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.

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."


moi said...

Ruh roh. I think MLA needs a new chapter for its handbook: "How Not to Piss off Bob Land in Ten Easy Steps."

czar said...

Moi: It usually doesn't even take that long. But it would be a useful addition.