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.

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.


moi said...

You should make the intern cold call a coupla potential clients. (comment courtesy Real Life Moi)

czar said...

I have told her -- semi-kiddingly -- that she's going to help me clean up some of my office one day (actually just throwing out a bunch of paper), and she dropped off a package for me at the UPS receptacle last week.

When I asked her on the first day what she wanted out of this whole deal, she did offer that she would like some exposure to indexing, among the other duties. At this point, if indexing wasn't responsible for about 20-30 percent of my monthly income -- and if I didn't need that income -- I'd be finished with indexing. If I can ever scrape together a couple of dollars to start playing the lottery again, and if that ticket comes in, the indexes are the first things to go. As a matter of fact, I'm ignoring one right now.

moi said...

She actually WANTS to index? Whoa.

Jill said...

I appreciate the last few blog posts. Will keep this in mind in my future endeavors and will keep your number handy. Thank you - JC

czar said...


And I appreciate you checking in. I hope this information is useful.


Anonymous said...

Great blog. I'm a student and in a very preliminary stage of looking into freelance indexing. Enjoyed reading your insights!

czar said...


Thanks for checking in. If you ever have any questions, let me know. Or email me and we can trade phone numbers and talk. I'll be doing this the rest of my life, unless something better comes along -- not likely at this stage.