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

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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 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

January 12, 2015

The Proofreader’s Corner: Editorial Business Promotion — Four Mistakes to Avoid

Editorial Business Promotion —
Four Mistakes to Avoid

by Louise Harnby

Wrong and right aren’t words I’m particularly comfortable with when it comes to marketing, given how many different approaches we can take. Nevertheless, there are four basic mistakes that should be avoided when launching an editorial business.

Mistake 1: Not Actually Doing Any Marketing

Here are three ideas that I think it’s important to embrace when launching an editorial business:

  • All businesses should have a marketing strategy
  • All successful businesses do have a marketing strategy
  • If you don’t make yourself interesting and discoverable to potential clients, they won’t know that you can solve their problems

Let’s say that I’ve completed the relevant training, acquired the kit I need, worked out who my target clients are, notified the tax authorities of my business plans, acquired some experience via my mentor, designed my stationery templates, created my accounting spreadsheet, and hired a professional designer to produce a fabulous logo.

Now I need the clients. That means they need to be able to find me and I need to be able to find them. If ne’er the twain meet, I’m unemployed. Being discoverable is the first step to the success of any business, editorial or otherwise, because it bridges the gap between the services we offer and the people who need them. The second step is being interesting enough to retain the potential customer’s attention. Having found us, our potential clients need to feel they want to go further and actually hire us to solve their problems.

If you’re an inexperienced marketer, and feel nervous about the process, take a look at the marketing archive on my blog, The Proofreader’s Parlour; look at Rich Adin’s marketing archive here on An American Editor; explore KOKEdit’s Copyeditors’ Knowledge Base, especially the article Marketing Tips for Freelancers; and read my book Marketing Your Editing & Proofreading Business (there’s a sample marketing plan in the final section to guide you).

No matter how much the thought of actively promoting your editorial business sends shivers up your spine, to not do so is a mistake. Marketing your business gives you opportunity and choice. It puts you in a position where, over time, you can develop the client base, pricing strategy, service portfolio and income stream that you require and desire.

Mistake 2: Marketing Via a Single Platform

Relying on only one particular channel to make yourself discoverable to your customers is better than not doing any marketing at all. But it’s hugely risky—if that platform fails, so do you.

One of my most valuable marketing assets is my website. It’s my shop front and it’s the only space in which I have complete control over the content and design. I’ve put a lot of effort into SEO so I rank highly in the search engines. I use Weebly as my host. But what if the folks at Weebly ran into some horrendous problem and the site was inaccessible for a few days, or even a few weeks? It’s unlikely to happen, but even if it did it wouldn’t be catastrophic because I don’t rely solely on my website for work leads. It’s simply one tool among several.

Another scenario is more likely. Imagine I used to work for a major academic publisher. Now that I’ve launched my new editorial business, I ask a former colleague who works in the journal production department if I can proofread for them. They agree. The publisher has a huge journal list and my colleague keeps me busy with as much proofreading as I need. I don’t solely work for this press (here in the UK, HM Revenue & Customs wouldn’t like that) but it the provider of my primary income stream. Then double disaster strikes — the press merges with a competitor, and my colleague is made redundant. He gets a job for another press, though his new role no longer requires him to hire editorial freelancers. I don’t know anyone in the newly merged organization (though rumor has it they’re taking journal proofreading in-house in order to cut costs) and my colleague can’t take me with him to his new press. I’m scuppered.

Even if you’ve been able to establish a couple of apparently stable and lucrative work streams, and you’ve found that one particular marketing platform or tool works well for you, take the time to investigate other channels. At the very least they’ll provide you with a backup. Moreover, by experimenting with new avenues, you may find that customers whom you’d been invisible to beforehand are now placing you on their radar. That means more opportunities and more choices.

Mistake 3: Focusing Attention in the Wrong Place

Some new entrants to the field can make the mistake of giving information that focuses potential clients’ attention in the wrong place.

Focus on stand-out statements: Imagine a well-educated material scientist who’s decided, for health reasons, to move out of the professional lab and work from home, copy-editing written materials relevant to his scientific educational and career background.

  • He’s a new entrant to the field of professional editing
  • He doesn’t have an extensive client list or portfolio
  • He has yet to acquire any paid work, though he has edited (on a gratis basis) two engineering theses for students he met through is workplace. He’s also edited and contributed a significant number of reports and papers, and been involved with the boards of several industry-recognized journals
  • He’s in the middle of a comprehensive copy-editing training course run by a recognized national provider
  • He considers advertising the fact that he can offer lower rates because he’s in the early stages of developing his editorial business

His clients don’t need to know most of the above because most of those facts don’t represent him in the best light. Instead, he should focus on his stand-out qualities:

  • He specializes in editing for students, academics and professional institutions
  • He has a BSc in Chemistry, an MChem in Chemistry with Nanotechnology, and a twenty-year career background in material science
  • His extensive scientific knowledge and experience enable him to copy-edit papers, books, journal articles and reports to an industry-required standard
  • He has contributed to and edited numerous reports for colleagues in his twenty-year career
  • He has published articles in Nano Today, Chemistry of Materials, Journal of Materials Chemistry A, and Materials Research Bulletin, and sat on the boards of The Journal of Materials Science (2003–2009) and Materials Today (2009–2012)
  • His rates are in line with those suggested by the Society for Editors and Proofreaders [or other professional editorial society] and the National Union of Journalists [or other recognized body]

If what you say doesn’t sell your business in a way that makes you interesting, recast your message. If you lack experience and an extensive portfolio, focus instead on positive selling points that make the customer feel confident about hiring you to solve their problems.

Our message needs to focus on the skills we have to offer, not those we’ve yet to acquire.

Sell your positives, not others’ negatives: It’s also imperative that your message does indeed focus on what you have to offer. Just case you are one of the few people on the planet who thinks that focusing on a competitor’s or colleague’s mishaps rather than your own skills is a good marketing strategy (I’m sure you’re not!), then this is a quick reminder that it’s disastrous in terms of PR. Why?

  1. Pointing out a competitor’s foibles focuses the client’s attention on the competitor’s business rather than your own.
  2. Such an approach destroys integrity, which leads to a lack of trust. And if they don’t trust you, they won’t hire you. We need to make ourselves interesting and visible rather than trying to make our competitors look incompetent and unworthy of discovery.

You might enjoy this article by Lauren Bacon, who considers the benefits for business owners who move away from critical thought processes (as well as actions), and turn instead towards a what-can-I-learn approach: “How Trashing Others Holds You Back.”

Mistake 4: Ignoring Traditional Marketing Methods

Before Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, editorial professionals had to promote their businesses using telephone and postal services, face-to-face meetings, and onsite networking groups. These methods worked then, and they still work now—don’t make the mistake of ignoring them in the belief that they’re out-dated.

Social media profiles, websites, and emails are all excellent and immediate ways to make yourself discoverable. However, from the client’s point of view they are as easy to discard as they are to access, precisely because they are digital methods of contact.

A cleverly designed postcard can be tacked onto a wall; a targeted CV and covering letter can be read anywhere, even if there’s no internet connection, and held on file; a well-thought-out gift pack will be appreciated, talked about and used; and a business card can all be retained in a wallet, purse or card deck.

I’ve addressed in more detail the benefits of letter writing on the SfEP blog (“Don’t forget the “old” ways: marketing via letter writing“), and I’ve discussed custom card-giving here on AAE (“The Proofreader’s Corner: Giving Your Business Promotion the Personal Touch“). See also Rich Adin’s “The Business of Editing: Thinking Holidays“, an excellent guide to gifting.

Balancing immediacy and permanence is key to a well-rounded marketing strategy. By using a mixture of the two, you will enhance your visibility and spike your customer’s interest.

Summing up

  • Even if you’re nervous about the idea of actively promoting your business, don’t avoid it—make yourself discoverable to your clients so that, over time, you provide yourself with opportunities and choice.
  • Use a variety of channels to cover your back. That way you’ll minimize the chances of unexpectedly, and through no fault of your own, being without a work stream.
  • Make yourself interesting to your clients by drawing their attention to your business—the key skills and knowledge that you possess to help them solve their problems; the things about you that differentiate you, that make you stand out.
  • Use a combination of traditional and digital marketing tools so that your promotional campaigns have both immediacy and permanence.

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.

January 7, 2015

The Business of Editing: Discounting Rates

It has been asked: Is discounting your rate ever justified? The answer is “yes, but not usually.” We have all been faced with the dilemma: Should we offer a discount in order to get the job? Or because the potential client is a student? Or [fill in the blank]? The answer is not easy. I begin where I always begin when it comes to rates — with the effective hourly rate (EHR). Discounting a rate is like setting a rate in that you must first know how much you have to earn to keep yourself afloat. It is neither very smart nor does you any good to earn less than your required EHR.

Many years ago I would have said that it is better to have some income than no income. That was in my days of not applying business practices to my business and not realizing the potential of my business. The truth is that it is not better to have some income than no income. It is only better if that income meets your required EHR. Note that I am speaking of required, not desired, EHR. I learned quickly that rather than take on work that was below my required EHR I was better served spending my time marketing myself, trying to find work that would meet my required EHR. This is also true when it comes to discounting my rate.

I never discount to a rate that is below my required EHR; I want to be able to pay my bills, which is something I will not be able to do if I do not meet my required EHR. There are several factors at play. First, before discounting my rate, I need to be earning overall more than my required EHR, and preferably close to my desired EHR. It is that difference — the difference between my earned EHR and my required EHR — that is the negotiable area.

Second, the client needs to be a repeating client. It does me no good financially to provide a discount to a one-off client, even if I think that client will tell friends and neighbors how great I am. The reason is that the one-off client will also tell friends and neighbors what he paid and the friends and neighbors will be expecting a similar discount. For repeat clients, especially institutional clients, I am willing to consider a discount because I know I can make up for the loss on the particular project on future projects or because it is worth my while to charge a little less in exchange for a larger volume of work. Which brings me to the third point.

Third, volume discounting is reasonable as long as the discount does not go below my required EHR. In the case of a volume client, I always keep in mind my Rule of Three (see “The Business of Editing: The Rule of Three“) as it will do me no particular good to have a lot of business that I am losing money on. But volume clients are what I want because such clients assure me year-round profitable work. In a sense we have gone full circle. Discounting one’s rate is acceptable in the circumstance that doing so does not bring the rate below one’s required EHR.

Where most of us part ways is with the other requirements. Usually the argument is that

  • it is a new subject area for me that I want to explore
  • the client is poor
  • the subject matter of the project is one that I am very interested in

and other similar “reasons.”

The first question to ask yourself is this: Are you a business or a charity? If you are a charity, then these reasons have some merit; if you are a business, these reasons have no merit. As a business, you need to earn enough to stay in business and even to earn a profit. Why remain in a business that cannot provide income sufficient for your needs?

The second question to ask yourself is this: If I undertake this project, will it preclude me from taking on a higher-paying project? If it will, then it should be avoided. Why take on a project that costs you both money and opportunity?

The third question to ask yourself is this: If I take on this project will I have the time and money and energy to market myself to better-paying potential clients? If no, then don’t take on this discounted project. Discounting is fine when you are in a position to do so, when your business is such that whatever loss you will take can be made up for. It is also fine when it is connected to volume. But under no circumstance is it fine to discount below your required EHR, which means you must have calculated your required EHR beforehand. (To calculate your required EHR, see the five-part series “Business of Editing: What to Charge.”)

One thing we haven’t considered is the worth/value of your editing. I consider myself a highly skilled professional. My services can make a difference. How valuable are those services? The more valuable they are, the less willingly they should be discounted. I differentiate my services by the price I charge and the quality I provide; discounting takes away that differentiation. And it becomes a slippery slope: If I discounted today, why not tomorrow? The consumer will neither understand nor accept the fine differences we use to distinguish among projects and clients; if my price was $x yesterday, the consumer expects it to be $x today and on both days expects high-quality service.

Are there times you can discount? Yes. Are there times when you should discount? Yes. The way your  recognize those times begins with knowing your required EHR and evaluating whether giving the discount will further a legitimate business interest. In the absence of either, no discounting should be given, and under no circumstance should a discount result in an EHR below your required EHR.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

January 5, 2015

The Ethics of Editing: Padding the Bill

It has been a while since the last discussion on ethics (see “The Ethics of Editing: The Sour Job“) and I thought it is time to return to the topic of ethics in editing. Today’s first question, as asked by Teresa Barensfeld, is:

Is it ever okay to pad your hours if billing hourly?

The quick, concise, and precise answer is: In my view, no, it is never okay to pad one’s bill.

Analysis begins from this perspective: (a) If I were the client, would I expect a vendor to pad its bill? (b) Would I be happy with the vendor if the vendor padded its bill? (c) Is this how I want to be treated in every-day transactions — be told one price yet being charged a higher price than quoted? No matter how I twist and turn, I find that my answer is consistently “no.”

In the scenario at hand, the editor and the client have agreed upon an hourly rate which is supposed to represent actual hours worked. (This is why many editors do not work on an hourly basis; it is too limiting.) The client has certain expectations that presumably were discussed beforehand, such as how many hours the project is expected to take.

And that is where the problem lies. The editor assumed that the project would require a certain amount of hours only to discover that, for example, it took half the expected time. Now is when the question of padding arises. Does the editor bill for the expected number of hours or for the actual hours worked? Or does the editor bill for some number of additional hours, a number between actual hours spent and expected hours, or for actual hours?

If you hire a plumber to do some work and the plumber tells you the price is $100 an hour and that the job is expected to take 10 hours, but the job goes faster and only takes 5 hours, do you want to pay $500 or $1,000? I know that as the client I want to pay what was agreed: $100 an hour for the actual number of hours.

If that is my expectation in my personal transactions, on what basis would I assume or expect my client to willingly pay me for more than what was bargained: my actual time? In fact, we tend to separate our positions. When we are the consumer we expect vendors, which are typically companies, to behave in a manner that benefits us. And when we are the vendor, we want our clients to behave in a manner that benefits us, which means being willing to pay for expected time rather than actual time.

I view this question as being a fraction of the entire contract between myself and my client. My contract includes the scope of the work to be performed, the schedule for my performance, and the expected payment time frame, among other things. Consequently, if I expect my client to pay me timely as per our agreement, should not my client expect me to bill per our agreement?

The not-discussed questions, which arise from the original question, are these:

  1. What if the expectation is that the project will take no more than 100 hours but the editor is 75% done and has already reached the 100-hour mark?
  2. Does the expectation act as a billing ceiling?
  3. What are the editor’s obligations?
  4. The client’s obligations?
  5. What effect do the answers to these questions have on the answer to padding?

These questions need to be addressed but another day. Today, the focus is on padding. I see no justification for padding one’s bill. Yet the question appears to become more involved and the answer more complex when we consider the following variances (which Teresa Barensfeld raised as part of her padding question):

What if the client tells you that although it accepts your flat-fee price, because of the company’s accounts payable policy, you still have to bill by the hour, with the knowledge that the number of hours on your invoice is not the actual number of hours, but the number that will make the final amount equal your flat fee? What if the client told you this after you started the job?

In this situation, there has been a major/significant change in the project terms. We have gone from an agreed hourly rate to an agreed project fee (“flat fee”). This is a very major/significant change. The client’s expectation is that the project will cost $x, regardless of whether the project takes 5 hours or 50 hours to complete. (Worth noting is that there is no difference between a project fee and a per-page fee assuming that there is agreement upfront on what constitutes a page. In both instances, a project’s total cost is determinable in advance by a client and the client’s predetermined cost should match the editor’s predetermined fee.)

The quibble, and it is a quibble, is whether how a project needs to be invoiced (in this case in hours) makes a difference. My answer is “no, it makes no difference.” Some accounting systems need certain data to work correctly; it is simply a method for getting to the correct result. In the suggested scenario, preparing the invoices to reflect hours even if the editor didn’t actually work those hours, is just an accommodation to the client’s mechanical process. I would also add that the request is being made by the client, not the editor.

The distinction is not subtle — dare I use the word? The distinction is between fraud and no fraud. In the original circumstance where the agreement was $x per hour, the expectation was that editor would charge for actual hours worked. In such circumstance, padding amounts to fraud (deceit, if you prefer). In the current circumstance, the client is being asked to pay the exact amount agreed upon, thus no fraud/deceit. There is no padding.

And in this instance the agreed-upon flat fee acts as a ceiling. It does not matter whether it takes the editor 5 hours, 50 hours, or 150 hours to complete the project — the total cost to the client remains the same. Of course, we run into the same questions should the editor determine that the project is taking longer than expected and the editor wants to add to the agreed-upon fee for those additional hours.

The ending question (“What if the client told you this after you started the job?”) makes no difference in my estimation. This is simply an accounting procedure because that is how the client’s system is set up. There is no dispute regarding the fee to be paid/charged. Ultimately, that is the issue: Is a dispute about the amount to be paid created by the editor’s actions? If yes, then there may be an ethical question; if no, then there is no ethical question (assuming the method for calculating the fee is itself legal and ethical).

So, my answer is that padding is always unethical (and tantamount to fraud) but accommodating a client’s request to bill for the agreed-upon sum in a certain way because the client’s accounting system requires it is not unethical in the situation presented.

Do you agree?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

(Do you have questions about ethics that you would like to see discussed? You can either ask them in comments to this essay or drop me an email with the question[s].)

January 4, 2015

Worth Reading: Workers on Tap

As long-time readers of An American Editor know, I am a long-time subscriber to The Economist (my current subscription runs through 2022), a magazine I think all freelancers should read regularly. One reason why I believe this is demonstrated in these articles from the current issue: “The On-demand Economy: Workers on Tap” and “The Future of Work: There’s an App for That.”

“Workers on Tap” and “There’s an App for That” are must-read articles for all of us. They are not directly aimed at editors and publishing, but they could be without much stretch.

In my recent essay, “Business of Editing: Getting Ready for the New Year,” I mentioned the need for us to look for and evaluate trends that might or will affect our business in the coming and future years. One of the resources I use to identify trends that might affect my business is The Economist; articles like “Workers on Tap” and “There’s an App for That” is why. These articles have given me a great deal of food for thought; perhaps they will do the same for you.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

December 31, 2014

Business of Editing: Getting Ready for the New Year

In a matter of hours, the new year will arrive. Are you prepared?

Preparation for the new year involves mundane tasks like getting your “books” (accounts receivable and payable) ready for the new fiscal year and esoteric tasks, such as analyzing the past year’s business and trying to predict (and prepare for) the trends of the new year.

Getting my fiscal books in order is pretty easy. I use QuickBooks Pro because of all the analytical tools it offers. Using QuickBooks means that I have nothing to do to prepare for the new year, at least as far as that program is concerned. An advantage to QuickBooks is that it is easy to compare time periods. Knowing how the ending fiscal year stacked up against the prior year gives me an idea of how accurate my predictions for the now-ending year were and how successful my efforts at self-promotion were.

I also use Excel. I have found Excel to be the best (for me) method of tracking project information that QuickBooks doesn’t in the absence of expensive customization, such as the number of hours a project took and the pages-per-hour rate. (QuickBooks will let me input the information, but there isn’t a built-in analytical tool that will make use of the information or make it readily accessible.) For me, this information is very valuable because it allows me to track my actual performance against my required Effective Hourly Rate (EHR) and my desired EHR.

Excel also lets me see at a glance the projects and the rates I have received from clients. Because Excel is intended for customization, I have been able to create data sheets that provide me with valuable business information. And because I created a master version of the forms, it is easy to set up the spreadsheets for the new year.

Those are the mundane tasks; they require little creativity or speculation to set up each year. Most of my time, however, is devoted to the esoteric tasks — trying to determine trends for the upcoming year and how I can improve my business.

The esoteric begins with an analysis of the closing year. For example, was my business up or down or neutral? Did I generate, more, less, or the same revenue as the prior fiscal year from more, fewer, or the same number of projects as the prior year? The answer to this latter question is particularly important in my year-ending analysis. What I do not want to discover is that I generated the same income but from more projects; what I do want to discover is that I generated more income from fewer projects.

I also want to know whether clients have changed over the year. I also want to know if the types of projects changed. And I want to know whether any (and how many) projects were unique and unlikely to be replicated in the new year. By this, I do not mean subject matter or title; rather, I mean, for example, was a project’s size unique and not likely to be replicated or were a larger number of projects on shorter schedules, which results in a higher fee, than usual.

With your sharp editorial eye, you will have noticed that I am a great believer in data and the data-driven business, and the planning that the data lets me do. Planning is important for lots of reasons, not least of which are taxes and investment. I have learned over my now 31 years in the business that I can fairly closely predict what my business will be like in the new year if I follow a plan. I have also learned the importance of creating a plan for the new year.

When I analyze the data of the ending fiscal year and the data of past years, I can see what steps I took that brought me new and “improved” business and what steps did nothing and what steps cost me time, money, and effort for no reward and perhaps even a loss. No plan is perfect and no plan is guaranteed to succeed, but having a plan is like having a compass in the woods.

Consider just one element: advertising. At the end of the fiscal year I carefully analyze what I spent advertising, how I spent it, and on whom I spent it. I compare that information to the same information from past years. What I learn is that dollars spent on method x generated little to no business, whereas dollars spent on y generated a significant increase in business. But I also learn whether the dollar amount spent on y is excessive for the amount of business generated — it makes little sense in my business plan to spend $1,000 to generate $1,200 worth of business: the ratio is wrong. However, it does make sense to spend $250 to generate $1,200 in business: the ratio is right.

And because I track my time carefully, I can also discover whether the time required by a particular advertising campaign is worth spending: sometimes one is better off spending the time “regenerating” oneself by reading a book than spending it on promotion efforts that bring little reward.

This analysis is particularly important when much of the “advertising” that is done to day amounts to participation on social media. Does the time spent on LinkedIn, for example, bring in sufficient business to justify the spending of the time? A common mistake that is made in making such a determination is not assigning the time spent a dollar equivalent; that is, each hour spent on social media should be “charged” at least at your required EHR (and better yet, at your desired EHR). If you spent 100 hours on social media in 2014 and your required EHR is $50, then the time should be valued at $5,000. If, as a result of your spent time you brought in $2,000 in revenue you would not otherwise have had, then social media is a losing proposition. (The value of social media is not just in new revenue, and those other values should be factored in if important to you. For some people, those other factors are more important than revenue; for others, only revenue matters.)

However, as part of that analysis, you also need to analyze the $2,000 in revenue. Was the work you did to earn that amount at, above, or below your required EHR?

The point is that with the change of years, it is time to prepare for the new year and make a plan to tackle the challenges you can expect. If your business was not where you wanted it to be in the ending fiscal year, then it is time to set it on the correct course. Analyzing the ending fiscal year and past fiscal years is the start, but it is not the end. You also need to try to analyze and predict industry trends. (See Are Boom Times Coming? for an example of trying to trend spot.) If you can identify a trend for your niche, you can try to exploit it in the upcoming year.

Get prepared for the new year now!

Richard Adin, An American Editor

December 15, 2014

The Business of Editing: Playing It Safe

Some time ago I wrote about my experience with ransomware (see Business of Editing: URLs, Authors, & Viruses, The Business of Editing: Backing Up Is Easy to Do, and Articles Worth Reading: More on Ransomware). As I made clear in the first essay, I attacked the problem aggressively and prepared for disaster.

Sandboxie

Recently I took yet another step. This step is ideal for those of you unable or unwilling to invest in the type of computer setup I did, which I admit is not cheap. But this step is very inexpensive — it cost me $20.50 (the price was €15 and this was the conversion price). More important than the price is the protection I gained.

Sandboxie is a great way to access the Internet in protected mode. Sandboxie is for more than accessing the Internet, but that is all I use it for. Sandboxie opens programs and browsers in a “sandbox,” which means that anything that gets downloaded doesn’t get downloaded to your computer where it can do harm; it gets downloaded into a sandbox.

I use Internet Explorer as my web browser. I have now set it so that when I open IE, it opens in a sandbox. When I download, for example, client files from an FTP site, Sandboxie asks me whether I want to first open the files in a protected sandbox or save them to my hard drive. Basically, what Sandboxie is doing is setting off space on my hard drive as protected space that prevents malware from accessing my real files. Should it turn out that I have downloaded malware, I can instruct Sandboxie to delete it, knowing that the malware never got the chance to compromise my hard drive.

How important is this? The impetus for my looking for a program like Sandboxie was news reports about Cryptolocker. Cryptolocker is ransomware of the most vicious type. It attacks your data files and encrypts them. You either pay the ransom or never get access to your data files. Apparently even the data recovery companies, which charge several thousand dollars to recover data, are unable to break the encryption or if they can, not for a reasonable price and not for anything close to the price of Sandboxie.

In speaking with my computer technician about Cryptolocker, he said I had two choices should I get infected: pay the ransom or completely reformat my hard drive and reinstall all files (assuming I have backups of all of the data files). Both are expensive alternatives to Sandboxie.

Paying the ransom is problematic. They do send you the decryption key but they also leave on your computer the means to reencrypt. I have heard of instances where several months later that is what happened — renecryption with a new ransom demand.

Reformatting the hard drive is also problematic because it takes quite a bit of time and it assumes that (a) your backups are current and so you do not lose any information, (b) that your backups aren’t of encrypted files, and (c) that the backup doesn’t include Cryptolocker or similar ransomware malware.

This video from Sandboxie explains how it works:

It is pretty hard to go wrong for €15. The only thing I do not like is that the license is for one computer and for one year. I mind the one year less than the one computer limitation, but the bottom line is that this is very inexpensive protection from a very serious — and potentially very costly — problem. Sandboxie does offer a 30-day trial period; I tried it for 5 minutes and bought it.

Startpage

The other thing that I dislike about the Internet is that whenever I look for something online, I am leaving a trail for spammers; there is a lack of privacy. So I have started using Startpage, for my searches.

Startpage is free. Basically it is an overlay to Google. Instead of directly running a search through Google, you run it from Startpage. Information about Startpage is available here.

All searches and website accesses done via Startpage are done from Startpage’s servers, so it is Startpage’s IP address that is seen, not yours. And cookies are downloaded to Startpage’s proxy servers, not to your computer.

There are limitations. For example, it doesn’t support JavaScript, which means some features on some websites are not usable. But Startpage gives you an option to connect direct rather than via its proxy servers. (For a video on Startpage Proxy Servers, click here.)

This is an excellent free service. Check it out.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

December 10, 2014

The Proofreader’s Corner: Giving Your Business Promotion the Personal Touch

Giving Your Business Promotion the Personal Touch

by Louise Harnby

The holidays are round the corner. We freelancers, and our clients, are working flat out to finalize current projects (or to find a comfortable pause point) before we take a short break for the end-of-year festivities. In the Harnby household we celebrate Christmas, so my mind’s on the tree we’re getting this weekend and the couple of hours we’ll spend decorating it with some of the beautiful baubles I’ve collected over the years. I’ll turn 48 next March but looking at that tree will give me the same warm, fuzzy feeling it did 4 decades ago!

I love this time of year — the lights, the gift wrapping, the tree, the decorations, the frost on the holly bush in our garden. Here’s the thing, though — it’s also a really good time to do some targeted and personal business promotion to past and present clients.

I could have sent an email to my customers, wishing them well and telling them I’m looking forward to working with them in 2015, even if I haven’t heard from them in a while. I could have gone a little further and sent them a holiday card from that rather nice selection box I picked up a few weeks ago.

Both of those are fine — that’s what most people do. Each of my customers can add his or her card to the pile of other cards from other freelancers. If I’m lucky, he or she will hang it up on their pin board. But that’s about as much impact as it will make. It will be appreciated for what it is — one not-so-interesting example among many. Still, my clients are nice people and they’ll appreciate the thought.

Getting the Client Talking

What if I can do better than just “fine”? What if I want more than a quick nod of appreciation? What if I could garner more than an appreciative smile? What if I got them talking? What if I could make the following happen?

Kim:  “Hey, Joe, look at what’s just arrived from Louise Harnby!”
Joe:  “Who’s Louise Harnby?!”
Kim:  “One of the proofreaders I use.”
Joe:  “She any good?”
Kim:  “Yeah, she’s top notch. But look at this fabulous custom card she just sent me. Isn’t it brilliant?”
Joe:  [Looks at my card] “Ha! That’s great. I want one of those! It’s got her website info on it, too. I’ll take a look — I need a good proofreader for that crime novel I’ve got coming up in two months. Mind if I give her a call to check her schedule?”
Jane:  “What’s all the noise about, guys? Oh, Kim, that card is funny! Who gave you that?”
Kim:  “It’s from one of my proofreaders, Louise Harnby. She’s great. You should try her out.”

In the above scenario, my holiday card has turned into a talking point. It’s no longer one client smiling appreciatively at a card; instead, three people are talking about my business. And that’s the point, as Rich Adin reminds us: “You must not forget the primary reason for sending a gift, which is to promote you. Consequently, whatever you send should be something that can be (is likely to be) shared among office colleagues or shown around” (“The Business of Editing: Thinking Holidays,” 2014). I’d recommend reading Adin’s article in full, not least because it offers useful advice on timing.

Certainly, many of us have clients who work alone, so sending a customized card won’t always generate a conversation. But at the very least it will get you noticed by those whose radars you’ve slipped off, perhaps because you haven’t worked for them recently. If like me, however, you work for larger corporations such as publishers, and have one managing editor working within a larger team, this scenario could very well lead to your client discussing you and your work with colleagues.

Customize It!

This year I decided to make my own holiday cards. I say “make my own” — I drew the pictures and wrote the words, but I let a professional take care of the printing. The thing is, you don’t have to be a gifted artist — I’m not. All you have to do is stand out, thereby giving the client a reason keep the card, place it in a prominent position, and talk about it. If it’s in front of them, and it’s branded with your logo and your web address, it becomes more than a holiday card — it’s also a huge business card. It keeps you (or puts you back) on your client’s radar; what’s more, you might well end up on your client’s colleagues’ radars too.

This year, my seasonal greetings come in the form of large postcards (see below), with my business name and website address on the front, and a picture of a snowy scene that I drew in Microsoft Publisher, using nothing more than the Shapes tool. I differentiated my cards by incorporating the UK proof-correction symbols in the design — the snowflakes are made from while delete symbols; the tree is decorated with insert carats, transposition instructions, space markers, and so on; and “Christmas” is spelled incorrectly (I used the relevant symbols to mark the error). Then I added my business name and website address. The reverse was left blank so that I could write a personal message to each recipient.

Harnby Christmas card 2014

I uploaded a PDF of the final design to a UK high-street printer’s website (Vistaprint). Printing costs worked out at less than a pound per card (including envelopes). The stock is 350g, so it’s sturdy, and the cards have a gloss finish that looks great but still allows me to write on the reverse using a standard pen.

I’m thrilled with the results. Each of my clients will get a custom card that I hope will make them smile — and make them talk. I’m wishing them a Happy Christams [sic], but I’m marketing my business too.

Appreciating Others’ Beliefs

I chose to send Christmas cards this year. What if my clients have different beliefs? Will I offend them? The clients I’m sending these cards to are those whom I’ve worked with for years. They send me Christmas cards, too, so I’m not going to be offending them by reciprocating.

As our relationships with particular clients grow, we learn more about them and their preferences. As time passes, we can be more personal. But as a business trying to accomplish multiple tasks with a single stroke of the pen, we do need to tread cautiously and use common sense.

I’ve worked in publishing, particularly academic publishing, for over two decades. I’ve found this industry to be one that is particularly open, tolerant, and celebratory of difference. I suspect that most recipients of cards with messages that don’t match their own belief systems will accept them with good grace, rather than taking offence. Still, if you are worried that you might offend even one of the clients you are gifting, make your season messages neutral. “Seasonal greetings,” “Happy holidays,” and “Peace and good health” are sentiments shared the world over.

Other Ideas?

You don’t have to do it my way, of course. Your budget will determine what’s feasible; your creativity will do the rest. If your clients celebrate different holidays because of different belief systems, your choice of how to communicate will be influenced by this.

Other ideas could include mugs, fridge magnets, pens, Post-It notes, baubles, other small decorations, perhaps even food, all with a holiday theme and branded with your logo and website address.

The holidays are a time for giving. Telling our clients that we wish them well, value their custom, have enjoyed working with them in the past, and look forward to doing so in the future, is common sense. To differentiate ourselves while we’re doing it is good business practice.

Happy holidays to all of you who’ve read my column on Rich’s blog in 2014. I wish you all peace and good health for the rest of the year and beyond. See you in the New Year!

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.

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