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.

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.



Anonymous said...

*waves from the Philadelphia area*

Hello there! Delurking to let you know that I stumbled across you blog last summer (while searching for information about Demand Studios) and kept you in my RSS reader ever since.

czar said...

Marsha: Great to hear from you, and I hope that when Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary recognizes the importance of "delurking" to the English language, you are given proper credit. If the police ever stop me while I'm walking my dog at 3 in the morning wearing my bathrobe and carrying a flask of Wild Turkey, I will simply inform them that delurking beats the alternative.

moi said...

You know, in all the years I've been doing this, I have never not eventually gotten paid. I've had a couple close calls: The food trade magazine that still hadn't paid me after six months, but who sent me a check toot suite after I turned them in for collections and an alternative weekly for whom I'd worked steadily for two years that suddenly folded, owing me $100. I wrote them off, but a year later, guess what showed up in the mail? A check from the publisher for $100. Go figure.

Oh, and P.S.: If you're walking your dogs at 3am with a pint of Wild Turkey, dude, you should be wearing your Army surplus jacket, not your bathrobe. Bathrobe says: TARGET.

czar said...

Moi: You haven't seen my bathrobe. Last year for Christmahanukwaanzaka, Tere scored all of us these bathrobes that are the warmest garments we each own. I think they're Izod, but she found them at Sears in 2008; something outrageous like $75, marked down to $19.99. I have been known to wear the surplus jacket over the bathrobe -- a nice look. Like your man Troll/Gore might say, I invented the layered look, way before Diane Keaton became known for it. My favorite, dating back to about 1971, is shorts with pockets over sweatpants. Up here, especially, I get some interesting looks. I don't suspect it's envy.

Travis Bickle said...

Love the blog!

czar said...


Glad you're out there, keeping the information superhighway safe.