Coffee heat rising

Swimmin’ in the Rain!

Yeah, I know: bucking for a Darwin Award. 🙂

But there’s no lightning or thunder, so why not live dangerously? And swimming in the rain is living! How extraordinarily lovely.

We’re being visited by the outer fringes of Hurricane Newton, which crossed Baja with some dire consequences and then hit the mainland. It’s faded to “tropical storm” now: heavy, pregnant gray clouds drifting close to the earth and drizzling rain. We’re told Tucson is supposed to get a fair amount of heavy rain and Nogales is already getting pounded, but supposedly not much will happen this far north. We shall see.

Meanwhile, it’s really nice now, humid but fairly cool. I may go back in the pool if no sign of electrical activity develops.

One of the Chinese academics resurfaced yesterday with another rush job. What they don’t realize is that they’re a day off of our time. So when Our Man at Nanjing says he needs a paper on the 8th, it’s already his 7th here. 😀 Anyway, his subject matter isn’t very arcane — business management is the College of Education of the MBA world — and I’m getting so used to editing Chinglish that it’s really no more difficult than reading freshman comp. And a hell of a lot more remunerative!

So I sent off his paper last night and now have returned to the current would-be novelist’s magnum opus.

That scribbler requires a lot of coaching. I’m not so much editing, with this one, as teaching the finer points of creative writing.

It dawned on me, in the course of working on his MS, that what I’m really doing with The Copyeditor’s Desk is engaging the same skills I used in teaching, probably in a way that’s more cost-effective for me. Instead of reading 30 papers of the same ilk, I’m reading one. And I’m getting paid by the page, not by the semester. In theory, then, if I got the same number of clients as I have students over a 16-week period, I’d earn about the same amount as adjunct teaching.

You could argue that I’m working harder at editorial work because the deadlines are often non-negotiable and the content can be extremely challenging. However, academic work very rarely contains any stupid stuff — or if it does, it goes over my little head — and you do not have to meet classes, put up with rude students, suffer fools gladly, write course syllabi and calendars, deal with pointless bureaucratic rules, hassle with course management platforms, or confront people with psychological problems.


Let us test that. A comp course is capped at 30 students. I earned about $140 for yesterday’s 23-page academic effort, about twice the length of a typical freshman research paper (but of course, containing about 1/1000 of the stupidity…). A student writes one 10 page paper and two or three short papers.

3 x 2.5 = 7.5 pages per student in addition to the 10-page research paper
7.5 + 10 = 17.5 pages per student per semester
17.5 x 30 students = 525 pages per section

A section is 16 weeks long.

525 /16 = 32.81 pages per week

I net $1100/month for teaching 7 sections a year. Per 30-student section, that would average out to $157 per month, prorated over the 12 months that the income has to cover.

If I taught freshman comp to each student on a contract basis, person-to-person, then at $6 a page, I would charge each student $105 for the total number of pages required for the entire course — over 16 weeks (17.5 pages x $6). (Heh…tells you something about why our students can’t write a simple sentence, to say nothing of a literate business document, doesn’t it?)

At my median rate of $6 or $6.50/page, I turn around 23 pages of Chinglish in two days and earn $138 to $149.50 — in one helluva lot less than a week. In 16 weeks, in theory I could read 16 academic papers to the tune of $2,308 to $2,392. And because that money goes into the S-corp, anything that’s spent on business expenses escapes taxation.

The $1100/month adjunct income is what I net if I teach seven sections over an entire year (3 + 3 + 1), a teaching load equivalent to what my full-time load was at GDU (with benefits, an office, and a computer, 3 + 4 + 0 — no summer session). And it assumes I will get seven sections a year: not a given. By way of comparison: in the last year I taught at GDU I grossed about $3750/month and netted about $2625.

When I’m teaching, I’m teaching 120 students a semester, each of whom turns in three or four papers, in page count about the equivalent of one academic paper per kid, over four months. When I’m editing, I read 52 papers over an entire year.

Let’s look at it another way: if 30 students turned in 16 research-length papers (one a week) over the course of a semester, and I charged them what I charge my clients, I would gross $4140 ($6/page x 23 pages x 30 students), or a net of $3312. Multiply that times 3 to see what I would earn from the typical enrollment in three sections/semester: $9,936 net.

As a practical matter, I don’t get a paper a week per client. I get more like one paper per week all told. But even that pays significantly more than teaching.

My name is abroad in China…every time I turn around, a new graduate student or junior faculty member appears at the digital door.

So it’s mighty clear that the enterprise needs to focus on editing and on coaching would-be Famous Writers, not on publishing unsaleable books.

And so, to work…

3 thoughts on “Swimmin’ in the Rain!”

  1. Scholarly editing is one of the few endeavors where being hypereducated is an advantage. My associates and I have edited copy in subjects ranging from ancient history and pre-Christian Judaism to mathematical biosciences and engineering, with stops in feminist cant, sociology, and postmodern literature along the way.

    Where jobs haven’t worked out — and I can only think of three, offhand — the cause has been philosophical or personality differences. One marketing agent whose project, one of the first contracts I landed, some 30 years ago, simply could NOT understand what was wrong with the passive voice (or, I suspect, what the passive voice IS) and why I wanted to change her golden words. I finally gave up: she was just too pigheaded to deal with.

    There is some sh!t I will not eat, of course: I would not take an assignment from a Trumpeteer to help emit propaganda for their hero, nor would I accept a job from an ISIS-like nut case. But those folks don’t seek me out, thank the heavens. I did edit a tea-partier’s revisionist history, but managed to persuade her to stick to facts. If she’d been intransigent, I probably would’ve walked.

  2. I think we’re supposed to get a lot of rain over the next few days and someone said that it’s part of remnants of a hurricane, I would have to assume it’s Newton. Joy.

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