An American Editor

March 30, 2015

Business of Editing: Does Market Perception Matter?

In recent discussions about pricing of services it was suggested that perception of worth was an important factor in the battle to obtain higher fees. It was suggested that by setting pricing too low, potential clients would balk at hiring the freelancer because of the perception that the freelancer cannot be very good, which perception is based solely on the low price. The advice then being that it is better to turn down low-priced work than to give the market opportunity to misperceive the worth of your services and your skill level. (See “The Real Problem with Low Freelance Rates” by Jake Poinier for the original argument.)

At first blush, the argument appears to have value, but after thinking about it for a while, I think the argument of market perception is a very minor matter.

We need to begin at the very beginning: How does a freelancer know what is too low a price to charge? No discussion regarding pricing can have any merit if this riddle is not solved first. We have had this discussion before, and the resolution begins with knowing your required effective hourly rate (rEHR). (For that discussion, see the multipart series “Business of Editing: What to Charge.”) In the absence of knowing your rEHR, it is not possible to know whether the price you are contemplating charging a client is too low.

The second prong of the answer lies in knowing what price is the general price for the services required in your market. Each market has its own pricing scheme. Editing reports that are going to be submitted to a government agency is likely to be more expensive for the client than the editing of the novel that will be self-published. And working for a packager will carry a different market price than working directly with researchers seeking to polish an article for journal publication.

The third prong is delineation of the services. Too often we use a general term, such as copyediting, and assume that everyone understands the term to mean exactly the same thing. Of course, the reality is much different and you cannot compare my copyediting with your copyediting unless we have come to a mutual agreement as to what copyediting entails. We have to compare apples with apples, and even then, we need to compare cooking apples with cooking apples rather than cooking apples with eating apples.

A fourth prong is also fundamental to the answer: Under what conditions are you working? By this I mean are you in a position to turn down low-paying work and hold out, perhaps for months, until something comes along that meets the definition of “not too low paying”? In other words, are you the sole source of income in your household? If not, does the other person in the household earn enough that you can sit idly by waiting?

This fourth prong is the most often overlooked prong when discussions about pricing occur. It is easy if you have a lot of money in the bank or a spouse who has a secure job and earns enough to pay all the bills; it is not so easy if your income is the primary (or lone) income in the household. Yet when the argument about market perception is made, it is rarely disclosed why the argument’s author believes he can take the high road.

These prongs (and others not mentioned) are key to understanding why it is easy to make the market perception argument but not so easy to abide by it. Yet there is an even more fundamental flaw with the market perception argument, which relates to how many of your clients actually view the market that way. That is almost an unanswerable. In the absence of actually getting a prospective client to tell you why you are not getting a particular project and telling you honestly, measuring market perception’s effect on your business is nigh impossible.

My experience among my market is that I lose work because my prices are too high. In 31 years of editing, I have never had a prospective client tell me my prices were too low; only that they are too high. And when you peruse the various forums, you rarely see someone say that they didn’t hire an editor because the editor’s price was too low; invariably, the reason is that the price is too high. (When I do read a comment questioning pricing that is too low, with a little investigating I discover that commenter is a colleague, not a buyer of services.)

Is this to say that there aren’t clients who do not react negatively to low pricing? No, because I have no doubt there are such people. But the key is that they are not in my market and that is the market with which I need to be concerned.

There is another fundamental flaw with the market perception argument. The argument rails against low pricing but never identifies what is correct pricing or the maximal pricing. It is always couched in low pricing terms (which also is never really identified — is $25 an hour too low? How about $35? Or $50? Or $100? Or is $50 too high and $35 both correct and maximal?), which leads us back to where we began: How can pricing be judged if we do not know our rEHR?

And equally important: How can our pricing be judged if our EHR remains unknown?

I have made this argument numerous times yet still colleagues talk in terms of too low pricing. The key is not the pricing but what you can turn that price point into. If your rEHR is $20 and your EHR is $40 and your price point is $2 per manuscript page, is your price point too low? I think not.

One other point about the market perception argument. It is always couched in terms of how clients view you but is really based on how colleagues view you and the desires of colleagues. I think we would all agree that high-quality editing is a very valuable service. I know that we could come to an agreement as what is a fair rate that every editor should minimally charge. I also know that we can all agree that some colleagues charge too little for their editorial work. But when we make these agreements they are made base on our desire to be better compensated for the work we perform.

What we want is for everyone else to adhere to a standard we impose so that we can be part of a rising compensation tide. That is, the market perception argument is not based on what is good for you, but on what is good for me. And that is the ultimate flaw of the argument: the lack of agreement as to what is good for me.

Regardless of how you come down on the validity and worth of the market perception pricing argument, in the absence of knowing your rEHR and your EHR and understanding your market, it is not possible to determine where your pricing fits in the market perception scheme.

Does the market’s perception of your pricing affect your market’s view of your skills? Do you agree or disagree with the market perception argument. Do you know your rEHR and EHR?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

March 25, 2015

The Business of Editing: Making Search & Replace Efficient & Profitable

Readers of An American Editor know by now my mantra: It has to be profitable! Profit is subject to myriad meanings; for me it means financial profit, whereas for other editors it has no financial meaning — rather, it must be soul satisfying; other editors have other meanings. The key is not how profit is defined but that profit represents what we, individually, seek when we take on an editorial project.

When profit is defined in financial terms, it sets the parameters for how an editor approaches a project. With financial profit as the motivator, the editor seeks to do the very best job he can do but in the least amount of time. It was with that in mind that EditTools was created; it was with that in mind that Editor’s Toolkit Plus and PerfectIt and myriad other time-saving macros were created.

Microsoft Word’s Find Feature

One of the “headaches” of the type of editing work I generally do (medical textbooks) is the use of acronyms and abbreviations (hereafter combined into “acronyms”). For most of my clients, the general rule is that an acronym must be used not less than four times in a document (i.e., once when it is defined plus three additional instances); if it is used fewer times, then it should always be spelled out. However, if it is used enough times that it is kept, then it should be defined only at first use and not again.

Applying that rule could be relatively easy in Word 2010, for example, because the Find feature, which opens the Navigation pane, can give you a count, as shown in the image below. (For a better view of an image in this essay, click on the image to enlarge it.)

Word 2010 Navigation Pane: Find

Word 2010 Navigation Pane: Find

In this example, I searched for the abbreviation for hemoglobin: Hb (#1). Word tells me that there are 11 “matches” (#2) and I can see the 11 matches in the pane (#3). If I click on one of the entries in the pane (yellow highlighted box), Word will take me to that item and highlight it (#4). This is fine for telling me how many times Hb appears in the document, but Word limits the value of this function in several ways.

One limit occurs if you want to look up something that also can be found in myriad other constructs. For example, the acronym Th is used to represent T helper-type cell and if I search for Th, I get a response like that highlighted in this image:

Too many results to preview

In other words, Find is not going to be helpful. Another problem with Word’s Find function is that it includes the whole document, you cannot tell it to search and report back only up to a particular point. Why is that a problem? In the example document I am using for this essay, there are 65 references, many of which include Hb, and none of which do I want in my count. I want in my count only the primary text. According to Word, the example document is 33 pages, but the main text fills only 21 of those pages. The result is that the count word gave me (11 instances of Hb; see #2 in the image “Word 2010 Navigation pane: Find” above) is not accurate for determining whether Hb should be retained as an acronym.

Word’s Find also has another failing, which for me is a big failing: In a long document with lots of acronyms, Word’s Find gives me no way to easily determine whether an acronym has been previously defined. So if I encounter an acronym on page 5, where it is first defined, and then again on page 12, where it is defined again, absent good memory or conducting another Find search, I am unlikely to recall/know that the acronym has already been defined. There are things I could do — for example, I could go to each instance of Hb via the Navigation pane and highlight each and scan the nearby text to delete redefinitions — but that takes time, especially if there are a lot of instances, and thus eats into profit. That would be especially true with those chapters I have to edit where the text portion alone runs more than 100 pages (and sometimes 200 or more pages).

An Alternative Method:
Enhanced Search, Count, & Replace

For me the best way to deal with the question of acronyms is with EditTools’ ESCR (Enhanced Search Count, & Replace) macro. The macro is found on EditTools’ Highlight menu (red arrow in image below).

ESCR on the Highlight Menu in EditTools

ESCR on the Highlight Menu in EditTools

Because what I want to do is find out how many times hemoglobin (Hb) appears in the main text, I temporarily added (Hb) to the document (as shown in the image below) so that I could do a search for the terms separately and together; usually I do not have to add the acronym or definition at the first instance because the author has done so, but sometimes the first instance of the acronym is undefined or the definition and the acronym are separated by intervening words, in which case I add the definition/acronym before using ESCR so that they form a single selectable search term. In this case, if I hadn’t done so, the search phrase would have been hemoglobin A (HbA), which was too narrow; such a search would have excluded, for example, HbSS and HbC, when what I want searched for is Hb regardless of how it is used. Before running ESCR, you need to select what you want it to look for. It can look for either a phrase or a single word. But remember that, like all macros, this is a dumb macro, so it can end up trying to look for things you do not want. But even that can be easily tackled with ESCR. Here I have selected the phrase hemoglobin (Hb) as the search phrase:

Selecting the Search Phrase

Selecting the Search Phrase

(Tip: I make it a point to select the phrase and copy it to memory. With this particular phrase there will not be a problem, but a phrase that includes terms separated by a comma are a problem, so by copying the “to find” phrase to memory, I can add it easily to the macro in correct form.)

With the phrase selected (and copied), I click ESCR. The macro produces a list of what it will search for, #1 in the below image. If you look at the list, you will see that the macro automatically separated the terms and created variations for singular and plural. Again, it is a dumb macro so it will do silly things, such as item 5, HBS. You can either let it go, or you can uncheck (#2) the item(s) you don’t want included in the search. I have found that for the most part it is as easy to leave it as to decheck it.

What the ESCR macro will search for

What the ESCR macro will search for

But sometimes the list is so long, especially if the search phrase has commas or parenthetical material, for example, BCNU (1,3-bis-(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea), that I add the terms I want and deselect all and select only those things I am interested in. The image below illustrates the problem that a search phrase like BCNU (1,3-bis-(2-chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea) presents (in this instance, the macro came up with 36 variations to search for, of which two, possibly, three, are usable). [NOTE: This particular problem will no longer be a problem with the next release of EditTools.] In these instances, I generally ignore what the macro has come up with for the search and go to the Add terms dialog (see the image “Adding additional search terms” below) and paste the selected phrase into the first field and then break it up as I want, using the additional fields as described in the material following this image:

The problems commas, dashes, parens create

If the list is long and there are only a few items I want searched for, I click Deselect All (#3) and then check only the few terms I want used for the search. If the macro doesn’t list a variation that I want included, I click Add terms (#4) to bring up a dialog box in which I can add those missing variations:

Adding additional search terms

Adding additional search terms

I have decided that I want the whole search phrase searched for (I wouldn’t normally do this; I am doing just for demonstration here), so I pasted the selected phrase into the first empty field (#1 in image below). If I wanted to add a symbol, for example a Greek beta, I could click the * (#2) to bring up Word’s Symbol dialog; for an N or M dash, I could click the N- or M- button (#2). Once all the terms I want the macro to find are added here, I click OK (#3), which will take me back to the primary Find screen where I can see that the macro has added my search term as item 11 (arrow). If I am done, I can click OK (#4) to run the macro.

Find screen after adding a phrase

Find screen after adding a phrase

When the macro runs, it goes through the entire list of items to see what it can find. [IMPORTANT: The macro searches from the character immediately following the selection you made to wherever the end bookmark (remhigh) is located. The end bookmark is usually inserted automatically based on other choices you have made in EditTools, but it can also be added manually by you. If it needs to be added by you, when you run the macro, a message will popup telling you that the remhigh bookmark is missing and needs to be added. Although you can place the bookmark anywhere in your document, it is recommended that you place it at the end of the primary text and before any references, tables, or figure legends/figures.] The macro searches down from the point of the selection to the end of the main text of the document.

The idea is that because the macro only searches forward (down) (see the text at #1 in the image below), not all or backward (up), you use it at your first encounter with the acronym or phrase. Running the macro generates a report like the following:

ESCR's report

ESCR’s report

In our example, it only found two variations: Hb and HbA (#2). Based on this report, it is safe to conclude, for example, that hemoglobin is not used in the text after this point. Also, it is clear that Hb, regardless of how it is used, appears only four additional times in the text. You now have two options. First, if you do not want Hb to be used as a substitute for hemoglobin, you can enter hemoglobin in the empty field (#3). (Similarly, if the book style is for Hgb to be used instead of Hb, you can instruct ESCR to change each instance of Hb to Hgb.) This will instruct the macro to replace Hb with hemoglobin. Second, if using Hb and/or HbA is OK, you can check the highlight box (#4) so that the macro will highlight these terms throughout the manuscript. The highlight will indicate to you that (a) you have already done a search for the term and found that it appears enough times in the manuscript to be retained, (b) that the term has been previously defined so if you should see it spelled out again, you know to replace the spelled out version, and (c) that the term is correct (even if Word insists it is misspelled). The image below shows that I have decide to change the one instance of Hb to hemoglobin (#6) and that I want HbA highlighted (#7).

Instructing the ESCR macro

Instructing the ESCR macro

Clicking OK (#5 in ESCR’s report above) causes the macro to run and make the changes. As the following image shows, ESCR made the changes as instructed — and does so with tracking on (even if you have turned tracking off). HbA is now highlighted (#1 and #2) and Hb has been changed to hemoglobin (#3).

After running the ESCR macro

After running the ESCR macro

The ESCR macro is very useful in these circumstances. The two images below are from a document I edited recently. They are the first and last screen of the results of a search for Hb in a nearly 200-page chapter. The macro found 83 variations and you can see that some changes would be required. The advantage is that I can address all of these at one time, enabling me to make them uniform in presentation, and any changes are with tracking on so I can undo any erroneous changes. Word’s Find feature cannot do this as quickly and easily as ESCR (in fact, Word’s Find gave the “too many” message in this instance).

First screen of the Find results

First screen of the Find results

Last screen of the Find results

Last screen of the Find results

Working smarter is the a key to editing profitably. Making use of the right tool at the right time is one hallmark of a professional editor. Importantly, doing those things that help improve accuracy and consistency makes clients happy clients. EditTools is an important tool in the professional editor’s armory.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:


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March 23, 2015

On the Basics: Coping with Emergencies

Coping with Emergencies

by Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

A combination of losing Internet access twice in not quite two weeks, hearing from a colleague with a health crisis, reflecting on a health crisis for my husband a couple of months ago, and seeing extreme winter weather create all kinds of headaches for people recently made me start thinking about how editors and writers in general, and freelancers in particular, handle — or should handle — emergencies.

Of course, we can only plan for emergencies but just so far, since emergencies by definition are unpredictable. The problem could be almost anything: a technology meltdown, one’s own or a spouse’s/child’s/parent’s illness (whether short- or long-term), equipment failure., whatever. But there are ways we can do business from day to day that provide at least some, if not the most, protection against the unknown and unexpected as possible.

Having reliable e-mail and Internet access these days couldn’t be more essential to having an editorial business, no matter what services you offer. Losing that connection for even a few hours could mean losing out on hearing from a new client, losing a current client by missing a deadline, or not having access to tools you need to work on a project — fact-checking resources, online style sheets or manuals, cloud-based versions of software, etc.

I get my Internet access through a landline with the local phone company. A couple of weeks ago, I suddenly had no phone service — there was a busy signal instead of a dial tone when I picked up the phone — and thus no Internet or e-mail access. Voicemail worked, but I couldn’t use the line for outgoing calls or to connect to the electronic world. I could make calls (starting with an irate one to the phone company) with my cellphone, but it’s a somewhat “dumb” phone that doesn’t have Internet connectivity.

While I was lucky not to be on deadline for anything that day, I do have several clients who send me work to edit or proofread on demand and expect to at least hear back from me with a “Got it, will do shortly” message, if not to get the actual finished work back that same day. Not being to communicate electronically was beyond frustrating.

The first time this happened was on a Friday afternoon and the line was fixed by Monday morning, so the impact on my work life was minimal, although the aggravation and frustration were still maximal. The line went out again on Thursday, and the phone company wouldn’t commit to getting a repair person out until the following Monday. The repair department doesn’t work after 5 p.m. on weekdays or at all over the weekend. That meant not just a disconnected weekend, but almost three work days without Internet access. Despite going somewhat ballistic with the phone company, there was nothing I could do but stew about it. For various reasons, I couldn’t spend the day somewhere with Internet access. I could still get writing, editing, and proofreading work done; I just couldn’t get online.

The line got fixed sooner than promised, but it was still a sobering experience.

When my husband had surgery last fall that involved twice as much hospital time as we had been told to expect (I stayed with him the whole time, making dashes home in the mornings to change clothes and pick up the mail), I was reminded of several years ago, when I had postsurgery complications that resulted in several months of recuperation. Luckily, I was already freelancing full-time and used to working at home, but that was before cellphones and laptops made it a lot easier to get work done. This time, I could communicate with clients from the hospital via my laptop and cellphone. If I’m struck down again myself some day, I’ve figured out how to use the laptop from a horizontal position and probably would have a smartphone or tablet that would be even easier to use if I couldn’t sit up and use my desktop computer.

We can’t avoid emergencies, but we can position ourselves to handle them. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If you use a landline for e-mail and Internet access but haven’t gotten a smartphone, consider investing in a smartphone. You can still keep the landline. If I understand them correctly, smartphones can provide connectivity without using your landline. I’ll be looking into options for one that won’t cost as much as a regular line that I’d use all the time, because that isn’t what I need; I just want — and probably will need — backup Internet access. Another option might be a wireless phone service.
  • Record your deadlines as a day or week earlier than they really are, so you’re working ahead of schedule. That will save the heart-stopping panic of “Oh-my-God, I’m heading to the hospital and the project is due tomorrow and I have no way of finishing it in time to send it to the client!” or “Oh-my-God, the project is due today and I have no power/no e-mail access and can’t get to a cybercafé!”
  • Update your résumé, website, and any other standing promotional items (brochures and fliers, for instance) regularly, so they’re current whenever someone asks for a bid or you get inspired to send out a query. That way, you won’t lose out on an opportunity for new business that comes in when you’re swamped with current work — it will take that much less time to respond with current information, and you’ll be more likely to make that response than if you have to stop what you’re working on to make the necessary updates.
  • Don’t wait until you need something work-essential that very minute; my version of Murphy’s Law is that things only break down, run out, or otherwise don’t work when we need them the most urgently and have the least time, money, and resources to cope. Whenever you have a few extra bucks, order new business cards, promotional items, subscriptions, etc.; buy extra ink cartridges for your printer(s), new equipment, supplies, print versions of dictionaries and style manuals; pay for a class, membership, conference, or computer/software upgrade; even pay a couple of bills early — phone, utilities, credit cards. If you have a desktop computer, get a laptop as a backup. If you work on a laptop, get another one as your backup machine. If you don’t have a “popout” external hard drive as part of your backup system, get one. If you don’t want a physical hard drive, or even if you get one, be sure to use Carbonite or some other reliable online, offsite backup service.
  • If you’re at all tech-savvy or want to be, consider taking a course in basic computer repair so you can do such repairs yourself. Be sure you have local copies of all files and software programs; it doesn’t do much good if what you need is cloud-based and you can’t access the cloud. If you plan to use a backup computer, be sure to do daily synchronizations. Think about regular cloning of your hard drives.
  • Build up a network of colleagues you can trust to take over projects so you don’t lose clients because you can’t work for a few days, weeks, or months. Know enough about their skills, work ethics, reliability, and honesty to be confident that they can do the work as well as you do, and won’t steal your clients.
  • Have a nearby friend, neighbor, or colleague who would let you use a computer or wifi network if yours goes down.
  • Develop a stash of “evergreen” backup articles — ones that aren’t time-sensitive or can be quickly and easily updated, for those times when you (as a writer) have writer’s block or a new assignment pops up while you’re in the midst of working on another one, or (as a managing editor) an assigned story doesn’t come in on deadline. Writers might even be able to sell those backup articles in and of themselves.

How have you responded to emergencies? What are you doing to be ready if one strikes?

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.

March 18, 2015

So, You Want to Be an Editor — Why?

A few times a year I am asked, “How can I become an editor?” or something along those lines. It is usually a college student who thinks being an editor has a certain amount of mystery and prestige or a person who has lost her job and is looking to make a career shift for whom the idea of working as a freelancer has some mystical appeal who is doing the asking.

I struggle to give an answer that isn’t flippant. I have learned — 31 years later — that being an editor is neither glamorous nor mysterious nor prestigious nor just about anything, except that I love what I do and can’t imagine going into another career. But the key here is “31 years later.” The answer that I need to give has to relate to now, not then.

It is true that I am successful, that I have developed a certain level of reputation for highly skilled, high quality work. But I began my career in the dark ages of editing, when the market was country-centric not global, when consolidation among publishers was still a gleam in corporate accounting’s eye, when pay was actually enough to give you a middle class life, when clients cared about quality and were not hesitant to return a manuscript riddled with questions for the editor.

Today everything is different. Why would you want to become an editor today?

Nothing about freelance editing is easy today. When I started, I was able to get work from a half dozen publishers within an hour and turn down work from another half dozen. Not today. When I started, packagers (i.e., providers of complete services) didn’t really exist. They were starting their birth but they didn’t dominate book publishing like today. In those days, the king of the hill was the typesetter, and the typesetter rarely hired freelance editors. A typesetter might recommend an editor to a publisher, but that would be the extent of it. Today, publishers contract with packagers and basically wash their hands of the production process except to praise or complain.

When I started as a freelance editor, I was contacted by a wonderful woman who was production supervisor for a long-ago-bought-out publisher about doing some medical copyediting. I told her I had zero experience; I was a lawyer by training and experience and my experience in editing was primarily in legal books. She told me not to worry; she would teach me what I needed to know about editing medical books. So I started and never looked back.

That is highly unlikely to happen today. Today, you need to be experienced in the area; no one has time to teach you because in-house staff is overwhelmed as it is. And pray you do not make too many errors today, regardless of the reason. Too many errors (quantity unknown) means you are never called again. In my early days, it was understood that in medical publishing, for example, an experienced editor could give a high-quality edit to three to five pages an hour; today, that is not only not understood, but the demand is for closer to 20 pages an hour and the editing had better be darn close to perfect — and you are to do it for a price that is less than what editors were being paid in 1995.

In those olden days, the in-house editors I worked with understood the concept of “fast, good, cheap”: They understood they could have two of the three but not all three and they chose the two they wanted. What was important was that they didn’t blame the editor for any failings that occurred as a result of the choice they made. Not so today. Today, when errors occur as a result of the demands being made and when those errors are compounded by the bypassing of proofreading, it is the editor who is blamed. Too much is at stake for the client to accept any responsibility.

Also in those olden days, I knew my work was going to be evaluated by someone who actually had command of both the subject matter and the language. If I made a change and was questioned about it, there was no trying to obfuscate my reasoning: I had to be able to defend my decisions because the person asking the question had herself done this type of work for years before becoming a hirer of freelancers. If I am lucky, I will have that same experience today, but the more usual experience is that the person hiring me has had no experience as an editor; they understand the production process thoroughly, but not editing or the subject matter or language (and often their command of the language is poor as it is not their primary language). Consequently, it is difficult to defend a decision because they understand that in some other book some other editor did something else and therefore I must be wrong.

Perhaps even more frustrating is when the client, today, has decided that something must be done a particular way and wants me to confirm that what they want is correct, even though I have told them it is not. The shifting game (i.e., the shifting of responsibility for an editorial decision) is common today. It commonly happens after the fact; that is, I have submitted the edited manuscript and unbeknownst to me, the in-house person makes changes that result in errors, and when the author or ultimate client complains, blames my editing. I’ve had that happen several times in the past couple of years; fortunately, the ultimate client contacted me and I was able to provide a copy of my submitted edited manuscript. But should I have to do this? No.

Of course pay is another stumbling block, especially for new editors. I try to tell editors that you cannot be profitable or earn a decent living by working for a wage that is less than your required effective hourly rate. But it is like talking to a brick wall because they see postings all over the Internet of editors charging very low sums or of editors saying it is better to have poverty work than no work or of “suggested” rate guidelines from pseudo organizations. The rate guidelines are the most difficult obstacle to overcome because some “editorial” organization has published them; consequently, new and wannabe editors think they are the gospel without inquiring as to the data behind them.

But the problem with pay ultimately comes down to the “I can get it cheaper” syndrome, making it a race to the bottom. New editors run that race and lead the pack when they do (although there are any number of “experienced” editors who run that marathon, too).

Finally, there is the matter of prestige (little to none, today) and respect (sometimes even less than none these days). The glamor days of editing are gone. Today, client demands leave little time for an editor to help a promising author achieve stardom. Our job is much more mundane; there is little to no time to nurture an author.

So, you want to be an editor. My question is: Why? If you understand the problems and can articulate the why, then this may be the profession for you. Editing can be a wonderful profession if you enter it with eyes wide open and for the right reasons. Today’s global marketplace has changed the world of freelance editing.

Richard Adin, An American Editor


Other essays of that may be of interest:

March 9, 2015

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

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

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, particularly with regard to the time each of us spends on elements of the process that are unbillable. These unbillable elements can occur during the booking phase of a project, during the actual project work, and after completion of the work.

Part I considered the problems of defining how well clients pay and how fee expectations can vary even within, as well as between, client types. Then I looked at the booking phase of proofreading work, and considered how the situation can vary between a regular publisher client and a new nonpublisher client.

Part II considers how additional costs can creep into the actual editorial stage of a booked-in proofreading project, and into the postcompletion phase — again comparing regular publisher clients and new nonpublisher clients.

It’s worth reiterating the point made in Part I: Not all 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.”

Creeping Costs During the Editorial Stage

Here’s a fictitious, but likely scenario. Let’s put to one side any costs incurred to firm up the job at booking stage.

Regular publisher client, PC, offers me the opportunity to proofread a 61,000-word fiction book for £17 per hour. The client estimates that the job will take 15 hours. Total fee: £255.

Also in my inbox is a request from a self-publishing author, SP, with whom I’ve not worked before. It’s also a 61,000-word fiction book. I assess the sample of the manuscript that’s been provided (it’s in good shape and has been professionally edited). I estimate the job will take 15 hours, and quote a fee of £345, which is accepted.

The job for SP looks much more lucrative on paper than the job for PC. I accept both jobs because even though the job from PC will bring in a lower fee, it’s still within my own particular required hourly rate.

I do the PC job first. I’ve worked for this publisher for years. We have a mutually understood set of expectations about what is required. The manuscript has been thoroughly copy-edited and professionally typeset. As usual, I receive a clear brief and a basic style sheet. It’s a straightforward job that takes me 15 hours (the in-house project manager is experienced enough that he can estimate with accuracy how long a job should take). I complete the work and return the proofs along with my invoice. End of job.

Next I tackle the SP book. It is in good shape and I should be able to complete the proofread in the time I estimated. However, I’ve underestimated the amount of hand-holding required. This client is a lovely person, but she’s a first-time author and she’s nervous. She sends me 13 emails during the course of the project, each of which takes time to read, consider, and respond to.

I keep track of the time I spend on these. On average, each one takes 15 minutes to deal with – that’s an extra 3.25 hours of my time that I’d not budgeted for when I quoted for her. It’s also an additional 3.25 hours of my time that I have to find space in my day for. I have to find the time out of office hours in order to respond – time that I’d rather spend doing other things.

The quoted fee was £345, based on 15 hours of work. This has turned into 18.25 hours of work. My hourly rate has gone from an expected £23 (cf. £17 from the publisher) to £18.90. It’s still within my required hourly rate, but my assessment that SP is more lucrative than PC is disappearing under my nose.

Of course, I should have quoted her a higher fee that took account of the fact that she was an unknown entity to me and that the job might take longer.

Again, it’s essential to consider the bigger picture when assessing the degree to which a particular client or client group “pays well.” With some clients, it’s harder to predict how a project will progress. And with nonpublisher clients, especially those with whom there’s no preexisting relationship, it’s essential to build hand-holding time into the assessment of how long a job will take, and then quoting accordingly, so that you’re less likely to get caught out.

Creeping Costs After Completion of the Project

I’ve been proofreading for publishers since 2005 and in that time the postproject correspondence has tended to go something like this:

Me: Thanks for the opportunity to proofread X for you — I really enjoyed it. Please find attached my invoice and my Notes & Queries sheet. Delivery of the proofs is scheduled for Y. If there’s anything else I can help you with, please let me know.

PM: Cheers, Louise. Glad you enjoyed it! Are you free to proofread…?

That’s the general gist of our postproject discussion — it’s friendly but concise. We’re already talking about forthcoming work. This recent job is closed. My PM’s schedule is as tight as mine and we’re both keen to move on. This isn’t always the case when we proofread directly for nonpublisher clients. The following snippets of postproject emails from clients are fictitious but I’ve encountered the like many a time. Do they strike a chord with you?

  • I’ve just been looking over the files one more time and I’m thinking about changing X… What do you think? Would that work?
  • Sorry to bother you. I changed the following sentences a bit. Could you just quickly look over them? There are only 25 — no rush. Just when you have a minute. Thanks so much!
  • Do you have any marketing advice you can give me for when the book’s published? I know you’re a proofreader but wondered if you had any ideas about how I can go about this. It’s a whole new world to me!
  • What did you think of the book? Please give me your honest opinion — even if it’s negative. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say!
  • Would you mind giving me your opinion of the cover? You did such a great job with the text and I’d really appreciate knowing what you think!
  • I’d really like to approach some agents, now that the book’s in good shape. Do you have any recommendations or advice about how to go about this?

It’s not unusual for these postproject discussions to take place. What is less usual is that editorial professionals manage them appropriately. Too often, they become unbillable costs that detract from the project fee. There’s nothing wrong with a client asking these things and it’s not that the editorial business owner shouldn’t have these conversations. They do incur a cost, though.

If you regularly build postproject handholding time into your original quotation, all well and good. But if you don’t and you are prone to offering free, additional support to your clients, take a step back and ask yourself how much this is impacting on the value of each project, and your required and desired rates. If you spend an additional two hours emailing back and forth about these extras, that time needs to be set off against the invoiced fee; those hours need to be tracked so that you can work out exactly what the final value of the project is to you.

A better solution is to communicate to the client, immediately and politely, that you’d be happy to discuss X or Y, and what the cost will be for the additional work. I appreciate that for some editorial folk this is very difficult because they’ve built up a strong relationship with the client during the editorial process, and the tone of communication may well have become informal, even friendly. However, we have to remember that we’re running a business and that our professional expertise has a fee attached to it. There’s no shame in putting a price on the additional work we’re being asked to carry out.

Controlling Creeping Costs

Here are some thoughts on how to keep control of creeping costs in editorial work:

  • Where possible, build a safety net into your quotations for clients. This will help to ensure that hand-holding and other types of support are billed for.
  • At the start of negotiations, make it clear what levels of support, both during and after the work is complete, are available as part of the agreed price, and what will incur additional costs.
  • If you think that you are the type of person who is likely to go beyond your own brief and allow additional costs to creep into your project work, and you’re happy for that to be the case, then that’s your choice and it’s fine. But do be honest with yourself in your accounting process. Only by tracking the time we actually spend on a project can we accurately assess which client types are the “best” payers according to our own required and desired rates.
  • Create some value-added content that you can refer clients to when they have questions that are beyond the scope of the job. I created my free Guidelines for New Authors in order to direct less-experienced authors to resource centres and knowledge bases that would (a) help them on their journey and (b) reduce the amount of time I spend on unbillable and nonproofreading queries.

By being aware of ALL of the time we spend on a project with our clients, we can develop insights into the financial health of our business. This enables us to make decisions about who we want to work with and what their actual value is to us.

A Quick Summary:
5 Things to Remember When Assessing Client Groups

  • The fees we can earn will vary — between clients, and between client groups more broadly.
  • What one person considers “poor” pay will be acceptable to another, and vice versa. This is because each individual editorial business owner’s financial requirements are personal.
  • It is not true that, in general, publishers don’t pay well. Rather, some publishers offer fees that exceed my required and desired fees; some offers exceed only my required fees; and some offers meet neither.
  • Nor is it true that, in general, nonpublisher clients are more lucrative. They might be or they might not be. It will depend on the particular client, the project being undertaken, how well the estimation of the project’s demands stacks up against the reality, and how much control one keeps over the additional costs that could creep into the work.
  • Keep a close eye on all the time that goes into a project. By doing this, you can make realistic assessments of what works for you, rather than what works for your friends and colleagues.

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.

March 4, 2015

The Business of Editing: Correcting “Errors”

In my previous two essays, “The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars” and “The Business of Editing: Journals, References, & Dollars“, I discussed two ways to improve efficiency and increase profitability by using macros. Today’s essay digresses and discusses correcting earlier-made errors.

I need to put errors between quote marks — “errors” — because I am using the term to encompass not only true errors but changes in editorial decisions, decisions that are not necessarily erroneous but that after reflection may not have been the best decision.

Once again, however, I am also talking about a tool available in EditTools: the Multifile Find in the Find & Replace Master macro. The F&R Master macro has two parts, as shown below: the Sequential F&R Active Doc and Multifile Find (to see an image in greater detail, click on the image to enlarge it):

Sequential F&R Manager

Sequential F&R Manager


Multifile Find Manager

Multifile Find Manager

Today’s discussion is focused on the Multifile Find macro, but the Sequential is worth a few words.

The Sequential F&R works on the active document. It is intended for those times when you know that you want to run a series of finds and replaces. If you are working on a book and it is evident that the author does certain things consistently that need changing, you can use this macro to put together several items that are to be changed sequentially and you can save the criteria so that you can reuse them again in the next document. I often find that, for example, authors use an underlined angle bracket rather than the symbol ≤ or ≥. I created a F&R for these items that I can run before editing a document to replace the underlined versions with the correct symbols.

For editorial “errors” I have made, however, it is the Multifile Find macro that is important.

As I have said many times, I tend to work on large documents. The documents tend to be multiauthored and each chapter is its own file. Sometimes I am able to work on chapters sequentially, but more often they come to me in haphazard order. Consequently, I have to make editorial decisions as I edit a chapter that may well affect earlier chapters that have yet to arrive. And it may be that if I had had the ability to edit the earlier-in-sequence chapter first, I would have made a different editorial decision.

For a recent example, consider “mixed lineage kinase.” My original decision was to leave it unhyphenated, but as I edited additional chapters my thoughts changed and I decided it really should be “mixed-lineage kinase.” But as is usual with these kinds of things, I had already edited another half dozen chapters when I changed my decision. In addition, by that time, I also had edited close to 40 chapters and I couldn’t remember in which chapters “mixed lineage” appeared.

The Ethical Questions First

The first questions to be dealt with are the ethical questions: First, is “mixed lineage kinase” so wrong that it can’t simply be left and future instances of “mixed-lineage” changed to the unhyphenated form? Second, if it needs to be changed to the hyphenated form, do I need to go back and change the incorrect versions or can I just notify the client and hope the proofreader will fix the problem? Third, if the future versions are to be hyphenated, can I just leave the unhyphenated versions and hope no one notices?

We each run our business differently, but number one on my list of good business practices is good ethics. In this case, the third option, to me, is wholly unacceptable. It is not even something I would contemplate except for purposes of this essay. A professional, ethical editor does not fail to accept responsibility for decisions she makes; he does not attempt to hide them. The decisions are faced squarely and honestly and dealt with, even if it means a future loss of business from the client.

The first and second options are less clear. In the first instance, I need to make an editorial decision and abide by it. Whether to hyphenate or not isn’t really an ethical question except to the extent that it forces me to decide whether to overtly or covertly make a change. The world will not crumble over the hyphenation issue. Hyphenation does make the phrase clearer (especially in context), so ultimately, I think the editorial decision has to fall on the side of hyphenation being “essential”; I cannot skirt my obligation to do the best editing job I can by omitting future hyphenation, which means I need to go back and fix my “errors.”

The crux of the ethical question is really the second option. This depends on circumstances. If, for example, I know that the earlier edited material has already been set in pages, it makes no sense to resend corrected files. A note to the client is needed. If they have yet to be set, then new files are the order of business plus advising the client. The key is the advising of the client and identifying where the errors occur. I think that is the ethical obligation: for the editor to identify to the client exactly where the errors are to be found so that they can easily be corrected and to provide new files at the client’s request.

Multifile Find and “Errors”

This is where Multifile Find (MFF) comes into play. MFF will search all the files in a folder for phrases and words. You can have it search for and find up to 10 items at a time and you can have it do one of two things: either it can find the wanted phrase and generate a report telling you where it is found and how many times it is found or it can find the phrase, pause to let you correct the phrase, and then find the next instance. I generally generate the report first. An example of a report for “mixed lineage” is shown here:

Mixed Lineage Report

Mixed Lineage Report

The report tells you name of the document in which the phrase is found, the page it is found on, and how many times it occurs on that page. With this report, you can manually open the named files, go to the appropriate page, and decide whether a particular occurrence needs to be corrected. If I am not sure whether the client can use corrected files, I send the client a copy of this report along with my mea culpa.

If I think the client might be able to use corrected files, I correct them and send the files, the report, and my mea culpa.

Multifile Find Update Files Option

If I know the client can use the corrected files because, for example, pages have not yet been set, I send the corrected files and an explanation of why I am sending revised files. But in this instance I use the MFF update option rather than generate report option:

Multifile Find Replace Option

Multifile Find Replace Option

The update option requires a few different steps than the generate report option. The biggest difference is that you need to save the find criteria for the update option; you do not need to do so for the generate report option.

I enter the find term in the first field (#1 in image above). I also need to check the Inc? (for Include?) box (#2). Only those terms listed that also are checked will be searched for. If I do not want the current active file also searched (assuming it is in the selected search directory), I check the box at #3, which is also where I select the search directory. Because I want to update the files, not generate a report, I check Update files (#4). I then Save my find criteria (#5).

The way the macro works, is that it will first search the files for the first listed find term. When that is done, it will proceed to the next listed term. As you can see, you can list up to 10 terms to sequentially find.

Finally,, I click Run (#6) and the macro will begin searching files in the selected directory until it comes to the first instance of the find term. When it finds a match it displays the following message:

Find Message

Find Message

In the file, it highlights the found term as shown here:

Highlighted Find Text

Highlighted Find Text

I can either insert my hyphen or click OK in the Find Message dialog to find the next instance. If I insert the hyphen in our example, I then need to click OK in the Find Message dialog to go to the next instance. When there are no more instances to be found in the particular file, a message asking if you want to save the changed file:

Save Changes?

Save Changes?

The macro then proceeds to the next file in which it finds the term and the process continues until the term is no longer found or you cancel the process.

Saving Time and Making Profit

Again, I think it is clear how the right macro can save an editor time and make editing more profitable. In my experience, it is the rare editor who doesn’t have a change of mind the further along she is in editing a project. I think it is a sign of a professional editor. But editing is a business and as a business it needs to make a profit. One way to do so is to minimize the time and effort needed to correct “errors” and to do so in a professional and ethical manner.

Over the years, I have found that using Multifile Find has not only enhanced my profitability, but it has enhanced my reputation as professional editor because my clients know that I am not only willing to recognize that I have made a mistake, but I am willing to correct it. One reason I am willing to correct a mistake is that it doesn’t take me hours to do so; I can do it efficiently with EditTools’ Multifile Find.

Richard Adin, An American Editor


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March 2, 2015

The Business of Editing: Journals, References, & Dollars

In The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars, I discussed wildcard macros and how they can increase both accuracy and profitability. Profitability is, in my business, a key motivator. Sure I want to be a recognized, excellent, highly skilled editor, an editor who turns ordinary prose into extraordinary prose, but I equally want to make a good living do so — I want my business to be profitable.

Consequently, as I have mentioned numerous times previously, I look for ways to make editing more efficient. The path to efficiency is strewn with missteps when editors think that all editing tasks can be made more efficient; they cannot. But there are tasks that scream for efficiency. Wildcard macros are one method and work very well for the tasks for which they are suited. A second method, which deals with references, is the EditTools Journals macro.

As I relayed in previous articles, I work on very long documents that often have thousands of references. My current project runs 137 chapters, approximately 12,000 manuscript pages, with each chapter having its own list of references, ranging in length from less than 100 to more than 600 references. And as is true of the text of the chapters, the condition of the references varies chapter by chapter. The goal, of course, is for all of the references to be similarly styled. as well as to be accurate.

The first image shows a sample of how journal names were provided in one chapter. The second image shows how the names need to end up.

Journals in original

Journals in original


How the journals need to be

How the journals need to be

The question is how do I get from before to after most efficiently? The answer is the Journals macro.

The key to the Journals macro is the Journals dataset. In my case, I need journal names to conform to the PubMed style. However, I could just as easily create a dataset for Chicago/MLA style (American Journal of Sociology), CSE (Cell Biochem Funct.), APA (Journal of Oral Communication,), AAA (Current Anthropology), or any other style. The image below shows the Journals Manager with my PubMed dataset open. The purple arrow shows a journal name as provided by an author; the blue arrow shows the correct PubMed name of the journal, that is, to what the macro will change the wrong form.

PubMed dataset in Journals Manager

PubMed dataset in Journals Manager

The next image shows a sample APA-style dataset. The red arrow shows the abbreviated version of the journal name and the green arrow shows the full name to which it will be converted by the macro.

APA style in Journals Manager

APA style in Journals Manager

As I stated, nearly all my work requires PubMed styling so my PubMed dataset is by far the largest. If you look at the PubMed dataset image above, you will see that as of this writing, the dataset contains more than 64,000 journal name variations. “Variations” is the keyword. Authors give journal names in all kinds of style, so to cover the possibilities, a single journal may have two dozen entries in the dataset.

The key to creating the dataset is to make use of the Journal Manager — and to keep adding new variations and journals as you come across them: Spend a little time now to make more money every future day. The images of the Manager shown above show you the primary interface. The problem is that it would take an inordinate amount of time to add each possible variation individually. The smarter method is to use the Multiple Entries screen, as shown here:

Journals Manager Multiple Entry dialog

Journals Manager Multiple Entry dialog

With the Multiple Entry dialog open, you enter a variation in the #1 field. By default, all of the trailing punctuation is selected (#2), but you could choose among them by deselecting the ones you didn’t want. For example, if the style you work in requires that a journal name be followed by a comma, you might want to deselect the comma here because this is the list of “wrong” styles and having a trailing comma would not be “wrong.” Clicking Add (#3) adds whatever you have typed in #1 to the main screen (#4) along with the selected trailing punctuation. In the example, I entered N Engl J Med once in #1, left the default selection in #2, clicked Add (#3), and had five variations added to the main field (#4) — I did not have to type N Engl J Med five times, just the once.

I then repeated the process for N. Engl. J. Med. (#4) and am prepared to repeat it for New Engl J Med. (#1). I will repeat the process for a variety of variations in an attempt to “kill” multiple possibilities at one time. When I am done, I will click OK (#5), which will take me back to the main Manager screen, shown here:

Journals Manager AFTER Multiple Entry

Journals Manager AFTER Multiple Entry

The main Manager screen — after using the multiple entry dialog — shows in faint lettering “Use ‘Multiple Entries’ button to adjust” in the Add Journal field (#1). This means two things: First, it tells you that there are journal variations waiting to be added to the dataset, and second, that if you want to modify the list of waiting names, either by adding or deleting, click the Multiple Entries button to bring the dialog back up for editing. If you are ready to add to the dataset, the next step is to tell the macro to what the “wrong” versions should be corrected. This is done by typing the correct form in the Always correct journal field (#2).

If your style was to add a comma after the correct form, you could enter the correct name trailed by a comma here. In the example I show, you would just add the comma after Med. But that might not be the best way to do it because you then lose the ability to use the dataset for a style that is identical but that doesn’t use the comma. There is an alternative, which we will get to. What is necessary, however, is that the correct form be entered here so the macro knows what to do. After entering the correct form (#2), click Add (#3) to add all of the variations and the correct form to the dataset.

The macro will not add duplicate entries so no need to worry about having an entry appear multiple times in the dataset. The macro automatically checks for duplicates. When you are done adding for this session, click Save & Close. (Tip: If you plan to add a lot of entries in one sitting, every so often click Save. That will save the dataset with the newest entries and let you continue to add more. Until Save or Save & Close is clicked, any entries are not permanently part of the dataset.)

Once you have your dataset, you are ready to unleash the Journals macro. It is always a good idea to put the reference list in a separate file before running the macro, but that can’t always be done. Separating the references into their own file helps speed the macro.

When ready to run the macro, click Journals (red arrow below) on the EditTools Tab.

EditTools Tab

EditTools Tab

Clicking Journals brings up this dialog with options:

Journals Macro Options

Journals Macro Options

Here is the best place to select trailing punctuation you want added to the correct journal name. Clicking on the dropdown (#1) will give you the choice of comma, period, semicolon, colon, or the default “none.” If you choose, for example, semicolon, every time a journal name is corrected, it will be followed by a semicolon. Note, however, that if the journal name is correct already except that it doesn’t have the trailing punctuation, the punctuation will not be added. In other words, New Engl J Med will be corrected to N Engl J Med; but N Engl J Med will be left as it is. In this instance, using the other system (adding the punctuation to the correct name in the dataset) will work better.

If your manuscript has endnotes or footnotes with references, clicking #2 will instruct the macro to search those items as well. You can also tell the macro to make the journal names italic, nonitalic, or as they currently are. In this instance, the macro will only change those journal names it highlights. For example, if it doesn’t change/highlight N Engl J Med because it is not in the dataset, it will not change the text attribute of it either.

Clicking #4 lets you change the dataset file to be used by the macro and #5 starts the macro running.

The results of running of the Journals macro depends on your dataset. Clearly, the larger your dataset (i.e., the more journals and variations it contains), the greater impact the macro will have on your reference list. The following image shows the results of running the Journals macro. Journals macro makes use of track changes and color highlighting. As the first instance (#1) shows, the incorrect journal name, Am. J. Kidney Dis. Off. J. Natl. Kidney Found., was corrected to Am J Kidney Dis and highlighted in cyan. The cyan tells me that the name is now correct. Note that the change was made with tracking on, which gives me the opportunity to reject the change. The green highlight (#2) tells me that the journal name Pharmacotherapy was correct as originally provided. And #3 tells me that this journal name variation is not found in my dataset. At this juncture, I would look up the journal in PubMed Journals, open the Journal Manager, and add the variation other needed variations of the name to the dataset so that next time it will be found and corrected.

Results of Running the Journals Macro

Results of Running the Journals Macro

I know this seems like a lot of work, and it is when you are starting out to build the dataset. But as your dataset grows, so do your profits. Consider this: If the reference list you need to check is 100 entries, how long does it take you to check each one manually? I recently checked a reference list of 435 entries. The author names were done incorrectly (see The Business of Editing: Wildcarding for Dollars for examples) and the year-volume-pages portion of the references were also in incorrect order. Most — not all — of those errors I was able to correct in less than 10 minutes using wildcarding. That left the journal names.

Nearly every journal name was incorrectly done. With my large dataset (over 64,000 variations), it took the Journals macro 32 minutes to correct the journal names. (Nine entries were not journals and so were not in the dataset and seven incorrect journal names were not in the dataset and had to be added afterward.) I still had to go through each entry in the reference list, but to complete a review of the reference list and make any additional corrections that were needed took me an additional 2 hours and 10 minutes. In other words, I was able to completely edit a 435-entry reference list, fixing all of the formatting problems and incorrect journal names, in less than 3 hours.

How quickly could you have done the same?

Combining macros is a key to efficiency. Recognizing that a problem has a macro solution and then knowing how to impose that solution can be the difference between profit and no profit. Using macros wisely can add fun and profit to the profession of editing.

Richard Adin, An American Editor


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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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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 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 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

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