Coffee heat rising

Flyin’ Low…

Wow! Last few days have fallen into the “Whirlwind” category. Yesterday — yeah, flyin’ low — I got through not one but two interminable scholarly emanations for our client journal, each about 30 pages long.

This has become do-able thanks to the machinations of The Kid, my ineffable and amazingly entrepreneurial young business partner. She has devised A System, and it works. First, she assigns Incoming Flak to her assistant, a.k.a. The Underling. This young woman actually enjoys performing tedious chores — sort of like some of us enjoy ironing in front of the television. And she’s pretty darned good at it.

The journal in question has not come unstuck from the 20th century. Instead of using Word’s “Styles” function to format MSS for the designer, the new editors still indulge in, God help us, manual mark-up! We have tried to persuade these folks to quit that, but to no avail.

Manual mark-up on a computer entails entering what we call “fake HTML” tags before and after every. single. god. damned. design. element. in. the. document. <i>Every</i> italic. <b>Every</b> boldface. <ext>Every indented block quotation</ext>. <pext>Every quoted passage of poetry</pext>. <t>Every Title</t>… and on and on and interminably, idiotically ON. It is an utter, total waste of time, given that a file set up correctly in InDesign will import a Word file formatted with “Styles” and convert the styles automatically to fit the designer’s layout.

We have suggested using “Styles” and even have gone so far as to create a Wyrd template for the purpose, to no avail. The last time we did that, for a variety of reasons the strategy proved to be more hassle than it was worth, and so we gave up.

So, where you are is where you’re at. Starting at that point, The Kid has created an assembly line.

  1. Copy arrives in our precincts (this also is stupidly complicated for different reasons, but I’ve gone beyond complaining here…)
  2. The Kid reviews documents for our purposes. Once approved,
  3. Copy moves to The Underling.
  4. Underling enters all the mark-up tags and checks formatting of references (another mind-numbing and annoying chore).
  5. Copy moves back to The Kid.
  6. Kid reads copy and does first edits, checking references section with some care.
  7. Copy moves to The Old Bat.
  8. Old Bat reads and edits copy behind The Kid, applying the benefit of an eye jaded by 40 years of academic bullshit.
  9. Old Bat generates “clean” and “edited” version; posts to DropBox.
  10. Kid gives copy a final read.

Great stuff, ain’t it? Foisting the tedious mark-up chore onto Underling eliminates a large part of the annoyance factor entailed in editing this content. When you’re not thinking about that ditz, it becomes relatively easy to edit language, style, and fact-checks. So much so that yesterday I read least twice as much content as I could normally plow through with that journal’s offerings.

In more altruistic precincts, on Sunday we — the choir — went over to the home of a member who’s knocking at Death’s Door, brought there by a case of pancreatic cancer. He has planned his funeral service, including his choice of music, and wanted us to sing it for him so he could hear how it sounds. So that was kind of a {gulp!} moment…

But in fact it was really cool and none of us started to cry whilst singing. Despite having reached the wraith-like stage, he was still able to walk around, sit in his favorite easy chair, and hold court with some élan. Would that we could all go out with so much class.

Friend on the choir came over afterward — we dined, consumed a fair amount of wine, and plotted the destruction of the Ruling Class. 😉 Actually, what we plotted was a scheme for the two of us to acquire voice lessons from the choir’s astonishingly talented new organist, who has a gorgeous singing voice, knows how to coach singers, and is classically trained every which way from (heh!) Sunday. Haven’t heard back from said organist since I e-mailed an inquiry, but it being a three-day weekend she probably hasn’t checked the job-related email.

In the interim, I managed to write a few words in the noveloid in progress. And tried to talk to our marvelous Web Guru about a multi-site WordPress template for Plain & Simple Press, which would allow me to publish several works at once, a passage or a chapter at a time. Then YOU, my fine readers, could sample them online and could buy the finished products as PDFs, paperbacks, or e-books. Whether I will bother to put these things on Amazon or not remains to be seen — Amazon embargoes the content if you market a book for less than $2.99, and since the only effective way to “sell” a book on Amazon is to give it away, I figure I might as well give it away for free to my readers than give it away for 99 cents minus Amazon’s share. WTF? I’m retired…I don’t care if any of these things makes me rich or not.

More likely not. 😀

Connie the Trucker calls to report that her dog, a Weimeraner that lives in the truck with her, has developed the same vehicle neurosis that almost killed Charley the Golden Retriever. Unlike my skeptical son, though, she decided to try a Thundershirt, and lo! It works. The dog is much calmed when wrapped tightly in a kind of canine straitjacket. Thereby, we may add, rescuing Connie from having to quit her job.

The blood pressure drug is working: it not only pushes the BP into the 110s or, at worst, the low 120s, it stabilizes the numbers so they don’t jerk up into volcanic spikes every time I lose my temper. Which is often. And — unheard-of miracle!! — it seems to have NO side effects.

And speaking of losing my temper, I have yet to re-wire the robo-call blocker. This will entail a call to customer service, since I cannot remember how to do it — it’s much more complicated than simply attaching it in line, because I have so many devices running out of the same cable connection.

And lookee here! The Kid has sent another pre-edited, pre-formatted article for me to finish off. And so, away…

A$king and re¢eiving

“A$k and ye shall re¢eive” is the motto of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, to which I used to belong until I figured out that freelance writing is a losing proposition. ASJA put me on to the fact that publishers don’t pay a fair rate for work done; they pay what they know they can get away with. They bank on the tendency of writers to work in their own little garrets, to cultivate social lives best described as null and void, and to be way too shy to ask other writers how much they earn. Magazine publishers in particular will pay one writer, say, $1.00 a word and another 50¢ or 75¢ for the same kind of work of the same quality. They recognize that some wannabe writers are so anxious to see their bylines in print they not only would work for free, they’d pay the magazine to publish them, and so the magazine plays that for all it’s worth. Which is plenty.

Entertainingly, today I learned that book publishers will do something similar when they outsource editorial work. My young business partner (late one of my research assistants) and I have been proofreading detective novels for a company that publishes nothing but mystery fiction. Because the work is easy and the copy so entertaining it’s hard to believe anyone would pay you to read it, we’ve been accepting the publisher’s offered rate of $12 an hour.

In response to our talking up our new enterprise, The Copyeditor’s Desk,a book packaging company e-mailed me and asked our rates for proofreading. Without thinking about the mystery publisher, I gave her a rate on the very lowest end of what I actually expect to earn: $25 an hour. Proofreading does not rise to the level of rocket science, and so I couldn’t reasonably ask for the amount I try to get by manipulating my copyediting page rate to fit the difficulty of the copy: $60 an hour. But on the other hand, there comes a point where you can’t just give it away. I figured $25 would be a bit rich for her blood.

To my astonishment, she wrote back and said our proposed rate was in the range of what they’ve been paying others.

Whoa! You are paying proofreaders twenty-five bucks an hour? You’re paying more than twice what we’ve been earning reading mystery novels? Are we talkin’ the same people who have the skills you could have expected from a bright high-school graduate a quarter-century ago?

Huh. Wonder what they would have paid if I’d suggested their arcane interior decorating books need a proofreader with a Ph.D. to make them right. . .

So the message is this: Don’t be shy about asking what you think your time is worth. If you don’t get it, maybe it’s for the best: the next client or employer will come up to your standards. And find out, even if it means bald-facedly asking colleagues what they earn, how much others in your trade or profession are earning for similar work.
Ignoran¢e is not bli$$.