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: email@example.com.
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Friday, January 20, 2012
Some Advice for Authors
1. Roman numerals. I don't think your readers will consider that your book is more worthy or that you are more scholarly if your part and chapter numbers are rendered in letters.
2. Citations in a book that doesn't need them. Don't use your exhaustive library of photocopied articles from scores or hundreds of different sources amassed over the last thirty years to impress your readers. Most of them -- unless you're writing a scholarly/academic volume or in a topic area where such documentation is the norm -- want to understand your thoughts on the subject, not look at the spines on your bookshelf. The point of most books is to educate your audience, not please your peers. [Note: This section updated based on Paisan's insightful comments, in which he brings up a most salient point that I neglected to address in the initial posting.]
3. Heavily formatted manuscripts. In my experience, a direct inverse correlation exists -- 95 percent of the time -- between the quality of your writing and the number of different fonts, colors, images, extra spaces, and instances of centered text present within the file. Very few heavily formatted manuscripts are also well written. When it leaves my desk, not only will your book read differently, but all of the time you've spent formatting it will be for naught. I change everything that's not Times 12-point double-spaced to make it so -- unless you've tried to jam so much text in a table that I have to make it smaller to make sense of it and make it appear on my screen in a usable fashion. Yes, believe it or not, I can make more sense of a manuscript that looks like it came from Microsoft Word as opposed to a nine-year-old playing in Microsoft Paint.
4. Ellipses. When you're quoting from someone else, trust that your readers are smart enough to know that another person's entire thought process did not begin and end with the few words you've cited. Also, don't introduce quotes with ellipses, as if you're building anticipation for the reader. A simple comma works.
Two things that might not make you a better author, but they'll make every editorial or production professional looking at your work praise you:
1. Leave the design to the designers. Treat your computer like a typewriter with memory, except don't hit the Enter key at the end of every line.
2. Understand that the people working on your book after you are trying to make you look better to your readers. Editors, proofreaders, indexers, designers . . . none of these folks' names appear on the cover of your book. We are not in this for the glory or the royalties or the book tours or being known as published authors. We are not trying to insult you by making changes. Trust me, we'd all love to see perfect manuscripts that don't need a mark on them or any intervention other than putting the book into print. I'd rather be paid the same rate for easier work. Who wouldn't? But if we change something or suggest a change, it's not to gratify ourselves; it's to make your work better. We've done this before, folks. Listen to your editors. This might be the eighth book you've written. Fine. It might be the three hundredth book I've edited, not to mention the next in the thousands of books your publisher has printed. Think about it.
One other note: Pick the appropriate tense and stick with it. Unless you're a really good writer, don't attempt to write a book about past events in the present tense. Very few authors can pull this off successfully in English, although I understand it's easier in German. I just finished an absolutely delightful book in which the author managed to write quite nicely in the historical present tense. It's about as rare as a complete day off.
You can file this advice under "Trying to Turn a Foul Mood into Something Productive." I hope I've succeeded.