An American Editor

February 27, 2015

EditTools v. 6.1 Released

Filed under: Breaking News — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
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EditTools version 6.1 has been released and is a free upgrade for current registered users of EditTools. Several enhancements have been made, most notably to the Code Inserter macro. In addition, new tabs have been added to Never Spell Word and Toggle. The Journal macro has also been improved, especially the multiple entry dialog.

To download version 6.1, go to the downloads page and click on Download EditTools v.6.1.

NOTE: Version 6.1 requires Microsoft Word 2007 or newer. It adds a tab to the Ribbon. There is no toolbar option.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

February 25, 2015

Changing Formats: From Scroll to Codex to eBooks

Changing Formats: From Scroll to Codex to eBooks

by Jack Lyon

Electronic reading devices abound. There’s the Kindle, the Nook, the Kobo, and many, many more. Electronic formats abound. There’s EPUB, Plucker, Mobi, and many, many more. But for thousands of years, there was only one way to read a book: by unrolling a scroll.

Scrolls offered some big advantages over their predecessors, stone columns and clay tablets. They were easy to make, easy to write on, and didn’t weigh much. They were also compact, holding a lot of text in a relatively small space. But they had one big disadvantage: they could only be accessed sequentially. In other words, if you wanted to read the 77th column of text on a scroll, the only way to get there was to “scroll” through the first 76 columns. Remember the good old days of cassette tape players? If you wanted to hear “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” you had to fast-forward through “Come Together” and “Something.” Are we there yet? Oops, went too far. Press “Rewind” and try again. Scrolls were like that.

But around the end of the 1st century C.E., someone developed a new technology—the codex.

The codex was a collection of pages bound together in a book—like the printed books we read today. It offered one big advantage over the scroll: random access. In other words, if you wanted to read page 77, you could just turn to page 77. And you could do that while keeping your finger between pages 34 and 35. And you could put a scrap of papyrus between pages 34 and 35 to mark your place without having to leave your finger behind. Remember the good old days of vinyl records? If you wanted to hear “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer,” you could just pick up the tone arm and move it to the third track on the record, bypassing “Come Together” and “Something” altogether. The codex was like that, and it was a wonderful invention.

Not only that, but the codex eventually became a work of art. Over the years, the scribes of the Middle Ages worked out all the techniques needed to compose beautiful pages, and they went on to illuminate those pages with gorgeous decoration.

When Gutenberg printed his famous two-volume Bible in 1455, he modeled his pages after those of the scribes, and his text is a masterpiece of fine typography, including such features as hanging punctuation, optical alignment, and font expansion (type variation)—features that have become available on the computer only in the past few years.

Yet we typically see none of those features on an electronic reading device. There’s no (or very little) random access. There’s no beautiful typography or page design. There aren’t even any pages. Instead, the text “reflows” to accommodate various screen sizes and readers.

But a page is the basic unit of book design. It’s functional. It can be beautiful. And, not least in importance, it’s fixed in place, allowing us to remember that the passage we loved so much was about halfway through the book at the bottom of the page. This “positional memory” is important not just in reading but in editing as well.

All of that is lost on an electronic reader. One solution would be some kind of software that can replicate a printed page with all the beauties of traditional typography. Is there such a thing? Well, yes. It was invented by Adobe in the early 1990s and is known as Portable Document Format—that’s right: PDF.

Nearly all electronic readers support PDF, so the problem doesn’t lie with technology but with publishers looking for an easy way out—a single file that can be read on a screen of any size. That’s what EPUB is all about.

But is it really that difficult to turn a book into PDFs of various sizes? Most electronic readers have screens of 5, 6, 7.1, or 9.7 inches, which isn’t really that many sizes to deal with. Adjust the pages in InDesign, and off you go.

Doing that, of course, would mean extra work for publishers, who are always watching that bottom line, and for online retailers, who would have to offer the PDFs in those various sizes. And that means most publishers have turned to EPUB as their format of choice.

I read a lot of books in EPUB format, on my Android phone and tablet, and on my computer. And I’m sorry to say that many publishers seem to have abandoned any attempt at controlling the quality of electronic books. Block quotations are indistinguishable from body text; poetry is a mess; text is usually justified but with no attempt at hyphenation, resulting in widely spaced lines. And any attempt at beautiful typography? Forget it. In short, the experience of reading ebooks is far less satisfying than it could be. In most cases, I attribute this to sheer laziness on the part of publishers, who continue to crank out junk when the means to excellence lie readily at hand. For example, EPUB relies on CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), which can accomplish absolute miracles.

Fortunately, some people still care about readability and fine typography, and they are working to ensure that ebooks are as functional and beautiful as possible:

What about you? Do you publish books in electronic form? If so, what do you to make sure that your books are readable and beautiful?

Someday, in the distant future, someone who has read nothing but ebooks is going to stumble into an ancient library and open an honest-to-goodness book. Will that experience be an illumination, a revelation of what we have lost? Or will the reader say, “Wow, this is just as beautiful as my ebooks!”?

What do you think?

Jack Lyon (editor@editorium.com) owns and operates the Editorium, which provides macros and information to help editors and publishers do mundane tasks quickly and efficiently. He is the author of Microsoft Word for Publishing Professionals and of Macro Cookbook for Microsoft Word. Both books will help you learn more about macros and how to use them.

February 23, 2015

On the Basics: Questions to Ask for the Ideal Client–Freelancer “Marriage”

Questions to Ask for the Ideal
Client–Freelancer “Marriage”

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

There’s been some media buzz in the wake of a recent column in the New York Times about applying psychological research to finding love by asking a date something like 36 supposedly ideal questions that determine whether the other person is marriage material. It all seemed rather forced and hokey to me, despite my definite leanings toward the romantic, but it made me think that freelance colleagues might want to apply a similar process to identifying ideal clients — or at least giving a relationship between client and freelancer a more reasonable likelihood of success.

The right questions asked at the right time can make the difference in a smooth, rewarding experience for both client and freelancer, whether the project is a writing, editing, proofreading, graphics, desktop publishing, or other assignment of some sort. The “never assume” adage is a good one to keep in mind. The one element you don’t ask about is likely to be the one that turns into a huge headache for one or both parties in the relationship.

Of course, we don’t always know what we should have asked about until not having done so comes along to haunt us or ruin the relationship. Other peoples’ experiences — and questions — could be the factor that keeps your next new client relationship from going on the rocks.

With that in mind, here are some of the questions that I try to remember to ask of or verify with prospective new clients, and some that a client might be expected to ask of us.

The Essentials

  • What is the scope of the project or assignment — number of words or pages? Are there references, footnotes, etc.?
  • If in pages, I define a page as x number of words/y number of characters. Do you use a different definition? When is it due?
  • What is the fee?
  • If there is no set fee, what is your budget?
  • Do you pay by the word, hour, page or project?
  • Do you pay on submission, acceptance, publication, within 30 days of invoice, or by some other timeframe once I’ve sent my invoice? If you usually pay after longer than 30 days after invoice, is that negotiable?
  • Do you have a contract we can use? If not, can we work from one that I provide?
  • If your usual rate is lower than I usually charge, is there any flexibility, such as an increase after a successful project?
  • Is there room in the budget in case the project changes, or goes beyond the original, scope?
  • Would there be any problem with my subcontracting some or all of the assignment as long as I review my colleague’s work before submission?

Editing in General

  • Is this for editing or proofreading?
  • If for editing, what level of edit do you expect — substantive, developmental, copy, line?
  • Which style manual do you use?
  • If you don’t have a designated style manual, is it OK if I use Chicago/AMA/AP/APA/ MLA?
  • Do you have any in-house style specifics that I should follow?
  • Do you have a preferred dictionary?
  • Is the document in Word? A PDF? PowerPoint? Some other format?
  • Do you expect one pass through the document or two?
  • Do you want me to use Track Changes?
  • Do you want me to provide coding? Fact-checking? Reference verification? Plagiarism checking?

Editing or Proofreading a Thesis or Dissertation

  • Does the institution or department have guidelines on the type of editorial assistance that is allowed?
  • Does the university or department follow any specific style guide? If they don’t use the same one, which should I follow?
  • Are there any specific checklists or guidelines to be followed?

Writing/Journalism Assignments

  • How many sources do you require?
  • Is there anyone in particular who absolutely must be interviewed and included?
  • What style manual should I follow?
  • Is there any flexibility in the word count if I get really good quotes and other interesting information?
  • Do you allow sources to see their quotes before publication of the article if they ask?

From the Client

  • What have you worked on in this genre/topic area?
  • Can you provide references?
  • Can you provide samples?
  • Will you take an editing/proofreading/writing test?
  • Do you offer any guarantee of accuracy or quality?
  • How many revisions are included in your fee?
  • Do you subcontract any of your work, or can I count on it actually being done by you and you alone?
  • Do you offer a discount for a steady stream of regular assignments?

You don’t want to scare off prospective clients by asking an overwhelming number of questions, or ones that appear to assume there will be problems with the assignment, but you do want to nail down as many  important specifics as possible before you start working on a project. I hope these suggestions help colleagues and clients get on track for the ideal professional marriage.

Are there any other questions that you would ask, or wish you had asked, of new clients or about new projects?

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter is an award-winning freelance writer, editor, proofreader, desktop publisher, and speaker whose motto is “I can write about anything!”® She is also the owner of Communication Central, author of the Freelance Basics blog for the Society for Technical Communication, and a regular contributor to An American Editor.

February 20, 2015

Worth Reading: Commas and Copyediting

The newest issue of The New Yorker has a wonderful article about commas and copyediting by the magazine’s own copyeditor, Mary Norris. “Holy Writ: Learning to Love the House Style” is a must read for editors and authors. You might also want to read an earlier article by Mary Norris, “Don’t Try to Hone In On a Copy Editor.” It is another well-written insight into editing. From The Economist comes this editorial by Schumpeter: “Authorpreneurship: To Succeed These Days, Authors Must Be More Businesslike Than Ever,” which is also true of editors.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

February 18, 2015

The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars

Freelancers often lack mastery of tools that are available to us. This is especially true of wildcarding. This lack of mastery results in our either not using the tools at all or using them to less than their full potential. These are tools that could save us time, increase accuracy, and, most importantly, make us money. Although we have discussed wildcard macros before (see, e.g., The Only Thing We Have to Fear: Wildcard Macros, The Business of Editing: Wildcard Macros and Money, and Macro Power: Wildcard Find & Replace; also see the various Lyonizing Word articles), after recent conversations with colleagues, I think it is time to revisit wildcarding.

Although wildcards can be used for many things, the best examples of their power, I think, are references. And that is what we will use here. But remember this: I am showing you one example out of a universe of examples. Just because you do not face the particular problem used here to illustrate wildcarding does not mean wildcarding is not usable by you. If you edit, you can use wildcarding.

Identifying the What Needs to Be Wildcarded

We begin by identifying what needs a wildcard solution. The image below shows the first 3 references in a received references file. This was a short references file (relatively speaking; I commonly receive references files with 500 to 1,000 references), only 104 entries, but all done in this fashion.

references as received

references as received

The problems are marked (in this essay, numbers in parens correspond to numbers in the images): (1) refers to the author names and the inclusion of punctuation; (2) shows the nonitalic journal name followed by punctuation; and (3) shows the use of and in the author names. The following image shows what my client wants the references to look like.

references after wildcarding

references after wildcarding

Compare the numbered items in the two images: (1) the excess punctuation is gone; (2) the journal title is italicized and punctuation free; and (3) the and is gone.

It is true that I could have fixed each reference manually, one-by-one, and taken a lot of time to do so. Even if I were being paid by the hour (which I’m not; I prefer per-page or project fees), would I want to make these corrections manually? I wouldn’t. Not only is it tedious, mind-numbing work, but it doesn’t meet my definition of what constitutes editing. Yes, it is part of the editing job, but I like to think that removing punctuation doesn’t reflect my skills as a wordsmith and isn’t the skill for which I was hired.

I will admit that in the past, in the normal course, if the reference list were only 20 items long, I would have done the job manually. But that was before EditTools and its Wildcard macro, which enables me to write the wildcard string once and then save it so I can reuse it without rewriting it in the future. In other words, I can invest time and effort now and get a reoccurring return on that investment for years to come. A no-brainer investment in the business world.

The Wildcard Find

CAUTION: Wildcard macros are very powerful. Consequently, it is recommended that you have a backup copy of your document that reflects the state of the document before running wildcard macros as a just-in-case option. If using wildcard macros on a portion of a document that can be temporarily moved to its own document, it is recommended that you move the material. Whenever using any macro, use caution.

Clicking Wildcard in EditTools brings up the dialog shown below, which gives you options. If you manually create Find and Replace strings, you can save them to a wildcard dataset (1) for future recall and reuse. If you already have strings that might work, you can retrieve them (2) from an existing wildcard dataset. And if you have taken the next step with Wildcards in EditTools and created a script, you can retrieve the script (3) and run it. (A script is simply a master macro that includes more than 1 string. Instead of retrieving and running each string individually, you retrieve a script that contains multiple strings and run the script. The script will go through each string it contains automatically in the order you have entered the strings.)

Wildcard Interface

Wildcard Interface

As an example, if I click Retrieve from WFR dataset (#2 above), the dialog shown below opens. In this instance, I have already created several strings (1) and I can choose which string I want to run from the dropdown. Although you can’t see it, this particular dataset has 40 strings from which I can choose. After choosing the string I want to run, it appears in the Criteria screens (2 and 3), divided into the Find portion of the string and the Replace portion. I can then either Select (4) the strings to be placed in primary dialog box (see Wildcard Interface above) or I can Edit (5) the strings if they need a bit of tweaking.

Wildcard Dataset Dialog

Wildcard Dataset Dialog

If I click Select (4 above), the strings appear in the primary Wildcard dialog as shown below (1 and 2). Because it can be hard to visualize what the strings really look like when each part is separated, you can see the strings as they will appear to Microsoft Word (3). In addition, you know which string you chose because it is identified above the criteria fields (purple arrow). Now you have choices to make. You can choose to run a Test to be sure the criteria work as expected (4), or if you know the criteria work, as would be true here, you can choose to Find and Replace one at a time or Replace All (5).

The Effect of Clicking Select

The Effect of Clicking Select

I know that many readers are saying to themselves, “All well and good but I don’t know how to write the strings, so the capability of saving and retrieving the strings isn’t of much use to me.” Even if you have never written a wildcard string before, you can do so quickly and easily with EditTools.

Creating Our String

Let’s begin with the first reference shown in the References as Received image above. We need to tackle this item by item. Here is what the author names look like as received:

Kondo, M., Wagers, A. J., Manz, M. G., Prohaska, S. S., Scherer, D. C., Beilhack, G. F. et al.:

What we have for the first name in the list is

[MIXED case multiletter surname][comma][space][single UPPERCASE letter][period][comma]

which makes up a unit. That is, a unit is the group of items that need to be addressed as a single entity. In this example, each complete author name will constitute a unit.

This first unit has 6 parts to it (1 part = 1 bracketed item) and we have identified what each part is (e.g., [MIXED case multiletter surname]). To find that first part we go to the Wildcard dialog, shown below, click the * (1) next to the blank field in line 1. Clicking the * brings up the Select Wildcard menu (2) from which we choose we choose Character Menu (3). In the Character Menu we choose Mixed Case (4) because that is the first part of the unit that we need to find.

Wildcard First Steps

Wildcard First Steps

When we choose Mixed Case (4 above), the Quantity dialog below appears. Here you tell the macro whether there is a limit to the number of characters that fit the description for this part. Because we are dealing with names, just leave the default of no limit. However, if we knew we only wanted names that were, for example, 5 letters or fewer in length, we would decheck No Limit and change the number in the Maximum field to 5.

How many letters?

How many letters?

Clicking OK in the Quantity results in entry of the first portion of our string in the Wildcard dialog (1, below). This tells the macro to find any grouping of letters — ABCd, Abcde, bCdaefTg, Ab, etc. — of any length, from 1 letter to 100 or more letters. Thus we have the criteria for the first part of our Find unit even though we did not know how to write wildcardese. In the dialog, you can see how the portion of the string really looks to Microsoft Word (2) and how, if you were to manually write this part using Microsoft Word’s Find & Replace, it would need to be written.

How this part looks in wildcardese

How this part looks in wildcardese

The next step is to address the next part, which can be either [comma] alone or [comma][space]. What we need to be careful about is that we remember that we will need the [space] in the Replace string. If we do [comma][space] and if we do not have just a [space] entry, we will need to provide it. For this example, I will combine them.

Because these are simple things, I enter the [comma][space] directly in the dialog as shown below. With my cursor in the second blank field (1), I simply type a comma and hit the spacebar. You can verify this by looking below in the Find line of wildcardese (2), where you can see (, ):

Manually adding the next part

Manually adding the next part

The remaining parts to do are [single UPPERCASE letter][period][comma]. They would be done using the same techniques as the prior parts. Again, we would have to decide whether the [period] and [comma] need to go on separate lines or together on a single line. Why? Because we want to eliminate the [period] but keep the [comma]. If they are done together as we did [comma][space], we will manually enter the [comma] in the Replace.

For the [single UPPERCASE letter], we would follow the steps in Wildcard First Steps above except that instead of Mixed Case, we would select UPPER CASE, as shown here:

Selecting UPPER CASE from the Characters Menu

Selecting UPPER CASE from the Characters Menu

This brings up the Quantity dialog where we decheck No Limit and, because we know it is a single letter we want found, use the default Minimum 1 and Maximum 1, as shown here:

A Quantity of 1

A Quantity of 1

Clicking OK takes us to the main Wildcard dialog where the criteria to find the [single UPPERCASE letter] has been entered (1, below). Looking at the image below, you can see it in the string (2). For convenience, the image also shows that I manually entered the [period][comma] on line 4 (3 and 4).

The rest of the Find criteria

The rest of the Find criteria

The Wildcard Replace

The next step is to create the Replace part of the string. Once again, we need to analyze our Find criteria.

We have divided the Find criteria into these 4 parts, which together make up the Find portion of the string:

  1. [MIXED case multiletter surname]
  2. [comma][space]
  3. [single UPPERCASE letter]
  4. [period][comma]

The numbers represent the numbers of the fields that are found in the primary dialog shown above (The Rest of the Find Criteria). What we need to do is determine which fields we want to replace and in what order. In this example, what we want to do is remove unneeded punctuation, so the Replace order is the same as the Find order. We want to end up with this:

  1. [MIXED case multiletter surname]
  2. [space]
  3. [single UPPERCASE letter]
  4. [comma]

The way we do so is by filling in the Replace fields. The [space] and the [comma] we can enter manually. You can either enter every item manually or you can let the macro give you a hand. Next to each field in the Replace column is an *. Clicking on the * brings up the Select Wildcard dialog:

Select Wildcard

Select Wildcard

Because what we need is available in the Find Criteria, we click on Find Criteria. However, the Select Wildcard dialog also gives us options to insert other items that aren’t so easy to write in wildcardese, such as a symbol. When we click Find Criteria, the Use Find Criteria dialog, shown below, appears. It lists everything that is found in the Find criteria by line.

Use Find Criteria dialog

Use Find Criteria dialog

Double-clicking the first entry (yellow highlighted) places it in the first line of the Replace, but by a shortcut — \1 — as shown in the image below (1). If we wanted to reverse the order (i.e., instead of ending up with Kondo M, we want to end up with M Kondo,), we would select the line 3 entry in the Use Find Criteria Dialog above, and double-click it. Then \3 would appear in the first line of Replace instead of \1.

The completed wildcard macro

The completed wildcard macro

For convenience, I have filled the Replace criteria (1-4) as The Completed Wildcard Macro image above shows. The [space] (2) and the [comma] (4) I entered manually using the keyboard. The completed Replace portion of the string can be seen at (5).

The next decision to be made is how to run the string — TEST (6) or manual Find/Replace (7) or auto Replace All (8). If you have not previously tried the string or have any doubts, use the TEST (6). It lets you test and undo; just follow the instructions that appear. Otherwise, I recommend doing a manual Find and Replace (7) at least one time so you can be certain the string works as you intend. If it does work as intended, click Replace All (8).

You will be asked whether you want to save your criteria; you can preempt being asked by clicking Add to WFR dataset (9). You can either save to an existing dataset or create a new dataset. And if you look at the Wildcard Dataset dialog above (near the beginning of this essay), you will see that you can not only name the string you are saving, but you can provide both a short and a detailed description to act as reminders the next time you are looking for a string to accomplish a task.

Spend a Little Time Now, Save Lots of Time Later

Running the string we created using Replace All on the file we started with, will result in every instance of text that meets the Find criteria being replaced. I grant that the time you spend to create the string and test it will take longer than the second and subsequent times you retrieve the string and run it, but that is the idea: spend a little time now to save lots of time later.

I can tell you from the project I am working on now that wildcarding has saved me more than 30 hours of toiling so far. I have already had several chapters with 400 or more references that were similar to the example above (and a couple that were even worse). Wildcarding let me clean up author names, as here, and let me change cites from 1988;52(11):343-45 to 52:343, 1988 in minutes.

As you can see from this exercise, wildcarding need not be difficult. Whether you are an experienced wildcarder or new to wildcarding, you can harness the power of wildcarding using EditTools’ WildCard Find & Replace. Let EditTools’ WildCard Find & Replace macro system help you. Combine wildcarding with EditTools’ Journals macro and references become quicker and easier.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Looking for a Deal?

You can buy EditTools in a package with PerfectIt and Editor’s Toolkit at a special savings of $78 off the price if bought individually. To purchase the package at the special deal price, click Editor’s Toolkit Ultimate.

February 16, 2015

Thinking Fiction: The Style Sheets—Part II: Characters

The Style Sheets — Part II: Characters

by Amy J. Schneider

This month I continue my discussion of the style sheets I keep and the details that go into them. Let’s talk about tracking character attributes.

The Devil Is in the Details

When I receive a style sheet for a previous book by the same author, whether a standalone title or one in the same series, it usually includes a character list. And by “a character list,” I mean just that: a tidy alphabetical list of character names, often last name first, first name last. We copyeditors love to make alphabetical lists. But for ensuring continuity both in attributes of individual characters and in the relationships between them, such a list isn’t very useful.

For example, suppose that in Chapter 1, James is described as being a vegetarian, but in Chapter 18 he orders a Big Mac for lunch. Or suppose that Angela is an only child in Chapter 3, but in Chapter 6 she gets a call from her sister. I don’t know that my memory is good enough to recall a detail from so far back. And often such details are mentioned in the barest passing, and so they are easy to overlook. That’s what the style sheet is for. Any detail that could possibly be contradicted later on goes on the style sheet. Examples follow shortly.

In addition, I find it extremely helpful to group characters not alphabetically, but by their relationships to each other. Family members, coworker groups, the neighbors, the guys down at the pub, the bad guys: these are examples of how you might group characters. Sometimes you may not be sure where to put a character. That’s okay; just start them in their own group for now and later it may become clear. The advantage of grouping like this is that it helps you spot name changes (the bartender was Andy, but suddenly he’s become Randy), missing or extra people (there are supposed to be five Murphy brothers, but six are named), and so on.

Remember to track nonhuman characters too. I enclose animal names in quotes (“Max” — Susan’s cat; black fur, left front paw and tip of tail are white). Make note of unnamed animals too; make sure that the neighbors’ black lab doesn’t turn into a border collie. In fantasy and science fiction, you may encounter “characters” that are sentient objects such as weapons and other magical items (think of the elven blade “Sting” from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings), as well as fictional deities, spirits, and so forth. On the style sheet they go.

Details to Track

So, what kinds of details should you track? As I stated earlier, anything that could possibly be contradicted later. (And as you come across such items, later, check against your previous entries on the style sheet to ensure that they are still accurate; if not, you know that you need to flag or query.) The following are only a few examples:

  • Physical descriptions: hair color/length/qualities, eye/skin color, facial descriptions (straight nose, thick eyebrows, high cheekbones), body build (muscle bound, lanky), blood type, clothing size, glasses, disabilities, vocal quality (pitch, accent)
  • Life status: age/birthday (age 27; her birthday was last May; the baby will be born next fall), relationships (her mother died of cancer when she was twelve; he has been divorced twice), employment, schooling, abilities (I once met a character who could speak a foreign language, but had mysteriously lost that ability later on), nicknames, habits (vegetarian, doesn’t drink), accents, pet phrases, personal history (inherited $6 million from his grandmother)
  • Right/left: scars, injuries, tattoos, and so on
  • Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, Twitter handles (query the author to ensure that these are not in use by real people)
  • “Negative” attributes: can’t swim, is afraid of dogs, has never seen the ocean
  • Relative descriptions: Rodrigo towers over Lancelot; Evan is two years older than Shane

Assuming you are editing in Word, it’s easy to copy relevant descriptive phrases out of the manuscript and plop them into the style sheet, for ease of searching later if you need to refer back to earlier text. I condense the copied text to save a little space by changing spelled-out numbers to digits and editing down to the essential key words (e.g., “her auburn hair cascaded down her back, and fluffy bangs accentuated her ocean-blue eyes” would become “auburn hair down her back, bangs, blue eyes”; “died six days before her eighty-fifth birthday” would become “died 6 days before her 85th birthday”). The idea is to take out information that’s non-essential to the style sheet (you might copy a full paragraph just to grab a few informational phrases). Another point to remember: in hard-copy days, we noted the page number for details, but with electronic editing, page layouts can shift, so use the chapter number instead. You can always use search to find the exact text you’re looking for.

I Found a Contradiction; Now What?

Oops. Nancy is blonde in Chapter 4 but brunette in Chapter 27. Michael’s eyes keep changing color from blue to green to blue again. Tonya’s parents died when she was a baby, but also threw her out of the house when she was sixteen. What to do?

Remember that it’s the author’s story, so if any major rewriting or plot adjustment is required, it’s up to the author to do so. However, you can certainly help by making suggestions.

  • If it’s a minor detail that’s not critical to the plot, and only a few instances are different (suppose Nancy’s hair is described as blonde twelve times and brown twice), it’s safe to simply change the brown hair back to blonde and write a query alerting the author to the change.
  • If Michael’s eyes are blue six times and green seven times, then you need to write a query that lets the author know about the discrepancy and ask the author to decide which way to go.
  • Let’s say that the fact that Tonya is an orphan is important to the plot, but so is the fact that she had to fend for herself at a young age. That’s not something that a copyeditor can fix. But you might suggest that the author have Tonya raised by an aunt and uncle, and they are the ones who threw her out.
  • You may find a character-related plot hole that has no obvious solution. The best you can do then is outline the problems and ask the author if he or she can see a way to solve them. After that, it’s in the author’s hands — and the author may decide to just live with it. (I’ve seen that happen.) But you’ve done your due diligence.

Because fiction is by nature made up, there’s no real-world reference for its internal factual information — so keeping a detailed style sheet with as much information as possible about the characters (and other elements) is enormously helpful for catching inconsistencies.  In the next article, I’ll talk about tracking information about locations and buildings, which involves much the same approach as I’ve discussed here.

Amy J. Schneider (amy@featherschneider.com), owner of Featherschneider Editorial Services, has been a freelance copyeditor and proofreader of fiction and nonfiction books since 1995. She has shared her insights on copyediting fiction as a speaker at the Communication Central conferences, in writing for the Copyediting newsletter, and in an audioconference for Copyediting.com. Amy can be reached at LinkedIn, via Twitter, and on Facebook.

February 11, 2015

On Today’s Bookshelf (XX)

My acquisition of new titles to read never ends. Here is a list of some of the hardcovers and ebooks that I am reading or acquired and added to my to-be-read pile since the last On Today’s Bookshelf post:

Nonfiction –

  • Lenin: A Revolutionary Life by Christopher Read
  • Civilization: The West and the Rest by Niall Ferguson
  • The Myth of Race: The Troubling Persistence of an Unscientific Idea by Robert Wald Sussman
  • Kafka’s Law: “The Trial” and American Criminal Justice by Robert P. Burns
  • The Roman Guide to Slave Management: A Treatise by Nobleman Marcus Sidonius Falx by Jerry Toner
  • Nixon’s Secrets: The Rise, Fall and Untold Truth about the President, Watergate, and the Pardon by Roger Stone
  • Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America by Peter Andreas
  • Reinterpreting the French Revolution: A Global-Historical Perspective by Bailey Stone
  • War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race by Edwin Black
  • The Great Turning Points of British History: The 20 Events That Made the Nation by Michael Wood
  • The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution by Francis Fukuyama
  • Political Order and Political Decay: From the Industrial Revolution to the Globalization of Democracy by Francis Fukuyama
  • Thirteen Days in September: Carter, Begin, and Sadat at Camp David by Lawrence Wright
  • Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments by Gina Perry
  • World Order by Henry Kissinger
  • The Book of Woe: The DSM and the Unmaking of Psychiatry by Gary Greenberg
  • Grand Turk: Sultan Mehmet II-Conqueror of Constantinople and Master of an Empire by John Freely
  • The Empire of Necessity: Slavery, Freedom, and Deception in the New World by Greg Grandin
  • Fordlandia: The Rise and Fall of Henry Ford’s Forgotten Jungle City by Greg Grandin

Fiction –

  • The Girl of Fire and Thorns, The Crown of Embers, & The Bitter Kingdom (The Girl of Fire and Thorns trilogy) by Rae Carson
  • Serious Men by Manu Joseph
  • The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt
  • The Sentinel Mage by Emily Gee
  • Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
  • One Second After by William R. Forstchen
  • The Betrayers by David Bezmozgis
  • Haunted Ground by Erin Hart

I’ve been looking at my TBR piles — both print and ebook  — and wondering if I should just stop acquiring books. These piles are so large, that I’d have to read several books a day to get through them all before it’s time to greet my maker.

I know I’ve lamented that before, but I guess that is why I am an editor — a love of books and the knowledge they contain. I keep hoping that my grandchildren will want my library, but I suspect not. (They are currently too young to understand what a library is and why it is important.)

I have told my children that if they aren’t interested in my library, I want them to find a rural library that would be interested in receiving the books. The print books are nearly all pristine  — even though I have read them, they have the look and feel of new, unread books.

One thing I find interesting about a physical library, in contrast to an ebook “library,” is that the physical library acts as a visual reminder of how much information there is in the world that I have not yet explored. It also makes me admire even more some of the Renaissance people who are noted for having had the world’s knowledge at their fingertips — the Michaelangelos and Voltaires and Rousseaus and Jeffersons of past ages — something that would be very difficult, if not impossible, today. Today, we admire those who are masters of their sub-subspecialty areas.

The holiday season brought more books to my pile, including a book by my daughter, Mariah Adin, The Brooklyn Thrill-Kill Gang and the Great Comic Book Scare of the 1950s. She and her husband badgered me to put aside everything else I was reading to read her book. I eventually caved and found the book to be an interesting read. Although I was a youngster at the time, I admit I was unaware of the debate that apparently raged around me about the negative influence of comic books on young minds. The arguments made then about comic books can certainly be made today about video games.

Did your holidays bring new books to your library?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

February 9, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: How Lucrative Are Your Editorial Clients Really? Keeping an Eye on Creeping Costs (Part I)

How Lucrative Are Your Editorial Clients Really?
Keeping an Eye on Creeping Costs (Part I)

by Louise Harnby

In this two-part essay, I consider the care we need to take when making assumptions about how lucrative certain client types are.

I read with interest Jeannette de Beauvoir’s article on Copyediting.com about the pros and cons of regular vs. one-off clients: “Freelance Income: Recurring or One-Off?”. In it, de Beauvoir states: “in general, publishers don’t pay particularly well. And working with individual authors can be fantastically fun: nurturing the writer, working with them to bring a great project to publication.” While some may agree, my own experiences (and my preferred way of running my proofreading business) make me question this assumption.

Online discussions among editorial folk often allude to the issue of “poor” pay when it comes to publisher clients. And while there are some presses who, for various reasons beyond the scope of this article, offer rates that some freelancers consider to be unsustainable, it’s not always the case.

I’m a professional proofreader and I’ve explored several markets in my freelance career. I have extensive experience of working with regular publisher clients (around 400 books since I set up my proofreading business in 2005) and I’ve worked with businesses, independent academics, students and self-publishing authors, mostly (though not exclusively) on a one-off basis. I’ve enjoyed pretty much all of the projects I’ve worked on, but the jury is still out on who pays “well” and who doesn’t.

For the purposes of this essay I’m going to take a look at how working with a regular publisher client contrasts with working for a new nonpublisher client. I’ve chosen to use publishers precisely because they are a group that are often cited as being “low” payers.

In today’s essay, I consider two problems:

  1. How “well-paying” is defined
  2. How fee expectations can vary even within, as well as between, client types

I also look at the booking phase of proofreading work, and consider how the situation can vary between a regular publisher client and a new nonpublisher client, and what this means in terms of creeping costs.

In Part II, I look at the additional costs that can creep into the actual editorial stage of a booked-in proofreading project, and the phase after completion — again comparing regular publisher clients and new nonpublisher clients.

This isn’t to say that any of the scenarios considered here will always occur with each client type on each job. Rather, I aim to show that (a) extra costs are less likely to creep in with the regular publisher client, and (b) this needs to be accounted for when considering which types of client are “well-paying.”

How Do We Define “Paying Well”?

What’s a “good” rate of pay? This is the first problem that arises when we make statements about how lucrative particular clients groups are, and it can confuse the new entrant to the field. Some national editorial societies offer guidance on suggested minimum rates (see, e.g., the Editor’s Association of Canada, the Editorial Freelancers Association [United States], and the Society for Editors and Proofreaders [United Kingdom]). Note, though, that while many new entrants to the field will aspire to these rates, for others they may not be high enough. Rich Adin, An American Editor, advises using these guidelines as “a place to begin but not to stop” (“Business of Editing: What to Charge (Part I)”.

I agree with Adin’s advice. This is because there are 3 rates we need to be aware of:

  • What we need to earn in order to meet our financial needs — the required rate
  • What we want to earn in order to fulfill our aspirations — the desired rate
  • What the client will pay for a particular job — the market rate

In reality, though, there is no precise number that makes pay rate “good” or “bad.” What we can do is to construct our own definitions of acceptable and unacceptable rates around our individual business requirements. Thus:

  • Market rate is equal to or higher than our required rate = good
  • Market rate is equal to or higher than our desired rate = great
  • Market rate is lower than our required rate = poor

Consider the following (the figures are for demonstration purposes only):

  1. A client offers me a £20ph (the market rate) for a proofreading job. This is lower than my desired rate (£25ph) but higher than my required rate (£17ph). My professional society suggests a guideline rate of £23ph.
  2. A client offers me £27ph for a proofreading job. My required rate is £17ph and my desired rate is £25ph, so the market rate exceeds both my required and desired rates. I then find out that a colleague will accept no less than £30ph for any proofreading job. Again, my professional society suggests a guideline hourly rate of £23ph.
  3. A client offers me £13ph. This is below my required and desired hourly rates. Again, my professional society suggests a guideline hourly rate of £23ph.

In the above situations, which rates are good, and which are poor? Looking at the above three examples, you will have your own opinions about what’s acceptable.

In example 1, £20ph exceeds my needs. For me, it’s a good rate. Yes, it’s below the figure suggested by my professional society, but it doesn’t have to meet the needs of the professional society, because the professional society doesn’t pay for my rent, food, and bills. Rather, it has to meet my requirements. If your required rate is £25ph, it won’t meet your needs so it will be a poor rate.

In example 2, £27ph exceeds my required and desired hourly rate, so it’s a great rate. It also exceeds my professional society’s guidelines, though that has no bearing on my financial situation. My colleague still thinks it’s too low. Perhaps that’s because she needs to earn £30ph. But her needs are just that — hers. What she needs to earn has no bearing on my financial situation. It’s a poor rate for her but it’s still a great rate for me.

In example 3, the market rate of £13ph is lower than my required rate. I therefore consider the rate to be poor. This isn’t because a colleague or a society thinks it’s too low, but because it doesn’t meet my required rate of £17ph. If I wish, I can still choose to accept the job, if a broader analysis of my accounts tells me that my overall business earnings will compensate for the shortfall.

So, if you’re a new entrant to the field and you hear someone say, “Publishers don’t pay particularly well,” or “Businesses offer great rates,” bear in mind that your colleague’s experiences may not be the same as yours because the yardstick by which she’s measuring rates of pay is different than yours. What she needs to earn will probably be different than what you need to earn, and what’s “good” for you might well be “poor” for her. Define “well-paying” clients first and foremost according to your needs, not those of others.

Comparing Publishers with Other Client Types

Another problem that arises when considering how lucrative publisher clients are is that of comparison. Are we comparing their rates with students, self-publishing authors, academics, multinational corporations, charities? The fact is that even clients from within a particular customer group have will have different budgets and expectations (not every academic will be prepared to pay the same fee per word/page/hour for proofreading; not every publisher will offer the same rate for copy-editing a 300-page sociology manuscript). You may well find that “bad,” “good,” and “good enough” rates of pay (as defined by your own needs and wants) can be found both within and between customer groups.

The rates that I earn from proofreading for publishers vary a great deal. I record detailed data for every job I take. This allows me to make some comparisons between clients, and more broadly between client groups. In my own experience, the income I can earn from some publishers is what I consider to be a “good” or “great” rate of pay. This isn’t just because the fees offered for the jobs are flat-out higher than what’s being offered by other clients; it’s not just because I’ve been able to introduce more productive ways of working (see “The Proofreader’s Corner: Rates, Data Tracking, and Digital Efficiencies (Part II)” for more detail on how this can be achieved); it’s also because there are, in my experience, fewer creeping costs.

Creeping Costs

One financial issue that has often snuck up and tapped me on the shoulder when working with nonpublisher clients is that of creeping costs. I’m not going to pretend it’s never happened with publisher clients, but I’ve found it to be less likely. This is because publishers understand what I do, and I’ve trained to proofread in a way that enables me to offer them a solution to their problems. This isn’t always the case with a nonpublisher client.

Some nonpublisher clients do, of course, have extensive experience of working with editorial professionals, so the process is well understood. But for many nonpublisher clients, the decision to hire a copy-editor or proofreader will be new — it’s the first time the independent author has self-published; the first time a marketing agency has hired a copy-editor to work on its promotional material; the first time a business executive has hired a proofreader to check its reports. First-time clients may need a level of support that publishers don’t.

Support and clear communication take time — and inexperienced editorial folk can fall into the trap of not building the cost of this time into their quotations.

Creeping Costs During the Booking Phase

When a regular publisher client hires me to proofread for them, the communication goes something like this:

Dear Louise,

Are you free to carry out a hard-copy proofread of the following book: Author/title? The job is as follows:

  • 300 pages; 100,000 words
  • PDF proofs delivered: xxx (hard copy will arrive two days later)
  • Proofs to be returned: xxx

Please let me know whether you’re able to take on this project.

 There’s no need for the publisher and I to have a discussion about what “proofreading” entails; there’s no need for me to assess the manuscript prior to proofreading; there’s no need for us to agree on how I will annotate the manuscript; the payment structures are already set up and proven to work; and my client isn’t asking for a free sample proofread before I get cracking on the job. We have a mutual set of expectations about how the process will work. It will take me no more than 5 minutes to read the project manager’s request, check my schedule, and reply accordingly with a Yes or a No. The only thing that might extend the conversation is if I want to ask whether there’s any flexibility on the deadline, owing to my busy schedule. I can’t send the publisher an invoice for those 5 minutes, but we are only talking about 5 minutes.

This contrasts quite sharply with an enquiry from a nonpublisher client with whom I’ve never worked. It’s not uncommon for me to receive requests to quote for proofreading jobs without having any idea of what kind of state the writing is in (and thus whether it’s ready for proofreading), what format it will be in (paper, PDF, Word), what the required time frame is, what the writer’s budget is, what other stages of editing the manuscript has been through, or whether the client knows how to work with Track Changes or other digital mark-up tools.

It’s right and proper that the freelancer and the client do have an in-depth discussion about these issues so that both parties are in agreement about the overall terms and conditions of the project. But this is rarely a discussion that will take 5 minutes.

Additionally, a client who’s not previously used a freelancer’s services might request a free sample proofread so that he or she can assess the supplier’s proficiency (for a good discussion of why free sampling isn’t acceptable to every editorial professional, take a look at Jamie Chavez’s “No More Missus Nice Gal”), just as the freelancer should request a sample of the manuscript in order to confirm that her skill set matches the customer’s requirements. Such negotiations can be lengthy and may even result in the customer needing to find an alternative supplier. All of which is right and proper.

It’s therefore essential to consider the bigger picture when considering the degree to which a particular client or client group “pays well.” Even in the booking phase, there are costs to acquiring business, and these have to be accounted for. Time is money.

In Part II, I look at the additional costs that can creep into the actual editorial stage of a booked-in proofreading project, and the phase after completion.

Louise Harnby is a professional proofreader and the curator of The Proofreader’s Parlour. Visit her business website at Louise Harnby | Proofreader, follow her on Twitter at @LouiseHarnby, or find her on LinkedIn. She is the author of Business Planning for Editorial Freelancers and Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business.

February 4, 2015

Should Editors Eat Donuts?

Filed under: A Humor Interlude,Editorial Matters — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
Tags: , , ,

Not too far from where I live is a Dunkin’ Donuts. I rarely eat donuts these days. I find them too sweet and, more importantly, too fattening. Needless to say, like many Americans who work at sedentary jobs, weight is a problem. I’m a bit more than a tad overweight.

Regardless, there are times when I crave donuts — maybe twice a year. My wife takes the position that I eat them so rarely, if I have a few, it will do me no harm. Of course, that is the argument I give whenever I want to eat something that I know isn’t good for me.

The problem is compounded by the donuts being sugar coated — take a bite and the sugar is everywhere — over the keyboard, on my fingers, on my shirt, even on my black cat! Which brings back memories.

I wish I could say the memories are fond memories, but they aren’t. They are memories of when I first started freelancing and worked on paper. What a nightmare the combination of coffee, donuts, and paper was. Especially the jelly donuts that had a tendency to leak out the opposite side from that I was biting. I still remember trying to catch the jelly before it hit the manuscript only to also knock over my coffee cup (that was in the days when I drank coffee, before I wised up and began drinking only green tea).

There it was — manuscript that I had to return to the client quickly coated with a brown stain topped with red jelly and a dissolved sugar coating that could no longer be simply brushed off. And because the manuscript was in a pile, the brown stain was rapidly making its way through the stack.

As you probably have guessed, I never did get repeat work from that client. But I did learn a valuable lesson: donuts and editing didn’t mix when editing on paper.

I rapidly transitioned from editing on paper to editing onscreen. In fact, the transition was complete within 6 months of my beginning freelancing. I admit that fear of recurring jelly catastrophes was one motivating factor to my transition to onscreen editing only, although the major reason was that in those days very few editors were willing to edit onscreen and my doing so enabled me to get more work and charge more, something I considered a winning combination.

But the transition didn’t solve the problem. In those days, too, I was in great physical shape and didn’t worry about extra pounds (30 years later, I worry about everything I eat), so I could indulge my donut cravings with abandon. But the jelly donuts didn’t cooperate. I’d bite in one and out would come the jelly from the opposite end — kerplunk on my keyboard. It didn’t take long for the jelly to become like a superglue and keep keys from working.

Cleaning those old keyboards was virtually impossible so I did the next best thing: I bought a large quantity of keyboards at wholesale so I could junk a sticky keyboard. Given the choice, I’d scrap the keyboard before I’d give up my donuts. Of course, coffee and soda spills also occasionally happened, but at least no manuscripts were getting destroyed — just keyboards.

I finally had to rethink my priorities when the manufacturer of my favorite keyboards went out of business (Do you remember Gateway Computer’s programmable keyboards?) and I couldn’t buy any more of them. Sure there were other keyboards but these were special because they were programmable.

Eventually I gave up eating donuts while working. I still like a cup of tea, but I haven’t spilled any tea on my keyboard in a couple of decades. But then came last week and I had that craving for a donut. Should I give in to it? Should I just take a break from work and eat it away from my keyboard? Should I gamble and continue working while enjoying a donut or two?

My questions got me thinking about the overriding question: Should editors eat donuts? Let’s face it, donuts aren’t particularly healthy, especially not for an old-timer like me. And no matter how carefully one eats a donut, some of it will end up on the keyboard. Besides eating while working is a distraction. Concentration is broken with each bite and it is so very easy to put sticky fingers on the keys.

After due consideration, I have come to the conclusion that an editor like me should not eat donuts while working, and probably not at all. There just isn’t an upside other than the fleeting sensation of sensory satisfaction. Having thought that, however, didn’t stop me from lusting after a sweet. (I think it was just an excuse to stop reading about hematology!) So I decided to poll the family and see what advice the family would give.

Alas, the “family” these days is my wife, my dog, and my cat. My dog almost never speaks and I haven’t got telepathy mastered, so she didn’t give an opinion. My cat was sleeping and protested at being disturbed. No advice there. That left my wife. In her case, action spoke louder than words — she gave me a donut.

I took the hint, ate the donut, drank some tea, lamented having eaten the donut as it repeated for what seemed an eternity, and swore an oath that there would be no donuts in my future. And to demonstrate the firmness of my decision, I threw away the coupon for free donuts.

I wonder how long my resolve will last.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

February 2, 2015

The Business of Editing: The Crystal Ball Says…

Readers of An American Editor know that one of the tasks I believe an editor has to do — preferably continuously, but at least yearly — is try to determine future trends that might affect their business. This is not easy to do, but it is necessary for a successful future business. Every time I urge prognostication I am asked how to do it and what trends I foresee.

My answer to what trends I foresee has been no answer at all. The reason is that what is a trend for me is not a trend for you. Our businesses, our plans for the future are not the same. What is important to my future business is different from what will be important to your future business.

My answer to how to prognosticate has been vague. The bottom line really is that there is no single, scientific way to prognosticate because there are so many factors involved. But I am going to attempt to illustrate one method and I am going to identify a trend I see for books, especially ebooks.

One thing I have discovered in recent years about colleagues is that many have very narrow reading habits. Surprising to me, some colleagues only read the material they are working on; they do no “outside” reading, preferring to watch television or do other things. Other colleagues do read but either not much or within very narrow confines, generally for amusement rather than for education.

Trend prognostication requires broader reading habits. It is not enough, for example, to read only romance novels when most of your editing is geology journals. Narrow reading is not good for many reasons, including because it limits the scope of your knowledge base expansion. We all have limited reading ranges — because of the sheer volume of material that is available. I struggle to keep up with the books I buy (see the series “On Today’s Bookshelf” for some of the titles I acquire) because I spend a significant amount of time trying to keep up with the periodicals I subscribe to. But between the books and periodicals I read, I get a broader knowledge base from which to discern trends that will affect my business.

“We Know How You Feel”

A good example of an article that triggered future thinking (and the foundation for this essay) is “We Know How You Feel” by Raffi Khatchadourian, which appeared in the January 19, 2015 issue of The New Yorker (pp. 50–59).

The article is a discussion of the current state (and future expectations) for computers to be able to “read” emotions. The idea is not new and has been worked on for decades, but it is in recent years that great strides have been made. Software now can determine whether your facial expression is one of anger or confusion or some other emotion — with 90% accuracy. What the software can do is simply amazing; what is expected in the not-too-distant future is Orwellian.

I read the article and was amazed, but then I began thinking about whether and how this will impact my work. I grant that I am looking a decade down the road, perhaps more, but then the way some companies move, perhaps not. What I ultimately want is to determine how I can position myself so clients need to come to me to take advantage of skills that perhaps only I will have at the beginning of the trend. I want to be able to command and control the market for editorial services in this up-and-coming field.

I hear you asking “What up-and-coming field?” “How can this possibly relate to manuscripts?”

A Future Trend?

Think about how books are bought today and who buys them. (This analysis can be applied to anything with a manuscript; I am using books to encompass all.) In addition to the consumer who buys a book to read, publishers buy books to publish. When a publisher “buys” a book, it does so through an advance. Whenever we buy a book, we gamble that the book will be to our liking or, in the publisher’s case, that it will be a bestseller. The emotion-reading chip of the future could remove that gamble.

The first thing I see is the software being embedded in ebook reading programs and devices. In the case where we download a reading application to our tablet, it will be the tablet that will come with the emotion-detecting software and the downloaded app will link to it. Emotion-detecting software can collect all kinds of data about reader like and dislikes and transmit it to the publisher. Imagine learning that fewer than 25% of the purchasers of a particular book actually read more than 20% of the book and that the reason why is they find it confusing. Perhaps the publisher will rethink publishing the second book in the series or, more likely, will take that information and help the author rework the second book to make it a better seller.

The second thing I see is that the emotion-detecting software will change the way books are sold to consumers. Today we pay in advance; with this software perhaps we will pay only if we like the book or read a certain amount of the book. In other words, all books will be free initially with payment based on liking and amount read. In other words, books will come with an enjoyment guarantee.

The third thing I see — and the most important — is the change in how books are written and the role of the editor in the creation process. I see books being rewritten based on objective reader responses. Today we rely on beta readers telling us what they think about a book. But beta readers miss many clues that only can be picked up via trained observers. For example, a beta reader may well like a book but not realize (or remember) that while reading chapter 4 she was confused or turned off by the characterizations or was very (dis)pleased with an exchange between characters. Or that the author tends to meander, which makes the reader yawn and wonder if the author will ever get back on track.

In other words, emotion-detecting software can make authors and editors more knowledgeable about what is right and what is wrong with a manuscript. Are readers turned off by character names? Are they okay but not happy with the lead character being a grammar school dropout? Do they like the story better when the child is 10 years old rather than 12 years old? Do readers become frustrated every time a particular minor character appears and then become happy when he leaves the storyline? Are readers frustrated by the never-ending acronyms or localisms? How quickly do they tire of the constant, repetitive swear language?

When we use beta readers today, we usually use people who are familiar with the genre. For example, if we are writing a space opera, we tend to find beta readers who are space opera fans. But what can that beta reader tell us about how readers of paranormal or fantasy or steampunk fiction will react to the book? More importantly, if you get a paranormal reader as a beta reader, how valuable is their feedback (today) in determining what will and will not appeal to other paranormal readers?

It is not that beta readers today are not useful; they are very useful. It is that emotion-detecting software can catch all the emotional nuances — the ups and downs, the hates and loves, the likes and dislikes — that we express unconsciously. Instead of “The book reads okay but I do not find the characters interesting,” emotion-detecting software could tell us which characters fit that description, which gave a glimmer of interest, and which were very interesting, thereby enabling an author to rework the manuscript appropriately.

The Editor Who…

The editor who is familiar with emotion-detecting software will be able to better guide an author. The editor will be able to interpret the results, and to discover the writing techniques the author uses that readers like and dislike. (Does, for example, the repetitive use of “further” to begin a sentence annoy readers or do they not care? Or do readers smile at certain character names but frown at others? Is a reader’s reaction to a character related to the character regardless of the character’s name or to the character’s name? Do the readers who read the version of the manuscript that sets the action in Berlin like the book better than those reading manuscript where the action occurs in Cairo? Or vice versa? How are readers reacting to various sections of dialogue? Do readers find the characterizations or the storyline unbelievable? Is it likely that readers will give positive word-of-mouth feedback to fellow readers?)

The editor who can offer such a service first will be able to command higher prices and a unique service. It is like when a few editors, in the days when paper editing was dominant, were able to show publishers how to save money by editing on a computer even though such editors expected to be paid more than other editors. The early-adopting editors had a head start that was difficult for other editors to overcome, especially those editors who resisted the transition.

Emotion-detecting software has the potential to revolutionize the publishing industry, just like the advent of ebooks did and the transition to editing on computers. The question is, will you spot the trend and leap on it? Perhaps today you can only follow progress, but that is what trend-spotting is about: identifying those happenings that need to be followed closely so you can grab the opportunity as soon as possible.

Imagine being the only editor who offers indie authors a way to exponentially increase the likelihood of success. That is what prognostication is all about.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

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