Sunday, August 6, 2006

Pimp needed?

I've edited everything in my time. I've worked on a legal newspaper, the local paper, a medical magazine (fun pictures), financial reports, vanity publications, legit books, management and finance textbooks, shipping ads, newsletters, maps, curricula, posters. These days I specialise in finance. Not by choice but because anyone who knows I do it will insist I edit finance rather than anything else. I don't care. Words are words. Finance has its own jargon but it's mostly written in English, like anything else.

If I had a choice, I'd work as a manuscript doctor. I'd be good at it. But I don't know where I'd acquire clients from. Maybe I could advertise on my own account. I know what you're thinking. Most clients would feel that the poison was better than the cure if I doctored them, but I can work with registers. Most publishing works on a courtly but entirely fake courtesy, which I have long mastered. You could call it a professional tone if you liked, or the grease on the wheels maybe. I can do greasy.

But I am not choosy. So long as it involves hard cash, I'll edit anything. I have no scruples at all in deploying my skills. I might hesitate to edit for the Israeli Defence Force or the Conservative Party, but actually I'm a bit light at the moment, so, erm, so long as no one knows...

But the money has to be there. The other day an acquaintance asked me to edit a quarterly for him. He was a bit sketchy about the pay and he wanted to make it quarterly too. I said look, how much are you proposing to pay. He wanted me to telephone him and talk it over. But I don't do telephoning if I can help it, so I said look, how much are you paying and would you pay a retainer? Because, it was clear, he wanted only to pay when he had been paid and wanted to speak to me so that he could sell that. I'm not a good target for telesales at the best of times because if I wanted to buy, I would be out looking for what I wanted. I don't do impulse buying of anything bigger than a chocolate bar. Anyway, I don't like talking about money. I've never liked making loans, because I hate to ask for the money back, yet if I don't, I fret over it (not because of the lost money but because of the error of judgement and the necessity of rethinking my view of the delinquent borrower).

What is curious is that the skills you have are never sufficient for the job. What I mean is, when you are trying to get hired, the skill you most need is making a good first impression. When you are a freelance, the skill you need is to sell yourself, I suppose. There must be many people out there who would love to pay me to do what I do but how can they know I can do it? It's a mystery to me how I can reach them. (I'm not saying it's a mystery how they can be reached. I expect others could reach them easily. But how could I do it? I cannot do "spec". I cannot ring people I don't know and ask them for things. I can no more do that than fly.) I need an agent! But editors do not have agents; they just have their own wits. Sigh. Maybe I should put an ad in the paper for a pimp...


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