A Salutory Lesson Episode 2: Blackmail!

Subject: A Salutory Lesson Episode 2: Blackmail!
From: Sella Rush <sellar -at- APPTECHSYS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 16 Feb 1999 16:33:31 -0800

<ok, the title is a little melodramatic, but what do you expect from someone
who writes mysteries?>

In the past two months I, like Beth, decided to take on a relatively rare
freelance job. In my case, it was editing a manuscript for a text book.

After talking with the author about types of editing and prices, he
requested a copy edit. We agreed on price and I got to work while he
traveled in Asia for three weeks. (His original preference was a nominal
fee plus a share in the proceeds *if* the (self-published) book was
successful--i.e. if it sold more than 2500 copies. Plus he'd put my name on
the book and mention me in the related web site--remember this, it crops up
later in the story. I didn't bite, and we negotiated a standard rate.)

It soon became clear that this book was nowhere near ready for prime time.
While the writing was readable and the organization was mostly ok, I found
major technical inaccuracies. For example, the author seemed to equate the
term GUI with the presence of tool buttons. Other major issues involved
writing procedures, use of terminology, etc.

And here's where I made my fatal error. I was constitutionally incapable of
simply doing a copy edit without pointing out the most glaring errors. It
became clear that he chose a copy edit not because that's what he needed,
but because it fit his budget. He seemed like a nice guy--I hated the
thought that he would spend so much to publish a book in such bad shape.
So, with him incommunicado in Asia, I decided to provide substantive
comments on the first two chapters, as a sample to show him the value of a
comprehensive technical edit.

It worked, he loved it. He loved it so much he asked me to review all the
chapters. He also wanted help rewriting the sections I'd pointed out. He
asked that I do a second review later, and a final proofread at the end.
Also, would I help him write the text for the back of the book. And for
this additional work he would pay me the exorbitant sum of $150. That's one
hundred and fifty American dollars, payable once all the work was completed.
And because my input had been so substantial, he would put my name on the
book and the website.

Needless to say, I was underwhelmed. A few quick taps on the calculator
told me that the work he was asking for would cost about $1200. I got him
on the phone and in my most controlled voice let him know that his offer,
while appreciated, didn't exactly meet my standard rates. When he then
tried to reword his offer to make it more palatable, I told him, in a
slightly less controlled voice, that because I'd already done about $200
worth of technical editing, absolutely gratis, I didn't particularly
appreciate his attempt to wrangle more freebies out of me.

He again mentioned the name on the book thing, and this time I decided to
address that little issue. I told him that, with a little research, he
would find most books acknowledged contributors, that this was completely at
his discretion as publisher, and that I wasn't interested in accepting it in
lieu of payment.

And here's where the extortion comes in (I bet you thought I'd forgotten).
It turns out that my name in the book wasn't a carrot, it was a stick. He
felt that if he put my name in the book as editor, I would have a vested
interest in the quality of the text, and therefore would want to do a final
review and a proofread simply to preserve my reputation--since my name was
on the product.

I won't detail my response, although I did mention the term blackmail with a
little laugh that helped end the phone call amicably.

Can you believe this??? I'm joking about it, but only because I

I'm sure the fact that he's a New Yorker and I'm a third-generation
Seattlite had *nothing* to do with it.

Thanks, guys, it helps to talk about it. Grinning...

Sella Rush
mailto:sellar -at- apptechsys -dot- com
Applied Technical Systems (ATS)
Bremerton, Washington
Developers of the CCM Database

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