Working Words 1.2: New Developments • 7 Jobs Worth Farming Out

A Quarterly Newsletter from

The Copyeditor’s Desk, Inc.

Volume 1, Number 2
October 2012

 Lots of New Developments…

 With great pleasure we announce the arrival of several new partners in our enterprise. Since I last got in touch with you, we have been joined by three experienced and highly trained publishing professionals:

An educator and IT guru who has developed an expertise in formatting e-books. A former teacher, Ken is a PC and Web technician proficient in code as well as hardware issues and so is in a position to format electronic books ideally for any desired platform. He looks forward to working with authors and business owners in developing literary properties for electronic distribution.

A Ph.D. in microbiology who escaped the research lab for the world of publishing. Erinn is a journal editor with a string of peer-reviewed publications of her own in upper-tier science journals.  She edits technical and popular copy in the life sciences and medicine.

A science writer and editor experienced in metallurgy and software engineering. Mary edits a journal published by a research center at a prominent East-Coast university; she can do technical editing, science writing, and science journalism.

Business is booming. The number of clients served by The Copyeditor’s Desk has grown to the point where I will be able to step down from teaching at the end of the fall 2012 semester to devote full attention to building the company. Top priority: finding work for a what is now a crew of eight: two graphic designers, an e-book developer, a publishing project manager and scholarly editor, two science editors, a general-assignment editor and indexer, and of course, moi, a scholarly and business editor and all-around copywriter.

So, we now have the capacity to help you with almost all types of writing and editing needs, from scientific, scholarly, and technical content to all kinds of business publications, be they electronic or print. With a Web designer, a print book designer, and an e-book developer, we can package virtually any kind of document or book for you, taking it from the manuscript stage to a printed and bound product.

§ § §

The Copyeditor’s Desk is building visibility. We are joining the Council of Science Editors and the Society for Scholarly Publishing. Here in our local business community, we belong to the Scottsdale Business Association, the North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, and Local First Arizona, all active groups of business entrepreneurs and executives.

We distinguish ourselves from our competition in a number of important ways:

  Our professionals have advanced degrees in their disciplines and significant experience in publication management. Our writers, editors, and designers have all worked on journals and most of us have published articles and books of our own.

 We are all native speakers of English.

 We do, however, have facility with several other languages, among them French, Russian, Italian, and Spanish. We are experienced in working with authors whose first language is other than English.

 All of our work is done in America by Americans. We do not offshore assignments to editors or artists in India, Hong Kong, and waypoints.

 Each writer, editor, and artist associated with The Copyeditor’s Desk is a known quantity. We do not subcontract projects to hundreds of pieceworkers scattered around the globe. We limit the size of our organization specifically so that we can ensure the highest possible quality of work for you.

We look forward to serving you in the coming months and years and to helping all our clients as you develop your businesses, your professional practices, and your academic careers.

 § § §

News You Can Use

From a presentation I recently delivered to a business group:

Seven Routine Business-Related Jobs That Are Worth Farming Out

Too often, business entrepreneurs think they can do it all themselves, and office managers imagine that any admin with a word processor, MS Publisher, and MS FrontPage can create the publications and websites that represent their companies.

Wrong! It’s penny-wise and pound-foolish to assign expert jobs to people (yourself included) who aren’t prepared to do them and don’t want to do them. The old saying, do what you do best and hire out the rest, applies to employees as well as business owners. If you want to create a truly professional image or get a job done right the first time, hire a professional.

Here are seven jobs for which it pays to hire an expert.

 1. Web Design

The Internet is awash in sites and downloadable programs that will let you patch together your own website. And it’s true, you (or, possibly a better choice, your 15-year-old) can put together a site that looks more or less creditable, at least on the surface,

However, to do it, you’ll need to go through a substantial learning curve, and chances are you’ll spend a great deal of time that could be better spent earning money. Consider the opportunity cost: if an expert can do a job in a third the time, you will spend less on getting it done than you will lose by devoting your valuable time to a project that could be done quickly and professionally by someone who already knows how to do it.

The very site you’re reading is a case in point. Its first iteration was pretty amateurish. When I hired a Web designer who knew how to write HTML and use cascading style sheets, suddenly the thing took on a more polished look while maintaining the minimalist style I favor. Right off the bat, the designer remarked that there didn’t seem to be any way for readers to get hold of us. Hence, the  contacts page, and links to it from every page in the site. Who knew?

 2. Back-end Website Maintenance

For a very reasonable monthly, quarterly, or annual fee, you can hire Web gurus who will ride herd on software updates, troubleshoot problems, and step into the breach should your site ever be hacked.

At any site, constant weird techie stuff is going on. Here, for example, is a communication to my website wrangler about a large monetized blog I publish:


I just updated a bunch of plug-ins that were asking for new versions. This resulted in the following message:

Your backup folder MIGHT be visible to the public

To correct this issue, move the .htaccess file from wp-content/plugins/wp-dbmanager to /home1/funnyabo/public_html/wp-content/backup-db

I have NO idea what that means or how to do whatever they want me to do. On the same screen ( there are a whole bunch of “Update Google Analytics Settings” buttons. Clicking on them doesn’t seem to do whatever it wants me to do…the buttons remain, begging me to do something, but what….???? Can you fix this?

Then there are things like this:

 Who knows what it is? I don’t, nor do I have any desire to know.

Someone needs to ride herd on even the simplest website. And that job is never “simple.”

 3. SEO

“SEO” means “search engine optimization.” The idea is to get your site to come up on the first page of a Google search. All of us know some SEO strategies: the use of keywords, for example. Like this:

However, truly effective SEO is a mysterious and indispensable skill. Code needs to be written into the back end of your site to help make it visible to Google’s electronic “spiders,” which search the Internet looking for and categorizing likely candidates for the searches its users make. Some of the tricks used to accomplish this are “black hat,” meaning they’re disapproved by Google. If Google doesn’t like something in a site’s innards, it will “disappear” the site, effectively making it invisible to potential customers or readers. Without a clear understanding of SEO techniques and Google’s policies about them, it’s easy to go astray.

 4. Accounting and Bookkeeping

Speaking of mysterious and indispensable, I can’t even begin to imagine compiling business and tax returns without an accountant’s help. My accountant saves me a ton of money in taxes and potential liability, provides invaluable business advice, and suggests strategies to streamline any number of operating procedures.

Recently, too, I learned that said accountant will also do the bookkeeping for the S-corp and for personal accounts, for a very nominal fee. This eliminates vast quantities of hair-pulling for me. So worth it!

5. Design of Brochures, Business Cards, Letterhead, and Other Business Documents

With its deceptively easy-to-use templates, Microsoft Word makes it altogether too simple to create things that look like business products. Unfortunately, the products too often end up looking like someone made them on a laptop perched on the dining-room table. Here, for example, is a brochure I tricked out in a Word template:

 The yellow comment balloons contain exchanges between a Copyeditor’s Desk graphic designer and yours truly. Any wacky idea I might have had about printing this thing and handing it out to every stranger who comes up the street went away when I tried to print a proof: it sliced off half the borders and disappeared lines of copy.

Using professional design and layout software, the artist came up with this: a much more attractive result.

 You get, in short, what you pay for.

 6. Content Writing and Editing

Another pair of eyes can rescue you from embarrassment and improve quality of communication. Here’s a telling anecdote from a colleague writing on LinkedIn:

At one point I became interested in a new line of products. I received a letter from a man announcing the start of a new journal in this field. It was chock full of grammar errors. I knew he wanted to market to professionals—MDs, NDs—and I knew they’d be put off by such a letter. I responded to him, shared what I saw in his letter, and offered my assistance. He wrote back saying he had it covered. I went to a convention regarding the product line. The product company had asked this man to appear at their convention regarding the new laws concerning health products. He presented a two page multiple-choice handout,

The two pages were chock full of grammar errors, and he was publicly embarrassed, as there were questions that had no answers, and ones that made no sense—in front of 500 people! The next time I went past his booth, he came out, put his arm around me, and hired me as his editor—for even the letter of apology to the product line company!

 7. Social Media Content

 Social media, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, are said to be one of the most effective ways to market products and services. But…who has time to write this stuff?

 Not the business owner, that’s for sure.

Often the opportunity cost of a do-it-yourself job far outweighs the cost of simply hiring someone else to do the job right the first time around. And even if you don’t mind using your $100/hour time to do a $60/hour job, the result is usually better when an expert does it.

We Put Your Words to Work

—Victoria Hay
The Copyeditor’s Desk, Inc.

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