An American Editor

May 24, 2019

Thinking Fiction: Protecting an Editor’s Rights — If Any

By Carolyn Haley

A subject that comes up from time to time in publishing circles is whether an editor has any copyright interest in an author’s manuscript — that is, the edited version of the manuscript. Some editors believe the edited version is unique to them and forms a new and different work, which can give them leverage in demanding payment from a recalcitrant party.

I first saw this tactic suggested as a last-ditch measure against publishers that don’t play fair — those that pay late or try not to pay at all. I’ve since seen editors adding language to the same effect in their contracts with independent authors, to protect themselves from clients who change their tune after the job is done and refuse to pay, or take way longer to pay than was agreed. As part of the language, the editor’s claim to having a copyright in the edited version becomes null and void upon receipt of full payment.

In my opinion, attempting to conflate copyright with payment is irrational and unprofessional, regardless of whether a given case is winnable in a court of law. My opinion comes from my combined position as an author, an editor, and a self-employed business entity.

How Copyright Works

Consider first that copyright applies to intellectual property. Per the U.S. Copyright Office, it pertains to “original works of authorship fixed in a tangible medium of expression.”

“Original” and “tangible” are the key terms, because ideas themselves are common and fluid, and expressed in myriad ways by myriad people, and have been so over centuries, if not millennia. Copyright law only protects an individual’s unique presentation of an idea, not an idea itself. (Nor are titles protected by copyright.) In addition (italics mine), “copyright infringement occurs when a copyrighted work is reproduced, distributed, performed, publicly displayed, or made into a derivative work without the permission of the copyright owner.”

A work qualifies as derivative “if the changes are substantial and creative, something more than just editorial changes or minor changes. . . . For instance, simply making spelling corrections throughout a work does not warrant a new registration, but adding an additional chapter would.”

With those criteria in mind, how much does an editor have to change in a manuscript before it becomes a different enough “tangible medium of expression” to acquire uniqueness, and thus give the editor a copyright?

How Editing Works

Adjustments in punctuation, spelling, subtleties of phrasing, consistency — the tools of line editing and copy editing — all serve to clarify an author’s unique expression of their ideas, not change them. Perhaps developmental editing can get deep and gnarly enough to significantly change an author’s presentation, but does it change the book’s concept, audience, characters, or plot, or the author’s essential language and style?

If so, then the contract between author and editor should be about co-authorship, not editing.

The main thing to understand is that in an editing job, the author has the right to accept or reject the editor’s changes and suggestions. That gives the author ownership of the content by default. In some draconian contracts out there, an author may have signed away that right and must accept whatever a publisher’s editor or an independent editor does to the work — but in that situation, the author has made a regrettable mistake. In the absence of such contract terms, the agreement between author and editor generally is based on the editor helping improve the author’s work, not alter it.

Understanding Editing vs. Revising

Another argument against claiming copyright of the edited version of a work is the nebulous relationship between editing and revising. A manuscript is a work in progress until it’s locked into its published form and released. Until that point, starting with the first draft, most authors revise their work numerous times, and may have other parties, such as friends, family, colleagues, beta readers, editors, proofreaders, agents, and pre-publication reviewers — paid or unpaid — participate in the process. These helpers, individually and collectively, contribute to a version of the manuscript different from the one before, which is different from the one before, as often as needed to complete and polish the work.

Should each party in that revision cycle get a copyright interest in the work? Should the parties involved in the next cycle supersede them because a new, copyrightable version has been created?

What if the author desires to register their copyright after the first draft? Registration is not required for an author’s copyright to be valid, because copyright is automatically granted the moment a work is “fixed in a tangible medium of expression.” Registration is recommended to protect the author’s interests in the event of a legal challenge, but is not conditional for protection. Nonetheless, many authors register their copyrights because doing so makes them feel more secure. Imagine, then, what the paperwork and costs would be if they had to register every updated version of a work in progress, each one involving different people!

The whole idea is silly, because all editing occurs before a work is deemed complete. As such, it is subsumed into the overall development and revision process. Without a legal structure to define and support the many layers of building a publishable work, and the many people who might be involved, there is no basis for giving anyone but the author a copyright in the work.

The Alternative to Claiming Copyright

Having copyright-related language in editing contracts might be effective with publishing companies that employ accounting departments and lawyers, who fear legal action and can’t or won’t take the time to research the efficacy of defending copyright claims. Such language also might discourage individual authors from playing head games with independent editors.

More likely, the language would chase away independent authors of good will who are paying out of their own pockets for professional editing services, and who desire a personal, supportive, and honest relationship with their editors. Many writers have been coached by other writers or online gurus to fear that editors will steal, or drastically change, their work. Adding the threat of somebody claiming a copyright on their work will just reinforce their anxiety and give them a reason to look elsewhere — or go without editing at all.

In which case, an editor won’t have to worry about getting paid.

Getting paid does remain the bottom line. It can best be assured through transparency and a straightforward contract. My contract states: “Unless a co-authorship arrangement is made in writing, all royalties and monies gained from the sale of the book will be the sole property of the book’s copyright owner. Editor acknowledges no rights to the manuscript beyond the right to withhold delivery of the edited manuscript until final payment for work is received.”

In other words, the politically incorrect expression “no tickee, no shirtee” applies. I consider this a reasonable business position (i.e., I do the work, you pay me for it), and that claiming a copyright for something that isn’t mine is needlessly aggressive. It is also not trustworthy, owing to the copyright claim’s dubious enforceability and the specious element of “oh, that claim disappears as soon as you pay me.”

From an author’s standpoint, I wouldn’t hire an editor who would hang that kind of threat over me. My book is my book, and somebody who thinks they have the right to hijack it is somebody I wouldn’t deal with.

A Balanced Approach

Editing is — or should be — a cooperative profession, not an adversarial one. Editors stating plainly that they expect to be paid are declaring themselves professional businesspeople. Editors stating plainly that they are prepared to co-opt an author’s copyright are inviting trouble. Most publishers and indie authors will pay for services rendered. The minority who won’t pay are the reason that editors consider using the copyright-claiming ploy.

One way to avoid needing such a ploy is to require a deposit before commencing work. This usually isn’t an option for independent editors dealing with publishing companies, which state the terms that editors must take or leave. In such cases, editors need to weigh the pluses and minuses, negotiate the best they can, and be prepared to accommodate a loss should the project go awry.

When making deals with indie authors or amenable companies, however, editors should state their terms and stick to them. I have found that a signed agreement delivered with a 50 percent deposit demonstrates a client’s intention to pay. They go into the deal knowing that I will sit on the finished edit until they pay the balance, and if they don’t pay, they lose the work and have to start all over again.

In the event they don’t pay, I may have wasted time but not suffered a total loss. The less-than-expected final compensation might end up being a painful learning experience, but still, learning can’t be discounted. Meanwhile, I still have something in my pocket to show for the effort.

Nine times out of 10 (more accurately, 9.999 times out of 10), I end up with full payment on time, a happy client, an open relationship, and future work from the client or someone they refer. These benefits come from respecting authors’ work and position, and not messing with their heads. Better yet, their work goes to publication; and with luck and a good story, cleanly edited, they enjoy publishing success. I doubt I would have this track record if I made it a policy to step on their writerly toes.

How many of our readers have invoked copyright claims on edited work with authors who have not paid as promised and planned? Has it worked for you? What other techniques have you used to ensure being paid?

Carolyn Haley, an award-winning novelist, lives and breathes novels. Although specializing in fiction, she edits across the publishing spectrum — fiction and nonfiction, corporate and indie — and is the author of two novels and a nonfiction book. She has been editing professionally since 1997, and has had her own editorial services company, DocuMania, since 2005. She can be reached at dcma@vermontel.com or through her websites, DocuMania and New Ways to See the World. Carolyn also blogs at Adventures in Zone 3 and reviews at the New York Journal of Books, and has presented on editing fiction at the Communication Central conference.

May 15, 2019

On the Basics: Rethinking Saving Everything

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter, AAE Owner

For more years than I can count, I’ve saved everything related to my work: multiple paper copies of published articles and of pre-computer edited and proofread projects; electronic or digital copies from the days of 5 1/4-inch disks to 3.5 diskettes to Syquest and Zip disks to CDs; finished files on both my iMac desktop computer and MacBook Air laptop; cloud storage …

My theory was that we never know when a client might want to redo or update a project, and I wanted to be the freelancer whom my clients could rely on to have old copies of projects at hand, just in case.

I recently changed my mind about this approach. In preparing to move halfway across the country last fall, even though to a larger space, I found myself wanting to scale back on this extensive, bulky, obsessive wealth of backups. I had to empty out file drawers for the movers, and clear stuff off shelves and out of cubbyholes; the more I could get rid of, the more I could save on the move. A light bulb went off: It seems unlikely that anyone would want anything more than a year old, but even if they do, I could keep a paper copy of everything, so I’d be able to scan anything that someone might want, and update old versions in new, current editions of software.

I went through those file cabinets in my home office and weeded out all but one paper copy each of published works. Then I went back and pitched all the loose copies after I remembered that I have a copy of everything in notebooks organized by year and going back to the 1970s, which creates the one paper copy that all that I really need — in these days of websites and online portfolios, there’s rarely a need to send someone a paper copy of a finished project. Although my file cabinet copies were organized by client or publication name and the notebooks are organized by year, I’m pretty sure I can remember at least roughly when I worked with which clients and thus can pull old copies as needed.

Next, I got rid of all paper copies of edited and proofed projects — anyone wanting to update or revise any of those nowadays will send me an electronic file to work on, and a current version is likely to be different from the one I worked on years ago. Even if it’s the still the same, my edits should already have been incorporated, and it would make more sense to reread the current version as if it’s new than to try to copy old edits from the past. The clients should have paper copies of anything not available electronically and also should be the one responsible for scanning paper copies to create new versions.

I wouldn’t use those paper edits in pitching to new clients anyhow, because no one would want their “before” versions made public, even on a limited basis. I don’t need to wonder about that or to have signed anything promising not to show the edited version of a document to anyone other than the client. If a prospective client wants proof of my editing or proofreading skills, I’d rather do a short sample than risk embarrassing a past client by showing what I did on their projects, even if I can hide their names. And my website has (wonderful) testimonials from clients attesting to the value of my skills and services, often more effective than samples.

After trashing all those paper copies, I bagged all the various types of disks and headed to the local recycling center to dispense with those as well. I still have electronic versions of everything that’s a year or so old on my computers and in cloud storage.

I even gave up my dad’s little classic Mac and my ancient Radius CPU, taking those to the recycling center as well (after wiping their hard drives).

It felt wonderfully liberating to clear out so much old material — and saved a bunch of effort in packing, which probably saved some money in the way of moving costs. I’m hoping a client won’t ask for a very old project after all, but I’m prepared to defend not keeping ancient files or copies, and can always photocopy or scan my paper versions from those yearly notebooks.

The next task for the aspiring organizer in me: going through all those old business and tax records to get rid of everything from receipt copies to entire years’ worth of documentation! That will open up an entire bookcase … I won’t know what to do with those empty shelves.

For a little farther down the road, it’s time to clear out old computer files in my e-mail program, Dropbox cloud storage account and project folders on both computers … at least I can never say I have nothing to do!

How have you changed your processes for saving projects and client files?

February 20, 2019

Sticking to Your “Rate Principles” … Essential, but Not Always Easy

By Elaine R. Firestone, ELS

“Rate principles” is a term I coined for that point when you say, “This is my limit for how low I’ll go in my rates for a given type of work,” and mean it and follow it.

I’ve been a freelancer for over six years now (and a professional editor for much longer), so I’ve heard my share of horror stories from colleagues who received e-mails that just didn’t “smell” right, and I’m always vigilant when I receive e-mails from previously unknown sources inquiring about my services. I recently got an inquiry from someone who was most obviously legit, even without researching the potential client’s name and affiliation. She sent a long and incredibly detailed description of the journals she oversees, including their respective subjects, the audience of each one, and even the voice each strives to maintain. She also stated what she wants a copy-/substantive editor to do, as well as from where she got my name (my Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) profile). That’s always good to know.

The next step was to respond if I was interested in the work, the areas in which I thought I could work most efficiently, and my rates for doing this type of work.

I didn’t respond right away. I wanted to think carefully about both whether I wanted to take on a new client at this time and — especially — the rate question. Because I have different clients who pay different rates (for various reasons not germane to this article), I was a bit torn about how to respond:

— Do I go with my lowest rate in hopes of getting the work?

— Do I go with my highest rate because I want to make as much as possible?

— Do I go with the middle-of-the-road rate to hedge my bets?

What should I do?

My thoughts went back and forth along a number of lines:
— If I go with the lowest rate, I’m definitely going to resent the work, both now and in the future.
— If I go with the highest rate, I doubt I will get the work at all.
— If I go with the middle-of-the-road rate … well … I still may resent the work over time, especially because learning their way of doing things won’t be easy, nor would learning the nuances of the new science area.

What did I do?

I started my response by thanking the client for the detail in her e-mail. I went on to reiterate, in a very short narrative, a few of my qualifications that made me an excellent fit for the work, citing things that she ideally already read in my EFA profile and website. (Doing this is an excellent strategy, by the way, because the client is reminded how great you and how impressive your qualifications are before reading the rate you’ll charge.) Finally, I said that yes, I was interested and thought the subject matter was fascinating (it never hurts to use a little flattery), and then gave my rate. Which rate, you ask? A rate that wasn’t quite my highest, but much higher than my middle-of-the-road one.

But why? Why did I do that? Why didn’t I quote a lower rate? Well, here are my reasons for not quoting a lower rate to help ensure — at some level — that I’d get the job:

  1. My time and expertise are worth money.
  2. There is no guarantee that — even at a low rate — I’d be chosen. Someone with an even lower rate could always undercut me.
  3. If I got the job, it would be fairly regular work, and I didn’t want to resent either the time I had to spend doing it or the work itself.
  4. My time and expertise are worth money.
  5. Once working for a low rate, I have found it’s often difficult to raise it any appreciable amount without losing the client. It sometimes takes years to do, and sometimes, it’s impossible. The rate I accepted from my lowest-paying client was to just get the work when I started out freelancing. That rate has never caught up to my higher rates, leading to, at times, resentment of the work. (See #1, above).
  6. I had more than enough other work at the moment, so the rate had to make it worth my while to juggle this with the work of another client.
  7. My time and expertise are worth money.

Notice that “My time and expertise are worth money” is repeated three times. It’s worth all of us repeating that phrase over and over again.

Some of you may be new editors, or maybe you’re seasoned professionals. Maybe you’re new to freelancing or maybe you’ve been freelancing for decades. Whatever stage of your career you are in, whether you’re just determining your rates, or if you’ve been “at it” awhile and you’re contemplating a rate hike, I highly recommend that you read Rich Adin’s column “A Continuing Frustration — The ‘Going Rate,’” where he talks about figuring out what your “effective hourly rate” is.

Whether I get this work or not, however, I feel like I’ve “won.” If I get the work at my stated rate, I gain a new client, at a good rate, in a potentially fascinating new-to-me science discipline, which in turn becomes résumé candy. If I don’t get the work, I still have my existing clients with more than enough work to keep me busy (but with my sanity intact), plus I can keep my self-respect because I didn’t compromise my rate principles.

Many of you don’t have the financial advantage of being able to turn down work just because it doesn’t pay well … you rationalize that any work is good work — which I understand, because I’ve been in that situation. Many of you don’t have rate principles to begin with (which we should all have, no matter what they might be), so you take anything offered even if you have some type of financial cushion as a fallback.

A number of colleagues have said over the years that if you lose a low-paying client, then you have time to market to higher-paying clients, but if you gain a low-paying client, you are probably doing the same amount of work as for a higher paying one, but without the benefits of a higher bank balance, along with less time to devote to seeking out the higher payers.

I urge everyone here to first determine your individual “effective rate,” then formulate your “rate principles,” and try to stick to them. Your self-respect, your happiness, and your bank balance will thank you for it.

Elaine R. Firestone, ELS, is an award-winning — and board-certified — scientific and technical editor and compositor specializing in the physical and agricultural sciences. After a 25+-year career editing for NASA, Elaine started ERF Editorial Consulting, where her motto is “‘ERF’ aren’t just my initials — it’s what you get: Edits. Results. Final product.”©

Editor’s note: Let us know how you approach setting and sticking to your rates.

February 15, 2019

Thinking Fiction: Lazy Writing, Part 1 — Something to Combat, but Sometimes Appreciate

By Carolyn Haley

Many of us write lazily when composing our letters, reports, and books. It’s easier to turn ideas into words when we’re relaxed and nothing inhibits the flow. Creative writing, especially, benefits from the author “letting ’er rip.” That liquid, unstriving state of mind best releases the emotions and imagery needed for a story, but to bring that story to fulfillment through publishing requires being balanced by a disciplined state of mind to finish the job.

Laziness in writing, therefore, has both a positive and negative aspect.

The positive aspect of laziness is a glowing, happy state, such as what accompanies a Sunday afternoon with no obligations, when one can kick back and enjoy a rare opportunity to read, walk, talk, travel, party, eat — whatever brings satisfaction, allowing one to be at ease. In positive laziness, thoughts can flow in an absence of tension. As it pertains to writing, a certain amount of psychic laziness brings inspiration, productivity, and joy.

The negative aspect of laziness is unwillingness to do what has to be done. There might be good reasons for it in someone’s personal situation, but laziness and the oft-resultant procrastination rarely combine into a happy outcome when writing a book that the author desires to publish.

Negative laziness in writing translates into “not enough thought or revision,” resulting in a work that’s put out into the world unpolished. In most cases, a lazily written book will not be acquired by an agent or editor (in traditional publishing). If a lazy novel is self-published, readers won’t buy it or finish it or recommend it to their friends. Worse, they will give it bad reviews.

It’s normal for an author to be unable to self-revise and eliminate the symptoms of negative lazy writing. Revising and polishing one’s work can be like looking in a mirror: You know what you’re going to see, and that image of yourself is imprinted in your mind, making it hard to see anything else. A similar self-blindness occurs in reading one’s own writing. It’s tremendously hard to view it through someone else’s eyes — which is why authors use beta readers and hire editors.

This essay, then, is aimed more at editors than writers, although both can benefit from knowing what symptoms to watch for.

Distinctions in laziness

In the novels I edit, positive laziness shows itself in zesty, imaginative plots and colorful characters, while negative laziness shows itself in flat characters and dull, redundant, and/or unclear prose.

This negative quality I dub “lazy prose” because it gives the impression of incompleteness, as if the sentences were written without planning or examination. That usually occurs in the first or second draft, when the author is still mapping out the story and perhaps struggling to flesh it out. At that point, there’s no negative laziness involved. But if no effort follows to refine the text, then I mentally flag the book as lazy.

There’s also a version of lazy prose that reflects egotism. Sometimes authors believe that all they have to do is type out their thoughts, and every reader will share their vision and understand all their characters’ motivations, actions, and emotions. Unfortunately, more often than not, the information a reader needs to enjoy this sharing and understanding isn’t in the manuscript.

Here are some examples of how lazy prose leaves a book unpolished.

Vague adjectives

The most common lazy word I see is large. I’m tempted to call that word the universal adjective because it crops up so often!

For instance: A large man enters a large building through a large door into a large room with a large fireplace. Or, a large army is led by a large man on a large horse wielding a large sword.

Okay, I exaggerate: I’ve never seen large used more than twice in one sentence, but I have seen it used 10 times in one chapter and several dozen times in one novel. It’s a perfectly good adjective, but when it becomes the author’s pet descriptor throughout a story, and I’m trying to form mental images as I follow the characters through their adventures, then the word’s inadequacy becomes apparent.

In the author’s mind, a large man might be a tall one, a fat one, or a big hairy one. In the reader’s mind, without any other information, it’s hard to visualize the person if all we’re given is large. Let’s say the author introduces a character as a menace to the protagonist, such as when a sleuth is confronted by an enforcer for the criminal he’s tracking down. Just saying the enforcer is large draws no picture, and the threat intended by this person’s appearance fails to impress.

Expanding the description to draw a more-precise picture requires adding words (e.g., built like a bull with no neck), which might be problematic in action stories or scenes where spareness keeps the pace moving. In such cases, a single adjective must serve. Just upticking large to beefy improves the image. A thesaurus adds options: stout, heavy, thickset, stocky, chunky, brawny, husky, burly, strapping, hulking, elephantine, herculean, humongous — at least 10 others.

Usually a brief elaboration, such as an enforcer built like a bull, or a door twice as tall as a man, will do the job. It can be argued that twice as tall as a man is just as vague as large, because man isn’t defined; however, most people have an idea of the general size of adult male humans, so describing something as twice that size has more meaning than just large.

One of my clients, in response to my requests to be more specific when he repeatedly used large, said he wanted to leave the reader free to visualize the person/place/thing in their own way. That’s a fair position, and in many genres an appropriate style. I share this author’s (and many others’) dislike of too much description and will always encourage lean prose over verbose prose. At the same time, I believe it’s possible to omit too much information and leave readers struggling to follow the story or understand the characters.

Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is … the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

I’ll second that, and add that one precise adjective can draw a sharper, more-evocative picture than a vague one like large.

Editor’s note: Part 2 will be posted on March 15.

Carolyn Haley, an award-winning novelist, lives and breathes novels. Although specializing in fiction, she edits across the publishing spectrum — fiction and nonfiction, corporate and indie — and is the author of two novels and a nonfiction book. She has been editing professionally since 1977, and has had her own editorial services company, DocuMania, since 2005. She can be reached at dcma@vermontel.com or through her websites, DocuMania and New Ways to See the World. Carolyn also blogs at Adventures in Zone 3 and reviews at New York Journal of Books, and has presented on editing fiction at the Communication Central conference.

February 11, 2019

Book Indexes: Part 8 — More Lessons Learned in Using DEXembed for the First Time

Filed under: Contributor Article,Editorial Matters,On Indexing — An American Editor @ 5:28 pm

By Ælfwine Mischler

In Part 7 of this series on book indexes, I wrote about some of the things I learned about embedded indexing when I used DEXembed, an add-in for Word available from Editorium.com, for the first time. In this post, I continue with lessons learned.

You Did What?

I was using paragraph numbers for locators. (DEXembed can also use word number or top of the page, but these are generally less satisfactory.) Before I started indexing, I told the author repeatedly that the paragraphing had to remain stable and he could not add new text, so I was none too pleased when he sent a new paragraph to be added in the middle after I was already three-quarters through the book. I asked DEXembed developer Jack Lyon whether I could just remove the paragraph numbers, add the new text, renumber the paragraph numbers, and move on, and what would happen to the bookmarks I had made.

He did not know the answers but suggested I do a test run on a copy of the file. I removed the paragraph numbers, added the new text, and told DEXembed to number the paragraphs again. It ground away for a minute or two and then told me they were numbered, but I saw no red numbers to the left of the paragraphs — until I scrolled down and saw that the numbering started with 1 a few paragraphs after the new text.

I removed the numbers, saved the file as another name, and tried again to number the paragraphs. This time it worked. Then I had to go into my Sky indexing file to correct the locator numbers after the inserted text.

We Do Not All Count Alike

DEXembed allows you to go to a particular paragraph using Ctrl + Alt + P. However, whenever I entered a paragraph number, DEXembed would select a paragraph before the one I wanted: If I entered Ctrl + Alt + 100, it would take me to 99.

To create a range, I put the cursor in the first paragraph of the topic, clicked Ctrl + Alt + M (to mark the beginning of the topic), put the cursor in the last paragraph, and clicked Ctrl + Alt + L (to get the locator). DEXembed created a bookmark and, because I had opted so, put a comment with the beginning and end paragraph numbers — but they were always off. If I selected paragraphs 225–245, the comment would say 226–246. I was not certain which range I should put in the indexing software — the one I had selected or the one in the comment. I used the actual selected range, which later proved to be the correct decision. What was causing this discrepancy, and would it cause a problem later on?

Yes, it did cause a problem when I embedded the entries. The XE field codes went into the chapter section headings instead of into the paragraphs where they belonged. Back to the developer. He thought a paragraph had been deleted and told me how to find the problem. If Ctrl + Alt + P takes you to the paragraph numbered 10 when you specify 10, but it takes you to the paragraph numbered 499 when you specify 500, you know the problem is between paragraphs 10 and 500. Keep selecting paragraphs every 100 or so (Ctrl + Alt + 100, Ctrl + Alt + 200, etc.) until you find the source of the problem.

In fact, I learned that an extra Enter, not a deleted one, was causing the faulty numbering, which began at the start of the indexable material, after the preface. Following the preface was an Enter and a Page Break. When I deleted the extra Enter, the DEXembed took me to the correct paragraphs.

To be safe, I checked every 50 paragraphs throughout the text and found another place where I had accidentally added an Enter in the middle of a word. Once that was deleted, the numbering problem was solved and the XE field codes went into the correct places.

Work, Work, Work

Embedded indexes are a lot more work for the indexer, who will typically charge more for this version than for a back-of-the-book index. The most trying time is when the actual embedding takes place. At this point, everything is up to Word and there is nothing the indexer can do but hope the embedding works. I kept getting error messages half-way through the embedding, until the developer told me to reboot. I found it also useful to close every other application and the browser while embedding.

If I found an error in the generated index, I had to correct it in Sky, generate the index from Sky as a text file, embed it in another copy of the book (perhaps rebooting first, and praying all the while), generate the index in Word, copy that to another Word file, and make any manual corrections required by Word. (See my December 2017 post.)

Because I was new to using DEXembed, I had to repeat this process several times. Fortunately, I do learn from my mistakes, so the next such project should be easier.

Generally, DEXembed was easy to use, and the developer was helpful in answering my questions. I liked using paragraph numbers for locators and limiting the use of ranges. However, because of Word’s limitations, DEXembed requires an extra step to index footnotes or endnotes, which I did not need to do for this project and did not test. Editorium’s NoteStripper will strip the notes out as regular text. You then number the paragraphs and write the index. After embedding the entries, you use NoteStripper to turn the notes back into regular Word notes. (Note that this is not the same version of NoteStripper that came with Editor’s ToolKit Plus.) One more thing for me to test drive!

Ælfwine Mischler is an American copyeditor and indexer in Cairo, Egypt, who has been the head copyeditor at a large Islamic website and a senior editor for an EFL textbook publisher. She often edits and indexes books on Islamic studies, Middle East studies, and Egyptology.

December 31, 2018

On the Basics — Managing “Creepy” Challenging Clients and Projects

By Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

Into each editor’s life a little rain, in the form of difficult or challenging clients or projects, must fall. Here are a few examples, with some tips for how to respond to them that could make the new year a little easier for all of us!

Classic headaches

A recent social media post included these comments:

“… when someone books a 4k word edit then sends you 100k.”

“Client sent over and paid for 136-page edit, but kept writing and writing and sent over a total of 600 pages! Expected me to edit for price she already paid because I ‘owed’ her …”

Ah, yes — the infamous scope creep. These situations arise on a regular basis among colleagues, and not just editors. I’ve had writing assignments where the editor asks for additional interviews after we’ve agreed on a story length, sometimes even after I’ve finished the piece and turned it in. I’ve had proofreading work that turned into editing — sometimes even close to substantive work, although I prefer not to work that hard and only rarely accept such projects.

The impossible request

“Impossible” requests are another instance of projects that can become headaches if we accept them. Clients who are clueless about what it takes to get their projects done can ask us to meet deadlines that are downright ridiculous, but — again — sometimes it seems as if it’s more important to have work in hand than to maintain sanity about our work lives.

In a related social media conversation, a colleague posted about a client asking to have a 230-page thesis edited in not even two days. And that was before the poster had seen the document to verify whether her definition of “a page” was anywhere close to the client’s version. My guess is that checking the word count would reveal that the client’s 230 pages equaled 400 to 500 of the editor’s.

My response was: “In circumstances like this, I don’t give explanations. Just ‘I’m not available.’ I learned that lesson years ago from having people say things like, ‘Surely you can fit this into your vacation time’ or ‘When do you get back?’ Some will still say ‘When would you be available?’ and I use something like, ‘I don’t do this kind of work and never would commit to such a schedule/deadline.’”

Even if you work in-house rather than freelance, unreasonable deadlines can be an issue, but it’s harder to set boundaries with colleagues and bosses/supervisors than with prospective (or even ongoing) clients.

Offensive content

How to turn down a project that contains content we find offensive is another challenge for freelancers, especially those who really need income right that moment. “Offensive” can mean anything from political to sexual (erotica or porn) to violent to racist to any other type of content that goes against your personal comfort zone.

Rude and unpleasant people

Luckily, I haven’t had to deal with this often, but some clients turn out to be rude and difficult to deal with. Managing such personalities is a challenge at any time, but especially when the behavior doesn’t show up until you’re well into the project and have invested some, much less substantial, time and effort in it.

The big “why”

Some of that rude, unpleasant behavior shows up early in a client/freelancer relationship when a prospect brusquely questions your rates, no matter how you charge (by the word, hour, project, etc.). Challenging our rate structure indicates a probable PITA (pain in the … posterior) client; someone who starts the relationship by essentially insulting the editor’s stated value is likely to be difficult throughout the project.

Protective techniques

How can we defend ourselves against such situations? It’s always hard to say no to new work, especially for those who are desperate for every penny (trust me, I’ve been there). It’s even harder once there’s a serious prospect in place, and yet again when you’ve invested time and effort into at least the beginnings of a project that starts to morph into far more than you expected.

Protecting ourselves against such challenges often can make the difference between an editorial business that makes a profit and feels fulfilling versus one that makes its owner crazy as well as broke. We all may need to develop tough outer skins when it comes to situations like these, and learn when to “just say no.”

  • The first thing that colleagues in the scope creep conversation offered was “CONTRACT!” It can feel awkward to expect new clients to sign a contract, but whether you call it that or a letter of agreement, it’s something that can make a huge difference in how a project turns out. And not just from the financial perspective. Agreeing to do more than you originally expected a project to involve creates all kinds of problems. You’re likely to resent the client for creating extra (even excess) work for no additional payment, which can affect the quality of what you produce. The additional length means spending more time than you may have budgeted, which can interfere with meeting other deadlines or accepting new (and better) projects that come in while you’re wading through all those extra words.

I include language in responses to prospective clients along the lines of “I’ll provide an estimate of the deadline and fee once I see the manuscript and confirm the word count.” The estimate message and contract language include “Deadline and fee based on word count of X. Any changes or additions will result in a revised deadline and fee. If the work appears to require more time than expected, I will alert you before going beyond the agreed-upon time or amount.”

I should have mentioned in that online conversation that I also tell prospective clients that I define a page as 250 words (I went back to add that detail!). That can save a lot of hassle in explaining why the client’s 25 pages are actually my 50 pages or more, and why my fee and deadline are higher than the client might have expected.

  • When someone is rude or otherwise unpleasant in a phone or e-mail conversation, I respond with, “This isn’t an appropriate way to communicate with me. If you can’t be civil, we won’t be able to work together.” Sometimes that kind of response has to be repeated; if that’s the case, I go with the classic “Three strikes and you’re out” approach. I’d rather lose the job and the client than deal with someone who doesn’t respect my time and skills.
  • My response to questions about my rates is that they are based on X years of training and experience, and that the prospective client is welcome to look into working with other writers, editors or proofreaders if cost is their main concern. (I’m often tempted to say something like, “By the way, when you come back to me because the cheaper person you hire doesn’t work out, my rate will double,” but haven’t done so … yet.)
  • When I receive a manuscript that I find offensive or upsetting, I find a polite way to turn it down rather than subject myself to unpleasantness in my work life. I’ve used language like “I don’t handle this kind of material.“ Short, sweet, to the point. If I know someone who is comfortable with working on erotica, I might contact that colleague to ask if I can give their name to the potential client. For other areas, I simply send that “I don’t …“ message and hope never to hear from that author again.

As I was writing this column, I got a notice from the Freelancers Union about a blog post entitled “Five self-care fundamentals for freelancers.” The teaser text was: “By showing yourself how to treat yourself, you are by default providing a blueprint for how others should treat you.” That made me realize that setting out our guidelines for the kinds of work we accept as editors (or any other editorial freelancers), especially in terms of deadlines and fees, is a form of self-care. It isn’t healthy to let clients run our lives and impose crazy-making deadlines, rude behavior, insufficient payment levels, unpleasant material or other problems on us.

For any and all of these situations, the best technique might be to anticipate them and  prepare responses before such clients or projects show up. Having a script in place makes it much easier to respond to or head off problem clients, whether the “creep” is a matter of project scope, icky content or nasty behavior. The Girl Scouts have a point when they say “Be prepared.“

Let us know how you’ve handled situations like these.

Here’s to a healthy, productive new year, free of scope creep and other “creepy” aspects of our professional lives!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is the editor-in-chief of An American Editor and an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, and companies worldwide. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues. She can be contacted at Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

December 26, 2018

On the Basics: Rudolph and Business Savvy

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

The incessant, inescapable strains of “Rudoph the Red-nosed Reindeer” this past few weeks made me think of contemporary concerns such as bullying and related concerns, but also … business.

Bullying, exclusion and diversity because of the actual language and context, of course: The other reindeer “never let poor Rudolph play in any reindeer games” because he’s different. And our editorial businesses because of how Rudolph is suddenly the star — in demand — when his different-ness is needed.

The Rudolph of song and story is a good sport and happily, even eagerly, saddles up to guide Santa’s sleigh without a murmur. We don’t know how his fellow reindeer treat him after his big night — whether he remains part of the crowd or finds himself back in the corner when he’s no longer needed. Or even whether he gets some extra reindeer chow from Santa for coming through in a pinch. We can hope there’s a happily-ever-after, although my observation of much of human nature and behavior tends to make me skeptical.

What about that business aspect? I see Santa’s request for, and the other reindeers’ acceptance of, Rudolph’s special characteristic when they face a crisis as a version of the clients who only want us when they’re desperate — and even then, don’t actually value us. Many of us accept the equivalent of “Santa came to say, ‘Rudolph with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight’” — last-minute requests, rush requests, requests over a weekend or holiday, requests for added content; crazy deadlines, offers of low rates, projects that “creep” beyond their original scope — for a variety of reasons: ingrained instinct to be accommodating, pride in our work, need for getting-started projects/clips, desperation for income …

There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with being Rudolph in any of these situations, and agreeing to whatever insanity they impose, but we also have to remember that we’re in business. Even though it can feel good to save the day and rescue the project or client, situations like these create stress, often unnecessarily, and can hold us back from financial success by wasting our time and energy on projects that don’t generate enough income for the hassle they involve. They also keep us from going after or doing projects that might pay better, or at least involve less aggravation.

We have skills that deserve respect. We have experience that deserves respect. We have training that deserves respect. To quote the immortal Aretha, R-E-S-P-E-C-T!

I’m not advocating alienating clients by Grinch-ishly or Scrooge-ishly turning down such requests for editorial work. (Wow, this holiday season offers more metaphors than I realized!) I’m just saying we might want to be more discerning, more discriminating, about how we respond to them.

For one thing, when the client needs you more than you need the client, that’s the time to charge more for your editorial services. Politely, pleasantly — but firmly.

For another, these are also the times to reexamine these client relationships (I hope you don’t have more than one client who treats you like Rudolph, if any). Have you been working for the same rate for more than a year? Have you ever charged a rush fee? Have you charged a late fee when you went beyond expectations but the client didn’t bother to meet yours for timely payment? Have you said no to an unreasonable deadline or a low-paying project? Now is the time to craft some policies along these lines.

The new year is also the ideal moment to think about these situations ahead of time and prepare responses that can become your default answers to such demands (and demands they usually are, as opposed to polite requests), so you aren’t blindsided if they crop up (and they will). For those who don’t appreciate and respect you, and only ask for your help on the editorial equivalent of “one foggy Christmas Eve,” it’s time to set a firm policy of rush fees, sticking to original deadlines or even (gasp) saying no. They might merit a holiday greeting card if they pay well enough to make the hassle they inflict worthwhile, but otherwise, I’d drop them from the list.

For the clients who value your contributions, services and skills year-round, this is the time to send a thank-you gift of some sort to show your appreciation for their business, if you haven’t already done so; it needn’t be big, extravagant or expensive, but it should happen. Even an e-card can have an impact, especially on clients who might be on the fence about continuing to work with you for some reason or whom you haven’t heard from in awhile. Many colleagues have said in various forums that sending a holiday greeting (or a vacation announcement) has led to at least one new assignment each time from a client who hadn’t thought of them until the greeting/announcement arrived.

Let us know how you handle unreasonable requests from clients, old and new, and keep from being treated like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. And here’s to being treated with respect in the new year — we are professionals; hear us roar!

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter (www.writerruth.com) is the editor-in-chief of An American Editor and an award-winning provider of editorial and publishing services for publications, independent authors, publishers, and companies worldwide. She also hosts the annual Communication Central “Be a Better Freelancer”® conference for colleagues. Ruth can be contacted at Ruth.Thaler-Carter@AnAmericanEditor.com.

December 24, 2018

Indexes: Part 7 — Lessons Learned in Using DEXembed for the First Time

Editor’s note: This version of the post incorporates corrections made by the author to the Options and Advice sections.

Ælfwine Mischler

I recently created an embedded index in Word for a book that will be published as an ebook and in print. I chose to use DEXembed because colleagues advised that its syntax — a space between the curly brackets and the enclosed text — will work better when the text is converted to an ebook.

A quick explanation of an embedded index: For a print book, the index is written after the book has been designed, using a PDF file of the final pages and page numbers as locators. This is changing, and many publishers are now asking for embedded indexes. For an embedded index, the indexer uses something else as locators. Depending on the program used, this could be paragraph numbers, word numbers, or temporary bookmarks. After indexing, the program embeds the entries by inserting field codes that look like this: { XE “main entry:subentry” }. The index is then generated from the field codes so the pages numbers are displayed. In an ebook, they may also be linked to the location in the text. If the book is designed as hardcover and paperback with different pagination, the embedded index entries will give the correct page numbers for each edition.

Embedded indexes are more work for the indexers, so most of us will charge more for an embedded index.

Options in DEXembed

DEXembed (available from the Editorium) is a Word add-on that allows the indexer to use dedicated indexing software rather than Word’s clunky built-in indexing function. DEXembed can use paragraphs, words, or numbers as locators — but only one type in a given document. Paragraph number was the best choice for this project, but the author had sometimes used auto-spacing and other times had used Enter twice between paragraphs. I told him repeatedly that he had to remove the extra Enters and make the spacing between paragraphs consistent (which he did) and that he could not change the paragraphing after I had started indexing. (More on that in the second part of this article in February 2019.)

Experienced colleagues in the Digital Publications Indexing Special Interest Group (DPI SIG) say that Word does not handle ranges of locators well. It is therefore better to mark only the beginnings of entries that are less than two pages long. DEXembed offers three options for ranges: Mark them with bookmarks, mark them with beginning and end codes, or do not mark them. The documentation for DEXembed says that publishers usually prefer begin and end codes.

Before starting my index, I sent two small sample indexes to my author’s publisher — one using bookmarks and one using begin and end codes — and asked which worked better for them. They got better results with the bookmarks, which also meant one less step for me in the end. Hurray!

I Won’t Talk to You

DPI SIG members also advised me that Word and InDesign use different syntax for some things, and I had to take this into consideration while indexing. I also found that my Sky indexing software and Word do not always communicate well.

This index required a separate scripture index of Qur’an verses. In Word, you can use an f-switch that is coded with \f followed by a name to make two indexes at once { “heading1” \f “subject” } and { “heading1” \f “quran” } (See Seth A. Maislin’s blog for more.) However, my colleagues advised that InDesign will reject XE fields with a backslash.

A suggested solution that I followed was to use two levels of subentries, with the main entries for the two indexes. That is, I had only two main entries, for which I used bold text, and my first level of subentry was the real main entry I wanted. The sub-subentry was the real subentry I wanted. The designers can adjust the indentation and spacing to make these appear as two separate indexes:

The chapter and verse numbers presented two other problems of their own. How to write something like 2:10? First, Word signals heading levels with a colon, so I had to use a backslash before the colon to tell Word that this was a literal colon, not a subheading signal. I admit that at that point, I had forgotten the warnings of my colleagues that InDesign would reject these entries.

As of this writing, I am waiting for the author’s comments and corrections, and the results of a small test index for the publisher: three entries using a backslash and colon, and three using a plus sign to be replaced by a colon in the generated index. If I do indeed have to remove \: from the index, I want to be sure that + is not a signal for something else in InDesign.

A second problem in writing chapter and verse numbers was the sorting. I knew that in Sky, I had to enter one- and two-digit chapter numbers with preceding zeros so they would sort properly. Thus, Chapter 2 was entered as 002 and Chapter 16 as 016. The verse numbers following the colons, however, sorted properly in Sky without additional zeros.

Word was not happy with that, but I could only learn that at the end. I finished my index, embedded the entries, generated the index, and then found that Word had mis-sorted the verses so that, for example, 18:70 came before 18:7. I had to open Sky, add the zeros to the verses, re-embed the entries, generate the new index, and remove the extra zeros from the generated index.

Maybe I’ll Talk a Little Bit

Another difference between Sky and Word is how they handle text to be ignored in sorting. Sky’s sorting automatically ignores prepositions at the beginning of subentries, but  Word’s does not. Sky also allows the indexer to code other things to be ignored in sorting. I commonly do this with the al- that begins many Arabic names.

For the embedded index, I had to enclose items to be ignored in angle brackets, but then in Sky, they all sorted to the top because they started with symbols. I was not sure that Word would put <al->Bukhari, <al->Ghazali, <al->Tabari, etc., in the proper places in the generated index. On this, I did have success, but I had to go back to the few subentries that begin with prepositions and enclose the prepositions in angle brackets.

DEXembed uses a text file to embed the entries, and all the bold and italics are lost in the process, although their coding remains. Once the entries were embedded, I had to edit the XE fields to get the bold and italic formatting back. (See Sue Klefstad’s blog post for details.) This was not difficult with a Find and Replace using wildcards (but be sure to turn off Tracked Changes!), but it was an extra step to perform.

Advice for Embedded Indexing

It is important to communicate with the author and publisher before beginning an embedded index. Learn how the Word manuscript will be handled after indexing and how it will be published. (There is more information on the resources page of the DPI SIG website.)

Once you have written your index in your dedicated indexing software, always embed in a copy of the document. Always keep the original “clean” and do not embed in it. Sometimes Word does not embed the entries properly and you might have to try again. DEXembed does have a function to remove embedded entries, but if Word gives you run-time errors as it did to me (see the second part of my February 2019 column), you will want to try again in a clean copy so there is no chance of stray coding in the file.

My thanks to colleagues Sue Klefstad and Seth A. Maislin for their invaluable blog posts, and to other colleagues in the DPI SIG for their advice in e-mail messages.

Ælfwine Mischler is an American copyeditor and indexer in Cairo, Egypt, who has been the head copyeditor at a large Islamic website and a senior editor for an EFL textbook publisher. She often edits and indexes books on Islamic studies, Middle East studies, and Egyptology.

December 5, 2018

On the Basics — Giving back?

Filed under: Editorial Matters,On the Basics — Rich Adin @ 12:30 pm

Ruth E. Thaler-Carter

With Thanksgiving behind us and the commercial end-of-the-year holiday season well under way, it’s a good time to think about how, or if, we as editors might give something back in return for … something.

What might we have received that deserves a response of some sort? And what might be an appropriate response?

What we receive

When you stop to think about it, many of us receive a lot from various sources. As editors, and some of us as freelancers, we often receive answers to questions about our work, whether we have a confusing sentence to untangle, an unfamiliar phrase or usage to assess, a software or hardware headache to cure, or a business matter — sometimes even a crisis — to resolve. We might post those questions in online communities such as the Copyediting List, the e-mail discussion list or forums of the professional organizations we belong to, Facebook or LinkedIn groups, even Twitter conversations. We learn from blogs like this one and newsletters from various sources. Those of us who work in-house might ask for input from someone at the next desk or in another department. Many of us have vendors such as computer gurus to call on for help with technical or mechanical issues. We go to conferences, where we learn from colleagues in person. Some of us have gotten jobs or clients through recommendations and referrals from colleagues.

We can’t always give direct, concrete thanks to everyone who helps us do our work better. That’s one good reason to find ways to give back to the universe, if you’ll forgive a little psycho-babble, as is another: We don’t always even know who provides the answer to a knotty question or information we’ve absorbed without realizing it, and then used to solve problems — or perhaps just to feel better about life in general and our work, and selves, in particular. Finally, not everyone we interact with needs our information or insights, so we can’t always respond to someone who has been helpful with something of equal value.

How and why I give

There are so many ways to give, or give back.

In the professional realm, like many of us, I find myself giving back to colleagues through some of the outlets noted above: contributing to and answering questions through organizational memberships and their discussion venues, participating in online communities, speaking at conferences, editing the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) newsletter and presenting webinars for the organization, teaching classes at the Rochester, NY, Writers and Books literary center, hosting the annual Communication Central conference, etc. These activities have become as natural as breathing, and a regular part of every day. (And we might even benefit financially — the EFA, for instance, shares income with members who write booklets and teach classes or present webinars, and some organizations pay honoraria or expenses for conference speakers, or at least provide speakers with free access to the events.)

I might not be in a position to help someone who answered one of my questions, but I can provide perspectives to someone else that might be as valuable as what one of you gave me. And yes, I profit financially from some of these, but that isn’t my primary motive for doing them. It just feels good — and somehow right — to be of help to others when others have been helpful to me, whether they know it or not.

There are practical ways to give back — a commission, gift certificate, or box of chocolates to colleagues who provide referrals to new clients, for instance.

Another way I give back is by supporting organizations that have helped me in the past and/or promise to make life better for the larger world, especially women and young people. That means financial support, but also personal involvement whenever possible.

Two that stand out are the Encampment for Citizenship and the Minority Journalism Workshop of the Greater St. Louis Association of Black Journalists (GSLABJ).

  • The Encampment has nothing to do with editing or freelancing, but was a major influence on my life. (Now that I think of it, though, that experience did have a connection to what became my profession, since I put together a yearbook for my program — my first effort at self-publishing!) I was 17 when I spent a summer at an Encampment outside New York City, and I’m still friends with fellow Encampers now. The program gave me exposure to kids from a variety of backgrounds, which was a valuable learning experience in and of itself, and opportunities to do community service in several areas; my group was involved in a youth conference at the United Nations, but we all participated in the whole Encampment’s projects. It also gave me confidence about my voice and my principles; confidence that I’ve carried with me ever since.

I helped revive, and now give back to, the Encampment because I believe it’s a program that we all need in today’s confusing, divisive, difficult world. The connection to my professional life is that I use my professional skills to edit material for the organization, which contributes to making the organization look better in its presentations to potential Encampers, parents, donors and others.

  • The GSLABJ workshop was an eye-opener. It wasn’t something I benefited from as a participant; it was a program I helped with (primarily as a provider of food!) in its first year, back in 1976. The high school students in the program wanted to be journalists and were considered the best and brightest of their schools. When we asked them to take notes and write up a presentation by a community leader in the first session (the program meets for seven Saturdays at a local college), the results were incoherent and incomprehensible. I was appalled.

(For those who are wondering, I got involved in the GSLABJ because I was a reporter for the St. Louis Argus, a black weekly.)

After those seven Saturdays, thanks to the dedication of the professional journalists who gave up their weekends (and a lot of time between sessions as well), those kids were writing stories and producing TV and radio programs that were on a par with the work of people working in the profession. It was amazing. There’s something indescribably exciting about seeing a kid go from almost illiterate to highly functional and productive.

The workshop has continued in St. Louis ever since, and colleagues and former student participants have launched similar programs in DC, Memphis, Pittsburgh and elsewhere. I’ve given financial support to the GSLABJ workshop over the years, but now that I’m back in St. Louis (see …), I can — and will — provide hands-on involvement in the workshop again as well.

The tie-in to our profession as editors is, of course, that a program like this is giving young people communication skills they will need to work with or for us in the future.

Why give back?

One business-related aspect of holiday-season giving involves whether we with businesses of our own should give gifts to our clients. I do that every year; something small but personal (and purple!) to show appreciation for the fact that they sent/send me work and pay well and promptly. Client gifts don’t have to be extravagant — a promotional mug, pen, jump drive, etc., works just fine. The point is to let clients know that we appreciate their choosing us over other freelancers. Some of my clients even send me something at the holiday season!

Whether you call it giving back, paying forward or just plain giving, the rewards of helping colleagues and others are common knowledge. For those here who haven’t experienced the fulfillment of helping others on some level, whether in person or through your checkbook; whether in professional circles or personal ones; whether visibly or anonymously … I recommend ramping up your participation in the human race and finding ways to thank your colleagues and communities for what they do. You’ll feel better, and the world will be a better place.

Do you have a way to “give back”? Let us know how and to whom you give back, and why.

November 26, 2018

Book Indexes: Part 6 — “See also” Cross-references

Filed under: Editorial Matters — Rich Adin @ 5:46 pm

Ælfwine Mischler

I recently completed an index for a heavily illustrated book. When the author “took a peek” before sitting down to a serious review of the index, she sent me a question (the book was about Egyptology, but I’m using fake names here):

The author is 10 time zones behind me, and I saw her message on my phone at 10 p.m., so I could not check the index until morning. I understood her to mean that the entry said only Ailurophobiopolis, 112 and replied, “Yes, it certainly should say ‘See also, Pickled Herring, Temple of’ and I thought I had it in there. I’ll have to check in the morning.” I went to bed wondering how on earth that See also cross-reference had been dropped.

The day before, when I was generating the final index, the cross-references were not appearing correctly — some of them even disappeared. At the suggestion of colleagues in a forum, I looked for and removed stray coding in the cross-references, and they then appeared correctly. But had some been dropped?

In the morning, I checked the document that I had sent to the author, and both Ailurophobiopolis, 112 and See also, Pickled Herring, Temple of were in the entry as they should have been. Then I saw another email from the author. She had “corrected” the index entry to this: Ailurophobiopolis, See also, Pickled Herring, Temple of.

“Aha!” I cried. “I have the topic of my next blog post! Cross-references!”

I briefly explained these in Part 1 of this series. I doubt that my author had seen that post, but in any case, readers and authors can benefit from more explanation.

In this index (I explained to the author), Ailurophobiopolis, 112 is referring to the New Kingdom mummy of Vizier Siliwauks found at that site. But Pickled Herring, Temple of has subheadings. It cannot go under Ailurophobiopolis because there is only one level of subheading. It has to have a main heading of its own. See also tells the reader to go to the Pickled Herring Temple to find out more about Ailurophobiopolis.

Let me give you an idea of the Temple of Pickled Herring entry (the page numbers in bold refer to illustrations):

A total of 18 subheads and 31 locators. Yes, I am going to send the reader who looks at Ailurophobiopolis to Pickled Herring, Temple of rather than repeating all of this under Ailurophobiopolis.

But if, in another case, there are only a few locators for each item, I can put all of them under the main entry. I do not need to use a cross-reference to send the reader elsewhere.

 

Another reason for a See also cross-reference is to take the reader from something specific to a more-general topic. For example, the index of a book about food might have entries for different types of cheese. Each of these should have a See also to cheese. This is also an example of double posting, in which main entries are posted again as subentries under a category.

A See also cross-reference can also direct the reader to one or more related entries.

The metatopic might appear as an entry with multiple see also cross-references. In a large history of Egyptology, I indexed the metatopic Egyptology with subentries such as definition of, disciplinary boundaries within, and other topics that would not stand on their own as main entries, and had a list of see also cross-references. Each of these was a long entry with many subentries.

One final remark: Some of you may find fault with the example entries Pickled Herring, Temple of and Cynophobiopolis, which are from a run-in index. By convention, the subentries in a run-in index should be grammatically linked to the main entry, and I do normally follow that convention. However, in this case, there were a lot of entries like these — a temple or tomb with a list of deities depicted in it. The index was going to be set in 8-point type, and space was limited. Adding “in” after each deity’s name for the sake of convention was only going to waste space and make the entry more cluttered and difficult to read. An index should serve the reader; hence, I ignored convention in such entries.

See also cross-references are an important indexing tool for linking concepts and guiding the reader to a book’s contents. If you have ever been bewildered by them, I hope their use is clearer now.

Ælfwine Mischler is an American copyeditor and indexer in Cairo, Egypt, who has been the head copyeditor at a large Islamic website and a senior editor for an EFL textbook publisher. She often edits and indexes books on Islamic studies, Middle East studies, and Egyptology.

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