Category Archives: The Copyeditor’s Desk

Let’s Get Real…About Self-Publishing

Yes. Let’s get real. In self-publishing, a few people make a little money on their books. A very few make a lot of money on their books. But most self-publishers run in the red.

Tips to help make writing a priority when life is busy.

One of these days…

P&S Press makes a little money (very little) on its proprietor’s golden words. But most of the press’s revenues have come from helping others prepare their books for publication: that is to say, The Copyeditor’s Desk is the main driver of income for the entire incorporated enterprise.

In consideration of that reality, some time ago I stopped actively trying to sell Plain & Simple books. Revenues from Amazon have remained the same, whether I hustle as hard as I can or whether I just let the stuff sit there: about $15 to $19 a month.

Fifteen bucks a month…on over 40 titles. That’s combined Plain & Simple Press and Camptown Races output. And no, speaking of Camptown Races: soft-core “erotica” does not sell better than ordinary nonfiction or genre novels.

A couple new books of my own are in the works — but they get put aside whenever paying work comes in from a client.

That means, in effect, they’re always set aside. Every single time I sit down to format the boob book for print or finish off the guide to writing & publishing, someone shows up at the virtual door asking me to edit this magnum opus or to index that scholarly tome. So…I’m always busy, but rarely busy on my own stuff.

“My own stuff” is, de facto, no longer a business but a hobby.

Nor was it ever much other than a hobby, given that it ran the S-corporation deep into the red. If I land the indexing project presently under consideration, that fee will bring the bottom line back to where it was before I took to sailin’ the Amazon. But just barely. And it’s taken over a year to do it.

The plan now is to keep on writing, in idle hours, to publish the stuff on Amazon, to make it available in hard copy whenever there’s something to publish. But I’m not spending any more money on it. And it will always go on the back burner whenever a paying customer shows up.

My own writing will revert to hobby status, to be posted on Amazon much as one displays one’s quilts or needlework or pecan pies at the County Fair.

If I can get one or more of the local colleges to let me teach extension courses — the “lifelong learning” sort of thing — I may use the writing guide as a “suggested text” (we’re not allowed to require people to buy our own books). That will sell a few. But otherwise, that will be about it in the marketing department.

Marketing is what costs you money. And time.

Since time supposedly is money, you could say book marketing costs you money in spades. It’s a huge time suck, and unless you like marketing, have nothing else to do, and love diddling away your time on social media, it’s an ongoing annoyance.

If you enjoy sales and marketing, I’m sure it’s fun. I personally don’t: if I were good at marketing, as we scribble I’d be making a decent living selling cars or refrigerators or radio ad space. Writers don’t live in their garrets because they so love hustling wares, their own or anyone else’s.


Holiday Work Overload: The inevitable lot of freelancers?

What IS it about entrepreneurship (my appropriated term for “self-employment”) that masses of work always pour in at the end of the year? This happens every single Christmas and New Year’s: clients think I’m going to drop everything and work for them.

Naturally. What else do I have to do, eh?

For three years running, it was the indexes of medieval and Renaissance history. When I ran an editorial office at the Great Desert University, one of our journals was a large, prestigious annual. Every issue, of course, being book-length, had to be indexed. That was fine — part of the job. But when the university closed our office, canning me and all five of my staff, the journal came with me.

Like all academics, the authors and editors always ran late on deadline. This meant page proofs would invariably surface late in December…some time after the thing should’ve gone to press. Among the chores I would do for this publication was the index. So a vast PDF would show up along about December 20. The editor wanted the completed index in hand shortly after New Year’s.

Indexing a scholarly tome to the level of perfection that particular editor demanded would take, under the best of circumstances, a good three weeks. But he was always asking for more, more, and more. On deadline. So that would mean I would spend all day Christmas Eve, all day Christmas, all the period between Christmas and New Year’s, and all day New Year’s compiling 20 single-spaced pages of index entries on some of the most mind-numbing copy this side of mathematical biosciences and engineering — the topic of another of our journals.

Last year the editors of a book on medieval maritime history surfaced, wanting an index. It looked like they would hit the holiday window, too. But no…they ran SO late it was July before they sent proofs. By then I was into what has turned into an eight-month-long surgical nightmare. I farmed out the job to a subcontractor, who probably will get all future work from that source.

Now a particularly favored client is back in the country — he’s quite the globe-trotter — and wants to make hay while…the bells jingle. He sent 250 single-spaced pages of copy to edit. I got through 100 pages; earlier this week we spent two hours sifting through those edits and had to quit before we finished. He wants to meet again on Monday for another marathon analysis.

This would be fine any other time of year. But it’s not so fine now. In addition to struggling with the ongoing medical drama — major, exceptionally unpleasant surgery is slated for January 6 — I sing on a choir. That happens to be about the only thing I do that is NOT constant unremitting work. It’s the only thing that gets me out of my garret and around other people. And Christmas is one of its most active times.

I really do dislike it, then, when people think I’m going to spend national and religious holidays working on their projects. Especially when those projects could have been delivered at more convenient times.

Then I still have to do the course prep for the magazine-writing class. One part of that chore entails creating new videos to help students understand what’s involved in writing and marketing magazine copy. The chair of the journalism department wants to deep-six the textbook and rewrite the course so that it substitutes Internet sources for the book’s content.

That, of course, will be a marathon project. I used the healthcare fiasco as an excuse to beg off doing that this spring. But nevertheless, it’s going to have to be done.

Last night I recorded and posted a new video explaining “What Is a Feature,” and realized I’ve got to redo the one on the query letter ASAP. That was after I posted a video on writing the position paper for the freshman comp students (they can’t tell the difference between a position paper, a proposal, and a report). Those jobs absorbed the whole afternoon and evening, and I still have to work on the globe-trotter’s book. Haven’t even started that.

Well. I can’t complain. It is work, and it isn’t waiting tables or greeting shoppers at the Walmart. Still: EVERY Christmas? EVERY New Year’s?

Hello, World…indeed

So here’s the first post for Writers Plain & Simple, a website that eventually will move to the soon-to-be website of Plain & Simple Press, a publisher of fiction and nonfiction books.

Eine Kleine About Me: I’m Victoria Hay (yah, i’m afraid so: Ph.D.), the proprietor of Plain & Simple Press, an imprint of The Copyeditor’s Desk, Inc.  A long and checkered career as an academic and a journalist ended in a layoff after 15 years at Arizona State University (known, with ambiguous affection and disaffection, as The Great Desert University), where I had founded and directed an editorial entity unique in the Western Hemisphere and, as far as we know, in the world. Before I returned to academe, I was a magazine journalist and writer: on staff at Arizona Highways and Phoenix magazines and published in more local, regional, and national periodicals than I can count.

During that time I published three books: Math Magic, written for and with Scott Flansburg and a best-seller for William Morrow; The Essential Feature: Writing for Magazines and Newspapers (Columbia University Press); and The Life of Roert Sidney (Folger Shakespeare Library). At ASU, I founded and directed a so-called “professional” writing program — by which they meant “nonfiction” — and taught upper-division and graduate-level students in writing and editing; after ten years of this I moved into administration, establishing and directing an office for scholarly editing, with a half-dozen staff members helping out.

After the financial crash and the mass layoffs at ASU, I incorporated a contract editorial business, The Copyeditor’s Desk, which mostly serves academic, professional, and business clients. We specialize in business, technical, and scholarly editing, and we do pretty well. We have four editors, an expert in e-book formatting, two print layout artists, and a web guru par excellence.

As success has settled in and bag-lady syndrome has faded into the wallpaper, I’ve drifted back to my first love: writing. A half-dozen projects are in the wings, ready to strut their stuff:

Slave Labor: The New Story of American Higher Education
How I Lost 30 Pounds in 4 Months

Fire Rider, Book I
Write Tight: E.B. White (advice on effective writing style)
Fire Rider, Book II
Cost-Effective In-House Publications

And more to come. The first four are written and in preparation for publication. The fifth is about a third done. The last exists on disk but needs to be updated for the times.

My agent kicked the bucket several years ago. I’m no longer a member of ASJA, the best source I know for referrals to literary agents, and don’t feel inclined to go through the hoops required to rejoin. A friend lured me to meetings of the Romance Writers of America, where I learned that making a living wage off self-publishing entails reaching a kind of critical mass on Amazon: eight titles, any titles, genre irrelevant.

No kidding? Well…we’ll soon find out. On a lark, I decided to try Kindle and PoD (print-on-demand). The goal: Get eight (count’em, 8) titles online by the end of 2015.

Watch this space, and you’ll know whether I meet that goal.

What else? I’m the proprietor of Funny about Money, a blog about money and stress control that at one time (long, long ago) was among the top 50 personal-finance blogs in the English language. I’ve gotten out of the monetization and competition games and so no longer care how it ranks. But it’s still a PR 3 blog and I still post there several times a week. I also write at (this kinda thing, for example). As a community service, I teach magazine writing and the occasional comp course at a local junior college, always an entertaining endeavor — sometimes I write about that at Adjunctorium or at Jeff Boldt’s Chronicle of Higher Ed site, The Adjunct Project. I’m currently president of the Scottsdale Business Association and an off-and-off member of various chambers of commerce and of Local Arizona.

Follow me, if you will. This site will talk about the art and business of writing, let you know when my amazing new productions(!) come on the market, and generally shoot the breeze. Hope to get to know you…hope to hear from you online.

A-n-n-d…buy local! 😉