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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for visiting. Leave me a comment. Come back often.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
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
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
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
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
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.