30 July 2009

The numbers game

So an email's circulated on a list I belong to, offering a book that needs copy-editing. There's a catch - the copy-ed needs to be super-familiar with the topic, because it's rather specialised. No problem - I fit the criteria perfectly, whizz over my CV and a cover email and sit back and wait...

A week goes by. No word. I presume someone else has been given the book, which inexplicably infuriates me. Not just because I really wanted to do this book, but because there's a recession on and I need all the work I can get. But then, lo! Another 3 days pass and out of the blue I'm asked if I'm still available to edit the book. Damn right I am.

I'm given a word count and a "budget", which can be roughly translated as "this is the fee on offer and if you don't like it, tough." I dig out my calculator and do some sums. I know I'm skilled. I also know I can work fast as well as accurately. And so, sight unseen, I estimate that if the MS doesn't need too much work it'll only take X hours and the fee, while not brilliant in today's recession-driven climate, will be reasonable and at least cover August's rent and bills. I accept.

The manuscript arrives. I do my usual procrastination but of course there's a deadline and I eventually knuckle down. Half a day in, with 40 pages under my belt, I suddenly notice that the word count is almost a fifth higher than I was originally led to expect. Ouch.

I go back and examine the chain of email between me and the desk ed. It doesn't look as if there's any room for more money. But wait. This is a major publishing house. And this is not about an extra 1,000 or 2,000 words. If it had been, I'd probably have sucked it up in the hope of getting more work in the future from the client. No, it's an additional 20,000 words...

Only one thing for it. I fire off a diplomatic email and politely ask for more money and an extra 3 days' editing time. Within minutes, I'm granted both. Result. I get the extra 3 days, more if I need them.

And best of all, the revised fee I agree to accept is more than a fifth higher than the original. In other words, I'll be paid more overall pro rata.

Now that's what I call a win...

17 July 2009

Hacking, slacking and death

The older I get, the faster time seems to whizz past. And so yet another month has somehow whistled past my ears without me blogging. There are reasons for this. Wimbledon, as usual, sucked up a fortnight of my time, during which I did very little work. Like many bloggers, I seem to have shifted my excess verbiage to Twitter instead of posting here. And while I've not exactly been loved up, I do seem to have acquired a new Mr WfH, which has also occupied my precious spare time.

On the work front, I've been semi-busy. It's tough out there right now (of which more in a mo). I gave up pitching a couple of months back when it became clear that the pitching I was doing was disappearing into a budget void. The distraction of the tennis generally means I slack off over June/July anyway so I can lie on my sofa and yell at the tv. And I've had enough copywriting and editing work to keep things ticking over enough to pay the bills. I'm now actively chasing new work and contemplating a fresh round of pitching features again.

The book continues to do well. I've completed the amendments that will be incorporated into the 3rd edition and a friend who has been commissioned to create a graphic novel about the story of Joy Division is going to quote me and the book in regard to Ian Curtis' epilepsy. Fame at last, steady on old girl!

In the interim, I've become an avid follower of certain blogs about journalism. I'm loving Journopig, a splendidly sarky take on the media. Fleet Street Blues continues to provide a great service posting vacancies, which are in short supply these days, as well as some pithy commentary on the current state of play. Overheard In The Newsroom amuses me daily. And last, but by no means least (to eke out that tired old cliché one more time), I'm reading Playing the Game. Sometimes I want to cry when I peruse the latest entry, others I want to howl with laughter (viz. the entry on HR). Much of this reminds me of my days as a junior on a weekly listings mag - the drinking, the piss-taking, the swearing (how the fuck do you think I learned to drink like a pro, eh?), the stroppy ed or two... I'm sick of reading about how my industry is dying (it's not, it's just going through a period of major change, ok) but PtG reminds me of everything that is good about the trade I love and why it's being ruined by profit vampires and accountants.

Lastly, I've yet again spent a couple of days in sad reflection and been on the receiving end of a journalist's mic. Many moons ago, as a young trainee, I worked alongside the very talented Harry Horse. We were more or less the same age - two teenagers forging our way in the press. I lost touch with Harry many, many years ago and only 18 months ago discovered the tragic circumstances of his death. So it was with a huge shock that I learned this week - a year to the day of publication - that the circumstances were far more bloody and gruesome than I could ever have imagined. Within 24 hours I was being interviewed by the hack investigating the story and reminiscing about the teen artist I knew 30 years ago. Poor Harry (and Mandy, obviously). It seems so out of character for the man I once knew and was close to. My heart breaks.

And on that note, till next time...
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