Category Archives: Editorial work

Managing the Creative Workload

The Complete Writer

Section IX: Creative Strategies

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


Managing the Creative Workload

Creative workers, especially those of us who are self-employed, often find ourselves trying to cope with a workload that entails tackling too darned many things at once. Managing this workload can be a real challenge.

Normally, I organize my workdays and keep more or less on track by using to-do lists posted on white-boards, one hanging in the office and the other on the door that leads out to where the car awaits.

Sometimes, though, these may serve more to discourage than to help get work done.

Listing all the tasks that need to be done today leads one to try to accomplish 87 gerjillion things on deadline. And that is untenable.

Overload and the to-do list

One day I happened upon another approach.

What if you didn’t set yourself a slew of tasks, an endless to-do list, but instead aimed to get just one important thing done during any given day? That would free up the day to do things you would like to do (as opposed to have to do). And accomplishing one thing a day would mean five goals would get done during a week.

Five things accomplished in a week is a whole lot more than zero things accomplished in a week.

So on a Monday I set out to do the following:

  • Start building a Goodreads presence, somehow
  • Proofread 30 Pounds page proofs; order twenty hard copies to fulfill orders
  • Meet with client; work on his book
  • Post another Camptown Races book
  • Plug the latest Fire-Rider collection; update websites accordingly.

Five chores. By Thursday, I’d accomplished four of them.

I resisted listing any daily to-do chores. The goal was to get through five projects in a week.

Amazing results

Without the nagging pressure of a horde of tasks waiting in the wings, I found myself focusing on a given project for longer periods and with fewer self-imposed interruptions. The result: I got through a lot of work, including some unplanned extra chores for a client. This spun off quite a few other small chores that also got done . . . so in fact, more than five tasks were accomplished that week—before Friday rolled around.

Effectively what had happened is that setting fewer goals meant more things got done! Many, many more things.

The take-away message

Focusing on the bigger picture makes it easier to get moving, and five things to do in a week are less discouraging than ten in a day.

And if one strategy isn’t working, try something different. Even if it’s a tried-and-true strategy, sometimes changing gears (or getting a little help!) can make a big difference.

Turning Failure into Success

The Complete Writer
Section VIII: The Writing Life:
Sittin’ by the Dock of the Bay?

This book is a work in progress. A new chapter appears here each week, usually on Fridays. You can buy a copy of the entire book, right now, in PDF format, or, if you like, as a paperback. You also can find links to the chapters that have appeared so far at our special page for The Complete Writer. For details, visit our Books page or send a request through our Contact form.


Turning Failure into Success

They say failure can help turn your losing experience into a successful endeavor. That became evident from the erotica publishing enterprise, which after a couple of years appeared to have joined the 50 percent of small business start-ups that fail within five years.[3]

On the surface, what I learned from that is not to try to sell anything unless you have some very strong marketing skills and are willing to spend uncountable hours using them. However, something far more positive is coming out of it.

These days, I have more work than I can handle. People are lined up at the door trying to get me to edit their golden words or advise on publishing them. And one of my clients hired me to help him self-publish a memoir that he intends not for the public but for family and friends.

By way of saving money on design for him, I mocked up three draft covers for his delectation. One of them turned out looking pretty darned nice. Another would be even better if the quality of the image were better—it has a couple of flaws, one of which probably resulted from dirt on the lens and the other of which appears to be a data issue. We used his images, taken with a variety of cameras over forty years.

As I remarked in Chapter 33, there are any number of good reasons to use print-on-demand or e-book technology other than trying to trying to publish a best-seller. In fact, trying to publish the Great American Novel is the worst of all possible reasons.

One of several things I learned a-sailing the Amazon is how to create a nice-looking paperback through print-on-demand technology. As a result, I now have the skills and tools to take a book all the way from manuscript to print. And that process can be modestly lucrative.

Three projects like the client’s private memoir would recover all the losses I’ve enjoyed in the book publishing enterprise.

I’ve also learned of a Mac app that allows you to create really attractive .mobi, ePub, and iBook e-books fairly simply. I may try this on the client’s MS just to see what happens. If it can handle images (not an easy trick), then I would be able to offer e-book formatting of fairly complex documents, too. This would further enlarge the opportunities to make a profit helping other people publish their projects.

I would never advise a client to spend a vast pile of money self-publishing what he or she imagines is the Great American Novel. But if the person has a good reason to create a book-length document for a business, for a nonprofit organization, for patients or customers, or for family and friends, self-publishing can be an economical and relatively easy way to fulfill certain specific needs. And if you’re just a hobbyist—and you know you’re a hobbyist—writing a book because you get a kick out of writing and would like to see your results in print or on Amazon is surely no more expensive than skiing or four-wheeling. As long as you understand what you’re doing and don’t imagine you’re going to get rich (or, probably, even to make a profit), I’ll even help you publish your novel.

Does this experience generalize?

Evidently so; otherwise we wouldn’t have those chestnuts to the effect that you have to fail before you can succeed.

In learning how to lose money, you learn how not to lose money. With any luck at all, you may learn how to make money. This is an underlying principle of all the personal finance advice dispensed in popular media: if you get into debt, you can learn not to get into debt; if a bank screws you, you can learn to use a credit union; if you’re not earning enough, you can learn ways to earn more.

Some errors, of course, are not so easily rectified: fail to save enough for retirement and you won’t have a second chance. Text your way up the wrong way of a freeway off-ramp and your next success will be a Darwin Award.

But most of the time you do have a chance to learn something—and profit from it.

Lost in Space!

P&S Press’s blog has gone silent for the past several weeks while its proprietor has been dealing with a small tsunami of crises. Of late, my life seems to be an exemplar of the “whatever can go wrong will go wrong” adage.

In the tsunami department, a flood of editorial work has come in, most of it from scientists and mathematicians in China. This copy is challenging to edit: subject matter is arcane and complex, and the English is mightily ESL. It takes hour after hour to read, re-read, and proof it.

Meanwhile, my little dog, Cassie the Corgi, developed a cough and wheezing. Took her to a vet who, despite a negative test result, decided she has Valley fever. Even though I’m not convinced and a second vet is similarly unconvinced, nothing would do but what we had to put her on an antifungal drug that damn near killed her. She was so sick that twice I thought she surely would die within a few hours. Another drug, given concommittently, eased the cough but made her so incontinent she actually would leak in her sleep.

Before long the floors were covered in pee pads, as was anyplace the poor dog would sleep. She refused to eat. I managed to coax her to take a crumb of hamburger at at time, but she wouldn’t eat enough to keep a flea alive.

Finally I decided, unilaterally, to take her off the antifungal. Over the course of some days, she slowly started to recover until she was almost back to normal – except for the wheezing. Took her off the cough suppressant (which contained prednisone) and the last of the incontinence cleared up.

The cough continued to improve, to the point where she could bark exuberantly without hacking and wheezing. Now she coughs mostly when she drinks water…but she’s always done that. Corgis often do that – the other dog does, too.

Today she’s at the vet’s, where she’s supposed to get a full-body ultrasound sound. I almost typed “scam”…which is what I suspect. This is a very fine vet – I think of him as the Mayo Clinic of the Valley’s veterinary profession. And that tells you how wary of everyone and everything I’ve become. Valley fever is a highly lucrative disease to treat – I’ve already spent around a thousand bucks, and if he can prove that’s the dog’s problem and then he can talk me into treating it, we’re looking at expenditures like that going on for at least the next six months, possibly far, far longer. Many dogs are put on Valley fever medicines for the rest of their lives.

“Talk me into treating it” is the operative term. If he believes he can prove the dog has this disease, I may tell him to put her down. She’s 12 years old. I am, as we scribble, broke and cannot afford to pony up thousands and thousands of dollars to keep an elderly dog alive. First I’ll take her back to the other vet; if she agrees that Valley fever is the issue, I’ll probably just have her put to sleep.

Friend of mine has lost four dogs to Valley fever. One of them was on the toxic pills for six years! She told me that her biggest regret with three of them is that she didn’t have them put to sleep sooner.

Nevertheless: in the absence of a positive titer (which will come around in the next few weeks, if that’s really what she has), I remain skeptical.

My own theory is this dog may have a collapsed trachea. This causes exactly the same kind of coughing and wheezing as we’ve seen in Cassie. The condition is not uncommon in corgis, plus at about the age of two, Cassie was injured when she shot off after a cat while she was on one of those dratted extendable leashes. Before I could move, she flew to the end of it and jerked herself into the air – by the neck. It hurt her enough to cause her to scream.

If that didn’t damage her trachea, nothing would have. So the likelihood of a mechanical cause for the coughing and wheezing seems to me to be high enough to give one pause about dosing the dog with a poisonous drug.

Surgery to repair the trachea: about a thousand dollah.

So as you can imagine, this has been a bit of a distraction.

We had a major rainstorm last week, which most of the country has heard about, no doubt. Certainly no Category 4 hurricane, but lots more water than we’ve seen in these parts in a long while.

In the middle of this, my rooftop AC/heating unit went cattywampus. I thought it was the Nest thermostat, a complicated bit of arcana that my son gave me. After hours of farting around on the phone with the Nest tech, I finally called my AC guy – over the Nest guy’s objections, as though they owned the damn thing.

Understand, I took that thing offline because I highly resent the prospect of Google (which owns Nest now) tracking every effing deep breath I take when I’m in my house and knowing whenever I leave my house. Since most people don’t think about that – i.e., these “smart” devices invade your privacy in a Big way – he probably figures Google does own my thermostat.

AC guy takes the thing off the wall and behind it finds…WET WIRING.

Holy shit.

Climbs on the roof and discovers the roof is not, after all, leaking. Exactly. The wiring the AC guys have run down through the roof to connect to the thermostat is so badly sun-rotted that water is seeping down through the route and making its way down to the thermostat by capillary action.

He replaces all the wiring ande rewires the device. Now it’s working. Now Nest is still arguing with me about that. And I’ve had about as much of that as I care to think about.

Moving on, the other day coming back from delivering a vial of pee to the Other Vet, by way of determining whether Cassie has a urinary tract infection (surprise! she does!), I crashed my car.

Not exactly a crash: more like a fender bender. Trying to change lanes at the height of bumper-to-bumper rush hour, I clipped the back end of a flatbed being towed behind a pickup.

The other driver didn’t stop – he didn’t even slow down. I did…and found the plastic “bumper” on the front of the car bent, ripped, and flapping in the wind.


Car was running fine, though, so I was able to get home. Insurance broker (always buy insurance through a broker, not direct from some compan’s agent) reported that because I’d bought the premium plan, I had a 0-dollar deductible and also a one-accident-forgiveness. So repairing the car wasn’t going to cost me anything but still more hours of my time. And, of course, my driving record…

He recommended getting it fixed on my own, if I could possibly afford it.

My son, who also is in the insurance industry, recommended taking it to the most expensive body shop in town and getting it fixed – right.

Meanwhile, by way of making sure the car was safe to drive at all, I took it over to my mechanic’s shop. They inspected the thing and found no damage under the hood, no bent struts, no serious damage except the bunged-up fender.

Then they started to play with it, and darned if they didn’t bend that fender back into place, secure it with the car’s clips and some bolts, and leave it looking no worse than if I’d scraped the side of some planter bed.

They did find, however, a gouge in the tire’s sidewall. They recommended changing it out. Since the last time I’d taken the car in for servicing, they remarked that all four tires (which are the cheap junk provided by Toyota) would soon need replacing.

So it was off to Costco, where I figured to drop around a grand for four new Michelin tires. God help me!

On top of almost a thousand bucks I’ve paid out to vets!

And the $10,000 I need to pony up to replaster the pool!!!

But lo! One good thing happened. Count it: 1. The Costco tire shop foreman inspected the thing, said “you don’t need to replace any of these tires. The tread is fine on all of them, and this ding on the sidewall isn’t going to do any harm.” Only thing that needed to be fixed was the walloped tire’s air valve, which was bent beyond usability. New air valve: sixty bucks.

It was the first non-nightmarish thing that’s happened in three weeks.

Meanwhile, I volunteered to do receptionist duty down at our church. This occupies one afternoon a week, which is normally OK…when there are no complications. It’s very quiet here (whereinat I’m writing this), so I can do editorial work or, in its absence, write blog copy. Except…

This morning I had to schlep the dog to the vet for the proposed fishing trip full-body scan. In the rush hour – when we can’t turn east out of my neighborhood because of the city’s peculiarly stupid idea of traffic control – it took FIFTY MINUTES to reach his office.

To give you an idea of what this means, getting back home took twenty minutes.

Then I forgot to stop at a grocery to pick up the dog food we ran out of. So I had to schlep back down the fancy store that carries their food, but didn’t have time to turn around and drive home, drop the stuff in the fridge, and then get back down here to the church on time. So now the dog food is stashed in the church kitchen’s refrigerator and I’m stuck here until 4 p.m., at which time I will have to make another fifty-minute drive to the vet’s office.

Rather than going home and then turning around and retracing my steps, I believe I’ll just go direct to the vet’s from here – cutting about ten or fifteen minutes off the schlep, I hope – and then just sit in his waiting room and work on the emanation that just this minute came in from the current client. They close at 6:00; I’ll get there around 4:45, so that may give me another hour and 15 minutes to translate the copy to English.

And since that just flew into the email in-box, it’s time to quit this and earn some (about to be much needed!) cash.

Watch this space…sooner or later I’ll get back to posting Ella, Asked, and The Complete Writer.

Ella…in progress. Dogged out!

So it’s after 8 p.m. and here I am, still fiddling with the current effort in Ella’s Story. This past couple weeks have been a conflation of conspiracies against the scheme to write Ella installment by installment.

Last week’s excuse was a vast tsunami of paying work (if you can imagine!). Our client journal’s senior editor sent us an entire issue’s worth of content, including four 30-page scholarly articles plus the usual bottomless editorial statement. Meanwhile, our various Chinese mathematicians have been pouring out copy, one project after another headed for publication (“…and can you please return this in two days, when I need to submit it?” 😀 ).

Can’t complain about this: it is after all paying work, which we much appreciate.

This week’s excuse? My little dog, Cassie the Corgi, has been banging at Death’s Door. So far Death refuses to let her in. Though I must admit that on Saturday I truly did not think she would make it through the day.

She’s come down with Valley fever, as just about any mammal that lives in the Southwest’s low desert eventually does. In fact, almost everybody here has it, and carries some degree of immunity to it. But when you get old, when you get sick, it can pounce on you. In a big way. Cassie is 12 years old, near the end of her life in doggy years. She’s never been sick in her doggy life, at least not since she came to my house. But she’s very, very sick now. Very sick, indeed.

In the past, a dog that developed symptomatic Valley fever simply died. The drugs we had did little to change that. But these days we have a set of four drugs that do actually work, if the disease is not too far advanced. If it’s only in the lungs and hasn’t yet become entrenched in the lungs, you have a pretty good shot of beating it back. It probably will recur, but if so, you may have another shot at stopping its progress. If the disease has disseminated through other parts of the body…well…

On Saturday, I thought that she was going to die, she was that sick. She went into a closet (she never goes into closets!) and hid herself away in a corner: clearly Mother Nature trying to tell us something. The vet emitted vialsful of drugs. One of them, which contains prednisone, had the effect of suppressing the scariest of the symptoms. If we can keep her alive until the fungicidal medication kicks in, then she may have a shot.

Heh. Trouble is…the manufacturer of the prednisone-laced drug specifically states you should not use the stuff in an animal with a fungal infection.

Which, of course, is what Valley fever is…

So I do not know if my pretty little sidekick will live or die. Just now things are looking better — possibly even pretty good. But we will not really know for some weeks. In the meantime, this crisis atop the mountains of brain-numbing paid work create quite the distraction from the creative writing project.

Watch this space. Eventually a new chapter will surface! Really…

Never rains but…

…yeah: like that. For the past ten days, I’ve been so swamped with paying work that I haven’t been able to keep up with anything else. Hence: no posts here. Not because I’ve forgotten you, dear readers, but because there simply isn’t any time to do anything else but read copy, feed myself, feed the dogs, and fall into the sack.

Yesterday evening I was just wrapping up a Chinese math paper when in came another one! I haven’t looked at it yet (that’s next on the list of to-do’s, after “write post for P&S Press”), but this author is given to long, complex projects that require many thousands of words to explicate. So I expect it will take the better part of a week to plow through the thing and then go back and proofread edits.

Not that one should complain… If this much work came in all the time, week in and week out, I could make a decent living off The Copyeditor’s Desk. But it doesn’t. In my experience, the copyediting biz is a feast or famine affair. A year ago this spring, work poured in steadily for four solid months. I was never without a project. In first-quarter 2017, I earned as much as I normally earn in an entire year.

Good thing. Because the work stopped when summer started. I hardly saw another project for the rest of the year…and that wasn’t until fall. Nor has enough work to matter come in this year — not until the past month or so. Now…lordie! I’m so swamped that if I had another editor who could convert Chinglish to academic English (most people can’t even convert air-headed English jargon to acceptable academic English…), I would farm out some of this work. My associate editor has started a new graduate program — this on top of two full-time jobs! — and so somehow I doubt she will have a lot of time to cope with my workload.


So, I haven’t had a minute to write the next chapter of Ella’s Story, nor have I even had time to fiddle with posting copy that’s already written for The Complete Writer and If You’d Asked Me.

But eventually, the floodwaters will drop, and I’ll be back here to post my ramblings.

Watch this space!

Word: Save, Save, and CounterSave!

The Wyrdness that is Word:

So today I finish editing 29 pages of mathematical analysis on the evolution of boards of directors in Chinese corporations. In looking it over one last time, I notice that in table 1, our authors have italicized the math terms listed in column 1; in table 2, they’ve left them roman. So I enter a comment next to the first item in table 1, column 1 to the effect that they should make these consistent.

Because this is not in the “Edits” version that I’ve just generated by running “Compare Documents” on the file I’ve cleaned up vs. the original unedited document, I go over to “Edits,” turn on “track changes,” and enter the same comment in the same place in the table. Hit “Save”….and Wyrd hangs.

So it appears.

In fact, though, it hangs my entire system! EVERY PROGRAM THAT IS OPEN hangs.

To avoid having to retype the contents of the comment, I copy the squib and try to paste it into Excel, which is open for the purpose of calculating the bill. That’s when I see that Excel is jammed, too. Figuring it must be Office that’s hung up, I go over to Mac’s “Mail” program, by way of emailing the comment’s content to myself.

No. Mac Mail is frozen, too!

I crash out of both Office programs and out of Mac Mail. Interestingly, the Mac does not demand a system reboot: when I reopen the three programs, they come back up. The only data lost from the clean copy is the comment that caused the hang-up — probably because these days I hit “save” after about every third character I type in Wyrd.

HOWEVER….the “Edits” version that shows all changes — generated through “compare documents”  and which indeed has been manually saved many times — is GONE. Disappeared. Not visible in the subdirectory.

Did I save it somewhere else by accident?

No. It is ERASED. 

Fortunately the data is saved in the “clean” version, so all I have to do is rebuild a new “edited” file in Compare Documents. But you understand, that file WAS saved, both manually and automatically, and it was saved in the correct directory.

It was there when I sat down to work on it again this morning. It should NOT have been “disappeared.” What happened to it, I do not know. Fortunately, Wyrd didn’t give me any static in generating a new document. But it was a startling episode.

The paper is 29 pages long (10.5-point type!) and it does contain a number of math formulae. Unclear whether it was generated from LaTex, but I don’t think so. I suspect they created this thing in Wyrd from the git-go, but how they got the math-lingo into it escapes me. WhatEVER, it seems to have maxed out Office’s (or possibly the Mac’s) memory.

Evidently a one-sentence comment was the proverbial straw.

So: what is the moral of this story?

In using the Weirdness that is Wyrd, don’t just save:

Save, Save, and Countersave.

The only reason two and a half days’ worth of work was not utterly lost is that I set Wyrd to save every five minutes.

Normally I don’t set it also to make a back-up copy automatically, because we have SO much content — thousands and thousands of files in Wyrd, Excel, PowerPoint, and graphics formats. In the first place, that’s all being backed up regularly to DropBox and to TimeMachine; in the second place, duplicating all that data on the computer’s hard drive would quickly max the thing out. But these days, even with the auto-save running every five minutes, I hit Command-S whenever I enter anything new.

It’s easy to set Wyrd to auto-save. On a Mac: Go to Word Preferences > Save > Save options > Save autorecover info every ___ minutes. Fill in the desired interval. On a PC, of course, nothing can be simple. Check out this page and follow the instructions for your version of the program.

Where Is the Grass Greener?

So, in the grass-is-greener department, here’s the question of the day: Can you earn more money cleaning house than you can editing copy?

Well, the lady who came to my house during the Year of the Surgery charged $80 a hit. But apparently she undercharged. Women I talk to at choir say they expect to pay $100. I had her come in every two weeks, but more affluent types will have them once a week. And one lady I talked to, who was working for a woman who farmed her out to others, discovered the woman was charging $120 for her services.

So let’s say you cleaned one house a day for the supposed going rate of $100 a hit: you’d be earning $500 a week. I’m not earning $500 a week.

My co-editor and I have never calculated how much per hour we’re getting paid to put together an issue of the journal we contract to. I spent most of the day on an article that looked like it had never been through the peer review process—but it’s hard to tell exactly how many hours I racked up, because I work on-again, off-again, with a lot of interruptions. But…22 pages of really difficult stuff? Let’s suppose you can get through a page in 10 minutes, on average: that’s 220 minutes, or 3.6 hours.

I’m sure I spent more than 3½ hours on that thing. But suppose each of us allowed it to absorb that much of our time: it’s an entire day of time wasted on producing a piece that in a rational world would never see print. Did we each earn $100 on that effort? Or even $50?

We get a thousand bucks per issue… Each issue has several full-length articles, some creative pieces, a long-winded editorial statement, and a set of self-aggrandizing authors’ bios. Many of the authors are ESL writers or people who grew up in homes where another language was spoken, and so the copy has language challenges as well as the usual academic ones. If we were to work on only that, full-time, we could probably turn it out in a week. Maybe less: but say five to seven days.

So let’s say you had five women, for whose services you charged $120 to clean five McMansions, each woman taking one house. You’d have to ride herd on them, but most of the time you wouldn’t be doing much cleaning yourself. So each of these women brings in $120/day; you pay them $60 (the lady who told me this story was being grossly underpaid), so you pocket $60 — less the amount you have to pay in your share of the FICA taxes, assuming you report the income. $60 x 5 is $300 per day for your crew. Now, $300 x 5 days a week is $1500 a week, or $6,000 a month. And you’d never have to read another plagiarized student paper or another polemical “research study” whose author insists on replacing every third letter with “x.”

You would have to hustle: marketing would be the key. And managing these women would be a challenge. You’d be riding herd constantly. To field a crew of five people five days a week, you’d need to have more than five on the string. You’d have to do a fair amount of training, too, since many cleaning ladies don’t know how to clean.

Check this out, bearing in mind that one of our mentors thinks we should be getting $60/hour for our time:

We most certainly do not earn $1500 a week, either individually or between the two of us. Nor do we earn $120 x 5, $600 a week: the amount one of us could earn cleaning house five days a week.

On the other hand, we don’t work 8 hours a day (regularly) on editorial. My cohort teaches full-time at the University of Phoenix, which just now entails juggling twenty-eight sections of 35 students apiece. You could not get me to do that if the only other choice were starvation. I earn some cash blogging, and rather more reading math, business, and biosciences papers by Chinese scientists. Editing, like teaching, is not what you’d call handsomely paid.

if I’m teaching the largest number of sections the community colleges will farm out to adjuncts, I earn all of $1100 a month. On average. Some months, of course, I earn nothing.

When a profession that requires at least one advanced degree (preferably two) and substantial experience makes cleaning house look good…Houston, we’ve got a problem.

Hassle Central, reporting in…

It’s been awhile since I posted here, more out of laziness and general harassment than intent. “Upgrading” both my Macs to OS X El Capitan was a big mistake. It’s a buggy program and has almost disabled the little MacBook Pro — the machine I use most of the time because sitting at a desk makes the aged back hurt. A lot.

So bad is it that I’m seriously considering buying a PC to replace the laptop. Big step backward for me: I really, really don’t want to relearn Windows (ugh!), nor do I want to have to “upgrade” to Office 365 so as to work on a Windows machine.

Actually, though, getting a lightweight Windows laptop to use only for Word and Excel tasks would probably make sense. You can still buy a standalone copy of Office 2016, and it will run fairly trouble-free on Windows.

Not so much on a Mac. The reason I did not update to the latest operating system, Sierra (don’t those cutesy names aggravate you?), is that my version of Word will not run at all on Sierra. Neither will Office 2016, at least not without endless bugs.

And the reason I do not want to sign up for Office 365? How can I count the reasons?

Foremost are these three:

1. It’s a rip-off. Renting the damn program with a monthly payment will quickly cause the cost to add up — and up, and up, and up — to way more than the cost of a program resident in your own computer. I resent that more than I can say.

2. Much of the work I do is proprietary. I do not want to be working on my clients’ projects in the flickin’ CLOUD! Indeed, sometimes I have to sign an agreement that I will not allow anyone else to see the client’s research or to put it at risk of being seen by anyone else. Sticking some scientist’s paper on a Microsoft server could put me at risk of liability. Even if I wanted to do that. Which I don’t.

3. Functionality of documents created or edited in non-365 versions may be limited. So it’s questionable whether I’d even be able to work on a document using more than one of my computers, even if one were a Windows machine.

Truly, this is a mess. I don’t know which way to jump and am truly furious that Apple has turned my computers from “it just works” to “it just doesn’t work.”

Meanwhile, in saner realms:

Delivered a presentation yesterday:Structure of Feature Articles.”

People in the audience wanted to buy the new book, The Complete Writer. It’s still in page proofs — I need to cut the back cover copy some and adjust the design accordingly, and need to check the second proofs AGAIN. But by the next meeting, I hope to have a carton of hard-copy paperbacks to tote out to the group.

Incoming paid work has…come in. Read about 17,000 words of academicese compiled by a pair of ESL co-authors.

These people hold me in awe. They’re required to publish in English-language journals. And they do it — with panache.

Can you imagine an American academic writing a dissertation or a scholarly paper in Chinese? Fat chance! It’s all we can manage just to stumble through a PhD program in English…and many US universities have quit requiring a second and third language for the PhD.

I could probably write a journal article in French and have it come out about on a par with what the Chinese authors produce in English. But folks…as an undergraduate I majored in French! Not in math, not in economics, not in communications, not in political science…. Criminey!

And as for the novel: ça va, lentement.

Weirdly, drafting scenes in ink with a real pen is one of the things that’s making me resent the computer hassles as passionately as I have come to do.

A pen and a piece of paper do not go offline. They do not crash and shut down everything you’re working on

Well, OK: the pen can run out of ink. But when it does, you do not lose any of the words you’ve just written. The two other documents you’re working on do not disappear into the ether. The spreadsheet you’ve been wrestling with does not lose an hours’ or a day’s worth of data.

You can carry a pen and a notebook around, and it will work anywhere you choose. You do not have to sign a pen and paper into a coffee house’s network, thereby rendering it and all your private information open to hackers.

Nobody is interested in stealing a pen and a notebook, so you do not have to lock up your draft behind a deadbolt or hide it under a pile of blankets when you put it in the back of the car.

You do not have to plug a pen and a notebook into anything. Their battery never runs out of juice.

They do not waste hour after hour of your time in techno-hassles.

And they never, ever, EVER need a new goddamn operating system!

Billing: How to charge, how much to charge

EditorAtWork Depositphotos_28200159_m-2015

Your Editor at Work

Over at our parent company, The Copyeditor’s Desk, we’ve decided to shift our billing from a per-page to a per-word rate. Several reasons for this, not the least of which is it’s less confusing for the client (and for us) to charge by the word than by the page or by the hour.

There’s a marketing motive, too: a per-word rate looks a lot less daunting than a page rate, and a whole lot less daunting than an hourly rate. For some reason, people think English majors should earn minimum wage or less. 😀 And some of us do work for that…

But my associate and I beg to differ. Silly us, we think we should earn a living wage, albeit on the low end. Business executives who are accustomed to earning well and paying professional help well don’t even blink at our hourly rate — in fact, a couple of such clients have suggested we’re undercharging. But academics and creatives, who tend to live in starving-student mode long after they land full-time jobs paying fairly for their education and skills, have been known to faint when presented with a proposal stating an hourly rate.

The scare factor aside, the hourly rate presents two difficult problems:

First, it’s hard to estimate exactly how long it will take to edit a lengthy, difficult project. Although I always ask prospective clients to send some sample copy, what they present is not always typical of the entire document. Also, some people require more coaching than others: they’re on the email or the phone all the time. So much so, in fact, that back in the day when we did charge hourly rates, I took to adding a flat rate for every email message I had to respond to!

Second, it’s hard to calculate, fairly, how much time you’re really spending on the job. When you’re on a computer, you’re always multitasking — so from the outset the work pattern is gestalt. And then there are the constant interruptions, which exist whether you work in a business office or whether you’re working out of a home office. You’ll just sit down, and the phone rings or an urgent email comes in or the dog barks at some flyer-distributor messing with the front doorknob or whatEVER. This takes you away from the job for a minute or two — not long enough for the computer to register that you’re gone — and then when you come back it takes some time to refocus your attention.

Some of the content we work on is very complex, arcane, and difficult, often written by native speakers of Chinese. When you’re pulled away from that kind of subject matter and writing style, it takes a minute or two to figure out, again, what the author is writing about and how to say it idiomatically in English.

So, consider: at 9:00 a.m. I sit down to work. Ten minutes later, the phone rings. I talk to the client for four minutes. It takes another minute to get back into the content. Five minutes later, I’m dinged by an e-mail from someone who needs an answer right now. Framing, typing, and proofing the response takes eight minutes, and I need another minute to get back into the content.

9:00: begin working on client’s project
9:10-9:15: phone
9:15-9-20: work
9:21-9:30: email
9:30: back to work

In a half-hour, 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., I’ve worked 15 minutes on the client’s project. Word’s time-stamped edits make it appear as though I’ve been reading the copy from 9 a.m. all the way through 9:30. A day or a week later, when I go to add up billable time, there’s really no way for me to know exactly when, during that half-hour, I turned away from the project to attend to some distraction. And since the distractions are so constant and so ditzy, I may not even remember that I spoke on the phone or answered an email during that period. So…I end up billing a half-hour to the hapless client, for 15 minutes worth of work.

That is not gunna make it.

So we settled on a per-page rate, calculated on a sliding scale: the more difficult the work, the higher the rate.

This insures that the client is billed only for the work we do, obviously much fairer and more accurate. But it also has some drawbacks.

The main drawback is that Microsoft Word has two default page margins. One, which resides in my Office 2008 program, is one inch top and bottom and 1.25 inches left and right. The other, in newer versions, is one inch all the way around. This amounts to a difference of about 10 words per page…and that adds up. At one point I realized that we were losing as much as 10% by applying our page rate to the newer format.

Also, some people will try to cheat us by setting the font size at 11 points or even at 10.5 points and by setting the margins at .75 or .85 inch all the way around.

This means that about half the time, even though I specify that copy must be set double-spaced in Times New Roman 12 point type with 1.25-inch left and right margins, I end up having to reset the entire document to fit our standard page and font size.

Charging by the word obviates that problem, as well as those associated with hourly billing. It’s fair to both parties — editor and client — and it’s easy to calculate. The project I just finished, for example, was 840 words, not counting mathematical expressions. It was set in 10.5-point Calibri with 1.25-inch left and right margins…probably imported from LaTex, or from a program that will convert a PDF into Word. But the format now is irrelevant: 840 words is 840 words is 840 words.

In some cases, such as the academic anthology we just finished, more than one of us works on the same copy. For example, I may read behind my associate editor, and we may have a contract employee do the eye-glazing work of checking and regularizing in-text citations and references. When we charge a page rate, we simply split the payment, shorting us both on the amount we really should earn for the number of hours we spend. By raising the word rate just a penny, I can charge enough to pay the two of us fairly without creating the impression that we’re demanding some outrageous figure. A cent a word adds about $2.40 per page: not an unreasonable amount, but it looks far less daunting when expressed in pennies.

So, we end up with something that looks  like this…

PerWord rates

…instead of  like this:


Ultimately the page rates are about the same — slightly less when calculated by the word, in some cases. But for the prospective client, the first table is simpler to read. And as a tool, it’s much easier for the person to situate his or her project within the framework of what we charge.

What system do you use to calculate your fees? Or, if you’re a consumer of editing services, how would you prefer to be charged?

Image: DepositPhotos, © Strelkov

Publishing Polka: Gearing back up

The publishing empire has gone quiet for the past few weeks. Between the holiday hecticity and the first seriously annoying cold I’ve had in two or three years, a fair amount of momentum has been lost. But now we’re beginning to gear back up.

Racy Books: The latest story in The Travelers’ Tales went online yesterday. It’s kind of a funny little story about an antiques dealer who meets a painter in the course of his business…and finds a new occupation.

Presentation6 LoResTwo more stories are upcoming in that series. Then we have several free-standing stories hanging fire, which we’ll be publishing in February and March.

One of the liveliest “Roberta Stuart” writers — she’s responsible for most of Roberta’s tales — has learned to use Calibre and figured out how to convert our .mobi files into ePub books pretty smoothly. She believes they look good. My iPad is refusing to let my MacMail stay open and will not access my gmail accounts, so I haven’t been able to examine our first efforts “in the wild,” as it were. But as soon as we’re sure the conversion looks good, we’ll start mounting the Racy Books on AllRomanceEbooks and possibly on Smashwords. Or possibly on Nook alone…we’re still studying that.

Plain & Simple Books: We’ve moved to a new PoD vendor, Author2Market, with whom so far I’ve been very pleased. Their price is much better than the outfit we’ve been working with, and they’re located in town, so I can run down to their plant to pick up books. This will be good.

A2M also will help with fulfillment by shipping direct to your customers. Not only that, but they’ll make you a mailing label with your logo on it! 😀

Dark Kindle LoResThe diet/cookbook is in production (again!), and the new page proofs should be ready the first part of next week. We’ve already presold four hard copies, and I’ve had almost nothing to say about it to anything. The thing is practically selling itself. Tomorrow I’ll take the page proofs to a scribblers’ meeting, where I hope to peddle a few more of the things.

fire book 2aiThe middle of this month, I’ll post the third and last collection of Fire-Rider stories, also a production of Plain & Simple Press. That assumes I have time to put the package together, which may not be the case. If I can’t find time to compile the thing, it’ll have to wait until February.

Fire-Rider is one of two loci for a new marketing campaign we have under way. I’ve hired a marketing agent, who is launching a Facebook Ads campaign to try to get some attention to that saga of speculative fiction.

Sagas, though, seem to be a dime a dozen, and so I’m not holding my breath until we all get rich. It would just be nice to come up with enough to pay the writers and the marketing lady.

Also in the marketing department, we plan to purchase a lot more ad space at SmartBitches/Trashy Books. Probably December wasn’t the ideal month to experiment with an ad campaign, Christmas being…whatever it is. However, we did learn that SBTB generates a healthy number of impressions. Clicks on ads: less so, but a helluva lot better than we’ve been doing through Twitter.

Do clicks on ads convert to sales? Not evident. We’re still not headed for the Riviera to live on the proceeds of our pornographic publishing empire. But we did a little better than we did last month.

Meanwhile, as usual nothing will do but what every client I’ve ever had — and a few new ones to boot — descend on me in the middle of

a) the holidays
b) a house guest/temporary roommate moving in for six or eight weeks
b) a cold or flu that has hung on for over two weeks
c) enough self-assigned work to keep me busy for the next three months.

So the copyediting business is thundering away — not altogether to the disadvantage of the publishing enterprise. One of the clients, a prolific writer who has had an interesting life, is completing a memoir whose interest he thinks will be limited mostly to friends and family. He’d like to publish the thing through Plain & Simple Press.

Very nice! Not only do I get paid for editing a 300-page manuscript, but Plain &  Simple Press gets to add to its list. He has several other books in progress, so if we manage to keep him happy, it looks like we’ll be in business awhile longer.

The present magnum opus, when poured into one of my layout templates, came to 535 pages…and that was without the images. Holy sh!t.

Our scholarly journal’s editors dumped an entire issue’s worth of copy on us last Monday, asking if we couldn’t please turn it around in a week.

Well. No.

My associate editor, on whom I usually foist this material, happens to edit the largest journal of organizational management on the planet. Some of its editorial is run through Oxford, whose email system was hacked shortly before Christmas. The Brits, as those of you who’ve ever spent time in England will know, take their vacation time seriously. Nary a thing was to be done for the crisis until after the first. By that time, she had some 2,000 frantic messages waiting for her.

I’d managed to get through one article — copyediting it but not doing the mark-up, a chore I truly hate — by the time Honored Client walked in the door. You may be sure the guy who pays sixty bucks an hour will be privileged over the outfit that pays a flat rate for an entire semiannual journal.

Moving on, the child of another old client surfaced, hoping to get some advice on a couple of college admissions essays. Adorable! Young people are so full of energy and ginger. Very promising…let’s hope she goes a long way.

One of the mathematicians e-mailed: can we translate his Chinglish into academicese? And do it by Friday? Oh, sure… Foisted that on a subcontractor; haven’t heard a word back.

And what can I tell you about writing, editing, and publishing?

Get a job as a Walmart greeter, dears. You’ll make a better living at it. And not work as hard.