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.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Happy Holidays

I've never seen this movie, but I've had the soundtrack album for 30 or so years and love it. I'd totally forgotten about it until I saw a post on another website that referenced Emerson, Lake, and Palmer's awfully pretentious albeit incredibly successful "Lucky Man." In the holiday spirit, I offer you:

If you have a friend on whom you think you can rely,
you are a lucky man.
If you've found the reason to live on and not to die,
you are a lucky man.
Preachers and poets and scholars don't know it,
Temples and statues and steeples won't show it,
If you've got the secret just try not to blow it,
stay a lucky man.
If you've found the meaning of the truth in this old world,
you are a lucky man.
If knowledge hangs around your neck like pearls instead of chains,
you are a lucky man.
Takers and fakers and talkers won't tell you.
Teachers and preachers will just buy and sell you.
When no one can tempt you with heaven or hell,
you'll be a lucky man.

--Alan Price

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Spirit of Christmas

Folks, I just proofread it. I don't make it up. In the holiday spirit, I offer you:

Take a dump for Jesus.

Behold my dear Brethren! the blessed Bridegroom cometh, clothed with Majesty, as with a Robe, with Light, as with a Garment; with Zeal, as with a Cloak. See he is girt with a golden Girdle, his Head and Hairs are white as Snow, and his Eyes are as a Flame of Fire, his Feet like unto fine Brass, as if they burned in a Furnace, and his Voice as the Sound of many Waters [cf. Rev. 1:13b–15]! See the unrivall’d Beauty of his Person, and the inexpressible Riches of his Love! Our adorable Jesus, Is white and ruddy, the chiefest among Ten thousand! He is white in Regard of his unsullied Innocence, and red in Regard of his severe sufferings for us! See he comes from Bozra and Edom, with his Garments died red! his Vesture is discoloured, or rather adorned with his Heart’s-Blood; O amazing Sight! See those Wounds, Believer, he patiently and willingly bore for thee! Wounds which are Scars of Honour, Signatures of Victory, and Arguments of Love and Endearment! Surely his Garments smell of Myrrh, Aloes, and Cassia, out of the Ivory Palaces: Now let the everlasting Doors of your Souls open to embrace your Lord; now let your Bowels move for him: now let your Hands drop with Myrrh, with sweet-smelling Myrrh, upon the Handles of the Lock [cf. Song 5:4–5]! While the King sits at his Table, let your Spikenard send forth the Smell thereof; seeing the Marriage of the Lamb is come, O let the Spouse make herself ready to embrace him. Amen. Even so come Lord Jesus. Amen. Amen.

Gilbert Tennent, Brotherly Love recommended, by the Argument of the Love of Christ: A Sermon, Preached at Philadelphia, January 1747–8. Before the Sacramental Solemnity. With some Enlargement (Philadelphia: Benjamin Franklin and David Hall, 1748), 35-36 (emphasis added).

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Judgment Call

I'm working on a book that mentions counterculture icon Wavy Gravy. Do I index the name as "Gravy, Wavy?" Decisions, decisions . . .

Friday, December 17, 2010

RIP, Don Van Vliet: "Everybody's Colored, or You Wouldn't Be Able to See Them"


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Getting What You Pay For

I do some work for an Internet publisher that has a help desk for its writers and editors -- and wannabes. This missive came in today.

Message: This my second massage to you.I have read your contribuors articles which is very informational and intrested contribute my knowledge through but i am from india.Indians also have good knowledge in all areas & one of the biggest English speaking country in the world other wise our mother tounge is HINDI.If possible give a chance to indians including me to share our knowledge through you around globe . Thanx and regards.

A friend passed along an interesting article a few weeks back relating to the fear of the coming hundred years being the Chinese century. One of the article's points was that the next ten years might be the Chinese decade, but that the century will belong to India because it is an English-speaking country, and 5 billion people don't want to learn Mandarin. Not that one person's email in search of employment to a help desk halfway around the world should serve as a proxy, but this person obviously feels his English is good enough to write for money. That's telling.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

To Boldly Go

Like the world's not scary enough. Ripped from the recent workload:

Many Pentecostal believers have not considered that they might be commissioned and trained as lay ministers to be sent to "new" frontiers. After all, public schools, government offices, and corporate entities are often condemned as "worldly," "secular," and evil instead of being viewed as places of genuine Christian (missionary!) service.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Not Your Father's Christianity . . . and a Glimpse into the Future, Maybe

"Three insights from science today that shed light on the emergence of Christ are morphogenetic fields, quantum entanglement, and holons."

Page 6. And I had a headache before I started.

Books generally print according to cycles, mostly geared toward big conventions. Publishers speak of their spring and fall seasons. Spring means books are coming out in March, printed in January-February . . . which means indexing in December. My schedule presently shows indexes for seven books (some are mercifully short) for December. Yet another reason that Christmas is most certainly not the most wonderful time of the year.

I've said it before: If you're a publisher who happens to be reading this and you must have some copyediting or proofreading work done this month, the lines are now open. There'll be someone here around the clock waiting to answer your email.


Received an email today from one of my favorite presses. The press has a proofing job for me, with a twist. Proofing marks are to be made electronically on a PDF of the book. They wanted to know my take on the matter. My response below:


I can do it, but a few things:

1. It's something I can do because I have the full version of Adobe Acrobat. Proofreaders who just have Reader would need to spend the money to buy Acrobat to have this tool.

2. Regardless of the final product (a marked-up PDF), personally I would still print out the pages, mark them up, and then transfer changes to the electronic version. I realize that's my problem and not yours, but -- and this is just for me -- the quality of my proofreading would go through the floor if I did it all on screen. I can proof or edit a very short document on screen and suffer no loss of quality, but a lengthy, academic tome . . . I don't think I'd keep many clients doing it on screen only. Again, that's my problem.

3. Even if I were confident of proofing on-screen, marking up a PDF is definitely far more time consuming than marking up hard copy. An hourly paid invoice would necessarily reflect that.

4. Something for your consideration: What's the ultimate intent here? Is it to stop shuffling paper around? Stop hard-copy merging of people's comments? Perhaps one PDF can be passed onto another person? I proofread a book for an Australian professor who was doing a postdoc in Sweden, and he found me on the Internet. I proofed his book, then found it would cost about $150 to send the pages to Europe via UPS, and even then, it would take about 8 days to arrive -- both of which were unacceptable. What I did instead was take my marked-up proofs to Office Depot, where they scanned them in and saved the file as a PDF. I then sent the author the PDF of the marked-up pages. Far as I know, everything worked out fine. Personally, I'd far, far rather do that than electronically mark up a PDF. But you guys are signing the paychecks.

I'm willing to try just about anything, especially in the interests of keeping a very good client happy and dragging myself a little more into the 21st century. I'll take the job, and I'm sure you've considered on your end the reasons for doing this. If I can otherwise help with this conversation at all, let me know.


What do you think, folks? Proofreading a 200-plus page book on the screen and marking up the PDF?

And for what it's worth, it doesn't sound like the kind of title that's destined to keep one's eyelids from drooping anyway. Too, anytime I'm tied to the computer, it's all I can do to veer off to check emails, look at Moi's blog, read the news, check out youtube, search for people online, update the blog, and a million other things that keep the Land on Demand meter from running. Which isn't good.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Confusing index entry for today

From a book dealing with America as a Christian nation:

Martin, Luther

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blowback from the Editorial Desk

My corporate credo since day 1 has been "I will work for anyone who does not advocate violence against me or my family directly." Yes, I am your basic freelance whore, and I've had some clients call me such. As a freelancer, I'll wear that as a badge of honor.

I almost expanded the credo today. Message sent this morning to a publisher, regarding a 5,000-word hagiography of Ronald Reagan:


I'm working on the Reagan project, but it's all I can do to tell you that I'm about a step away from saying I can't work on it.

From the author's claim that Reagan was born in 1911 in "the middle of the Great Depression," which didn't occur until 20 years later, and his characterization of Jimmy Carter as a simple peanut farmer from the plains of Georgia -- when he was from Plains, Georgia, and was a former Georgia governor, not to mention instrumental in the navy's fledgling nuclear submarine program -- I can't help but really question the veracity of this book overall. The bare facts of history are easy enough to research, but if the intent of the author is to skew history to the point of misconstruing facts and even getting such basics wrong as when the Depression took place, I'm not sure it's worth $80 or so of my time to contribute to such a volume, nor do I understand why XXX would want to be associated with such a treatment of history.

I will hold my nose and keep plugging away, but I'm really surprised at what I'm reading, and what XXX was planning on publishing. I'll state right out that I'm no fan of Reagan, but even his biggest fans shouldn't have to rely on lies and deception to get their point across.


Best and only comment yet comes from my wife: "It's most likely a textbook for Texas school children." Bravissima. 

 No word yet from the publisher's managing editor.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Guidelines Minutiae


I worked on an index recently that is destined for a university press consortium that is new to LandonDemand. The consortium represents five universities in a part of the country known for its excellent higher education. I will leave it at that.

The press offered an interesting detail about how it wants its final indexes to appear.

> Use subentries only for entries that have more than eight or ten page numbers. As far as possible, make sure that each subentry has multiple page numbers rather than a single page number.

That guideline would take some getting used to, although I'd do well to heed its advice. The level of detail in my indexes would be diminished, and I'd likely spend less time in composing them. Having done something a certain way for years, the shift would require an adjustment in my work practices. I can think of a few of my clients who probably wouldn't be wild about the change in approach, but maybe I've been overdelivering for too long. Speaking a few weeks ago with the freelancer who kind of inspired me into this business and finding out that she's charging about 33 percent more for her indexes than I am makes me think I could stand to pull out fewer hairs over this tedious task.


From the style sheet of one of the clients I rehabilitated earlier this year:

> Do hyphenate all participle-terminated prenominal compound adjectives (e.g., “participle-terminated” in this sentence).
> Do hyphenate predicative compound adjectives that are participle-terminated (e.g., “participle-terminated” in this sentence).
> Do not treat noun-adjective compound adjectives in general in the same way as participle-terminated ones.
> Do not hyphenate compound adjectives consisting of noun modifying noun (e.g., “water quality analysis”).
> Use an en dash in compound adjectives consisting of two joined nouns or parallel adjectives (e.g., “Thai–Cambodian border”).
> Do not hyphenate adverbially modified compound adjectives (such as “adverbially modified” in this sentence) even if the adverb does not end in -ly.

I admit freely that except for the line about the en dashes, I had to read the above about four times before I understood what the hell was going on. Not to pull the curtain back on the Wizard or anything, but I am not Mr. Grammar, which might be a surprising admission for copyeditor. (And to those folks who think the SAT is a predictor of future career success, if that's the case, I'd be an engineer today instead of an editor.) I know proper grammar, but I can't explain it. I can't tell you what all the different tense variations are or the names for anything other than the essential parts of speech, but I guess if my client list is any indication, I do a fair job out of making sense out of the whole deal.

Without any doubt, the person in my work career who could throw around all the names of tenses and parts of speech with the greatest facility was one of the worst editors--and certainly the worst manager--I have ever encountered.


On an unrelated note, some ignant author stories are lurking, but I need a little more distance between job completion and talking out of school before I write anything about them.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Random Notes

Mostly because I'm tired of the guy pictured below.

1. An old friend/author/client popped into my head recently -- a guy I worked with in Atlanta whom I came to know through some freelance work on the political newsletters and then some ad agency work. He eventually wrote a novel and then moved to New York as a late career change . . . actually to teach in the inner-city schools: a rather noble and admirable pursuit. I'd edited a draft of a novel of his some years back. I thought yesterday, I need to get in touch with him and see how he's doing -- unrelated to his book. I'm working at the computer today, and an email from him comes in, saying the new draft of his novel is almost ready, and could I work on it? I wrote him immediately, Strange thing. I thought of you out of nowhere yesterday. He wrote back, Haha. that's great. I just started thinking about contacting you yesterday! Universe works in funny ways.

2. Yes, funny ways. I dreamed last night that Moi and I were shopping in New York City. Not sure if this is dream or nightmare or somewhere in between. I can imagine spending time with Moi in NYC in any number of pleasurable pursuits from which I could benefit from her vast knowledge: museums, food festivals, dingy nightclubs with echoes of long-lost genres. Shopping with Moi in NYC? Nyet.

3. I am in the middle of about five consecutive indexes, which means I am psychically about to come off the rails. Lord, deliver me.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Occasionally, This Job IS Fun

Just received an email from one of my clients, asking me to edit the foreword to a coming volume. Author is a very well-known economist, named a few times to Time magazine's 100 most influential people in the world.

Six hundred basically well-written words; I like to think I made them even better. Hope I did anyway. We'll see what the client thinks, or what eventually appears in print.

Given that so much of what I work on (and that so many of the authors whose books I work on) will languish in academic obscurity -- for better or worse -- I'm still a child enough to get a charge out of editing the words of semifamous individuals. If that makes me an immature idiot, I can live with that. I've probably been called worse, and for better reasons.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Tense Few Hours

Taking a page from the Tylenol playbook, in which I air the dirty laundry. Sometimes this isn't all fun and games:

I spent the last few days working on a rush-rush job from an author whose PhD dissertation I edited a few years back. Nice person, interesting topic. Author contacted me a week or so ago to edit a book covering generally the same ground as the dissertation.

Without giving too much away, the author has some difficulties with the processing of the written word, and that's not a knock or a snide comment. The author is brilliant, top-notch education, and severely dyslexic. Obviously, writing, editing, revisions, etc., take great effort, and even then a lot gets by.

So mostly what I'm hired to do is to make sure that the manuscript is free of the kinds of errors a person with dyslexia might miss or institute in the composition of the manuscript. Spelling, word order . . . The author is not concerned with the writing itself. Quite the contrary, as I came to find out the hard way.

Still, I'm a copyeditor, and since this book is destined for the kinds of publishers I typically work for, I have a passing idea of the ways such books should read and, for example, be punctuated.

I was about three quarters of the way through the editing, trading some emails with the author, and in one short email the author makes the statement:

Make sure to use your eyes, not just spell check, as i have words in the wrong place, etc.

Nonplussed, that prompted a hasty response from me:

If I was just using spell check, it would have been done three days ago.

Tonight, I've completed the book, spending half an hour on the phone with the author to go over queries because the author can't really deal well with queries and keying in changes in response to them, especially when a clean version of the book is supposed to be going off to an acquiring editor tomorrow. We're talking, and I'm going through the questions, and the author seems quite pleased with some of the inconsistencies I've found. I also mention in passing that I cleaned up some of the grammar, removing unnecessary commas, and generally making for a smoother-flowing read.

We get off the phone, and I guess the author got to thinking. I received the following email (which I've cleaned up, because I don't want to give the impression that I fault the author for misspellings):

hey Bob, how long would it take to reinstitute my short sentences?

I actually fancy myself a stylist when it comes to this, and if they're not incorrect, want them the way I very carefully polished them to sound (however crazy I may be).

I could do this, but would take me tons of time probably.

If the answer is yes, then I'd only want you to do it if you could still get it to me by the am. Otherwise I'll just send it in, and work it out later. but my dyslexia's not so good on the back and forth thing.

In other words, dear friends, "Go back over the last three days of work you've done and strip out any place where you might have brought any higher-level editorial thinking or experience to pesky issues such as sentence structure, grammar, word order . . . because, well, I am quite enamored of my own writing style, and you're not going to change it."

My response follows, which probably could have been worded better, but, hey:

Not sure what you mean. I didn't really change much of your writing, and certainly didn't make short sentences longer. If I did, it was for clarity rather than trying to cramp your style.

Mostly what I did was take some commas out to improve syntax and ease of reading. I don't think (I might be wrong) it changed the style of your prose. As far as whether the original text was correct or incorrect, that's sometimes not quite black-and-white. Commas can be used to allow readers a pause where the grammar might not necessitate it -- and maybe that's what you're thinking about -- but overused the drawbacks for the readers might outweigh the author's desire to see a certain style in print. Even though the book is written as a narrative, we're not dealing with a book where readers would expect to encounter many literary devices. Readers want a smooth read, without speed bumps.

In a few places (probably half a dozen), I changed passive voice to active voice, because I thought the text would be clearer as a result.

Overall, I think you have a very engaging style of writing. For a book of nonfiction on a potentially dry topic (and I think I mentioned this with your dissertation), I find myself caring very much for the people you write about, and that's no easy trick to pull off -- especially with an incredibly jaded reader such as myself, who is often as not just focused on payday.

I've attached the tracked and clean versions of the document. I hope you'll agree that the work done was not counterproductive to your intent in sending it to me. If the ultimate desire is to place it in front of readers (and a blind reviewer or two who first have to pass judgment on it), I'd like to think that I've added value here, and increased the possibility of a positive review, rather than negated it.

Pleasure talking with you on the phone tonight. And remember those author/date citations in the last note.


Responses, sent over a few emails:

Okay, I'll read. You said on the phone you made some shorter sentences into longer ones. Maybe I misheard. I like my sentence style, and have worked super hard on it, and have strong opinions on it (for myself only). It's a literary thing, for me, as long as it's clean grammatically. Anyway, that's why I asked you to focus on bugs, not style- should have clarified ahead of time. And this will be on a trade [publisher's name here], not pure academic. Anyway, I must send this off right now, and will redo the other things when I can breathe. Sorry if I sound irritated, I'm not. I'm grateful, but wish I was somehow more clear about what the precise thing I needed was. Would have saved a bit of time!
My final point is here "ease of reading" is a subjective thing. Lots of great writers, in my book, write in ways that catch you in a particular way, sometimes not so easy. My sentences if you read them out loud have a very particular rhythm to them, and it's very intentional. Intentionally rhythmic, and percussive. Thus sometimes short sentences. Not that you have to like it :)

yea, this will take dozens of hours, really, for me to put back the way I want it, in terms of non error changes you've made. Bob, I asked you for an edit to catch errors: I said type-o's bad spelling, misplaced word, wrong grammar. mistakes. i said it like three times over. you've done all that very well, but you've also done a stylistic edit, which i know you meant well to do, and which we could argue over, but which i did not want, did not ask for, and really cannot have. Its up to me to decide my style, and I like it the way it is.

I need to give this to my editor, who likes my style, tomorrow, and am not sure what I should do. I cannot give it to him with so many stylistic changes, which I worked very very hard to craft. Actually I don't see how i can even do this, as its not clear to me where your edits are stylistic vs,. grammatical.

tell me what to do.


From me:

Give me an example of what you consider a stylistic change, and I'll go back through the document and undo 'em all. I didn't make that many changes, and I can probably have it back to you in two hours.


Thanks, Bob, both for the willingness to tweak, and for putting up with me. It's been a long day around here.


We will see where all this ends up. I can argue my case here, but unpacking this phrase gets down to the root of the issue: "it's not clear to me where your edits are stylistic vs,. grammatical."

Dear readers, in your mind, is this not an admission that part of the writer's style indeed flies in the face of standard grammar? And as copyeditor, am I not tasked with fixing it? And if the publishing house looking at your book happens to be the same university press that puts out the premier style guide in the book publishing industry, might not attention to grammatical conventions be a good idea?

Another thought: even in a late-night follow-up phone conversation, the author talked about the effect of the writing style when the book is read aloud. Practical? A good way to approach the written word when it's not poetry/screenplay/script?

This might be the rare case in which proofreading a manuscript was actually in order.

After all this, the author and I will likely still be on friendly terms. I hope so. Hopefully the author doesn't read blogs.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

(R) and TM

Been so long since I've actually posted about a real-live editorial issue from here in the bunker, I hardly know what to do.

I was called in to proofread a corporate history recently. I've done plenty of them, but this was for a new client, so that's nice. After sending the pages back, the project manager sent me this note:

XYZ Inc. is asking why we didn't use copyright [sic] or TM signs in our narrative - it's mostly on items in chapters 7 & 8. Is there some reason we didn't?


First, in classic freelance CYA mode, that's not something I figured as a proofreader I'd be looking for or making decisions about. That would be a question for the writer and XYZ's legal and marketing teams.

But as an editor, here's what I'd say. TMs and (R)s are not required in running text. Typically they'd only be used in display copy -- heads and perhaps jacket copy and such. Even so, it really comes down to how much XYZ feels the need to aggressively protect its own trademarks and on what turf.

As an editor, if I received the manuscript from XYZ, I'd presume that XYZ would know which terms were trademarked and that the terms were in the manuscript as the company wanted them. I would not presume to question or change, under the assumption that the manuscript had already cleared all the internal legal hurdles. That's ultimately XYZ's responsibility because they have the answers; neither the publisher nor the editor can presume to know where those marks go. That's my two cents, anyway.

Too, given that this book is largely going to be for internal distribution, I'd think -- and presumably also for sale at the Visitor Center -- it's going out to a friendly crowd. And it may be that's a moot point, but companies tend to be less fussy when the stakes aren't as high. (R)s and TMs have a way of junking up otherwise nice-looking text.

For companies that do want to insert those pesky beasts in running text, some will do it on every instance, which looks like hell. Some will do it only on the first mention on a page or spread, which seems arbitrary. Basically it's the call of the legal beagles and how much they want to assert their authority.

So, class, did I handle it correctly?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Favorite Epigraph

Take time to familiarize yourself with this manual. The slightest deviation from the style described herein will lead directly to the collapse of our carefully constructed editorial house of cards, economic upheaval, spiritual and moral chaos, and the end of civilization as we know it.

—APWA Style Guide, 2nd ed., American Public Welfare Association, 1995

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Someone's About to Make a Lot of Money, $99 at a Time

from Publishers Weekly email, August 12, 2010

Bowker Starts Manuscript Submission Web Site

Bowker is the latest company to try to use technology to match publishers and authors, launching an automated manuscript submission process for the general trade. BowkerManuscriptSubmissions.com is an online service that lets authors post their work for publishers to read. Authors pay to present their book proposals to publishers via the service, and acquisitions editors can use the site's various tools to sort and read them. Cost for writers is $99 to post a sample chapter and description of their work for six months.

Bowker modeled its site on ChristianManuscriptSubmissions.com, which is managed by and in cooperation with the Christian publishers association ECPA and which has been in operation for nearly 10 years. Bowker v-p of publishing services Kelly Gallagher said the site will alleviate the "time-consuming and frustrating" traditional process of matching authors with publishers. "BowkerManuscriptSubmission.com applies a proven model . . . allowing authors and publishers to find each other very efficiently."

The site lists resources for outside editing services, agents, self-publishing, and writers' conferences. Publishers can sort submitted manuscript proposals by genre, audience, author, and date of entry. There is no charge for publishers, and Bowker is asking publishers to register at the site.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Acronym of the Day

I just wish the content were juicier:

New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD)

All kinds of great image content comes to mind that I dare not post here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Notable Quotes

I spoke with a first-time unpublished novelist today (working on the first book), who--upon finding out what I do--had a few questions for me.

1. "How do I copyright the book?" A common enough question: I explained that there's no real formal procedure for copyrighting a book. You just put the copyright symbol on the manuscript with your name and date, and that's done.

2. "What do I do after I get it wrote?"


Received in an email yesterday from a new client this amusing little aside:

"Our scholarly material may, at times, be more dense than your usual fare."

If he only knew.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Index Entry of the Day

Dear, John, 328n34

And for the newcomers to the wacky world of indexing, that means note 34 on page 328. Some style guides would have an indexer write that as 328 n. 34. LandonDemand doesn't do some style guides, and a number of my publishers prefer the set-tight, no-punctuation approach. If nothing else, there's no chance of the page-number entry breaking across lines:

n. 34


328 n.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Today's Fun Typo

Unpublished, fortunately, but caught by some sharp-eyed editor:

How to Make a Drapery for a Large Triangular Widow

I don't think I can call up an image through the google that would do justice here. But if any of my sharp-eyed readers can do so, I'd be happy to post it.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Self-Publishing Made Simple

From The Network Is Your Customer (Rogers, Yale University Press, forthcoming [2010]):

An even greater impact on the book industry may come from the arrival of custom-printing kiosks, such as the Espresso. This “ATM for books” can print a hundred pages a minute and bind the pages into a finished book on a machine that will fit in the corner of a local bookstore. The first Espresso in Europe appeared in the famed Blackwell’s bookshop in central London, where it expanded the bookstore’s famously large selection with an additional half-million titles, ready to print from digital files. A customer coming in to find Charles Darwin’s out-of-print book on earthworms was able to print a copy in minutes for about twenty dollars (instead of paying a thousand dollars on the secondhand market for rare books). The first Espresso in the United States was in the homey Northshire Bookstore in Manchester, Vermont. The store found that many aspiring authors came in to print short runs of their own unpublished books once they found out they no longer needed an established publisher to accept their manuscript. As its digital library expands, the Espresso will allow small, local bookstores like Northshire to offer just as many niche books as an online powerhouse like Amazon.




What great news for authors. And what's great news for authors should be great news for authors who want to put out quality books. Are you an author wanting to self-publish? Don't forget quality control. Have the book copyedited. Pay a professional to proofread it. Are you putting out a family history or a work of nonfiction? For your readers' benefit, the book needs an index. Whether you come to me or someone else, do your audience a favor and make the book the best it can be. Your future readership will grow as a result, and you'll be prouder of your past output when you look back at it.

A word to the wise.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

She's Gotta Not Have It, or No Good Deed Goes Unpunished


When you edited chapter two of [a book on leadership], you changed his to the word her in the following sentence:

A sage leader learns to delegate her time wisely and finds a sense of balance in life.

Some of our writers might feel that we are trying to impose political correctness on them if we make changes like this. So for future reference, you can leave it as is (his) or change it to something like this:

A sage leader learns to delegate his or her time wisely and finds a sense of balance in life.

Thank you.



XXX: I wouldn't call it imposing political correctness as much as living in the 21st century and not offending half of the potential readership. Don't these folks want to sell books? Does the writer not think there are women leaders?

I alternated "his" and "her" through the book rather than the rather clunky "his or her," which gets cumbersome after a while.

I'll do whatever you want me to do, though.



Funny thing is, the CEO of this publishing house (not listed in my client list) is a woman.

In my mind, gender inclusiveness in a business title is not PC. It's common sense. When I read a book on leadership and every single pronoun reference is male, I'm wondering why the company has decided to reprint a Sputnik-era volume. In this day and age, if I'm a woman reading a book on leadership traits and no generic leader in the book is portrayed as a woman -- and when that's the case, I don't think it's writer laziness as much as a conscious decision -- I'm putting the book down, if not using it as a fire starter when wintertime comes.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Retraction of Prior Post

Hi Bob,

We were about to contact all of our freelancers about the press's welcome packet, but looks like you received the package first. You can ignore the background check part of the application; the press needs the updated W-9 form only. There won't be any major changes to the way we process checks; you'll still submit the invoices to the in-house editor, and your invoice will be processed the following week.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not-So-Brave New World

First, kudos to Moi for the title inspiration.

Some management changes have resulted in new procedures at one of the presses listed to the right. I received a package today with about eight forms to fill out, and almost in passing one of these sheets states that as part of the new order, all vendors must pass a background check (no drug dealing, child molestation, or felonies allowed, among others, I'm sure), and because I'm a freelancer, I must pony up the $55 for my own background check.


I can actually pass this background check without any difficulty. Not the problem. But a background check for someone who proofs and indexes their books? Is that really necessary? And that I have to pay for it? I'd love to hear from those who occasionally check in here who are freelancers. Ever heard of something like this?

At the very least, I'd like to see the background check report. Maybe someone has stolen my identity and at some point has done something interesting in my name.

Geez Louise.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rather Prescient

Media of Social Communication

Among the major changes of our times, we do not wish to forget to emphasize the growing role being assumed by the media of social communication and their influence on the transformation of mentalities, of knowledge, of organizations, and of society itself. Certainly they have many positive aspects. Thanks to them news from the entire world reaches us practically in an instant, establishing contacts which supersede distances and creating elements of unity among all men. A greater spread of education and culture is becoming possible. Nevertheless, by their very action the media of social communication are reaching the point of representing as it were a new power. One cannot but ask about those who really hold this power, the aims that they pursue and the means they use, and finally, about the effect of their activity on the exercise of individual liberty, both in the political and ideological spheres and in social, economic, and cultural life. The men who hold this power have a grave moral responsibility with respect to the truth of the information that they spread, the needs and the reactions that they generate, and the values which they put forward. In the case of television, moreover, what is coming into being is an original mode of knowledge and a new civilization: that of the image.

Naturally, the public authorities cannot ignore the growing power and influence of the media of social communication and the advantages and risks which their use involves for the civic community and for its development and real perfecting.

Consequently they are called upon to perform their own positive function for the common good by encouraging every constructive expression, by supporting individual citizens and groups in defending the fundamental values of the person and of human society, and also by taking suitable steps to prevent the spread of what would harm the common heritage of values on which orderly civil progress is based.

Paul VI, Octogesima Adveniens (1971)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Insurers don't give you credit for all the telephone poles you miss

Cook-book misprint costs Australian publishers dear


An Australian publisher has had to pulp and reprint a cook-book after one recipe listed "salt and freshly ground black people" instead of black pepper.

Penguin Group Australia had to reprint 7,000 copies of Pasta Bible last week, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported.

The reprint cost A$20,000 ($18,000; £12,000), but stock in bookshops will not be recalled as it is "extremely hard" to do so, Penguin said.

The recipe was for spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto.

"We're mortified that this has become an issue of any kind, and why anyone would be offended, we don't know," head of publishing Bob Sessions is quoted as saying by the Sydney newspaper.

Penguin said almost every one of the more than 150 recipes in the book listed salt and freshly ground black pepper, but a misprint occurred on just one page.

"When it comes to the proofreader, of course they should have picked it up, but proofreading a cook-book is an extremely difficult task. I find that quite forgivable," Mr Sessions said.

If anyone complains about the "silly mistake," they will be given the new version, Penguin said.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Two more happy customers

Hi there

When I got my first glimpse of the index you wrote for The Cat and the Toaster [Wipf and Stock, 2010], I thought I should write and say thanks. I spent a half hour just reading it over. Later I found that Dr. Hall had done the same thing. And the other day someone else told me he was reading the book, and I asked how far he had gotten. "Well," he said, "actually, I started with the index."

Writing to you was one of those nice thoughts we have sometimes, and then ignore... But I just opened it again to track down a quote, and after finding it so easily, I told myself it is time to write to you!

Thanks, Bob. You did a masterful job with that index. Your work is a tremendous asset to the book.

You make us look good, and we are grateful for your help and your good work.

With appreciation,
Steve Daman
Emmanuel Gospel Center


Dear Bob,

We had a meeting this week with our new publisher NYU Press, and the director of production was gushing about the high quality of the copyediting. So we told her why and she asked for your contact info.

[from the folks at the American Human Development Project]

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What Would Grind Your Guts about the Following Response to an Email?


I had to file personal bankruptcy due to the business failure. I'm unemployed currently and have no means to pay you or anyone else.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Monday, March 22, 2010

Give me about two and a half minutes

Sorry, folks. Been busy . . . too busy to post.

But I found this today. Turn that frown upside down.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Sometimes You Just Ask

Over on Moi's blog, one of her regular posters is, if I get it correctly, an artist who works in illustration and design. I forget if it was on Moi's blog or here that the topic turned to drumming up freelance work. I mentioned to K9 that sometimes it was just a matter of going back to clients you hadn't heard from in a while and mentioning, "Hey, I'm still here."

K9's response was, "I wish it was that simple."

Sometimes it is.

As I've written before, clients come and go. If you'd have named for me a few years back the clients I'm surviving without now, I'd have asked you if you wanted to sit next to me at the Salvation Army for dinner tonight. But publishers and authors go, and others seem to take up the empty places right at the right time. My dear wife ascribes this to the presence of a deity. Maybe yes, maybe no. A lot of folks out there aren't doing so well these days, not to say that any deity is responsible for every little turn of events. I don't think the ways of the universe are conducted on such a micro level anyway; nor does my wife think that way, I don't believe. And theodicy's certainly not the subject of this post or this blog.

But I guess I could phrase as it as "Knock and the door will be opened to you; seek and you shall find."

Or that every invention is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.

A few publishers that I hadn't worked with lately popped into my head this week. I tracked one down, and it's now under the management of a larger group that handles a number of smaller imprints, all publishing in kinda the same field. The only contact person I could find on the new webpage was the president and publisher of the larger group. I'd forgotten the name of my old contact.

I emailed the president/publisher, telling per that I wanted to contact the press that was now part of per's larger company. I was a freelancer who wanted to reestablish contact with this press.

This was yesterday. Within an hour, I heard back from my old contact, asking for my most recent resume and rate sheet. Half an hour later, per said there might be some work for me.

I received news of a project today. I'll have it next week. A nice copyediting job.

Sometimes you just ask.

Publisher 2: I wrote my contact, whose name I remembered this time, and said, "Hey, haven't heard from you in a while. If you're still using freelancers, I'm still here."

Response: "Great to hear from you. We're still using freelancers, but just putting out fewer books. Will definitely keep you in mind."

Sometimes . . .

Back to publisher 1. I was put in touch with the graphic designer for the book I'll be copyediting. I did my A-student freelancer thing and said, "By the way, if you know of any publishers or authors looking for someone who does what I do, feel free to pass my name along, and I'll do the same for you." Per immediately wrote back with a contact at a press that labors in the same academic fields as most of the rest of my clients, and said, "Tell per I recommended you." I did so. Contact, if the widget is correct, was checking out the blog earlier tonight. I cannot assume, of course, this will turn out to be a good development, but it's a press that I would be very proud to put on the client list.

Sometimes . . .

I said this before also: if I had the nerve and the confidence in some regards at ages 14, 18, 22 that I do now, aspects of my life would have been totally different. Then again, there's no telling what bad roads such nerve and confidence might have taken me down then until now.

Agnosticism is a funny thing. I think everything is tied together. I think things move toward some conclusion that might not be revealed without the benefit of decades of hindsight. It just is so immaterial to me if someOne or someThing is tying that knot or moving things toward any conclusion. That's for the bigger brains to deal with.

It's too late at night for this. I belong in a dorm room at age 18, having serious discussions, although I don't really remember many serious dorm room discussions. A lot more laughing than pondering.

Bonnaroo lineup is out for 2010. It's tempting. Younger son and wife certainly want to go. Older son hasn't mentioned anything. Of course, being there represents heaven on earth to him, but hopefully he'll be busily and gainfully employed somewhere this summer in a pursuit that renders him unable to go . . . and that pursuit would likely not be in shouting distance to Manchester, TN. But knowing him, he'll try to figure out some way to game the whole deal so he can still do Bonnaroo. I like doing the tent thing. Mi esposa says she's over that and wants to do an RV. I just don't see it, but hell, I don't see a lot of things.

Side note, this from my Internet gig: Part of that gig, in addition to reviewing the work of about 100 other copyeditors, is answering the random questions that come in to a Help Desk from a cast of a few thousand writers of various levels of quality. I was dealing with one of the writers earlier this week and received this nice note:



You're awesome as always. I'd be lying if I said I'm thrilled when I'm told to take a different approach, but your advice is always specific and right on the mark so I am glad to have it.

Thanks again,


Every so often, that craziness is worthwhile. As is this:

Monday, February 1, 2010

Publishing Industry Hiring Uptick . . . Just Not for Me

Ugh, although I'm happy for the locals. From a formerly steady client that I wrote to this morning:

We’ve enlisted the help of a couple full-time in-house freelancers who have been doing a lot of the work we’d been sending out, so as far as outside freelancers go, things have been a bit slow.

It's okay. Their hole will fill in with something else. Always seems to, although the nice thing about this client is that their publishing is nonacademic, which offered a nice break from the standard LoD fare.

Comes and goes; that's how it's always been.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Why I Like a Little Distance from the Principals

I very rarely deal with authors for my publishing-house clients--a nice perk. The managing editors do all that work, leaving me alone to do my job. This isolation/insulation keeps me from possible fits of rage because of interactions with the occasional prima donna.

Actually, to be fair, I must say that when I am placed in the position of working with authors--for example, when they need to review copyedits or indexes--the exchanges are typically pleasant. One of the university presses I work for has me do the copyedits, send them to the author for review, and then the author sends them back to me before I ship off the final manuscript to the press. Every one of those authors has been delightful to work with. Kudos to you in the Classic City of the South (and if you want to know which press that is, do your research on this phrase).

Self-publishing authors are also nice, and typically grateful for the assistance.

One of my gigs is working on the scholarly journals that a university press handles. I received a job for proofreading last week, and part of the task is transferring the journal editor's comments to the master set of proofs, which will also include my own corrections.

First, this editor blamed an incorrect French-to-English translation on "a copy-editor." Not this one.

Then I come upon this delightful note:

Quotation marks instead of Italics, please. This is a left over change by one of your neophyte sub-editors, who actually thought I was mistakenly trying to use quotation marks for emphasis instead of italics!!

Neophyte sub-editor, indeed. That's the title for my next business card. I will own up to making that change, but not for the reason that this editor presumed. No need to go into the explanation, but suffice it to say that the tone of the comment makes me happy, again, that I mostly deal with managing editors--professionals who know what they are doing and who allow me to do what I do without experiencing the haughtiness of this type of riff-raff.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

So Much for the Associated Press

As I've said before on this blog, pointing out typos in printed material in this kind of forum is boring, unless it's embarrassing for the publisher or creates some wonderful double entendre. But in light of recent excerpts from an AP article covering the lack of copyediting and proofreading on a UN IPCC report, I found the following lead from today's wire rather ironic:

Rescuers pull man alive from Haiti shop rubble
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) - Rescuers have pulled a 23-year-old man alive from the rubble of a fruit and vegetable shop in Haiti, 11 days after an earthquake crumbled the capital city. The man was placed on a stretcher and given fluids intraveneusouly.

As they say in my part of the world, do what now? And what do you think of the use of the word "crumble" there? Nyet.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Another Happy (and Sorta New) Customer

For a book that was supposed to be a simple project, but I uncovered significant documentation issues at the proofreading stage, requiring some independent research to straighten everything out:


Thank you for the work you've done on the Lincoln project. Your invoice is reasonable based on what you did. I am glad that you do a very thorough and professional job, but you are also reasonable with your fees. This has made it easier in terms of convincing [publisher's name here] to use your services on a much more consistent basis.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

First Sarah Palin; Now This

Maybe the Associated Press is trying to prop up the need for indexing, editing, and proofreading. I mentioned some time back the AP story on the arrival of Palin's book, with the lack of an index featured prominently in the story's third paragraph.

This from today's AP wire:


UN warming report riddled with errors in 1 section


The errors are in a 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-affiliated body. All the mistakes appear in a subsection that suggests glaciers in the Himalayas could melt away by the year 2035 - hundreds of years earlier than the data actually indicates. The year 2350 apparently was transposed as 2035.


"It is a very shoddily written section," said Graham Cogley, a professor of geography and glaciers at Trent University in Peterborough, Canada, who brought the error to everyone's attention. "It wasn't copy-edited properly."

Cogley, who wrote a letter about the problems to Science magazine that was published online Wednesday, cited these mistakes:

- The paragraph starts, "Glaciers in the Himalayas are receding faster than in any other part of the world." Cogley and Michael Zemp of the World Glacier Monitoring System said Himalayan glaciers are melting at about the same rate as other glaciers.

- It says that if the Earth continues to warm, the "likelihood of them disappearing by the 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high." Nowhere in peer-reviewed science literature is 2035 mentioned. However, there is a study from Russia that says glaciers could come close to disappearing by 2350. Probably the numbers in the date were transposed, Cogley said.

- The paragraph says: "Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 square kilometers by the year 2035." Cogley said there are only 33,000 square kilometers of glaciers in the Himalayas.

- The entire paragraph is attributed to the World Wildlife Fund, when only one sentence came from the WWF, Cogley said. And further, the IPCC likes to brag that it is based on peer-reviewed science, not advocacy group reports. Cogley said the WWF cited the popular science press as its source.

- A table says that between 1845 and 1965, the Pindari Glacier shrank by 2,840 meters. Then comes a math mistake: It says that's a rate of 135.2 meters a year, when it really is only 23.5 meters a year.

Still, Cogley said: "I'm convinced that the great bulk of the work reported in the IPCC volumes was trustworthy and is trustworthy now as it was before the detection of this mistake." He credited Texas state climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon with telling him about the errors.

However, Colorado University environmental science and policy professor Roger Pielke Jr. said the errors point to a "systematic breakdown in IPCC procedures," and that means there could be more mistakes.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Now Taking Predictions

I don't often get into topical stories here, but since a lot of my reading deals with matters theological, I'm more often than not likely to click through to an article that deals with religion or religious institutions. The story today about the release of John Paul II's would-be assassin intrigued me.


After getting about halfway through this tale, I thought, "This dope's going to go right back out into a far crazier world than the one he left 29 or so years ago, and he'll kill someone . . ."

In a month?
In a year?
As soon as he turns on a TV set?

Any predictions?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Taken Down a Notch

In the context of my Internet-based publishing gig, I come across scores of two-sentence bios for writers and editors. This one from an editor just caught my eye:

[So-and-so] attended college in northwestern Pennsylvania before moving to New York City to make a career in reference publishing. She worked as an indexer before being promoted to assistant editor.

I can only hope that the type of indexing she is talking about differs from the kind I do. I would hate to think that at this stage of my life, I'd be receiving a promotion to assistant editor. Then again, when it seems that every person I grew up with is a doctor, lawyer, high-powered B-man, professor, etc., maybe it's time to face the facts. What those facts are, I'd just as soon not ponder in too much detail right now.

Monday, January 11, 2010

When in Doubt

First, I want to get this off my chest: it's snowing again. After a heavy snowfall in mid-December, the remnants of which are still on the ground, it's snowed every few days since then. The sun will come out every so often to melt a little of what's here, then we'll get another dusting to cover it up. I don't think the temperature has gotten out of the 20s yet this year, and this former northeasterner is tired of it. I'd be perfectly happy if winter lasted a week, with one day of snowfall. We have six folks coming over to dinner tomorrow night, ranging in age from 70 to somewhere in his 90s, and one of the wives is either behind a walker or occasionally in some motorized transport. I'd just cleared off the walkway to the house yesterday, and I'll be out there again tomorrow, it looks like.

Now if a dinner party of 70- to 90-something-year-olds sounds, well, less than enticing, you've not met this bunch. The youngster is most active, spending a lot of his days traveling the world, and I'm not sure he's ever spent much time in Europe. Just doesn't interest him that much. He was part of the first Peace Corps contingent in the early 60s, and his roommate was eaten by a lion in Tanzania. True story.

He is bringing the nonagenarian, who was a radio and television producer in NYC from the 1940s to the 1980s. Harvard educated back in the 30s, I guess. When I saw him last, on New Year's Eve, he was regaling us with stories about being the stage manager for the U.S. Steel Hour on ABC, I think, in the 1950s and dealing with Hal Holbrook. Fascinating individual. Knows writers and actors and all kinds of people. If he's not yet written a few books, I'm not sure why.

The married couples who are bracketed in age here are all wonderful folks. The two husbands are both PhD engineers. One is perhaps the greatest malcontent I've ever met. Virulent atheist, diehard socialist, EPA whistleblower back in the 70s. His wife is a fantastic painter. The other couple -- he's a chemical engineer, and his wife is just a delight. Actually, I'm looking forward to this evening as much as any social gathering I can think of recently. The Peace Corps alum thinks he's outspoken and progressive. He's a piker compared to my favorite malcontent. The purpose of this meeting was actually to get the latter together with the former producer. The two have met only briefly, and the producer wanted to spend some more time with him. We were a point of connection (and my wife is always looking for a reason to entertain) . . . hence the shindig. Now if it'll just stop snowing and I can get the 2nd couple's missus into the house, we'll be fine.

What's this blog about? Oh, right.

I have found that when inexperienced writers don't know what to do, they use an apostrophe. Why this is, I am not sure, but I find them in the oddest places. Maybe they think an apostrophe will make them look like they know what they are doing in the punctuation realm.

Another source of amusement/irritation is authors who feel that the use of Roman numerals gives their writing some academic bent that Arabic numerals do not. I am forever changing "part I," "chapter I," to something more, uh, modern?

I'm working on a book now that looks as if the writer missed every punctuation lesson between 3rd and 7th grades. I will never understand how people can write books that look nothing like the books they supposedly read. Of course, the acknowledgments section for this one mentions two editors and one proofreader who helped in preparation of the manuscript. Any time I see an editor cited in the acknowledgments, I know it's going to be trouble. I hate to say it, but that's the fact. The biggest red flag is as follows: "Thanks to my [sister/neighbor/uncle], a former English teacher, for editing the manuscript." My hope is that the teacher did a good job at some point, only to have the author stick by per's guns and unfortunately do away with all the suggestions.

The good news on the workflow front is I can think of three outfits that have given me strong indications they will use me more this year than in years past. One I already mentioned with the Christmas card. Another is a press that used me a bit a few years back, but which slacked off over the last two years. Back in October I happened to be in the small town in Massachusetts where their office is, and I stopped in unannounced. Met their managing editor, whom I hadn't known before (I'd only dealt with the publisher), who upon finding out what I did and where I fit in immediately began telling me that per was doing way too much copyediting and proofreading for what per was hired to do. I heard from per at the end of last year, and per has the green light to begin using me.

The best news of all (almost sorry to say) comes from the publisher of the agrammatical book. This is a company that has mostly been in distribution, and the books they did publish essentially went out unedited and unproofed (professionally, anyway). After three years of internal lobbying, their production person finally has convinced the company to use me. I got a call from the production person the other day, and per asked if it was OK if they referred authors to me for me to edit the manuscripts before they even entered production. Well, by all means.

It's 1099 season. I received one the other day from a company that I swear I got no work from last year. Maybe it's for work done in 2008, but paid in 2009. I fear this company is in the death throes . . . and they sent me a ton of work during a stretch from about September 2007 to December 2008. I wrote to the Big Boss a few weeks back and didn't even get the courtesy of a response. Not a good sign. Usually per was good about answering emails.

Actually, I have a few folks who are not returning emails with the alacrity I desire. Kinda makes me mad when I actually need some information. And I figure if the first email didn't do the trick, the second one is just going to irritate. So I sits and I waits.

Well, the badly punctuated book has about 35 pages of bleeding to go on it, and I'd love to finish it tonight, to clear the decks for another book that's coming in tomorrow -- not to mention the dinner party. Gonna be an interesting day. Shoveling snow with an old yard sign, and then sweeping the rest. Good thing it's a dry snow.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

new and old reader welcome

I've mentioned before that I can tell that this blog has certain people who check in every once in a while, for whatever odd reasons they are keeping to themselves. The little widget off to the side at least allows me to see where people are coming from. But I suppose it's like talk radio or the Pareto Rule -- that only a small percentage of the people doing X are responsible for the significant portion of activity Y. Much as I love dear Moi and her always unique perspective, I'd welcome comments from others of you, too. I know I have a lot to learn, and God knows I haven't been much in the teaching mode lately. So y'all can teach me.

I received an email today from someone who stumbled upon this blog. Per was directed to it by a Google Alert. I responded to the email and asked per what phrase kicked off the alert (it must have been from yesterday's post), but I've yet to hear the answer.

Working on a book tonight about the state of freedom in this country. (I do strive to keep this territory apolitical, yet this book does get the mind going -- no matter which side of the aisle you're on or even if both sides of the aisle disgust you.) Frankly, there's a little something in this book for everyone. Oh, hell, I'll go ahead and give a plug, which I rarely do (it's a good book, so I don't mind calling it out): the title is New Threats to Freedom, published by Templeton Press, available Spring 2010. Plenty of well-known writers have contributed short essays--mostly well-known authors in the magazine field, and one particularly well-known playwright. I can say that it's a real kick in the head to be copyediting the work of a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner. The book has plenty of nifty quotes, such as, "There’s a world of Travis Bickles out there, and they’re not driving cabs. They’re reading blogs." So, if any of you recognize yourself in that statement, you're not alone. That was from an article on cyber-anonymity, appropriately enough.

I had an interesting task today: giving feedback to an author on an index per wrote for per's own book. This goes back to the overseas author who used me for proofreading a few months back. Per wrote the index for per's book (and did a better job than most authors I've seen, which didn't surprise me, given the quality of the book--not to mention per's discriminating taste in proofreaders), and asked me not exactly to edit it but to give pointers on how it could be improved.

It wasn't so easy. As I told per, indexing is something I do, not something I think about. So to try to describe the mechanics of why to do certain things or how to syntactically link entries and subentries was not easy. I'm sure there are books out there that describe the indexing process. I've never read one. I've never read a manual or taken a course on how to index. My first indexing client, if I remember correctly, was probably my old employer, which produces self-study business texbooks. Their books are so meticulously organized with heads and subheads, and all the terms are boldfaced, so the indexes basically write themselves. I was able to start out with easy material. And that led up (or down) to where I am today.

I indexed a book last week on Islam and science that was not only mostly over my head but was also made far worse by having to type transliterated Arabic -- a slow process involving using codes or pulling symbols off of Word's palette. Indexing is a lot easier when typing names such as "Jones, Bill," as opposed to (wait a minute while I grab a real name from the index) . . . Bīrūnī, Abū al-Rayh.ān Muh.ammad ibn Ah.mad al-. or titles such as Al-Jāmi‘ li-Mufradāt al-Adwiya wal-Aghdhiya. The letters with periods after them are actually supposed to have dots under the letters preceding them. The press did supply me with an Arabic transliteration font and keyboard instructions for it, but frankly I found it easier to do it this way. In this case, this particular old dog didn't want to learn any new tricks.

What else, what else? I am perilously close to being caught up with work, which is another way of saying, running out of it. Trust me, I would not want to be my dear, long-suffering wife if that happens. On the best of days, I am a nervous wreck. If the work ever runs out . . . well, I don't even want to go there. One of my old standbys has said he has a proofing and a copyediting job that are supposed to be coming my way this week; another publisher has a proofing job supposed to be coming this week; there's an index lurking out there I should have received about 2 months ago, and I'm just as happy it's not come in yet. My annual managing editor gig is about to kick in (which I enjoy, but I've never had to do it in the last seven years on top of the Internet company obligations, now running at about 15-20 hours per week), but if the work ever does dry up, I can do the Internet thing up to 35 hours per week if I want . . . not that I'd want. But safety for me is having a month's worth of work sitting on my desk (or at least on the calendar) awaiting my attention. Then again, if I got a break, maybe I could clean out my office instead of trying to run a business in about 15 square feet of space. The good news is that one of my publishers has already informed me of about six books they're doing this year. (The not-so-good news is that they've been on about the 120-day pay plan lately, but I get the money when I need it, I suppose.)

One last item from the 2009 wrap-up. I think I may have actually written off my first chunk of change (the prophet's nonpayment notwithstanding). I did an index for a company in June 2008 for which I am still owed $656. I've written or called them once a month since. I spoke with the publisher last week, and he gave me the tale of woe that the bank had seized everything --computers, furniture, etc. -- and that he's barely operating. I wasn't too sympathetic. All I wanted to hear from him is that if he ever started operating again, he might just give some thought to actually paying me what he owes me. I eventually pried that out of him, but I don't think I'll ever see the money. I did an Internet search and found people making complaints about him and nonpayment for services rendered back in 2003-5. And I think I heard from another publisher that this guy's brother is a known bad actor in the publishing world. But, in all the freelancing I've been doing for these many years, to only get hung up once by what seemed like a legitimate outfit probably isn't such a bad record. And who knows? Maybe one day that $656 will come in when I really need it. For all my bad attitude, there's a spark of the optimist somewhere inside me. Very well hidden. And I'm such a prince that I'm not even going to name the company here, although I've thought of doing so often. Maybe that'll be part of my 2010 wrap-up.

Well, it's too damn cold in Virginia, and there's no break in sight. About the only other good thing about running out of work would be it would give me an excuse to go to the Y for four hours a day and do the executive triathlon in perpetuity: sauna, steam, whirlpool. Heaven forbid I should actually exercise.

As a talk-show host I used to like says, "I think I've had about all of me I can stand for one day." Tomorrow is ten hours of reviewing the work of other editors for the Internet gig. Maybe I'll spend two of those hours cutting off the permissions of those who've never done a damn thing, literally. Signed up with this company and never edited a word. That's what passes for the feeling of power in my life, I guess -- or it's a way to work without having to think too much about it.

Hey, if you're out there reading this stuff, and you've never left a comment, leave me a comment. Do it anonymously if you want. You can even sign it "Travis Bickle" if that suits you. Even better would be to tell me roughly what part of the country you're from. I really am kinda curious who's out there -- not to mention why. We might all even benefit from knowing each other, even if it's just through fake names. If I can create a little community of freelancers here, that would be rather rewarding. And I won't try to sell you anything. You can count on that.


Monday, January 4, 2010

wrapping up 2009

Seems like I was going into the end of the year with some things on my mind I wanted to dump on the blog and get them out of my head. Maybe I'll remember most of them.

A couple of individual author stories. I edited and proofread a book for a previously published author who definitely had per own way of wanting things done. I think I covered some of this under a blog post titled (new pet peeve of mine: titled vs. entitled; I don't care if "entitled" might be correct. If it's referring to the title of a work, the landondemand creed mandates "titled" rather than "entitled") "Remind Me Why You Hired Me Again." As I've said, it doesn't matter to me what you do with my suggestions or changes once it's off my desk, but please don't ask me to do the work, then second-guess everything I do, particularly if you're not in the publishing field.

(I do have one client who second-guesses--or tries to argue me out of--most things I do, but it's kind of a running joke at this point. And I like per too much to fire per, anyway.)

So, after I'm done with the proofread of the author's book, per sends me the jacket copy for a copyedit. (Another growing pet peeve: I think I'm done with a project and then comes, "Oh, would you mind looking at the promotional copy?") I tell per, "I don't think I should copyedit this because the bulleted lists don't start off with parallel words and very few of the bulleted items on why someone should purchase this book flow logically from the lead-in to the list."

Per responds (paraphrasing), "Thanks anyway. I'm going to leave it the way it is, because I like it that way, and I don't think we need to hold up the jacket copy to the same editorial standards as the inside text."

Excuse me?

I just responded with an "OK, thanks. Nice working with you. Keep me in mind for the next book." I mean, how do you respond to that? You've got the jacket copy, where you're trying to sell the book, and you don't want it to make sense? You want the first thing people read to leave them scratching their heads wondering if the inside of the book is going to contain the same type of editorial problems?

But I knew the author well enough at that point that when per said, "I've decided to keep it the way it is," that was it. I suspect per paid someone to write the copy and didn't want someone else changing it. Just a guess.

But we parted on good terms. No harm, no foul. Per did keep me on the phone a long time over the course of the project, but whatchoo gonna do?


Author 2. This is from a project for which I've been hired, although I've not yet received the final draft of the manuscript. I need to be a little careful here because per checked out my blog before contacting me. Never know when per might check in again.

Per and I are trading emails laying down the ground rules for what I would do and charge, etc. Then per lays this one on me:

I would also like some sort of quality control/warranty statement. Hypothetically, what if I paid a copy editor to do this, then the MS goes to the publisher and they reject it and tell me that it is loaded with typos and misplaced periods. I’d have to re-copy edit because the guy who did the copy editing the first time did a sloppy quick job. Am I paranoid or is that a real possibility?

My cordial response:

Nothing wrong with a touch of paranoia, but hopefully in my case a sloppy quick job is not a real possibility. I cannot guarantee that any publisher will accept your work after I copyedit it, though. Remember, too, that copyediting is just the first quality control step, and no copyeditor is going to catch 100 percent of errors, and then there's the keying-in process, too -- during which the random error may be missed or instituted. That's why the book is proofread as well -- still not a guarantee of perfection, as any honest author/publisher/editor will tell you. But loaded with typos and misplaced periods? I hope that's not what you'd find with me. If it were, I wouldn't have publishers who've been using me as a copyeditor for years and years, and dozens and dozens of projects. Again, I can give you plenty of references if you have any doubts. But guarantees about pubiisher's acceptances, I can't make.


I got fired in 2009. That's always fun. Here's the post I wrote at the time, but which I never published. Might as well do so now, just to clear the conscience:

I'm going to take a page from one of the most offensive yet most popular Internet sites, the Drudge Report, and break the news here. Anytime someone tries to put out some dirt on Drudge, he immediately posts the article on his own site, as if to say, "I got nothing to hide." This is another way of saying, "The best defense is a good offense." Yes, indeedy, folks. Far and away my most bizarre client has given me the heave-ho. I'm not going to get into too many details, to preserve per's anonymity (I am fair, after all) and thus to preserve my own hide. Let's just say this: Per is a Bible-thumping prophet (like an apocalyptic, see-the-future type) and an America-loathing rabble-rouser. Per foresees the end of America as we know it unless we all come to Christ and change our ways. I can go on and on about per, as I have come to know per over the last year or so, but I will let the slightly edited correspondence speak for itself.


Yes Bob I will send the western union today although I am not going to pay you for re-editing your own work in chapter 26. The other day when you ask me, where did I get this copy from. . . I got it from you. That is the reason why I run everything through you before including it in the manuscript, so the entire manuscript will have to be re-edited because it is my opinion you either farmed it out originally or you did not do such a good job that you have found your own work to be problematic with errors. I know you by now (not using any gifts of foresight) that you are not going to re-edit this entire manuscript again, and do it right at no charge, but in my opinion you should because I have already paid you for it, and even if you did go through it, it is further my opinion you would not go through it with a fine tooth comb, so my only option at this point is to hunt for a new editor and wish you the best. I will send you some money but frankly in my opinion, I have wasted about [dollar figure here] and the manuscript is not ready to go to press. Goodbye Bob.


Isn't this fun? Here's the response I wanted to send. Special blog exclusive.


First, when I asked, "Where did this come from?" I'm certain I was referring to a specific piece of text, not an entire chapter, and how it fit into the surrounding text. I'd need to see the context for the statement.

On to larger matters:

You've received all the tracked versions of every document you've sent me (all of which I've kept), so you've seen exactly what I've done along the way -- no portion at all of which has been farmed out. I don't farm out my work any more than you farm out your prophecies.

You've had no complaint about the work until now. You've had scores of opportunities to say that you didn't think my work was up to snuff and to end our relationship based on the quality of the work you were receiving from me. I've never heard a single word from you along those lines -- even though you claim that you've been rereading and rereading the manuscript. If there were really something seriously wrong, you would have noticed it long before now, and you would have terminated the relationship long ago. You obviously felt comfortable enough with my work to continue to send me regular updates for nine months after editing the original manuscript, and to send me emails asking for advice, which have always been answered. Along the way, you'd mentioned at least twice all the money you'd be sending me once the book came out because you treat well those people who treat you right. Those aren't the actions or words of an author who is unhappy with the editing.

I can guess at any number of reasons you now no longer want me to work for you, but I'm not going to try to get into your head.

Every person who is in publishing full time will tell you that copyediting is part of a process, which includes proofreading as well, and proofreaders often catch what a copyeditor has missed, especially in a manuscript that at this point is being slapped together totally haphazardly, with a sentence here and a sentence there out of context going out for editing. If the manuscript overall is now not reading the way you want it to, it's largely because of the process you've undertaken since last November.

I've been getting emails since last November with documents titled things like, "last change before typesetting" and "one last thing." You can attribute it to [ . . . ] or your desire to have this book be its best, but I've worked with any number of folks who also have issues with [ . . . ] and who want the best for their publication, but who also intuitively understand what it takes to make a publication its best and how to work with an editor to bring that about. Your approach to the text of the book at this point is akin to a dog who keeps digging up a bone and looking for somewhere else to bury it. You just can't leave it alone, and confusion is the inevitable result. If you want to blame me for that, that's your decision. The corrections you've been sending my way have resulted from your claims that you had a better way to say something, or you've been adding new material (election, Michael Jackson, new interactions at churches), or you've been qualifying your experiences in [ . . . ] to make sure you don't land in additional legal trouble. Never have you said, "I didn't like the way you did this. Please review." Never. Not once. And that you kept sending me material clearly showed you thought I was doing something right.

According to your own account, you've gone through photographers, web designers, cover designers, and editors before me -- blaming them for all the problems and their inability to do what you want them to do. I'm now added to the list. Without the gift of foresight, I suspect the pattern will continue with typesetters, proofreaders, indexers, printers, distributors, bookstore owners, publicity people, and so on. When I read in your book that you'd been in 20 car wrecks, 19 of which were not your fault, that about summed it up. And when I read repeatedly in your book about your lack of faith in the United States and the American judicial system, yet when I look online and see that you are constantly in court, asking that very same American judicial system to clear up your problems for you, I see that I've been dealing with a bundle of contradictions all the way along.

You are certainly correct that I would not reedit the manuscript again at no charge. And I'd be wary of vendors who give you rock-bottom rates and claim decades of experience. I don't think you'll ultimately be happy with their work either, or you'll find that they'll start charging you for continually making changes and adjustments (as they should), which will make their original low price end up not so low in the long run.

You say that this book will come out on God's time and according to God's plan; if that's the case, then your dealings with me have just been part of a grander scheme in which you claim to have complete trust. Or maybe it's like the judicial system: it's something you fall back on when it suits your purposes.

I wish you the best of luck with the book.



Well, now that's off my chest. And needless to say, he never sent me the final check.


Clients came and went in 2009 -- mostly went. I managed to keep my head above water, well, most of it. It's like they say, when you're up to your chin in water, it only takes one big wave to drown you. Knock on wood, things are holding together, but some significant income producers in 2008 and years past sent me nothing or next to nothing in 2009. On the other hand, some folks who were relatively small potatoes in prior years really stepped it up last year. And I received this nice note from a client after Christmas:

"We at [publisher] wish you a very merry Christmas. Thank you for all your great work this year. We look forward to working with you much more in 2010."

That's what I call good news. And I'm hoping that the economy turns around enough that some of the regulars get on their feet again and start sending out books. My guess is that the freelance pool is somewhat fluid -- that in the big markets where full-timers were laid off, there are a lot of freelancers looking for work, but on the other hand, people who might have been freelancing part-time and for whom the work has dried up . . . they might go try to find real jobs (if such are to be had), thus taking them out of the freelance pool. One of my clients used to say, "I need you to stay busy as a freelancer or you might have to find something else to do."

As I've said before, at this point in my life I am otherwise unemployable, so this is all I got. If you've read this far and you're looking for someone to proofread, copyedit, or index your book, I'm not going anywhere. People around the country will vouch for my work, and I'm confident enough to let you know when I get fired, even if it's by someone who might be a taco short of a combination plate (smart individual, though -- per's wires are just a bit crossed).

Well, this has probably gone on way too long.

Your humble and obedient servant,

Geo. Washington