An American Editor

July 22, 2015

The Business of Editing: Using & Managing Bookmarks

When speaking about the editing process with colleagues, I am always amazed that they so rarely use one of the most valuable tools that Microsoft provides — bookmarks. It’s not that I don’t understand why, but rather that because the Microsoft way is so cumbersome, colleagues simply don’t make much use of bookmarks.

Bookmarking is, for me, a valuable way to navigate the long documents I edit. They enable me to pinpoint locations quickly. With EditTools’ new Bookmarks macro, which allows me to make use of easy-to-read and more logical navigation-oriented bookmarks, I make even greater use of bookmarks.

Bookmarks the Microsoft Way

Microsoft (using Word 2010 as the example) requires me to take these steps to use bookmarking:

  1. Switch to the Insert ribbon.
  2. Click Bookmark.
  3. Type a name for the bookmark
  4. Click Insert.

That doesn’t seems so bad unless you want to manage your bookmarks. The first problem is with the bookmark name. I like meaningful names, such as EMMA software 1st use. Try to use that in Word’s system; you can’t because it has spaces and mixes letters and numbers — both unacceptable to Word.

Try moving a bookmark from location A to location B using Word’s system. A bookmark I regularly use is editing stopped here to indicate where I am in a manuscript when I stop because I need to go to another section of the manuscript. I use it to tell me where I was and to give me a method for getting back to that place. In Word’s method, to move the bookmark, I need to delete the bookmark and reenter it.

The other thing I like to do is rename a bookmark. Renaming bookmarks lets me use bookmarks to track whether figures and tables are called out in order and whether I have edited a figure or table legend. In Word’s system, renaming can only be done by going to the location of the bookmark, deleting the existing bookmark, and adding a new-name bookmark in its place.

Another problem with Word’s system is that to resume editing of my document, the bookmark dialog has to be closed. To make any change to any bookmark — whether that means adding, deleting, renaming, or moving — I have to open and close the dialog. Not only does that take time, but it makes for poor management efficiency for someone who likes to use bookmarks.

Basically, Microsoft is costing me money because every second counts in editing for profit. EditTools’ new Bookmarks macro makes bookmarking much more efficient and less time-consuming, which means more profit.

EditTools’ Bookmarks

As I said, I make extensive use of bookmarks. I bookmark every figure and table, for example. Not the in-text callouts, but the located-at-the-end-of-the-document figure legends and tables that I need to edit. If a document has five figures, then I have five figure bookmarks: figure 1, figure 2, etc. Same with tables. And as I edit I add bookmarks to things I think I might need to return to from later in the chapter, such as a formula, an acronym, a particular “term of art,” or a name, whether of a person or a study. I sometimes have 50 or more bookmarks in a document — now that I have EditTools’ Bookmarks macro and can use easy-to-read-and-meaningful names.

The Bookmarks dialog looks like this (click on images to enlarge):

EditTools Bookmarks

EditTools Bookmarks

The Bookmarks dialog shows a list of already inserted bookmarks in a document. When you open a document in Word and then open Bookmarks, Bookmarks will populate itself (#3) and list whatever bookmarks are already in the document. You can either keep them, delete specific ones, or click Delete All to delete bookmarks from the document — and it doesn’t matter whether it was you or someone else who originally inserted the bookmarks.

Inserting a bookmark

To insert a bookmark, enter its name in the Bookmark Name field (#1). As shown (#3), you can use spaces and mix letters and numbers; a name can be up to 30 characters long. After entering the name, click Add (#2) to add the bookmark to your document and to the list of bookmarks (#3).

Before editing, I go through a document and insert the “primary” bookmarks, that is, one for each figure and table legend, and one for where I want the “refs” bookmark used by Never Spell Word and other macros located. “Secondary” bookmarks are added as I edit. For example, if the author calls a software program EMMA, when I first come across it, I will insert a bookmark such as EMMA software 1st use. If I discover later that the author defines the EMMA acronym, I can easily move the definition to the first-use location. If the document is fiction, I might bookmark Jason blue eyes or Konowitz 1st use or Katydid Gorylla spelling.

Moving a bookmark

Moving a bookmark from page 3 to page 55 is easy — just two mouse clicks: select the bookmark to be moved and click Move Here (#4); the bookmark will be moved from wherever it is in the document to where your cursor is currently located in the document. Unlike with Word’s system, there is no need to delete the bookmark and retype the name and add it again. This is particularly useful for my editing stopped here bookmark. I use that bookmark to indicate my current location in the document when I need to go to another location, for example, to table 5: I move the editing stopped here bookmark to my current location, select the table 5 bookmark, and click Go To. When I am ready to return to where I had been in the document before going to table 5, I select my editing stopped here bookmark and click Go To. (A bookmarking tip: I have learned that the best way to number tables and figures is to use two digits, such as table 05, rather than the single digit shown in the image. The reason is that if there are 10 or more figures or tables, using the leading zero ensures that the tables and figures are listed in number order.)

PerfectIt users

If you are a PerfectIt user, Bookmarks offers you an easy way to set the area that PerfectIt should check: beginning and ending bookmarks (#6). Click on PSTART to insert a bookmark where PerfectIt should begin and PEND to insert an ending bookmark. When you run PerfectIt, it will search and report on the text between the two bookmarks. For more information, see PerfectIts’ Help files.

Keeping the dialog open

Another features of EditTools’ Bookmarks is the ability to keep the dialog open (#5). In Word, the bookmark dialog closes automatically. In EditTools, you have a choice (#5). I like keeping the dialog open because I am constantly accessing bookmarks (I keep the Bookmarks, Click List, and Reference # Order Check dialogs open; they fit side-by-side on my portrait-oriented monitor). But if you prefer closing and reopening the dialog as needed, you have two choices: You can click Bookmarks on the EditTools tab (black arrow below) or you can assign Bookmarks to a “hotkey” combination by clicking Hotkeys on the EditTools tab (red arrow).

Bookmarks on the EditTools Ribbon

Bookmarks on the EditTools Ribbon

Renaming a bookmark

I use bookmarks to track callouts of figures and tables (and anything else that needs special attention, such as formulas). With Word’s bookmark system, this was doable but time-consuming and prone to error. Of course, another way to do it is the old-fashioned paper-and-pen method, but Bookmarks is much more efficient and reduces the chance of error.

As mentioned earlier, I assign a bookmark to each figure and table legend before I begin editing. When I come to the first callout for table 1, for example, my procedure is as follows:

Renaming a Bookmark

Renaming a Bookmark

 

 

  1. I move (or insert if it hasn’t been previously created) my editing stopped here bookmark (green arrow) at the location of the callout in the text.
  2. Next, I select the appropriate preassigned bookmark, table 1 (red arrow), and click Go To (blue arrow) to take me to table 1.
  3. I edit table 1.
  4. When I am done editing table 1, I select the table 1 bookmark (red arrow) and click Rename (black arrow) to open the Rename dialog, shown here:

 

Changing the Name

Changing the Name

The Rename dialog shows the current name (#1) and includes that name in the To: (or rename) field (#2). I have chosen for the name to reappear in the To: field by choosing No (#3). If I had chosen Yes as my default, then the To: field would be blank.

After editing table 1, I want to rename the bookmark so that I know (a) I have edited it and (b) it has already been called out in the document. However, I may need to look at the table again, so I want table 1 to keep a bookmark. Consequently, what I do is add an x as a prefix to the current name, as shown here (#4); however, the bookmark’s renaming is not limited to the x I use — it can be anything that works for you:

 

The New Name

The New Name

When I click OK (#5), the bookmark remains in place in the document but is renamed to x table 1 as shown in the image below (blue arrow). The bookmark now moves to the end of the list and from looking at the Bookmarks dialog, I can tell that table 1 has been called out in the text and has been edited, and that the next table callout in the text should be for table 2.

 

In the Bookmarks dialog

In the Bookmarks dialog

To return to where I was in the document before going to table 1, I select editing stopped here (black arrow) and click Go To (#6).

For a better idea of how I make use of the Bookmarks macro, look at the image below. I can see that the next table callout should be for table 3 (#1), that tables 1 and 2 (#2) and figures 1 to 3 (#4) have been edited and called out, and that figure 4 (#3) and tables 3 to 8 (#1) have yet to be called out.

 

Using Bookmarks to track

Using Bookmarks to track

If the next callout I encounter is for table 5, I can see at a glance that table 5 is not being called out in number order, which allows me to renumber or query, depending on my client’s instructions. If I renumber, I can move or rename the bookmarks.

As you can see, EditTools’ Bookmarks makes bookmarking easy. Because it is an efficient way to use bookmarks, I can make more and better use of a valuable editing and navigating tool. Most importantly, because it is efficient and a timesaver, Bookmarks saves me time, which means enhanced profitability. Bookmarks is one of the three macros I keep open on my desktop as I edit, the other two being Click List and Reference # Order Check.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

Related An American Editor essays are:

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December 22, 2014

Thinking Fiction: Tech Talk — The Joy (and Efficiency) of Multiple Monitors

Tech Talk — The Joy (and Efficiency)
of Multiple Monitors

by Amy J. Schneider

I’d like to digress from the topic of copyediting fiction and expand on something I mentioned briefly last month: multiple monitors and why you should consider adding them to your desktop. This discussion focuses on a PC running Windows 7, because, well, that’s what I have!

A few months ago, my 24-inch Flatron LCD monitor suddenly went dead. Black. Gone. I had a full docket of work, but no matter; I still had three other screens to work with. This is one of the joys of having multiple monitors.

I’ve always been like a gas: I expand to occupy all available space. When I started freelancing (working on hard copy), my husband built me a marvelous U-shaped desk system, including a rolling cart for my books and a slanted rack for reference documents, for maximum desktop real estate. But when my workload shifted toward onscreen editing, I began to feel cramped now that the monitor rather than the physical desk was my workspace. And I began to lust after multiple monitors.

Hardware Considerations

I lived with a single monitor for years. My last CRT was a monster 21-inch refurb that weighed a ton. My husband had to build a special stand so my desk would support it. Today’s thin, lightweight LCDs are a welcome change. And as the prices drop, it’s easy to afford more than one. My first LCD, a 19-inch ViewSonic, cost nearly $900! But the 27-inch Acer I bought to replace the dead monitor a few months ago was $199 on sale.

But I digress in my digression. When it was time for a new computer in 2006, I had my trusty local computer whiz build me a tower with two dual video cards, so I could add monitors as the budget and desk space allowed. (As I mentioned last month, I named the new computer HARV, after the Harvard Mark I and also as a nod to my computer guy, whose name is Mark.)

At first I had just one widescreen monitor while I acquainted myself with HARV. With one monitor, I typically had my manuscript and style sheet open side by side, with browser and e-mail hidden underneath. If I wanted to look something up online or send an e-mail, I’d have to switch to Firefox or Thunderbird and temporarily say good-bye to my Word windows. If I needed to copy something from one window to another, that was more window-flipping. Then came the second widescreen. Huzzah! Now I could view three or four docs at once, without having to switch constantly between them. But a full page was still too small to work with on a widescreen monitor. When onscreen proofreading work started to arrive, I added a third monitor and rotated it to portrait mode so I could view a full page, nice and big. Soon after that, I added the fourth and final monitor, also in portrait mode. Now I can view manuscript and proofs side by side. Luxury!

The Setup

Below is a photo of HARV as he appears today. The leftmost monitor, the 27-inch Acer, is my primary monitor. When you set up multiple monitors, Windows will ask you to designate a primary. This is where your Windows taskbar goes, and it’s also where your computer boots before activating the other monitors.

AJS all 4 monitors

In the middle are monitors 2 and 3, both 24-inch LGs rotated into portrait mode. You’ll need to buy a rotating monitor to use portrait mode, of course; Windows enables you to designate a monitor as portrait, which rotates the display 90 degrees.

Finally, at far right is the 24-inch Dell. I have dedicated this screen to the Internet: Firefox, Thunderbird, Hootsuite, et cetera. Having it at far right makes it easy to ignore while I’m working, yet I can easily hop over to answer client e-mail or research something.

There’s one bit of third-party software I couldn’t live without: DisplayFusion Pro by Binary Fortress. They offer a free version, but the functions I use most are in the Pro version, so I found it worthwhile to buy. I have a taskbar on each monitor, so the taskbar button for each open window can appear on its corresponding monitor instead of having them all piled up on the primary. For me, this alone is worth the price of admission. You can also set up hotkeys for moving windows from screen to screen, maximizing/minimizing, and other window actions, as well as for performing a host of other functions. (Usual disclaimer applies: I gain nothing from mentioning this software other than a warm feeling; I’m just a satisfied customer.)

Other Arrangements

Some people use a laptop with a second, external display, or a laptop as an auxiliary to a desktop, or a tablet as an auxiliary to a laptop or desktop. These are other useful ways to maximize your screen real estate. Last December when HARV’s motherboard died (eep!), I survived on my laptop and an external monitor while HARV was in the shop. But I felt cramped with “only” two screens, and one of them a laptop at that.

The thing I like about having four monitors for one computer is the ability to easily copy and paste text and to rearrange screens to my heart’s content. That’s a little harder to do when your screens are on different machines. And occasionally when I’ve had my laptop running off to the side, I’ve been frustrated by not being able to move my mouse pointer from HARV’s screens to the laptop…until the neurons finally kick in.

How Do I Use All That Space?

In “The Commandments: Thou Shall Be Efficient”, Rich Adin reports, “Using two monitors increases efficiency by 50%; add a third and gain another 25%; add a fourth and gain another 5%.” So the fourth monitor doesn’t gain me much percentage-wise, but it sure is nice to spread out! It’s very handy to be able to see several documents at once, at a readable size, especially when copying and pasting between them.

When I’m copyediting fiction, I keep three documents on the leftmost widescreen monitor (see photo below): the manuscript at left, and my characters and places style sheets atop one another at right. The new big Acer gives me plenty of room to have the Document Map and the styles pane open in the manuscript and still have the style sheets at a readable size. Most of the time when I’m working with the characters and places style sheets, I simply run a quick Find to get to the section I need to see. Having both manuscript and three of my four style sheets visible makes it easy to compare manuscript against the style sheet to check a style point, or to copy text from one to the other.

AJS monitor 1

On the leftmost portrait monitor (see photo below) I keep my general style sheet, because it’s nice to have as much of it visible as possible.

AJS monitor 2

The rightmost portrait monitor (see photo below) holds my timeline, which is a Word table that simulates a monthly calendar page. It can get long for novels that have a long time frame (especially historical novels that stretch over years or decades).

AJS monitor 3

Finally, as mentioned earlier, the rightmost widescreen monitor is reserved for the Internet, so I can easily pop over and check a URL or look something up while keeping my work documents visible.

Occasionally I have other documents such as a PDF of a previous book in the series. Usually those go on one of the portrait monitors. (Frankly, if I could have a single portrait monitor for each document, I would.) In my nonfiction work, the portrait monitors are also handy for viewing long tables or design samples and for quickly scrolling through a document a screen at a time, especially if you can zoom it down a little while you do so.

Navigation

As you might imagine, it’s easy to get “lost” among so many monitors and windows. But there are a few tools that can help.

The mouse pointer can be hard to locate across several monitors no matter how much you wiggle it around. Fortunately, Windows has a solution. In Control Panel under the Mouse Properties dialog, go to the Pointer Options tab and check the box for “Show location of pointer when I press the CTRL key.” Now, when you press Ctrl, an animated “target” of concentric circles will zoom in on your pointer. Very handy!

To move among the manuscript and style sheets efficiently, I use a numbered naming scheme along with the Word shortcut for navigating windows: Alt+W, W, [number]. The general style sheet’s file name begins with the number 1; characters, 2; places, 3; and timeline, 4. This forces the files to always appear in the same order in the Switch Windows menu, and also forces the manuscript to appear as number 5. The keyboard shortcut quickly becomes second nature for switching focus without mousing.

I’ve read that it takes about two minutes after acquiring a second monitor to wonder why you didn’t get one sooner. I have certainly found that to be true! And If you decide to explore the world of multiple monitors, I hope you, too, find it to be true.

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

November 10, 2014

Thinking Fiction: The First Pass — Just Read It!

The First Pass — Just Read It!

by Amy J. Schneider

After I write this blog post, the next item on my agenda is (surprise!) copyediting a novel (a cozy mystery, if you’re curious). And the first step is one of my favorite parts of fiction editing: simply reading the manuscript. And why wouldn’t it be my favorite? It’s the pleasure reader’s dream: getting paid to read a novel. You might envision being snuggled up on the couch with your laptop and a pillow and blankie, a snoozy dog (or cat, if you swing that way) at your feet, a bowl of bonbons at hand. But the truth is…well, actually that is pretty much how I do the first read. But, as always, other tasks are involved. Let’s take a look.

Receiving the Manuscript

I edit fiction for major New York publishing houses, so of course they have the process well in hand. When a manuscript comes to me, it has already been accepted for publication and undergone substantive and/or line editing, and the publisher has applied its template and the associated styles for front and back matter, chapter openers, space breaks, letters, place and date markers, and so on. So even the unedited manuscript is pretty clean (with some variation, of course). One client helpfully includes a form with information and instructions for the copyeditor, listing items such as genre, setting, audience, and publication date; the level of editing the project editor believes it needs and what levels of changes require a query (generally, lighter edits such as transposing words can be made without a query, whereas queries are requested for heavier edits such as minor rewriting); specific instructions about how to handle things such as punctuation, spelling, grammar, capitalization, and any unusual choices the author has deliberately made; how receptive the author is to queries (this is helpful for knowing when to put on an extra pair of kid gloves); and any other notes. If a previous style sheet for the same author or the preceding book in the series is available, I receive that as well. (Quite often it is a PDF of my own style sheet with handwritten annotations that the publisher added after the previous edit: additional words, corrections/changes, and so on. Fortunately I always save my style sheets from previous projects, which is especially handy for maintaining consistency across a series or preserving an author’s preferences across unrelated novels. I just pick up the old Word files and use them as a starting point for the new book.)

But at this point, these associated documents are for review only. I look over the copyeditor instructions and mentally note anything that stands out, as well as anything that’s business as usual. (If you are editing for an individual author, you will want to discuss these points with the author ahead of time and agree on the details.) I review the previous style sheet, if one is supplied, and note anything that I may want to begin addressing during the first pass. For example, does the style of the book call for the serial comma? Most do, but some authors prefer to omit it. I’m a fan of the serial comma myself, and it’s very nearly a knee-jerk action for me to apply it. So for books that do not use the serial comma, I run a quick search and replace to flag all occurrences of “, and” and “, or” so I don’t accidentally leave in a serial comma or neglect to take an errant one out. The previous style sheet will also alert me to any other deliberate or unusual style choices as I do the first pass.

Finally, I apply my version of the publisher’s template, which changes the text to a font that is comfortable for screen reading (my preference is 14-pt. Verdana) and gives me access to my other working macros, and we’re off!

Time to Read!

Blankie, check. Doggie (or kitty), check. Bonbons, check. It’s time to get started.

As I mentioned earlier, this is when you simply read the story to familiarize yourself with the author’s style, the characters, the setting, the plot, and so on. No style sheets are required at this point, except perhaps for quick reference. Don’t get bogged down in making and noting style decisions while you are acquainting yourself with the story. In fact, this pass is the only time (except when I’m traveling) that I use my laptop for paid work, because I can do it on one screen, whereas I do the rest of my work on my mighty desktop, HARV (named for the Harvard Mark I; see “IBM’s ASCC Introduction (a.k.a. the Harvard Mark I)”), and its four screens. (I’d like to point out that this is one more monitor than Rich Adin has, heh heh.) I find the multiple monitors especially useful for fiction, because I keep five documents (plus browser and e-mail) open as I edit: the manuscript plus my four style sheets for characters, places, timeline, and general style. (See Rich’s discussion of the increased efficiency of multiple monitors at “The Commandments: Thou Shall Be Efficient”.)

So, no style sheets, just you and the manuscript. Ready, set, read! Enjoy the story. Make mental notes, but do not make style decisions or write queries at this point. You’ll probably notice things that you want to check in more depth later: wasn’t this character’s name different before? Note to self: pay attention to Melvin/Marvin on second pass. (Flag it with a note to yourself, if you like.) And you may also find that your questions are answered later as you read on. Get an idea of the level of detail, so you know how much to note on the style sheets. I’ve edited books where very little description of characters, objects, places, and time was given; it was all plot, and thus the style sheets were very simple. In other books, the level of character description is enough for a police sketch artist to do a pretty good job, and we learn addresses, brand names, car models, exact times of day, and myriad other details. For these books the style sheets will be more complicated to compile.

But you will also start cleaning things up so you can concentrate on the big stuff during the second pass. Go ahead and fix (using Track Changes) things that are outright errors: wrong word choice (e.g., hoard for horde), punctuation errors (e.g., deleting a hyphen after an adverb ending in -ly: newly returned king), and so on. At this point I don’t correct anything that might need a query, even an “AU: OK?” because I don’t want to derail myself. If anything, I flag it and move on. At this stage, I also correct silently (untracked) typographic glitches that the author does not need to approve, such as deleting extraneous spaces, moving commas and periods inside quotation marks (for American punctuation style) and converting multiple hyphens to en dashes.

You probably won’t catch all of the glitches on the first pass, and that’s OK. It’s not meant to be a heavy edit pass. This is one case where you’re actually doing what many laypeople think we editors do: reading the latest potboiler and fixing typos. You and I both know that the heavy lifting comes later. But that’s a topic for upcoming posts.

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

April 16, 2014

Are Boom Times Coming?

As all self-employed in the United States know, April 15 is not only the date our personal income tax returns for the prior fiscal year are due, but also the time when we need to pay our first quarter estimated taxes for the current fiscal year. For me, it is also a time to spend a few hours looking at data I have accumulated during the first quarter and making an attempt to predict future trends.

In recent articles, I have noted the importance of data collection (see, e.g., The Business of Editing: Recordkeeping I and The Business of Editing: Recordkeeping II). I have also noted the upswing I have experienced in offers of editing work (see, e.g., The Business of Editing: An Embarrassment of Riches). In those articles, I hinted (at best) at the extent of the data I keep and analyze.

Important data that I keep are the number of projects I have been offered, the number that I accepted and the number I declined, and as much detail as I can about the projects I declined, but with particular focus on size, offered fee, subject matter, and schedule. I usually review and analyze this data quarterly, about the same time that I prepare my income information for transmittal to my accountant for the quarterly returns. (I know that many, if not most, of my colleagues do their own quarterly payments; after all, it is a simple form. But I have made it a practice over my years as a freelancer to always use an accountant even though the accountant’s services are not free. For my business it is worth the fee. The accountant also looks at the data I have collected and sometimes offers a very valuable insight into my business that I have overlooked.)

This year has been significantly different than previous years. When publishers started offshoring, I could see a trending decline in the number of projects I was being offered. Interestingly, at the height of the offshoring and of the consolidation of the publishing industry, a key indicator was the low number of projects that I declined. (I should note that I do track the reason why I declined a project. This is important data. It makes a big difference in my analyses if the reason was fee, schedule, project size, or subject matter, or a combination of these four. For example, if I declined a project because it was outside the scope of the areas in which I work [e.g., a historical romance novel], then that particular project plays a very minimal role in my analyses; in fact, other than being counted as a declined project, it has no role in my analyses.) At that time, few projects were declined.

I could then trace a leveling. Every year following the plateauing of the accepted-declined numbers, I could reliably estimate the amount of work I would have each quarter of the following year, from whom the work would come, and the type of work it would be. That information helped guide my marketing: how much marketing I needed to do, to whom it should be directed, and when it should be done.

Beginning in the last half of 2012 I noticed that what had been plateauing was changing. The number of projects and the size of the projects being offered were beginning to increase. Where previously the number of projects being declined had remained low and steady, the trend was starting to show an increase.

The data for 2013 reinforced this trend, with the numbers steadily, but slowly growing. Also the data showed an increase in the effective hourly rate, which indicates an improvement in efficiency as well as an improvement in the types of projects accepted.

For the first quarter of 2014, the data demonstrates a continuation of the trend. But the data shows a significant spike. For example, in the first quarter of 2014 I was offered and declined as many projects as I had declined for the whole year in 2011 and 2012. The data shows that the number of manuscript pages in the declined projects equals 46% of the number of pages that was accepted.

Perhaps more importantly, the data shows that clients increasingly tried to alter schedules in hopes that by doing so I could fit the projects in my schedule. This is an important bit of knowledge because I can look at, for example, 2007 and see that in 2007 clients were willing to alter production schedules for very few projects, but in 2014 it changed to the majority of projects.

The data indicates to me that, at least within my niche, boom times may be coming. The first quarter 2014 data is an eye-opener for me. I note that revenues are up 61%, the size of the projects under contract is up 143%, and the number of projects being offered is up 218%, but I declined 58% of gross number (or 46% in terms of manuscript pages), which is also an increase. Unfortunately, because editing is hands-on work that has limits on what can be automated, the number of projects that I can accept is governed by the same key determinants — number of manuscript pages, project difficulty, and schedule — that existed in 2000, which limited the number of projects I could accept in 2000, still control the number of projects I can accept today.

But data analysis also discloses how efficiently I can edit. The more efficient I am, the higher the number of pages per hour that can be edited. The higher that number is, the more projects I can accept; conversely, the lower that number, the fewer projects that can be accepted.

Although the percentages noted above look great, it needs to be remembered that they represent just the first quarter of 2014. Second quarter data could plummet those numbers when applied year to date. My point is that although analysis of the first quarter is important in the decision-making process for upcoming months, it cannot be the sole determinant. At most it is a guide. Had the numbers been down, however, the importance of the analysis would be much greater; the analysis would be a warning of a negative trend that requires immediate corrective steps.

As I said earlier, my first quarter results indicate a change in the publishing industry for my niche and implies that boom times are coming. But even if boom times are coming, who knows how long they will stay. It could be fleeting or it could be years. The answer lies in the data I continue to collect.

What does your data tell you about upcoming trends for your business? Are you doing better than previously? Do you limit your analyses to comparing gross revenue? If so, what does that comparison tell you about your business and what you need to do?

Richard Adin, An American Editor

October 2, 2013

I’ve Been to the Mountain . . .

Generally, when someone says “I’ve been to the mountain,” the person means they have gone somewhere and been enlightened about some topic. Well, that’s me — I’ve been both to the mountain and enlightened.

Last week I both participated in and attended the Communication Central conference, “Be a Better Freelancer! Marketing Magic and More for Your Business.” I admit that before the conference I wondered whether I would learn new things or just hear things I already knew. I should have known better than to wonder.

Every session I attended as a conference goer, taught me new things. My biggest complaint is that I had to choose between sessions; were it possible, I would have attended every one of them. Next time I’m asked to present at the conference (assuming there is a next time), I think I’ll try to negotiate the right to set the schedule so that I can attend more sessions that interest me. :)

This was the eighth annual conference put on by Communication Central; I have attended six of the eight, sometimes as a presenter, sometimes just as an attendee. I have never been disappointed by the depth and breadth of the offerings and of the speakers. The conference is almost always held mid to end of September or early October, so for those of you who didn’t come this year, you should begin making plans to attend next year’s conference.

The conference is an excellent way to network. I am aware of one participant who has already received a referral and I suspect others have also. It is also a time to catch up with “old” friends, that is, friends one has met at prior conferences or just in online groups, and learn more about how others view the state of our business. And it is also a time to learn.

The one thing that I noticed at the conference and which disappointed me about my colleagues (again, this is a sweeping generalization and does not apply to all of my colleagues in attendance) is the low self-esteem that seems to hang around editors. When I went to the mountain, I knew I was the best, the greatest, and the smartest editor in the world. What surprised me was that so many others did not think the same of themselves.

Editorial success is much more than being able to identify a part of writing or to query a sentence that reads as if it had been stomped by a team of Clydesdales pulling a wagon of beer. Success in editing is, in great measure, a belief in one’s self, a belief that one is the best, the greatest, and the smartest.

It is not that we need to emblazon that mantra on our letterhead and ram it home to clients; rather, we need to ram it home to ourselves, and our messages — written or oral — to clients need to convey that “I am the best; I am the greatest; I am the smartest” and that the client can search forever and not find a better editor than “me.”

This is much the same message we discussed just a few months ago in Business of Editing: “I Can Get It Cheaper!” in which I wrote:

What I am doing is making the client confident that the only smart decision is to hire me as a professional editor.

Think about this: If you don’t believe you are the greatest, who will? (Right-click on the following link to download a PDF that can be printed and then posted near your work area to remind you to believe.)

If you don’t believe

Business success is always a combination of skills, acumen, and attitude. A positive attitude goes a long way toward building a successful career. Positive attitudes are infectious. More importantly, if you display confidence in your skills and proclaim that confidence, there is less likelihood that your clients will doubt or question the decisions you have made. Timid attitudes make clients wonder and question.

This does not mean that you should tattoo the client with your proclamation of self-esteem. It does mean that you should project confidence in your decisions, in your questions, in your statements.

There is one other thing that I noticed at the conference that is worth discussing here: efficiency. Many of the attendees I spoke with thought that they were highly efficient in their work habits. That is not a good thought to have because if you believe you are efficient, you will not strive to be even more efficient.

As efficient as your process is, it is not efficient enough!

should be your guiding philosophy. Successful freelancers are always reevaluating the procedures they follow and try to wring ever greater efficiency out of those procedures. And if you cannot wring greater efficiencies out of a particular process, you should think about the process and whether there is not a better process that you should implement.

Efficiency and productivity are two cornerstones of successful freelancing. They require constant attention because improvements that can be made in them have a direct impact on profitability.

These were some of the general lessons that were passed on to conference participants. I expect there were others to which I was not privy because I could not attend all of the sessions. Next year come to the conference and see what lessons you draw. Whatever they are, you can be assured that they will help you in your freelancing business.

September 23, 2013

The Twin Pillars of Editing

The twin pillars of editing are the thinking and the mechanical. Every editing assignment includes these twin pillars; they are fundamental as well as foundational.

The thinking pillar is what attracts people to the profession. Should it be who or whom? Does the sentence, paragraph, chapter make any sense? Does the author’s point come through clearly or have the author’s word choices obfuscated the message? The thinking pillar is what professional editors live for; it is often why we became editors. The semantic debates thrill us; the ability to rework prose to make it flow better is like an opiate.

Alas, the thinking pillar alone is insufficient to provide us with an income. Every manuscript requires the mechanical pillar and, to earn our wage, editors need to tackle that mechanical pillar.

The mechanical pillar includes many different functions, such as cleaning up extra spaces, changing incorrect dashes to correct dashes, incorrect punctuation to correct punctuation, and, perhaps most importantly, incorrect words to correct words and inconsistencies to consistencies. Many of these things can be, should be, and are done using macros.

Since 1984, I have earned my living as an editor; since the early 1990s, freelance editing has been my only source of income. I am pleased to say that I have made (and continue to make) an excellent income as an editor. The reason I have done well financially is that I have looked at the mechanical pillar of editing as a puzzle to be solved. Essentially, to be profitable and to make editing enjoyable, I want to minimize the time I need to spend on the mechanical aspects of editing and maximize the time I spend on thinking about what I am editing, while minimizing the time I need to spend on any single project.

The professional editor is part philosopher and part engineer. In our case, the engineer makes possible the philosopher. The mechanical pillar, which is the engineer’s role to tackle, often is the part of editing that most slows us down. It is the most difficult part of our work in the sense that it is difficult to find efficient, productive ways to speed the mechanical aspects. That is the function that macro tools try to fulfill, but we still end up doing individual searches and replaces to fix the rote things that the macros we use fail to fix.

The more financially successful an editor is, the more likely it is that the editor has mastered techniques that quickly eliminate some, if not most or all, of the tasks that fall under the mechanical pillar of editing. As I have stated many times before, mastering the mechanical aspects is why I created EditTools and why I use PerfectIt and Editorium macro programs. It is not that these programs eliminate the mechanical aspects of editing; rather, they reduce those tasks.

The remaining task is generally the applying of styles or codes to elements of the manuscripts. Unfortunately, this cannot be done automatically; I must read the manuscript to know whether something should be coded as a quote, a bulleted item, or something else. This is where, were we to apply a Venn diagram, the thinking and the mechanical pillars overlap.

The smaller I can make the overlap and mechanical areas of the Venn diagram, the larger the remaining area for the thinking pillar. The larger the thinking pillar, the more enjoyable the project. But this area is also the area in which I can best control my time.

Professional editors soon learn that there are some editorial questions that could be debated for hours and when the debate halts, still have not achieved a nondebatable resolution. In other words, many more hours could be spent on the point in question. Consequently, as we have honed our skills via the grindstone of experience, we have also developed a sense of how to best spend our time on the thinking pillar of editing.

We learn to stop debating endlessly whether to use serial commas or not, or whether which can be used if not preceded by a comma, or whether about is a true equivalent of approximately, or, my favorite, whether since and because are wholly interchangeable in all circumstances. (Another of my favorites is whether it is permissible to use due to in lieu of all its possible contextual meanings expanded.) Once we stop debating these issues, we begin to edge their resolution closer to the mechanical pillar.

If we decide that since can only be used in the sense of time, it becomes mechanical to change since to because or as in nontime usage. This becomes one more thing that liberates the thinking pillar to spend more time on those issues that require thinking skills. It also means that a little less time needs to be spent on the manuscript, unless we devote that time savings to the thinking pillar.

The point is that what editors need to seek to do, ultimately, is to increase what belongs as part of the mechanical pillar, lessen what falls within the overlap, and increase the time available for the thinking pillar. The more items that fall under the mechanical pillar and that can be macroized, the more income and profit an editor can make (assuming the editor is charging by a method other than the hourly method), because we can control the time we devote to the thinking pillar better than we can the time we devote to the mechanical pillar. The thinking pillar is like a bubble that can expand and contract as needed or as conditions warrant. The mechanical pillar lacks similar flexibility because there is a set amount of time required to accomplish all of the mechanical and overlap tasks. We reduce the time by using tools like macros, but then we increase the time when we add additional tasks or tasks that cannot be macroized.

If we think of editing as built on these twin pillars, we can make strides toward increasing our productivity, efficiency, and profitability.

May 8, 2013

The Commandments: Thou Shall be Efficient

Filed under: Commandments for Editors,The Commandments — americaneditor @ 4:00 am
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It is not enough to say that an editor has to be profitable (see The Commandments: Thou Shall be Profitable); a business must also be efficient in the delivery of its goods and services. Thus the commandment: Thou shall be efficient!

Efficiency has many facets. Included under the efficiency umbrella are the steps an editor takes before editing a manuscript — the preparatory steps (see, e.g., Business of Editing: The Logistics of Large Projects). Also included are the steps an editor takes during editing to promote speed, accuracy, and consistency, as well as the steps (the planning) the editor takes to meet a schedule and those an editor takes to find and retain clients.

With today’s worldwide competition for editorial work and the resulting depression of fees — and let us not forget the rise in authors who believe they can do it all themselves, which rise is a result of the rise of ebook self-publishing — the need for editorial efficiency is greater than ever.

Two things clients look for are low price and short schedule. Everyone is in a hurry. When I started as an editor, my clients’ primary concern was getting it right — schedules were flexible. Today, as a result of the continual consolidation in the publishing industry and the rising power of the accountants, schedule is the highest priority among publishers (with low editorial and production costs a very close second). In addition, authors and publishers often do not have large reservoirs of patience for the editing process.

The pressure of low fees and short schedules means that editors need to be more efficient in order to earn a reasonable living from editing. The effective hourly rate has to be foremost in an editor’s mind (see Thinking About Money: What Freelancers Need to Understand for a discussion of the effective hourly rate). The ultimate question is: How does an editor become more efficient?

Some ways we have discussed previously, such as our discussion on macros (see, e.g., The Professional Editor: Working Effectively Online II — The Macros). But mastering macros is not enough. We must also be, for example, masters of Microsoft Word. We must also revise our approach to editing.

When we are paid by the hour, we can be less efficient than when we are paid by the page or the project, because the client is paying us without regard to efficiency, although there are limits to the number of hours for which a client will willingly pay. The problem from an editor’s perspective is that when we are paid by the hour, we are limited in our earning capacity and it becomes ever more important that we be able to fill our work week with work. If we are paid $30 and hour, all we can earn is $30 an hour and if we only work 20 hours in a week, we are paid only for those 20 hours.

In addition, there is no incentive to quickly finish a project because the next project will also pay us $30 an hour and it doesn’t matter which project is paying us as long as we are getting paid. (Of course, we are not really earning $30 an hour because that number is reduced considerably when we include the hours for which we are not being paid but which are also work hours; that is, when we calculate our effective hourly rate.)

Yet efficiency can bring some rewards even to the hourly earner. Being efficient reduces the hours we need to spend on a project and thus enables us to take on additional projects and additional clients — we can expand our base. Efficiency can help move us from being dependent on a particular client to a broad base of clients.

One aspect of efficiency is the number of reading passes an editor makes. Discussing with colleagues how they process a manuscript can be revealing. Some do multiple passes over a manuscript in an attempt to find and correct lingering errors. Others try to minimize the number of passes, especially if they are not being paid by the hour.

Limiting the number of passes to one or two is doable, depending on the type of manuscript (e.g., novel, nonfiction book, journal article), the client (e.g., whether author or publisher), the software used (e.g., PerfectIt, EditTools, specialized spell checkers), the client’s requirements, and the type of edit one is hired to perform (e.g., developmental, copyedit; see Editor, Editor, Everywhere an Editor). It is not true that every pass an editor makes over a manuscript makes the manuscript more error-free. That may be true for one, two, possibly three passes, but there comes a point when returns diminish — not because there are no errors, but because we begin to see what we expect to see, not necessarily what is really there. We become overfamiliar with the manuscript. Consequently, doing fewer passes can be both more efficient and more productive. (We, and our clients, need to accept that there really is no such thing as a 100% error-free manuscript, especially when many “errors” are subjective errors.)

Efficiency is also had by using the correct tools. Studies are very clear that using multiple monitors, for example, increases productivity and efficiency. Using two monitors increases efficiency by 50%; add a third and gain another 25%; add a fourth and gain another 5%. Basically, editing with three monitors seems to be the most efficient and productive. I know that I have found using three 24-inch rotating monitors has made it much easier for me to edit quickly, efficiently, and accurately. It allows me to, for example, drag and drop between documents, each document on its own screen. It also allows me to have my stylesheet open and before me at all times, as well research tools.

Efficiency is also found in reducing the number of keystrokes needed to process information. I have found invaluable a keyboard accessory called XKeys. I have used the Pro PS2 version for more than 10 years; it is what allows me to access many of my macros by the press of a single key. I have assigned each of the buttons on the XKeys to a key combination that I would not normally use (e.g., Ctrl+Alt+Shift+K) and I assign one of my macros to that key combination. Using Xkeys makes using macros like Toggle much more efficient.

Efficiency also means tracking one’s time carefully. An editor needs to know what areas of editing go relatively “fast” and what go “slow.” By identifying the areas that take longer to process, the editor can focus on ways to make such work go faster. More importantly, if an editor finds that she can process certain types of material faster and more accurately than other types, the editor now knows where to focus her marketing efforts.

Similarly, an editor needs to know her strengths and weaknesses. For example, I know that I am a fumble-fingered typist. Consequently, I know that if I have to type nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, I am likely to mistype it and need to correct my typing, which makes both the original typing and the correction typing inefficient. Thus I know that I can increase my efficiency by having that phrase typed correctly once in my Toggle dataset and then pressing a key combination (or, in my case, an Xkeys button) to have it automatically typed.

Efficiency is good for the editor and for the client. No client wants to pay for an editor’s learning or redoing curve, and most editors want to increase their earning power. Analyzing how you work and trying to improve on it is a fundamental part of any business.

Thus the commandment: Thou shall be efficient!

April 15, 2010

It’s the Little Things: Hardware

In a previous article, I raised the topic of the little things in editing that can make editing quicker, more accurate, and more profitable, but I didn’t begin discussing the actual tools I use. With today’s article I begin that discussion.

Although most of the tools are software, we do need to begin with hardware. I don’t plan to discuss the innards of a computer or whether one should buy a laptop or a desktop, although my experience with both indicates that editing on a desktop is more efficient for me. But there are a couple of pieces of hardware that are worthy of note: monitors and XKeys.

Monitors

When I first began electronic editing, more than 20 years ago, color monitors were not available. The monitors were black and white (or green or amber), were small, and were heavy CRTs (cathode ray tubes). Using a single monitor at a “large” screen size of 12 inches meant investing a ton of money into a single piece of hardware. How times have changed.

The advent of LCD monitors with large screens has been a boon to editing. Instead of seeing a few lines of text, one can see a page, get a better feel for context. LCDs have two other bonuses: small size (compared to the equivalent CRT) and, today, a low price.

As I have noted in other articles, I read a lot of “stuff” and I read, years ago, the results of a productivity study that showed that using 2 monitors nearly doubled productivity and using 3 monitors increased productivity by another 20% or so (the third monitor stat is from memory and may be off, but the study did show an increase in productivity over 2 monitors), and there was yet still another increase with 4 monitors but it was a less dramatic increase than third monitor increase.

I can attest at least to the 3-monitor productivity increase (I wanted 4 monitors but just couldn’t find room for #4). I have used a 3-monitor setup in my work for years and would not consider returning to anything less. I need to mention, however, that I do not think just any monitor will do. I have found that the best monitors for my work are monitors that pivot between portrait and landscape modes.

My set up uses three 24-inch pivoting LCD monitors (I happen to like Samsung monitors and the 3 monitors are the Samsung SyncMaster 2443BWT model). The left monitor is almost always in portrait mode as is the center monitor; the right monitor is usually in landscape. But should I need all in portrait or a second in landscape, I just need to rotate them.

The 3-monitor setup lets me logically divide my work. Here is how I usually have my work setup. On the left monitor is the manuscript I am editing. Portrait mode lets me see a page (or close to it) at a time. The center monitor is where my Internet access is located. I use an online collaborative stylesheet system that operates through my website, so this gives me access to the stylesheet (always up) and to Internet resources if I need to check things. On the right monitor I put my local resources, such as an electronic specialty dictionary or word book, and the manuscript references or bibliography. Just by moving my head or my mouse, I have instant access to all the editing resources I need.

Compare this to editing on a single monitor. Think about how much time has to be spent going between screens, and if you use the landscape orientation so that you can “split” the screen and have, say, a manuscript and the stylesheet visible at all times, what you are seeing is less than what I can see and requires more scrolling time.

So that little thing of have at least 2 monitors boosts productivity and efficiency greatly.

XKeys

Xkeys is equally as valuable, perhaps even more so, as the 3-monitor setup. I use, and have used for at least 10 years, the 58-key professional PS2 model. When I originally bought my XKeys, only the PS2 model would retain its programming in a power failure. This appears to no longer be the case. (One other important note: XKeys sells its own macro software. I have never used it or bought it, so I have no opinion about it. I use with my XKeys macro software called Macro Express, which I will discuss when I discuss software.)

XKeys sits to the left of my keyboard in a place of honor. It has increased my productivity many times over (I’ll say by 1000% but I really have no idea of the percent). I have programmed the XKeys for “odd” key combinations, such as Ctrl+Alt+Shift+F1, as well as for familiar combinations such as F1.

XKeys increases the number of key combinations available for macros by 58 because you can add hard-to-press combinations to a single key. (Actually, if I wanted, my XKeys Pro can handle 114 key combinations. It really is a 2-layer device, but to access the second layer and return to the first layer requires additional key presses, so I have never bothered). When I discuss software, I will go into more detail about the advantage of XKeys, but suffice it to say that I can now, with the press of a single button, run a macro or apply a style. It is much quicker than using a keyboard combination or the mouse.

But here is the most important part of XKeys — I can create a custom “keyboard” for each client or project type or project without reprogramming the XKeys! I have certain macros that I use for every client and every project, such as my Toggle macro, which is part of my EditTools software. So I have permanently assigned a particular XKey button to that macro. I don’t even have to divert my eyes from the manuscript to press the key. Habit takes over. The point is that every “custom keyboard” I create has certain macros preassigned to it, and it is only the remaining buttons that need to be assigned.

And because XKeys is just running the programmed key combination, I can assign to that key combination either a macro from within a program such as Microsoft Word or via Macro Express. XKeys is also program-neutral; that is, I have custom keyboards not only for clients and projects, but also for programs, such as InDesign.

XKeys and a 3-monitor setup are important allies for me in my never-ending quest to improve my accuracy and efficiency, which will translate to an improved bottom line. In subsequent articles I will discuss some of the software I use and how I use them as part of my striving to be the best editor I can be and provide my clients with the best editing available.

The Rubric Theme. Blog at WordPress.com.

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