FFF 07: Freelance, part 1

[I bent the purpose of this month by writing a nonfiction piece over two days. I decided it’s okay because I’m still writing.]

I freelance edit for several small presses located in the United States. I realized last year that I was going to have to do some of my own legwork to get my name out there; people weren’t going to just know what a great editor I am. (And yes, I’m a pretty great editor.)

Of the publishers to which I introduced myself late last year, I’ve been in regular contact with two. The first—we’ll call them Leagues Ahead Press (not their real name, obviously)—is a decent publisher with a decent, non-bureaucracy-laden system. This could be partially because it’s a small press and not a bureaucratic behemoth like, say, Penguin Random House or HarperCollins is, but whatever the case, working with them has been phenomenally easy (especially compared to working with the other publisher; but I’ll get to them in a moment).

When I work with Leagues Ahead Press, this is how it goes. They send me a manuscript via Word document attachment in an email to either content edit or copyedit or both. I use Word’s ‘Track Changes’ and ‘Add Comment’ features while I read through the manuscript, and when I’m done editing, I save the file under a new name to avoid confusion and send it back the same way it was sent to me to the same person who sent it. Then, at the end of the month, I receive a receipt for my services and a direct deposit payment into my checking account. Rinse and repeat.

Now, dealing with the other publisher with which I’ve been in contact has been… less cut and dried, shall we say. Let’s call them Not Quite There Press because, well, they’re not quite there. This publisher is very professional and very bureaucratic. I was actually in contact with Not Quite There before I ever contacted Leagues Ahead, but the process with the former has taken so long that I’m not sure it’s even worth it anymore.

First, I applied to be a contracted content editor. Someone from Not Quite There Press sent me a relatively short test and a bunch of directions, house punctuation rules, and the like. The house punctuation rules and the like isn’t unusual, and I read through the documents carefully and took the test in about an hour and a half. Normally, I wouldn’t take that long, but I wanted to be thorough and complete in my editing since it was, after all, a test of my skill.

After about a week, I was notified that I had not been chosen to continue the process to become a content editor. I was surprised because I pride myself on knowing language inside and out and being able to communicate well through writing. But, I know content editing is often subjective, so I didn’t bother taking it personally. They offered to put me in the cue for the contracted copyeditor test, and I accepted.

Second, they eventually sent me the copyeditor test along with all the same documents I already had, plus some extra ones specifically for copyeditors in their employ. I read the new documents and took my time with the test. I wasn’t worried because I’m the best copyeditor I know. That’s not bragging; it’s just fact. I sent the test back, satisfied that I had done well.

Again, I was notified that I had not been chosen to continue the process, this time to become a copyeditor. This time, I did take it personally. I don’t know how much I missed, but my proficient editing skill leads me to believe that either (1) their house rules for editing are unusually divergent from standard editing practices, or (2) the people at Not Quite There don’t quite know what they’re doing, or (3) likely both. In any case, they offered to put me in the unpaid proofreading cue for a two- or three-manuscript trial before moving up in the ranks to a paid copyediting position. I was a bit wary at this point, but I accepted.

Third, one of the editors who handles Not Quite There’s proofreaders contacted me with yet more documents about house rule punctuation and proofreading requirements, which I dutifully read. Shortly thereafter, the editor sent me a 300-page manuscript to proofread with a deadline only a week and a half away. That seemed a little soon to me, but I was still putting up with this publisher’s strangeness, and it’s not like I could complain to the editor herself; she probably hadn’t created such a short deadline herself and was only relaying it to me.

I had been sent two separate manuscripts that were the same except that one had formatting notes on it and was locked against editing (it had been made read-only) and the other lacked formatting notes and was open only for comments (it had been locked against editing except allowing the reader to make comments using Word’s ‘Add Comment’ system).

Irritated that I had to read the two documents side by side on my computer (one to read the notes and the other to make my own notes), I opened the comments-allowed document and read the first few lines. There was a punctuation error on the first page. I highlighted the offending comma and tried to add a comment. “This command is not available because the document is locked for edit,” the note at the bottom of the screen read.

Confused, I opened the other document, thinking that maybe I had tried to comment on the read-only document instead of the one that allowed for comments. I highlighted the same error in the second document and tried to make a corrective comment. “This command is not available because the document is locked for edit,” the note read again.

Please continue in Freelance, part 2.

This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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