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POSITIONING A FREELANCER

To fit the bill

Ask senior desk editors in a publishing house and they will tell you that the real problem with many Indian typescripts that have been accepted for publication is that they have to be “worked over” before being sent to press. This means the language has to be tightened and the details “fact-checked” for accuracy. Given the deadlines, plus the fact that in-house editors are not equipped to handle all types of writing work, editors are now “outsourcing”, that is, giving it out to freelance editors against agreed fees.

Apparently, the arrangements have advantages for both sides: publishers are not saddled with increasing overhead costs like bonuses and so on, while freelancers can work out of home. But outsourcing isn’t all that simple. For publishers there are two hurdles to consider. First, how thorough would the editorial revisions be in language, style and subject matter. Second, will the edited manuscript be delivered in time'

For a freelance who has taken to work on his own after a fairly long stint in a publishing house, the big question is, “how much should I charge'” Publishers have a pat answer: they pay on a per-page basis that could be anything between Rs 10 to Rs 20. For the freelancer for whom it is difficult to determine the quality of the work and how much time it would take, the pro-rata rate is often unsatisfactory.

So, what does either side do' Publishers work with editors they have worked with earlier or with those whose work they have examined. Rarely do they go for new faces. Editors have realized that quality can only be ensured with full time freelancers who bill around 2,000 hours per year — that they freelance to earn a living and are therefore serious.

To do so successfully, the freelancer has to be fully equipped with the latest reference works, subscriptions to the necessary journals, and of course with state-of-the-art technology where information can be accessed at the touch of a button. Freelancers have to interact all the time with the author or commissioning editor and other specialists, which means transmitting the required information and then putting the “data” into floppies. Most freelancers take on a variety of work. Knowing how much to charge for each is difficult as many factors are involved. The size of the job is a primary concern but the level of experience, the nature and location of the publisher’s business can affect your fees. What is necessary is that you don’t sell yourself short and of course avoid pricing yourself out of the market.

Here are some tips: one, location has been a strong influence. For instance, you charge more in Delhi than you would in Calcutta. Two, networking with other freelancers is essential. Freelancers are cagey with what they get but with a little luck you could get to know. Three, to examine the typescript for a day or two before putting in the fees. To accept the publisher’s terms is to be taken for a ride. Reservations can be sorted out through effective communication.

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