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.

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.


Don said...

The sad truth is that editorial freelancers are cheap. BEA, on the other hand, is expensive, and the payoff of setting up, attending, and schmoozing is hard to measure.

When I was new to the industry, I had a roommate whose boss was an executive at a perennially struggling trade house. She got a hard lesson when, while processing expense reports, she realized that her boss's limousine bill for the BEA weekend was greater than her entire annual salary.

czar said...


Damn. Hopefully liquor and hookers (or rent-boys) were included.

If you don't mind my asking, how's business? My brother is an NYC legal proofreader who managed not to be included in an 80 percent layoff of the word processing staff at his firm, but I think the work he is left with is fixing the efforts of a bunch of West Virginia proofreaders who are pulling down about $12/hr.

Don said...

Does your brother work for Skaddon Arps? I had a friend who was a proofreader for them for a couple of years.

So far so good, businesswise. Knock wood. The trade publishers have certainly cut staff, but haven't yet cut back on the number of books they are putting out -- so my work has been steady. So far.

czar said...

Glad to hear things are steady for you. I'm especially glad to hear that the number of books isn't being cut back, although I feel bad for laid-off staffers. Work is steady here, too, and I am also knocking on wood.

And to answer your question, nope, not Skaddon Arps. What a name, though. Looks like two misprints.