." - 1889

"In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made proof-readers."- 1893

That notwithstanding, perhaps my favorite Twain quote comes from his impressions on first seeing the Atlantic Ocean. His companion asked, "What do you think?" Twain's response: "It appears to be a success."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Open for Global Business: International Clients Welcomed for Editing, Proofreading, Indexing

I'm working on a book from an Australian author who is doing a postdoctoral fellowship in Sweden and publishing with an outfit in London. He somehow found this blog on the series of tubes, emailed me, and here I am a few weeks later proofreading his book. I'm almost to the end of it, and I must say that it might be the best written, best edited, and best typeset book I have ever seen. And I work on 100-plus books a year. I've not yet told him my impressions of the work, so as not to jinx it in case the situation turns south on me, and no offense intended to the publishers who've been keeping the family fed and housed and educated for the last number of years.

The book is set all in British style, of course -- different spellings, which I can handle, and a punctuation system that has always given me fits. But I can tell at least that it's consistent.

Same type of scholarly tome that I'm accustomed to, but written in such a fashion that you don't even know you're reading an academic book. I really can't say enough about it. Oh, one more thing: it's actually interesting.

Why, among other reasons, do I bring all this up? Well, first off, except for Demand Studios, this work is the first that I remember that results directly from someone (who didn't know me before or was referred to me) finding the blog and contacting me. If it's happened before, I don't recall. And the Demand Studios deal was more a tale of my encouraging them to consider employing me, and that story in this forum resulted in the hire. 'Nuff said about that incident. So, this blog finally paid off in the book publishing field -- my usual realm of opportunity -- albeit in a small way (it's not a big book).

But I was speaking with a neighbor the other day, a retired military meteorologist who does some traveling. He just got back from Morocco and Spain and was railing about how this country is different than it was 50 years ago, and it's going to hell, and we're no better than a developing nation and on and on. And, oh, by the way, the dollar's in the toilet.

I've been wondering why this previously published Australian scholar with a British publishing house went trolling the Internets to find a proofreader (and Paul, you might be reading this; please don't take any of this the wrong way). And I'm not saying this is what happened, but it occurred to me this morning:

My labor is cheap.

Yes, perhaps after generations of conquest and colonialism and feeling like we had the moral imperative to tell the world how to act (when we ourselves were no paradigm for morality [oooh, watch out . . . keep it apolitical]), because of the situation with the dollar, American labor in certain respects might become a bargain.

In the case of Land on Demand editing indexing proofreading, all I can say is, "Bring it on."

Authors and publishers from Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America: I am open for business. Send your manuscripts and PDFs right here. I accept payments by PayPal. Get that cheap American labor while the dollar is low. Don't waste those precious Euros or rupees or francs, or whatever your local currency of choice is. My rates remain the same, and they're probably looking better to you all the time in comparison to what your local labor charges. For now anyway, my dollar is spending just fine right here, and I'm making no international travel plans anytime soon.

Live outside the United States? Need an American editor, an American proofreader, an American indexer? Drop me a line. Great editorial services cheap. What more can you ask for?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rogue indeed

Ripped from the headlines:


Palin in book: McCain aides kept me 'bottled up'
By RICHARD T. PIENCIAK (AP) – 44 minutes ago

NEW YORK — The rumors are true, according to Sarah Palin: The McCain-Palin campaign was not a happy family. In Palin's new memoir, "Going Rogue," she confirms reports of tension between her aides and those of the 2008 Republican presidential candidate, Sen. John McCain. The vice presidential candidate confirms that she had wanted to speak on election night, but was denied the chance and says she was kept "bottled up" from reporters during the campaign.

Palin also writes harshly of CBS anchor Katie Couric, whom she describes as "badgering" and biased. Palin's series of interviews with Couric were widely regarded as disastrous, leaving the impression of an ill-informed candidate who was unsuited for the job.

The 413-page book with 16 pages of color photos but no index comes out Tuesday, Nov. 17. The Associated Press purchased a copy Thursday. "Going Rogue," with a first printing of 1.5 million copies, has been at or near the top of Amazon.com and other best-seller lists for weeks, ever since publisher HarperCollins announced that the book had been completed quickly and the release date was being moved up from next spring.


More proof that the big publishers don't really care about quality. No publisher in the Land on Demand stable would think for a minute about putting out a book like this without an index. Why would a company publish a first-person memoir from a person of significant public interest without an index? The reasons are numerous, none of them admirable. I don't think for a minute it has to do with time or money or lack of resources. I personally believe that it's an intentional move on the part of the author and her handlers to hinder research and to keep the dreaded media from easy access to discovering what's in the book in advance of the first blitz of her media tour. I could rant, but I've tried so far to keep this blog apolitical.

What's the keyboarding equivalent of biting one's tongue?

If any readers out there want an index for this book, send me a copy and a check for $1,600 . . . a number that I hope is never again associated with this woman.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Quality: editing and proofreading

Good books are good for a number of reasons. The writing is just one aspect of it.

If you go to a movie in which the acting is fine and the story is interesting, would you be able to ignore dialogue that two characters repeat 10 minutes apart, as if it had never happened before? What about the watch one of the charioteers is wearing in Ben-Hur? Maybe you can see the reflection of the camera in a store window. Does that not bother you?

My wife's a huge Al Green fan. He came out with an autobiography a few Christmases ago, and I bought her a copy, as did one of her friends. She could barely get through it because of all the typos. Might have been Random House that published that one . . . one of the big boys.

As a self-publishing author, you owe it to your potential audience to put out the best book you can. Editing and proofreading are essential elements of quality control. You, as an author, are hopefully a wonderful storyteller or a great researcher, or you can write about complex subject matter in a fashion that a layperson can enjoy and learn from it.

I'll be the first to say that I can do none of those things. I can't write stories at all, I have no subject I'm interested enough in to research, and I certainly have no command of any complex subject matter.

But what I can do is make your writing a lot better. You have your area of expertise, and I have mine.

One of my goals as an editor (and as a proofreader, for that matter) is to ensure that no speed bumps appear in the text. That is, the reader should never get hung up on a certain sentence, wondering what that meant or trying to determine how the sentence is supposed to read so that it makes sense. It's awfully hard to produce a page-turner if your reader is constantly saying, "Wait . . . what?" Or, as in the case of my wife, your reader is so distracted by the mistakes that enjoyment of the content is severely diminished, which is a shame.

If you are self-publishing and you want your readers to have a pleasant experience (and to buy your next book), hire an editor before the book is typeset. Hire a proofreader after the book is typeset. Employ a professional so that the book which will forever have your name on it is something you can look back at with pride.

Just a thought, and more to come.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Self-Publishing Editor. Self-Publishing Proofreader. Self-Publishing Indexer.

Do you need a professional editor if you are self-publishing?
Do you need a professional proofreader if you are self-publishing?
Do you need a professional indexer if you are self-publishing?


And in the next post or two, I will give the reasons. In the meantime, you can take a look at my client list and get a feel for my background and why you should consider giving me a call.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tell Me Again Why I Hired You

Just got off the phone with an author whose book I copyedited. Author is meticulous, professional, and experienced.

We are reviewing the Contents. Per asks if I would recommend using B-level heads in some chapters and not others. I say no. Per says she'll likely override my recommendation.

Per mentions in passing that all instances of the word "percent" when accompanying a number will be changed to "%." Chicago, AP, and every style manual I know recommends otherwise in running text. But per says that most of the readers of this book are also readers of the Wall Street Journal, and since the WSJ does it that way, so will per. Whatever.

Per also mentions that since receiving my copyedits, per has made quite a number of changes to the book. I'll also be proofing this book, and I told the author about problems with noncopyedited copy. To per's credit, I'll receive sections of the manuscript that have been rewritten before receiving the proofs to give them the once-over. Or per will pay me at proofreading stage for any text that needs copyediting. I wish some publishers, who should know better, would be so enlightened.

Really, though, it doesn't matter to me what an author ultimately does to any book after I copyedit, unless it's a book I particularly care about. Well, I care about them all--in my own mercenary way--but, no offense to this author, this title isn't one that hits close to the heart. And there's nothing wrong with that. It's not that kind of book.

An editor's stock-in-trade is consistency. The variation in presentation of different levels of heads in the Contents is misleading to a reader, because it gives the impression that some chapters have a level of detail that others don't. I explained this perspective to the author. Once. I just hope I remember come proofreading time that all this had been ironed out beforehand.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

hello again

I knew it had been awhile since the last post. Almost two months is unconscionable. From mid-August to about now is always busy with chilluns going back to school out of town. Our younger son has a parents weekend at his school that turns into a week, and we just returned from that. All of this contributes to compressed work schedules. Nothing like trying to do four weeks of work in three weeks, not to mention that I really have to do five weeks of work in three weeks to make up not only for lost work time, but money spent traveling. It's a double hit, and usually by now I'm both out of money and behind on monthly work quotas. This year is no different.

Workwise it's been up and down the last few months. The schedule always manages to fill in somehow or another, but it's not always with the premium jobs, or maybe -- as happened this summer -- I get a lot of good-paying work from a slow-paying client. Not that my many creditors seem to care; their bills are due regardless of the status of my receivables.

One outfit that I do some work for flew me out to Santa Monica, CA, for a few days last month--plane fare, food, hotel room all covered. Hotel was a very nice property essentially on the Pacific Ocean. I can go on and on about that trip, but suffice it to say that it's rare that a freelancer like me is ever given this type of ride. And I can absolutely say that the trip never would have taken place were it not for this blog. Met some wonderful people, saw a part of the world I'd never seen. As I say, I could go on.

As part of the aforementioned long weekend at our son's school, we spent a few days in the Berkshires earlier this week. It already seems like weeks ago. And our older son is home for the weekend. We've seen him about four days since mid-June. He turned 20 years old in the interim. How did that happen?

I've got emails to answer from weeks ago, a bunch of work to do, and it's 1:20am. I was planning on working tonight (why is this night different from all other nights?), but ended up going to see a play at the theatre where my wife works. A wonderful production. While we were up at the theatre's offices, I was helping her with some of her work, and a friend dropped in and said that I hadn't posted to my blog in a while. Peter, this one's for you. I had no idea you were out there.

I'll try to post a little more than I have been. But work seems like it's ticking up, and my managing editor gig is about to start up (I hope) with the book series I work for, so time will get even tighter. Beats the alternative.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sydney or the Bush

September, where are you?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

not back yet

Thanks to you regular and not-so-regular readers for checking in every once in a while. As Frank Zappa once said -- and it applies to this blog -- "Jazz is not dead. It just smells funny."

When I think work can't get any busier, it does. And then there's that little Internet matter for which I am under contract. It's not the worst gig in the world, but it does take up time that I already didn't have. And I'm not used to the contract aspect of it. Funny, just as both of my syndicated columnists' work stopped coming in (one retired, one leaves his editing to the paper that is now syndicating his column), thus freeing up not necessarily time but the only persistent obligation I had hanging over my head every week (aside from the usual production line), this Internet thing started in earnest. So I traded about an hour a week for about 15 hours a week.

So, in a cratering/cratered/struggling/down economy, I'm working, well, you don't really want to know how many hours a week. But think of holding down two full-time jobs . . . and then add your part-time gig on top of that. And I actually have turned down work in the last few months because occasionally I realize there are only so many hours in a day, or a month.

Having said all that, if you're a potentially new client, email me, because it takes all cylinders pumping to keep it up. Off the top of my head, I can think of easily into the five figures worth of work that I had from clients last year that have not and likely will not contact me this year. A freelancer never knows when today's best client becomes, six months down the line, "What ever happened to them?"

And, not so metaphorically, baby needs shoes. Even if said babies are 19 and 16.

I am thankful for too much work in these times.

I am thankful for my not awful health, and that I'm not putting in all these hours in a coal mine.

I am thankful for an understanding spouse and children who share living space under the same roof, but who never see me.

I am thankful for those of you who continue to check in here, even when I've got the Time Tunnel graphic up for weeks at a time.

I am thankful for the theatre where my wife works, providing me the occasional break from my tedium.

I am thankful for Bill Evans videos on youtube.

I am thankful for the local YMCA, where every so often I do the executive triathlon (sauna, steam, whirlpool) and attempt to take my mind off of everything else.

I am thankful for my dopey pets, and particularly my recently diagnosed FIV- (feline AIDS)-positive cat, who for a night a month or so ago was near death--absolutely out of nowhere--but who seems to have shaken it off entirely.

Anyway, back to work.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Monday, June 22, 2009

Meltdown for Some NY Freelancers

Moi: I'd suggest a few belts of tequila before you tackle this one:


Quote of the Day

This is not going to become a regular feature, but I ran across this quote a few days ago (forget which book):

"A guy approached [C.S. Lewis] on the street one day and asked him if he could spare a few shillings. Jack immediately dove into his pocket and brought out all his change and handed it over to this beggar. The chap he was with—I think it was Tolkien—said, 'Jack, you shouldn't have given that fellow all that money, he'll just spend it on drink.' Jack said, 'Well if I had kept it, I would have only spent it on drink.'"

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Quote of the Day

Those damn womenfolk.

From a book on religion and society in Latin America:

"In 1733, for example, the friar Diego Núñez accused his mulata slave of bewitching him, causing him to expel from his body human and animal hair, stones, wool, and a paintbrush."

I'm sure ER doctors hear this one all the time.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Not from the Good News Department. Better that I just keep working and avoid updates from the outside world.


Nice quote about linebackers, but it is true that most big southern universities (or their alumni supporters, anyway) are far more concerned with their standing in the AP polls than, well, just about anything else.


Saturday, June 13, 2009


This blog quoted on the editorial page of the Columbus (GA) Ledger-Inquirer.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

E-Publishing, Journals, Page Citations (or Lack Thereof): Yay or Meh?

Working on a book about Latino/a theology. One of the chapter authors quotes a journal that used to be in printed form, but now publishes only electronically. The citation is author, article title, journal name, and month/year. No page number, but a note from the chapter author indicates that no page number appears because the citation is from an electronic journal.


Different takes:

I suppose that if I'm looking up a quote from a journal article online, then I can just search for the term in the article. Good in theory, but half the time when I search for something on a Web page (using, for example, the "find on this page" feature), the search term doesn't appear. One is at the mercy of any number of things that I don't claim to understand. If I suspect that the search feature is not working properly, then I'll search for "the" or "and," and if the computer tells me "Search term not found," then I know that the search engine for that page is not working properly.

And what if it's not a direct quote, but the author is referring to a concept, though not necessarily by the exact name that the cited author uses? Then how is one to find it electronically among what might be thousands of words?

And why would it be so hard for a electronic book/page designer to put in faux numbers somehow so that a researcher could indeed look on a particular page for a concept? I think some forward-thinking designers do this.

Compared to Gutenberg, we're still pretty early in this e-publishing game. There are some quirks to be ironed out. But as a reader, I'd be a whole lot happier if I saw a citation that read something like:

Jim James, "Latinos/as and the Liberation Motif," Hispanic Theology Journal 4, no. 3 (December 2002): 36.

Yeah, I'd have to locate the issue, but I'd feel a whole lot more confident knowing that -- once I did -- I'd pretty quickly be able to find what I was looking for.

On Second Thought

For one of my copyediting clients, I edit the manuscript, using the Track Changes feature in Word, and then send the redlined printout to the author to review the changes. The author does per's review, answers my queries (in a perfect world), and returns the document to me. Then I make the author's changes, accept all the changes in Word, and send the marked-up, redlined proofs back to the press along with the cleaned-up files.

Sounds easy enough. The press pays me three-quarters of the fee when I send the document to the author, and the final 25 percent upon delivery of the final manuscript.

I just finished working on a book for this press, and the author made a whole lot more changes than is typically done -- line edits, reworking some material, adding and deleting sources . . . and the most puzzling: changing material in prose extracts. A prose extract, for you newbies, would be long sections of material quoted from other books.

In the parlance of the times, WTF?

One of at least two things happened here, none of which offer particularly satisfactory explanations.

1. The author misquoted material the first time around, which makes an editor worry and scratch one's head. Presumably the author is just keying in the material from the source.

2. The author was quoting dozens of sources from memory across multiple genres, and only later went back to check per's work.

Both seem most unlikely.

Why would an author be changing quoted material? Why, after the book has already been copyedited, would an author even go back to the source material to see if it was properly quoted?

More questions than answers were raised in my mind by this particular episode. And we are not talking about obscure works or works in translation, where the author might have found a passage phrased better by another translator. For the most part, these were all recognizable works of fiction or nonfiction or published screenplays.

I am puzzled.

Remember what Eliot wrote? "We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men," or maybe that was, "We're empty inside, we are filled with goo."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What Do Jay Leno and Land on Demand Have in Common?

From the AP story today about Jay Leno's final show as he moves from The Tonight Show to prime time:

There was a lengthy "Best of Jaywalking" segment, highlights of Leno asking people on the street questions about history and other topics. A sample: A woman correctly said the first man to land on the moon was Armstrong, but when asked his first name offered "Louie," not Neil.

From this blog:


Wednesday, May 27, 2009


I'd subscribe to Publishers Weekly if the subscription price was a lot less than the $200/year they charge. Not that I'd likely ever read the thing. My long-suffering spouse bought me a two-year subscription to the New Yorker for Christmas 2007, and I'll spend the rest of my life reading those 100 issues. The New Yorker is an amazing piece of work, but, well, reading's not high on my list of leisure activities for obvious reasons. Great cartoons, though.

But I did figure out recently what I should have known long ago: that Publishers Weekly has a daily email news thingy you can sign up for, as well as a weekly update on religious publishing, so for free, I'm pretty happy to find out daily publishing industry news. I'm not going to read the book reviews or want ads or other stuff in the magazine anyway. The only reason I'd read the book reviews -- required reading for librarians -- would be to see if they've reviewed anything from any of my clients.

So BEA is going on now, the big U.S. booksellers' convention, and today's religious publishing update comes in, and the lead story is that my biggest client has no presence at this year's BEA. Decided not to go. Couldn't get any of the big-name authors to commit to being there, so they decided to punt. I'm thinking, this ain't good.

About three hours later, I get a call from my managing editor pal at the publishing house, wanting to know if I'd take a proofreading job. The kicker is that I copyedited this book a few months back (and actually complained about it in this very space).

Now, folks, having the same person copyedit and proofread a book is virtually verboten in the publishing world. Separation of duties and all that. There's some accounting/auditing equivalent that I should remember from my days of writing accounting textbooks, but don't. But basically the division is put in place so that the proofreader doesn't just miss the same stuff per missed at the copyediting stage, or that per avoids marking stuff as a proofreader to keep per from looking like a bad copyeditor.

So I ask my pal, "Proofreading? I copyedited it. What's up?"

Pal says, "Everyone else is busy. We've got all our other copyeditor/proofreaders busy with other projects."

So on the one hand, they're not sending a soul to BEA; on the other hand, they're so busy that they are breaking one of the cardinal rules of print production.

Hell, maybe they don't need BEA this year, so why not save the money? How nice that must be.

I've long forgotten the details of this book anyway. And I won't mind pointing out my own errors. What good would it do me to cover up my copyediting errors with missing stuff as a proofreader?

So, here it comes back, one of the worst projects I've done this year. At least it's volume 2, which is shorter and not quite as obscure as volume 1. From what my pal told me, the indexer is complaining mightily about the book. I think I mentioned in this space that I told the managing editor back when I was copyediting it that there was no way I would index this book. No way in the world. And it probably would be about a $3500 paycheck. But for that $3500, it would have been about $100,000 worth of pain.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My Farewell Column to Bill Shipp

http://blogs.ajc.com/political-insider-jim-galloway/2009/05/19/bill-shipp-types-30/ (Beware the inevitable troll-like comments.)


Bill Shipp came into my life personally in the last quarter of his career, and in the early to middle stages of mine. As a freelance copyeditor and proofreader working for almost all of Atlanta’s business and political periodicals in the mid-1990s, I received a call one day in 1997 from Tim Bentley, another great and unfortunately late-too-soon Georgia political journalist, saying he’d heard Bill Shipp needed an editor, and could he pass my name along?

Me? Work for Bill Shipp? Pinch me, I’m dreaming. Having lived in Atlanta since 1977, I was more than familiar with Mr. Shipp’s work. (And I called him “Mr. Shipp” for years before he invited me to call him “Bill.” I was just raised to talk to my elders that way, especially one as esteemed as he was, yet I know he didn’t stand on formality. That’s just how it went.)

So I’m sitting in the DeKalb County Public Library near Northlake one day, and my pager went off. I found a public telephone (remember those?) and dialed the number. Bill Shipp’s number.

“Bob, I heard about you. My editor just quit, and I need someone to read my columns and newsletter. I don’t want just someone to check grammar. I need someone who will tell me when I’m off-base and tear up my writing when it needs it. Can you do that for me?”

Pinch me.

Off we went. Via fax and e-mail. The very occasional phone conversation. For 12 years. I worked with him anywhere from two to four days a week, 15 to 60 minutes at a time. I believe I met him face to face exactly three times: twice very early on in the parking lot of Channel 5 when I was working on his book The Ape-Slayer and Other Snapshots and once with my wife Tere and his daughter Michelle about two or three years ago at a restaurant in Kennesaw.

My life for the last 12 years has been the steady drumbeat of Sundays and Thursdays, editing his columns before they were distributed to his syndicate. And Bill Shipp’s Georgia before it became Matt Towery’s property. And his columns for Georgia Trend. And the every-so-often special-occasion piece.

When I started using a laptop, I’d take it with me, mostly so I didn’t have to miss a column if I was traveling somewhere. If I didn’t get the column, I’d write to his assistants over the years, concerned that I’d missed something or, later, concerned about him.

Bill was a unique writer in that he had absolutely no fear of the editing process. Just the opposite. Some years ago, if I went for, say, 4 weeks without bleeding all over one of his columns — in some cases rewriting or trying in my own clumsy prose to say what I thought he was trying to say or even should have said — he’d call me up and give me a hard time.

“I’m not paying you just to pass over these columns. You need to tear them up more often than you have been. I know they need it.”

But they often didn’t. So what’s a poor editor to do, given good material?

Bill’s political leanings were hardly concealed. And in the days after the Republicans took over Georgia, his voice became more noticeable. Every once in a while, he’d pen some piece that seemed a little too moderate, too conciliatory. I’d email him and ask what was up? His response: “I’ve got to write one of those every so often so my newspaper editors don’t think I’m a communist.”

Then the email hits my account today that Bill is hanging it up. Effective immediately.

I want closure, a different kind anyway. I want a farewell column. I want the dean of Georgia’s journalists to give one last wave to the first rumblings of integration in Athens while he was a student, Billy Graham, Zell Miller, his dear departed son Ernie and wife Reny, Jimmy Carter, Ernest Vandiver, Tom Watson Brown, Lester Maddox, Romeo Richardson, the AJC, the Talmadges, Roy Barnes, Mike Bowers, Tom Murphy and a hundred others. Even Sonny Perdue. I want the perspective of history. I live in Virginia now, but Georgia still feels very much like home, and a big reason for that is Bill Shipp.

I’d have worked for him for free (although I don’t think I ever offered), but now I’m feeling a far greater loss than the monthly, promptly delivered check. He was no doubt my smallest regular client measured by dollars, but dollars are an entirely insufficient measure of the last 12 years.

Mr. Shipp — Bill — thanks for taking me along for the ride.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

index entry of the day

Clarke, Kent

personal interlude

My work comprises, on many different levels, ongoing battles with matters theological. My life, to some extent, has gone the same way, and from a much earlier age. I'd even say the personal theological battles predated by some years my introduction to the standard canon of proofreading symbols, which occurred at about age 14.

I visited a Unity church today. Very, very interesting. And I will leave it at that.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Extension Course Correspondence

Just received the following email:

Sent: Tuesday, May 12, 2009 2:27 PM
Subject: Question

I was pleased to stumble upon your blog. After earning an M.A. in English in 1999 and being a stay-at-home mother for the last 10 years, I am contemplating taking courses through Berkeley Extension in order to become an editor. I have no prior editing experience. Do you think I'll be wasting my money ($2000 for a four-course certificate) given how difficult it seems to be to get employment in this field?


My response:

Thanks for reading the blog. I hope you found something in there worthwhile.

I'm not sure that it's impossible to get employment in this field, although times are tough all over. But with improvements in self-publishing and the huge amount of website content that companies must have written, I'd say a lot more is being written and published these days than 10 years ago. It's a matter of finding people and companies that recognize the value of editing.

With an M.A. in English, you presumably have pretty good editorial skills already (which I can also see from your email). I'd be curious about the course content. Would they be reviewing style manuals, editing for different types of publications, marketing . . . or just reinforcing what you already know about where the commas go and when you should use semicolons?

Here's a question to ask yourself: Do you think potential employers would be any more likely to hire you seeing that you've taken an extension course in editing? There are a lot of laid-off editors out there with experience. And $2000 is a lot of money.

Not knowing any more about your background than what you've told me here, and not knowing what part of the country you're in -- particularly whether you're near a big city, where the need for editors is always greater -- my guess would be that if you spent the time you'd take in completing the course in trying to develop contacts for whom you could apply your editing skills, you'd probably end up with clients quicker just by putting your thinking cap on and being really creative in considering who you can hawk your skills to than by taking the course.

Because even after you've spent that $2000, you still have to find the clients. It's Step One in either case. The course would be a prelim.

Have I answered your question? And remember this is just one person's opinion. I'm sure you're not going to make the decision based on my input. Check around. Ideally you can find some people who have been through the course and see if it helped them.

Best of luck. Let me know how things turn out.


Agree or disagree? Talk amongst yourselves.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cognitive Decline, parts 1 and 2

Two things.

Perhaps my longest-term client, other than a former employer of mine who has used me as a freelancer since I went freelance, is a syndicated newspaper columnist. Per has been an editor and a writer since before I was born and is rather esteemed within per's own geographic niche. Suffice it to say that when you've been doing something for 50-something years you're (a) pretty good at it and (b) probably pretty well respected as a result. I think of Count Basie who, when asked about perfection, said something along the lines of, "Find something you like to do, do it well, and keep doing it for about 70 years." I guess he was talking about himself, the master of the well-timed, sparse note.

Sidetrack: Back in my younger days, I was ridiculously shy around females. I used to blame that on being educated at a boys' school for 8 years, but the problems were elsewhere -- like in the mirror and inside my own head. It took me many years to stop blaming my parents' choice of school for me for my own social backwardness. Anyway, when I was in college, the Count Basie Orchestra -- with Count Basie -- was playing at a high school about a block from my college. Ohmygod. For like six bucks. This says as much about the lack of appreciation for jazz in the late 1970s as anything else. So I get up the nerve -- and trust me, it was virtually impossible for me to do -- to ask this really cute girl in my philosophy class if she wanted to go with me to see Count Basie. I'm not sure she even knew who Count Basie was, or how amazing it was that he was going to be within walking distance of the school. She didn't give me an answer right then, but the next time the class met, I followed up and asked her if she'd decided, and she said, "No, thanks." No explanation, no apology. Needless to say, this response did not do much for my already long-cratered self-esteem. Well, I went anyway (alone), enjoyed myself, and she ended up dating the head of the college's Young Republicans chapter. Maybe she knew something I didn't.

Back to the story. So, this columnist loves it when I tear up per's work. This is what the good writer-editor relationship is about, class. Per used to give me a hard time if I went too long without essentially rewriting one of per's columns. On the first anniversary of 9/11, I told per I didn't like the column per had written. Per suggested I write one. So I did. Per submitted it to the syndicate (about 100 papers, I believe), saying that "I wrote a column for this occasion, but my editor Bob Land didn't like it. So here's what he wrote instead." That was the beginning of the column. And thus it was that I am on record during the week around 9/11/2002 essentially stating that, "Hey, guess what, folks? We're probably not going to change as a nation as a result of last year's events. We're going to end up being the same self-centered, self-absorbed jerks that we've always been. And besides that, not everyone who was killed on 9/11 was a saint. Just by the law of averages, there were probably wife beaters and child molesters among the 3,000 dead who we might as well be better off without." Per got more than a few positive reponses to that column. If per ever got any negative responses, they didn't find their way to me.

Am I back to the story yet? So, I've torn into the last three or four of per's columns pretty drastically. I receive a (very rare) call from per this morning, with per asking me very sincerely if I think per's lost the cognitive ability to continue working. Per's got some health issues, lost a spouse within the last few years, etc. Per's asking me if per still has what it takes? Who the hell am I to judge? Per's got more chops than I'd ever know what to do with. But per also respects the value of an editor who will wield a heavy hand when necessary, and per said, "If you think I can't do this anymore, let me know. I don't want to go out after my time has passed. I realize I'm not going out at my peak, but I don't want to be doing this too long either." I was humbled and honored and amazed and saddened and felt a little bit lost after the conversation. I guess I still feel that way.

Cognitive decline, part 2: My own. I've gotten into this thing lately that many days, when I wake up in the morning, if I lie in bed a little while -- not even in a half-asleep state, but pretty much awake -- I start having literal visions of the manuscript I'm working on, but the words are all wrong. The topic is right, but there are all kinds of problems with the book that don't necessarily exist in real life (that is, in the bunker, where the manuscript is residing). The words are a jumble, the language is wrong, it goes off track repeatedly. Needless to say, this doesn't provide me with any extra restful moments, so all there is to do is go downstairs and get back to work.

This hasn't happened once or twice, class. It's, like, dozens of times now. I don't know what it means, but if I had to put it into the good or bad side of the ledger, umm, I'm thinkin' bad.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Easy Pickins

Yeah, I know that pointing out typos can be amusing and fun, and I've sent out any number of pieces of correspondence and probably blog postings that have typos -- my worst was about 12 years ago, sending out a flyer referring to my editiorial services (last-minute change, forgot to spell-check: lesson learned = no more flyers) -- but I can't resist posting this gem, which I just saw on a writer's blog:

Nothing kicks a writing pro in the teeth like writing something which does not communicate what you indented.

I happened upon a blog the other day that was nothing but pointing out typos in newspapers and screen grabs . . . and then going on for hundreds of words about each of them. Boring.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Is This How Bad It's Getting?

Here's an email exchange I've had over the last few days with a fellow freelancer. I think now I've heard just about everything. You have to read all the way to the bottom for the punchline.


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Monday, April 20, 2009 9:00 PM
Subject: request

Hi, Bob, I wonder if it would be possible in the future for you to pay me 10 percent of any indexing jobs I send your way. I am paying more and more fees to people who refer work to me; that's why I ask? Would you be comfortable with that? Many thanks,


From: Bob Land


In the circles I travel in, I've never been asked to pay referral fees, nor do I ever ask for fees to be paid to me. I've referred a lot of work to typesetters/book designers, mostly, but to a few editors and writers, too, and they've referred a lot of work to me. And I think we've all just figured that what goes around will eventually come around. Referral fees have never come up.

Having said that, if you wanted to talk to me up front and ask me my indexing page rate (for a standard 6x9, one-column job, that would be $3.50), then turn around and tell the client that my rate is $3.85, I'd bill at $3.85 and send you the difference, which would be the 10 percent you are seeking. Of course, we run the risk of losing on the business because of a slightly higher rate, but that's just the risk involved.

I guess what I'm saying is, if you can sell my services at a 10 percent mark-up, I'm happy to pay you the difference. However, if anyone bothers to find me on the Internet, they'll see my rate sheet there and wonder why they are paying more than my standard rate, and then it falls back on us to explain why.

Bottom line: the idea of referral fees coming out of my basic pay rate isn't one that I'm wild about, but if we can charge it back to the client, I have no problem paying the difference to you as a finder's fee.

Thanks for asking.



Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 9:10 PM
Subject: Re: request

I understand 100 percent. I'll keep your idea in mind about the markup.

People who sub out to me mark up routinely and have for many years. Now, several publishers I get referrals from are asking for 10 percent and they're coming out of my normal rates.



From: Bob Land

PUBLISHERS??? I have absolutely no response to that that I can repeat in polite company.


Folks, I have publishers hook me up with authors probably 6-12 times per year for indexes. Many publishers just leave it up to authors to generate their own indexes, and the smarter authors, as I've mentioned before, stick to what they know: their area of expertise. They ask the publishers for referrals to indexers, and that's one way authors find indexers.

I cannot even imagine what my response would be to a publisher who asked for a referral fee for sending an author my way. That a publisher -- a publisher, for god's sake -- would ask for a referral fee from a freelancer? I think that falls somewhere in Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate under extortion. Or kickbacks? Help me out here, class. I am at a total loss for words . . . words that I would print on my blog, anyway.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Careful What You Wish For

Talk about a bummer. Don't judge a book by its summary, not when you've been given it to work on, anyway. Because work somehow turns out to be work.

A few days ago, I was pretty happy with the summary of this book I'm working on. I'm about 90 percent done with it now. Aside from those topics listed in the previous post, the book also relies heavily on Breakfast at Tiffany's, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and some other pretty cool topics.

Problem: author, with some press complicity, I feel, has managed to put into production a manuscript that still needs a hell of a lot of work.

OK, class. Today's lesson is MLA style. MLA, I believe, is the Modern Language Association, or maybe it stands for More or Less Authorlike. Because that's often what I get when I receive a manuscript that's been written according to MLA style: authors who know how to put words together but who fall down on the job when it comes to things like organization or documentation.

Case in point. In MLA style, you generally use a short in-text citation that refers to a complete list of Works Cited at the end. In the hands of a fifth-grader who knows how to follow the damn instructions, this task should be easy enough.

The sentence goes on like this and you get to the end, where the reference appears (Land 23). "Land 23" means that I am citing page 23 of the book or article by Land, which in this case happens to be titled, "Why Authors Are the Bane of the Publishing Industry." If I happened to have two items in the Works Cited and the other one was a book titled Why Can't PhDs Compile a Decent Freaking Bibliography? then the original reference would appear as (Land, "Why Authors" 23).

So, you cite a book in your chapter, you list the book in the Works Cited. Easy enough.

Except per has cited no fewer than 50 books in per's work that don't appear in the Works Cited, which means that per's gonna spend a lot of time pulling books off per's shelves and recording bibliographic information (or missing page numbers [grrrr]) before per can send this book back to me. Then I'm gonna have to copyedit all the references that my time would have been better spent copyediting on the first pass. Because half the time, they can't get the style right, either.

Other side of the coin: Works that appear in the "Works Cited" when they don't appear in the text at all. My solution is to call the damn thing a Bibliography, which might comprise Works Cited and Uncited. A lot of publishers want there to be a one-for-one correlation, though, and don't often agree to the Bibliography heading.

Another problem with this book. Per has left in the book summaries of the entire book that don't match the book's content. Here's where I blame the press, since I don't give authors much credit for the authoring they do. Why didn't someone at the press pick up on the fact that of the five chapters the author describes, not only are they all out of order, but the damn chapter on serial killers isn't even mentioned? If there's a demographic I don't want to inadvertently make mad, serial killers come at the top of the list.

(The book does bring up an interesting point about serial killers though. Just like there might be nonpracticing Jews or nonpracticing Catholics, there might also be nonpracticing serial killers out there. Now that's a comforting thought. Reminds me of an old Onion article: "Neighbors Remember Serial Killer as Serial Killer": "Oh, yeah, he was always bringing home nurses and chopping them up in the backyard. . . .")

Where was I? Oh yeah. Well, never mind. It's 2 a.m., and I'm going to try to get as close as I can to finishing the copyediting before bedtime. Then it's a full day of word processing -- mostly queries for the author. And since it's the end of the term and all the students will be going home, per's gonna have to do all the work perself. Poor, poor per.

"Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody."

"Keep your own counsel. Don't draw any conclusions from anything you see or hear."

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Blind Pig Finds Acorn

How much have I complained about the subject matter of the books I read? Well, I might have a winner here. From the introduction:

The five chapters thus examine five diverse and highly distinctive narrative genres which manifest the cultural history of authenticity: the literature of adolescence [with a focus on Catcher in the Rye, for better or worse one of the basic texts of my own adolescence], the narrative discussion of depression, the serial killer genre, stories of mid-century Jewish assimilation, and the narratives of corporate manners.

Now if this book lives up to the promise of this sentence, I have a few pleasant days of reading ahead of me. If the author goes all academic and takes all the fun out of it, then fifs on per.

Can I complain? Of course I can complain. The manuscript is in 10-point Courier, 1.5 spacing; MLA style; and a gazillion references to look up in the Works Cited.

But how often do I get any of the following: Holden Caulfield, depression, serial killers, Jewish assimilation, and corporate manners? And all in the same book? Pinch me, I'm dreaming.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Proofreading? Priceless

Found this gem today on a publisher's website:


Proofreaders are responsible for correcting grammatical and typographical errors in our books prior to publication. The ideal candidate will have the following skills and experience:

* Prior experience proofreading copy
* Excellent attention to detail
* Ability to meet tight deadlines
* Total commitment to quality
* Exceptional knowledge of grammar

Proofreaders are paid in complimentary copies of the books they proofread. For consideration, please send your resume. . . .


Guess what? They're looking for proofreaders. Now, why would you think that is?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Who Ya Gonna Call?

I did a little cold calling (emailing) a few weeks back to some professors and department chairs at a number of universities, hawking my indexing, proofreading, and copyediting services. In response to one email, sent to a professor of religion at a quite fine northeastern liberal arts college, I received the following:


Dear Bob,
Thank you for your message, and I will be happy to pass this information on to other colleagues in my program. I'll keep you in mind for future projects, though right now I have no present needs of proffreading services.
Best wishes,


Now, either per has a finely honed sense of humor and irony, or, well, uh . . . draw your own conclusions.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Fourth-Generation Edit

I am reminded of a great Saturday Night Live skit, which incidentally had Sean Penn doing a wonderful DeNiro impersonation, that featured Jon Lovitz as a lounge singer doing a version of "The Way We Were" as translated into French and then back into English. The transcription here is to the best of my recollection.

In the corners of my eyes
Misty autumn-colored memories
In a way we were

Scattered pictures
Scattered all around the room
It's too messy to remember
In a way we were

Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every time?
And if we had the chance to smash into the wall again
Tell me, did we?
Will we?

May be beautiful and yet
What's too painful to remember
We send the Jews to forget. . . .

I am working on a book now that came about as follows: A Polish gentleman related elements of his life story in Italian to a ghostwriter. For some reason, the ghostwriter decided to write the book in third-person instead of first. The book was then translated into English, and the folks who will be trying to get the book published in English (first, probably, among at least a few other languages) decided the book would be better as a first-person account. That task has fallen to me. Not only am I copyediting the book, I am changing biography into autobiography, based on an Italian-to-English translation from a man whose first language is Polish. Here's a frustrating element. As for a while the man lived and did business in Great Britain, I suspect his English isn't too bad. The whole thing probably could have been done in first-person English to begin with, although his English is likely not as good as his Italian, or of course his Polish. Just a guess.

Very interesting book by the way, and it comes to me via a few relative giants in the publishing world -- one in religious publishing, one in the newspaper field. Kind of another case where I'm pinching myself that these people have found me and actually respect my opinion. I'm not at all trying to blow my own horn, but it's as I tell my sons (ages 19 and 16): one of these days I'm going to wake up and realize that I'm an adult -- something I guess they've grown up knowing. And given that today happens to be the anniversary of my birth, one that leaves me a year shy of the half-century mark, adulthood might actually be just around the corner.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Author testimonial

"I am doing the final editing that Bob sent me today and I think he is just super in the way he treats my work." --from a romance novelist publishing her twelfth book, reporting to the designer/project manager

Monday, March 9, 2009

I'm baaaack, and the case of the Flying Negroes

Thanks to my five or four regular readers for allowing me this little hiatus, and for occasionally checking in to see if the test pattern was still up. I can't say that it won't go up again soon, but there's been a little activity that calls for an update.

Big question among freelancers is "How's business?" One of my fellow freelancers, a book designer and typesetter, is staying busy because he has learned how to lay out books for Kindle and such. Smart guy.

Another one who mines similar fields as I do, I've not gotten a real good feel for how things are for him. His client list is by design a little smaller than mine, but it used to be that a lot of my work came from him, and if his clients are sending him work and he has time or the need to do it, he might very well be busy, and it keeps work from coming to me. No hard feelings there. I would do the same thing.

I wrote to a few of my publishers last week. One, which has a printshop in the basement (a big one), just laid off 35 people on the pressroom floor and in the art department. Not a good thing.

Another one, a production company that kept me very busy over the last year and a half, says that business has slowed tremendously, and if it keeps up, they don't know what they are going to do. I think much of their work revolved around the textbook market, and it might be that the publisher who was their main client has decided that new editions every two years are not necessary. As the parent of a college student, I can't say this hurts my feelings that much.

So I've been beating the bushes a little the last couple of days. One or two things might turn out. Maybe. I'm going to go along as if nothing will happen, because that's often when something does. But a cratering economy causes people to put on their thinking caps, and that's what I did. We'll see.

So, what's with the Flying Negroes? Probably one of my earliest posts dealt with the phenomenon that I'll go my entire life without hearing of a concept, and then I'll read about it in consecutive unrelated books. This last weekend I was working on a book of essays about Phillis Wheatley, the first African American woman to be published in the United States (late 1700s, from New England). The book mentioned the Flying Negroes, a myth from that time about slaves in America who sprouted wings and flew back to Africa. Interesting stuff. The book went back to the publisher Sunday night.

Today I'm reading a book of essays about the Gullah-Geechee culture in the barrier islands of Georgia. And here again come the Flying Negroes. This time there was a little hint of the whirling dervish thrown into the mix.

Anyway, the test pattern is gone for now. If you're reading this, I'm glad you're here. And I hope the feeling is mutual. Let me know what's been going on in your world since I've been gone.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Land in Demand Studios

Well, the wheels are turning. I won't say yet I'm doing a complete 180 on earlier posts, but I'm getting there. Just in the interest of fairness and full disclosure.

I guess I can look at it this way as well: Imagine yourself as an Internet company in an age when everyone has a keyboard and a way to send in an application, when the company is offering work, when the economy is imploding, and when far more people who are qualified to do so think of themselves as being writers or able to do editing and proofreading work.

I've had a most pleasant ongoing exchange with one of the company's employees to this point, and have done some work that is awaiting internal review. They appear to have an interesting business model and, if nothing else, do seem to be hiring writers and editors . . . which is more than one can say for publishing companies and newspapers these days.

I will report further . . . to a degree. Then I will put the company behind the same veil of anonymity that covers the rest of the Land on Demand stable.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


From the managing editor to the author:

The indexer has completed his work. I have attached the indexes for your review. Up to now, the index of subjects is clearly the best index in any [book of this series].

From the author to the managing editor:

This looks very good after a first quick scan. I agree with the indexer’s strategy, so am fine with that. I’ll look through this tonight and send a word along to you. I can’t imagine, though, that I will have any issue with this. I am very impressed with it. One of my tests was to look for [a particular, and particularly obscure, technical term] to see if that was indexed, and it was. I think the indexer understands the book!

(Insert nervous cough from indexer here.)

Becoming a freelance editor; becoming a freelance proofreader; becoming a freelance indexer, Parts 3a and 4: Cold calling follow-up; client relations

One last matter on the cold-calling thing. The first client, one of my faves and responsible for steady work going on 10-11 years, has resulted in zero referrals over that time. The second client -- the vanity publisher -- has, through referrals by its two book designers, been responsible for a variety of work that now accounts for about 10 percent of my annual income, even though the client itself is in a dormant phase. There's no real point to that statement, except that you can never really tell where a nice chunk of work is going to come from. Big client (one that actually publishes books you've heard of), no referrals. Little client, great referrals. I'll take 'em both. Like I said about potential pornography clients (no, I don't have any . . . yet), their money spends the same as everyone else's.

OK. So you've got a client or two or twenty. You're meeting deadlines, you're getting steady work. Scenario: all of a sudden, from a good client: bupkus. (Look it up if you need to.) What happened, and what do you do?

This actually did happen with the first client above last year. I think I got three or four books from them all year until about November. I'd been steady with other work, so didn't think much of it. Then the economy started cratering and I'm thinking it's time to shore up the good folks. So I wrote the managing editor and asked what's up? How come so few jobs this year? The answer I received was instructive, if not entirely logical. "We've been sending work to those people who have let us know they are available." Well, damn. Never occurred to me that I needed to do that.

For many of my clients, I pretty much have a standing arrangement, even though most usually do the courteous (but unnecessary) thing and check with me first. I say, Go ahead and send me the work. Presume I will take it and meet your deadline. Presume I am always available to do your work.

I really think that some of my clients believe (or believed) that I work only for them . . . although how they figure that I am supporting four people, two school payments, a mortgage, a ton of medical bills, and debt out the yin-yang on the basis of a couple of proofreading or indexing jobs each month, I'm not exactly sure. But that is exactly what I want my clients to believe: that I live to work just for them. It's called customer service. I've told my publishers, some in a rather direct manner and any number of times, that my workload is absolutely none of their concern until I start missing deadlines. As long as we have agreed-upon dates and rates, then what other work I have to do is none of their business. And, quite frankly, if I'm working on a page-rate basis, how long it takes me to do a job is not really a concern of theirs either, as long as the quality of my work is such that they have an incentive to send me more work in the future.

This approach sometimes puts me in a bind (I might be giving away some Land on Demand secrets here), because a client will send me a job with a three-week turnaround and five days later ask me how it's going or if I have any questions, or can I send them what I've done so far so they can begin futzing with the design. Ummm, when is my deadline again? Have I missed something?

My fear, with one of my clients in particular, is that per is going to drop a stickinote in the middle of some project that says, "No matter when you are reading this, call me and leave me a message," knowing that it's some huge project, and I'm reading it at three in the morning about five days before it's due, and it's been sitting on my desk for three weeks.

Questions, or the Freelance Performance Appraisal:

Am I getting the work done?
Is it being done for the agreed-upon rate?
Is the quality what you expect from me?
Are you getting it back on time?

If the answer is yes to all those questions, I expect the client to remain a good one. Please don't make me ask the following question:

It's been 30 days. Where's my money?

I hate to be so mercenary about it, but if it weren't for my little slice of the world, I'd have no slice at all. It's called being "without other employable traits."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

news alert: Demand Studios

Talk about a company that doesn't harbor ill feelings. Demand Studios sent me an editing test, which I passed (whew), and they are looking to train some editors to work about 20 hours per week steady through the year. We will see where this leads. In these days, even if the pay is a little less than I might be willing to accept from my regular clients, some of my regular clients have become a little lackadaisical about prompt payment. The idea of someone dropping some money in my account every Friday sounds pretty good right about now.

Funny thing: The woman who sent me the test and let me know that I'd passed it quoted a word or two from my blog back to me. I'll award bonus points for that. I'm not sure I'd have been so magnanimous.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Becoming a freelance editor; becoming a freelance proofreader; becoming a freelance indexer, Part 3 -- Cold calling

I might have to retitle this string of posts, "How to Avoid Working and Not Be Paid." We'll file it under community service.

OK. So the two cold calls that resulted in work: I won't give away the names of the publishers in the list to the right, but if you wanted to do the research, you could figure it out -- or narrow it down to three or four anyway. One is a trade publisher, one is pretty much of a subsidy publisher.

Both of these clients go back to the late 1990s, because I remember that I was living in Florida when I started working for both of them. Here was my underlying strategy and thinking.

I'm in the Southeast, which is also where my college degree is from and where my entire work career has taken place. The northernmost point on my resume is Atlanta. I figure that for no logical reason (except maybe saving a few dollars on FedEx), a southeastern publisher might like working with someone in the same region rather than a publishing mecca like NYC. I imagine that most of the big-name publishing houses probably have deep lists of freelancers or get so many requests from freelancers that my chances of breaking in to one of them is slim. I also figure that I should concentrate on publishers that are relatively newly formed (within the previous 15-20 years), ones that don't put out a huge number of books per year (maybe 40-75), and ones that publish books I'd like to read.

Armed with those parameters, I buy a copy of Writer's Market, a 1000-page paperback that comes out every year, listing most of the book publishers in the United States and Canada. I begin looking for publishers that meet the above standards. Nailing it down, I send out maybe 20 letters, figuring that for the cost of 6 or 8 bucks in postage and a morning of writing and printing letter and envelopes, it takes only one job to pay back that time and expense. The only time I ever consider a no a "No" is when I actually receive a letter back saying, "Thanks for trying, but we ain't hiring, and we ain't hiring you." That rarely happens. I imagine that my unanswered letters are waiting in a file cabinet somewhere for the proper moment. And yes, that line of thought has paid off more than once.

One of the companies calls me. They send me a proofreading test and a copyediting test. I pass them both. In the first month I worked for them about 10 or 11 years ago, they sent me a book a week for a month. Not a bad return on my time investment. And the company is still a good client. I just finished a copyediting job for them and now have a proofing job on my desk from them. Except for one of their editors, I have been associated with the company for longer than any of the present editorial staff. Even better, their jobs are nonscholarly, so they provide a nice break from the usual tedium.

Case number two. It's nighttime sometime in 1999, and I begin searching the Internet for vanity presses, emailing the publishers and wanting to know if they need any proofreading/copyediting/indexing help. I hear back from one of them within about an hour, saying, "Sure. Can I send you a job in a few weeks?"

For these two success stories in cold-calling book publishers, I've written probably 100 letters and emails over the years that didn't pan out. Yet every once in a while I'll get bored and still send some emails to publishers or potential authors (ABDs, for example [all but dissertation]) letting them know I'm out here, but I'll be pretty direct about whom I send such letters to. Mostly these days, I would not be looking for more scholarly work. I've written to a number of publishers in the fields of erotica and, well, porn, for example. You know what? I need a break from indexing things like the latest exposition on the book of Revelation or copyediting 1500 pages of theological anthropology, and if some publisher wants to pay me to copyedit or proofread the latest trash fiction on gay romps in the British boarding school system, that check'll cash the same as the one from Yale University Press.

Probably more than you needed to know. But I am practical.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Becoming a freelance editor; becoming a freelance proofreader; becoming a freelance indexer, Part 2 -- Building a clientele

Don't give up the day job. Not for a long time.

Getting starting in freelancing can be hard. Being a full-time productive freelancer -- that is, where you are no longer marketing yourself to new clients -- can take an awfully long time.

When I am speaking to college students about freelancing, I say, "If you want to be a full-time freelance editor/proofreader by the time you are forty, set a goal of having two good clients by the time you are twenty-five." I have no real data on which to base these numbers, but they felt right the first time I said them, and I haven't felt it necessary to change my tune.

Looking at my client list, I can say that exactly two of the companies on that list were developed as a result of cold calling -- where I identified the company, let them know of my services, and they took the bait. The remainder came to me either by referral or word of mouth.

By referral, I am referring mostly to two people.

One lives in Atlanta and does what I do, and I came to know per because the company I worked for while I was writing textbooks would hire per for copyediting. When I wanted to begin freelancing in that area, I let per know. Per -- as far as I know -- does not freelance full-time, which is to say that while per is busy, per doesn't run the kind of operation where per takes on 10 or 12 books a month. But per has a great reputation and a great client list, and whenever per gets a call and doesn't want to take on any more work, per sends them my way. Per began doing so in 1990 or so and continues to do it to this day. Praise A.S. from whom many blessings flow.

The other person is an editor and a typesetter who was editing and translating major works of theology about the time I was getting bar mitzvahed. About 7 or 8 years ago, we worked on different ends of a project. Per liked my work and made me a deal. Per wanted to do more typesetting and get away from editing, so if I could take on a lot of the proofreading, editing, and indexing that was coming per's way, per could package all our services together, present to the company that per'd be a one-stop shop for the production, and concentrate on the typesetting. We don't work together as much as we did a few years ago, but I've been put in front of a lot of companies as a result, and some now come to me independently.

The best thing for a freelancer to do is to stay put, and these days because of email and cellphones (and blogs), that's easier to do. When I say "stay put," I mean keep yourself where someone can find you, even years later. Of course, in the current economy, who knows what's coming down the pike, but in the old days, when people would change jobs, my name might stay with Company A and travel with a mobile managing editor to Company B. Unfortunately that can work the other way, too, where someone new comes into a company where I used to have a good connection, but the new person has per's own list of freelancers, on which I do not appear. There's one company in particular where I fear a particular managing editor ever leaving because of the amount of work per sends my way, and per's next-door neighbor -- the other managing editor -- and I don't get along real well because an email I wrote some years back that was supposed not to be taken seriously was taken way too seriously. End of relationship. It happens. Lesson learned: if you're going to make jokes, maybe it's time to pick up the phone. Per used to send me some work, but sends me zero work now -- except for a pain-in-the-butt index I did last year because the author requested me.

So, get to know a few people, and build on those relationships. Get to know book designers, because they are very good sources of referrals.

And the Land on Demand credos:

Don't ever turn down work and make referrals only for very good reasons, because when you do, you're just opening up the door for your replacement. Having said that, even though A.S. has referred a ton of companies to me, I doubt per's business has suffered. Probably just the opposite. Per's reputation is enhanced because per made a useful referral that worked out well for the publisher. And for the most part, I'll bet we are now just working for some of the same companies. I don't think I've taken any food off per's table. (By the way, among the very good reasons to make referrals are that you would be unable to complete a job in a timely manner, or to help a good, young freelancer get started.)

Meet the deadlines. Always. At least for the first five years with a client. And if you need to miss one after those years, make sure you let them know well in advance and apologize profusely. (Inside information: a lot of times after you return a job to a managing editor, it sits on their desk for a while anyway. They just need to keep production moving and want the job available when it's time to work on it. For the most part, these gigs are not like Japanese Just-in-time production. Missing a deadline often will not put a managing editor in an immediate bind [although if it does, it would most likely be for an index], but the proper thing to do is to keep these folks informed. They are, after all, your source of income.)

Above all, do damn good work. Nothing beats that. I guess I'm doing something OK to have enough repeating clients to stay busy (fingers crossed).

I will work for anybody who does not advocate violence against me or my family directly. I've never really had this challenged, although this one individual who I used to help put out a monthly 8-page publication changed per's tone after some time and would go off on rants on per's website (which per didn't have at the time) about the Jew media. I was no longer working for per at that time, but it's the only situation in which I really would have had to consider continued employment. But for $25 a month, I probably could afford to take a stand. One time, in lieu of cash payment from per, I accepted a T-shirt with a Confederate battle flag on the front and a pointillist drawing of Nathan Bedford Forrest on the back. I don't wear it out of the house too much. Well, actually, never.

Next post: What about those cold calls? How did I identify who I would call, and why did it work?

Friday, January 30, 2009

why i might remain semiemployable through the current difficulties

Give or take a couple of missing Hebrew alephs (in the place of the close parens) and a Greek character or two, and that the letters in brackets below ought to be superscripts, the following makes perfect sense to some people.

"Houtos appears in TR, following )c P 046 and most minuscules; houtoms in ) A C 1006 2344 it[gig, 61] vg sy[ph, h] sa,bo arm eth al."

And trust me, as always, there are better examples. This one just happens to be on the page in front of me.

Which is why my little niche is providing some meager hope of comfort. It's not like I'm working for publishing houses that count on bestsellers. Having said that, believe it or not, the book in which this sentence appears will sell thousands (I'm pretty sure) because of the company that is publishing it, the series it's in, and the topic it covers.

Anyone care to venture a guess what all the above is about? No, it is not alien transmissions or transcriptions of CIA shortwave radio broadcasts.

PS: I know he's had his mind on other things, but do you think the new president has asked to see the Area 51 files yet? Or the soundstage where the moon landing was allegedly filmed?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Becoming a freelance editor; becoming a freelance proofreader; becoming a freelance indexer, Part 1 -- getting into freelancing


I’ve spent almost all of my blogging energy talking about what it’s like to be a freelance editor/proofreader/indexer. Now’s the time to talk about the journey into freelancing. All I can give you is my perspective. I can’t speak for anyone else’s experience.

What’s prompted this first of a number of posts are two emails I’ve received in the last few days:

Hi Bob.
My name is xxx and I am a freelance copyeditor/proofreader.
I am having a very hard time finding employment. I have a Bachelor's degree in education and have worked (freelance) with an educational publishing company for three years. I have also worked with two book publishers for 2 additional years. I have excellent references, a proven work ethic, etc. I have been turned down by Demand Studios and others I seldom get a response from. I have been accepted by many others but rarely receive a project. What's the catch? It seems like I spend a tremendous amount of time searching for jobs but to no avail.
Do you have any suggestions?
Thank you,

Hello Bob,
First, I would like to thank you for your blog. I stumbled across it while searching for information on Demand Studios and found your comments helpful.
I recently graduated with a B.A. in English and have been working in the “real world” for a little over two years now. In order to get a job in my field, I was forced to move five hours away from my family and fiancé. Now I work as an editor for a PR company, but my goal is to become freelance.
Can you offer me any advice on how to start out as a freelance editor? Am I being naïve to even consider going freelance with so little work experience?
I appreciate your time!
Thank you,

Both of these correspondents possess actual work experience, which is a plus. As I think I mentioned early in my blogging, I finally grew so tired of Tere (my wife) telling me that so-and-so heard about what I do, and they want to get into my line of work. What were their qualifications? Well, they were always catching errors in menus or in church bulletins or in the newspaper, so they figured they’d make good proofreaders.

Any maybe they would. And maybe, to delve into the vernacular, if my aunt had testicles, she’d be my uncle.

Being an armchair editor/proofreader is easy. (As far as I know, there are no armchair indexers. If there are, it’s time to get back on your medication.) Especially these days, when every sap with a keyboard fancies perself as a graphic designer and a typesetter, it’s easy to find mistakes in menus and bulletins and such because you have amateurs setting the copy.

(I’m realizing I'm going to go on like this for hours, but it’s what the times demand. I'll break this up into a number of different posts.)

A very dear friend of mine is an editor and writer who always seemed baffled when I tried to help a newcomer. What amazed him was that the first question out of my mouth wasn’t, “What experience do you have?” My first reaction to the newcomer was always more along the lines of “Go to this book, write this kind of letter, look for these kinds of companies.” But he was absolutely right. I don’t think I’d mind being a long-haul truck driver. At least one thing is keeping me from doing so. I can only drive an automatic transmission car. I have no illusions that a trucking company would have any use for me. I have no experience.

But these two people do have experience -- some, anyway. And that’s a good start. Where to go from there?

Coming up next: what is a realistic expectation for being a full-time freelancer?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The rules on indexing rates

This is real-time work here. I just seconds ago sent the following email to a new client, and I post it here mostly so I'll have it to refer to in case I need it again. Sometimes newcomers are baffled by indexing rates (particularly why a page that's half-filled with type is billed the same as a page full of type), so if you're new to hiring an indexer, here's a primer.

By the way, the answer to the parenthetical question above is simple: A half-page of type could have five times the number of indexable entries as a full page of type. Indexers would go crazy(ier) if they had to figure out how much substance was on each page and bill accordingly. Hence, the easiest thing to do is as follows:


The reason I ask about page count and trim size is that's the way indexes are billed: indexable pages times rate, and the rate is based on the trim size. As an indexer, I can't really concern myself with the amount of text overall because, as you can imagine, that's purely a design decision about how much text is going to go on a page. Having said that, if the book is set with something like 18-point type on 28-point leading, I'd cut a break on the page rate, obviously. But if the design is more or less within normal looks-like-a-book standards, the rate is what it is, regardless of design decisions that lengthen or tighten the book. With clients who use me regularly, some 6x9 books are set densely and some loosely, but the rate stays the same for a 6x9 book, and the work evens out over time.

For a 7x9 book, the rate is $4.05/indexable page -- which is pretty much everything from the introduction to the end of the running chapters inclusive. Acknowledgments and foreword are not indexed. Preface is indexed if there's indexable information in there. Glossary not indexed. Appendices are generally not indexed (except maybe very generally) because their titles usually appear in a table of contents, which is good enough. A page is a page, regardless of the amount of type on it, which is to say, chapter openers and chapter enders that might have less type on them still count as a page for billing purposes. Endnotes/footnotes are typically indexed for the substantive material that appears in them, but if the author/press does not want them indexed, then I don't index them.

If any of this seems like it's coming out of left field, let me know. But it's pretty much SOP for any full-time, professional indexer. I just want to make full disclosure up front rather than encounter any difficulties at a later stage.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Two Aryans

A quick story from the Land on Demand annals.

I was working for a typesetting and design firm in Atlanta (name forgotten) along with one of my all-time favorite typesetters, Jerry Ramsey. (Oh, god, once I get off on Jerry Ramsey, this story's not going to be so quick. One sentence into a freaking post, and I'm already off on a tangent.)

Tangent: Way back when, when I was essentially a kid (about 26 years old), I was writing and editing life and health insurance textbooks. One of the reasons I was hired into this company is that, unlike most English majors, I actually had worked in print production for about three years -- at a printing plant and at a typesetting shop. So I thought I knew a little more than my peers about typesetting. Maybe that's true, maybe not, but with the arrogance of youth, I cast about to find my own person to typeset the book that I'd been working on for the last two years.

I don't know how I found him, but into my life comes Jerry Ramsey. Jerry at the time was working for a typesetting firm that Coca-Cola had essentially bought (or rented) and brought in house. This is what Coca-Cola would do in those days: find a design firm, and bring them in to work on Coca-Cola's materials for a year or two, then replace them with someone else.

Jerry was, to put it mildly, a great typesetter, and a true character. He was extremely demanding of himself and of those around him, which meant we drove each other crazy, because I was at my all-time anal proofreading heights (or depths) at that time. At my freelance gigs, I'd point out leading problems that amounted to about 1/128th of an inch and keep sending 'em back to be corrected until they finally got fixed.

So, I hired Jerry to typeset my first professional work as an editor,
Accounting in Life and Health Insurance Companies (winner of the 1987 Elizur Wright award for the year's most outstanding contribution to the literature of risk and insurance). Well, as great a typesetter as Jerry was of advertising materials, he was not a typesetter of books. There is a difference. (There are so many potential tangents here; I'm really restraining myself.) So I'm beating my head against the wall trying to make Jerry make this damn thing look like a book, and Jerry's doing all he can to avoid beating the hell out of me, and he could do it if he wanted to.

Jerry was not a small man, but he had these stubby little fingers. I later came to find out that he was a very good jazz pianist, and some years later I was watching him work in utter amazement. These fat little sausages would hover above the keyboard -- you could hardly detect any motion at all -- and the freaking screen would just fill up with words, about as fast as you could read them. "Jerry, how fast do you type?" "Oh, about 120 words a minute."

Like my pal Tim Bentley, Jerry was an inveterate freelancer and wanderer, and we loved working together, because we both were perfectionists. Whenever Jerry would move from place to place, if he needed a proofreader, he'd call me.

Back to the story. Jerry was working for this company that had landed the contract to produce two Scholastic textbooks. I believe one was a 4th-grade English text and the other was a 7th-grade science book. No matter, really. But coming out of 10 or so years of developing curriculum, I thought this stuff was pretty groovy. Beautiful four-color work, multidisciplinary -- really state-of-the-art textbooks and curriculum. Very ambitious. I remember the English text getting into Walt Whitman -- for 4th-graders. The typesetting files were incredibly complex: links and layers and all kinds of stuff going on that I couldn't comprehend, but it took a master like Jerry to pull it off.

The other thing about these Scholastic books is that they were politically correct to the extreme. You could tell that the designers were working off a checklist: "OK, we've got a black girl, now we need the Asian in the wheelchair, and the Native with the eyeglasses, and the white boy looking confused." Typically I don't get too riled up about this stuff, but these texts were so consciously trying to be everything to everybody that it was just distracting.

One night (always at night with Jerry; I'm not sure, except for that first textbook, we ever saw each other when it wasn't about midnight, or later) I'm proofreading the pages against Scholastic's manuscript files, which were immense. It really took all your concentration just to get through a page. And lo and behold, there's a picture of a white boy and a white girl. And a stickinote attached to the file by one of Scholastic's editors that I will never, ever, ever forget:

"Why do we have two Aryans here?"

Now let me say that these two kids were hardly embodiments of Hitler Youth. They could have been two Jewish kids for all I know. And people who've read my blog or certainly seen my comments on, for example, Moi's blog know where I am, or can be, politically and socially. "Why do we have two Aryans here?" Just think about that.