Thanks for your recent letter, the latest having covered a lot of ground. I’ll just go through yours in order and do a point-by-point/section-by-section reply in the interest of staying organized.
My rate for copyediting is 1 cent US per word and for a Canadian client it’s still 1 cent US per word but then come invoice day, whatever the US total is, it is exchanged at that day’s current exchange rate to arrive at the Canadian dollar value of the total. Since the Canadian dollar is doing well these days (lately we’ve been hovering around 1.11-1.13 on the exchange), it’s not too big of a deal. If this was a few years ago where our dollar stunk and the exchange averaged at around 1.65, then unfortunately for the Canadian client, the service would cost them more.
The comment about “by Dave Sim as told to so-and-so,” I see where you’re coming from. I don’t believe it’s an editor’s job—copyeditor or just proofreader—to rewrite anything or “redo” anything. The job is to point out to the author where he/she messed up regarding continuity, grammar, spelling, etc. Sure, an editor corrects words or puts question marks beside word choices (especially ones that don’t fit the context of any given statement), but it’d have to be a super heavy “redo” for them to have any righteous claim to a joint byline. That, and any suggestion/correction an editor makes, the author can say no to especially if they’ve hired someone on a freelance basis to go over the manuscript. There’s always a written agreement, too, that so-and-so was hired for such-and-such a service, he/she is to be paid X amount for said service and that’s where the relationship ends.
I liked your idea of just stepping back from all this “creative” stuff and getting a McJob. Trust me, I hear you. I’ve toyed with that idea too and instead of being glued to my work station for 10-12 hours a day, it’d be nice to do my 8 hours and not worry about work until the next block of 8 hours rolled around. Ah, the price we pay for following our dreams and seeing our goals through. And, in truth, I wouldn’t trade this job for anything. Well, maybe being an action star.
You haven’t sent me a copy of the Cerebus Guide to Self-publishing, but it’s okay; I already have a copy (see my first letter to you). Thanks for the offer, though.
So on to the “meat” of our correspondence: our foray into the world of the gray stuff. You had used abortion as an example in your comments. After I first read it, I quickly saw that such a topic could open a door into a discussion on one’s morals and religious beliefs (yours, mine, whoever’s). But I’ll try to keep that separate for now as best I can because, since you and I are dealing in the medium of letter writing, I’ll attempt to keep things simple instead of sending you a 10-page letter each mailing and vice versa (though, of course, I’m not opposed to long letters written and sent by either one of us). So in summation, if I understood your point correctly, we take an issue like abortion, create a “spectrum of extremes”—so Abortion Yes on one end and Abortion No on the other—and then with our pens draw up lines where each line is connected to a “reason” for the abortion and depending where that line is on the spectrum, it would either be closer to Abortion Yes or Abortion No. Or am I making it too complicated? Before delving into that, I’m not sure if the jurisdictional approach to abortion (or the prison terms for a certain crime or whatnot) would work in that if I live in the north end of town and want an abortion but in my jurisdiction abortion is illegal, what would stop me from going to the south end, where it is allowed, to get it done? Unless, of course, that the jurisdiction you live in is the one you have to adhere to lest you face a fine or jail and even if you went to the south end they wouldn’t perform the procedure for you because you would be required to produce two pieces of ID that state your address and what jurisdiction you’re in. You’re from the north, tough beans, buddy!
The spectrum approach is an interesting one, but by allowing different nuances to see where upon it you fall, are we not then opening up the door to more gray stuff? If one end is white, the other black, the stuff in between has to be varying shades of gray. For the record, I’m pro-life (which we can always get into a discussion on at a different time) as murder’s murder no matter which way you slice it. Even when you kill someone in self-defense, you’ve still killed them. And depending how you look at it, abortion is a form of self-defense as the female is “saving” herself from something—fill-in-the-blank, here. But then what of our incest victims or our rape victims or our twelve-year-old teens who were taken advantage of by Daddy’s friend and are now with a thirty-year-old’s child? Wherever that situation(s) falls on the spectrum, should they be allowed to end a life if either a) it’s just a cluster of cells in the womb so by ending it you’re denying it the right to develop into a child and live or b) it’s a maturing fetus that’s four months into development but then you’re disallowing his/her birth? I think the real question is: where are we getting our laws from and what are we basing them on? This, of course, could sidetrack us into the religious arena so I’m trying to avoid that for now, but it does make one wonder from where/when we got our laws and who made them. The nuances thing could work but it would have to be on a very tight and, dare I say, rigid platform without room for leniency, because the thing with nuances is, in the context we are talking about here, each circumstance is different—especially when dealing with rape or incest (i.e. was the defendant coerced into the intercourse? Was it forced? Did they go into it willingly but then things got out of hand and so it was rape? etc.)—it opens the doors to a plethora of nuances and thickens the gray area. In Winnipeg alone, there are around 700,000 people and over half are women, so for the sake of discussion, if all the women in Winnipeg ended up being either rape or incest victims, we’re dealing with a possible 350,000+ unique circumstances that each carry nuances of their own. I know from this and from my previous letters to you that my personal desire to see the restoration or black and white in society may come off as if I want to live in a dictatorship or under a similar type of government. That’s not the case but I thought I should clarify that just in case. My main issue would be to challenge those “in charge” (and I use the term loosely) and Mr. Everyday Joe to take a real hard and objective look at how things are run, how we’re living our lives and, further, why we are heading down the road of “anything goes.” Which then kind of takes us back to the “each circumstance is different so yields a unique outcome” argument, the “we’re all different and unique so what I view as wrong might not be what you view as wrong” thing, which then takes us back again to why we think/feel the way we do. We only have three possible scenarios of outcome if two disagreeing people were to find out why they thought something: either I would be wrong, you would be right, or I would be right and you would be wrong, or we’re both wrong. The thing of it is, we can’t both be right when you’re dealing with yes or no, true or false, up or down, left or right, black or white issues (which most issues are if we dare to trim away all the “fat” that we’ve layered around the things of everyday life). But those “outcomes,” referring to the aforementioned “each circumstance is different so yields a unique outcome,” each yield a different specific result but on a broader scale. For the sake of example, let’s take murder. Whether I killed someone intentionally, killed them in self-defense, or abetted a murder, they all resulted in the specific outcome of someone’s death. Then the real question is to what degree should I be held accountable? Dare I say fully? Regardless of the original intention or circumstance, the way it panned out resulted in the loss of life. I’m responsible for that loss of life because of my actions. I was involved therefore I am responsible. Then what of my punishment? Should it be the same as that if I went out and killed someone I disliked or if I instead shot you because you had a gun aimed at my head? This is why other evidence comes into play when they sentence someone: was it premeditated? Was it done out of malice or out of defense? As a thought, how about a set penalty for a crime that can be added to based upon the “other crimes” perpetrated at the time of said crime? Example, the penalty for murder is ten years in the pen regardless of circumstance. If I pre-planned the murder, another five years. Was it one victim or two? If it’s one and it was intentional, I get put away for 15 years. If it’s two people, then I go away for 30 and/or a sentence where the death of each person on your deathlist has to be paid for in increments of, say, 5 years. That’s not to say a person’s life is only worth 5 year’s in the pen—as obviously the victim’s family would no doubt like to see you hanged or put away for good—but the point would be to set a set penalty for whatever crime. I’m not a lawyer, a cop nor politician nor will I pretend to know the law inside out and backwards. Maybe this approach is far too simple. But then again, maybe it isn’t.
I’m pleased to hear you possibly doing future Collected Letters editions. I’m still reading the first one. I admit to taking a break from it as I just dove in to and completed a 12-book fiction series so wanted to take the time to read those. But I’ll be getting back to your book any day now. As a suggestion—and also from the point of view as a consumer/reader—please consider making them at least 200 pages long, 250 being ideal, if/when you release more. From the consumer’s point of view, it’s the whole bang for your buck thing. The current 2004 edition is printed at 8.5” x 11”, right? If you decided to pursue POD for it, and utilize the Lightning Source option I suggested, as a FYI, to POD print at anything larger than 6.14” x 9.21” it increases your per unit cost (I believe that’s the top size before it costs more though I don’t have my notes in front of me; I know there is a page size limit before increase though). A suggestion might be—depending on how much material you have—to publish each volume as a quarterly publication, where, say, Jan-Mar ’05 would be in one book, Apr-Jun ’05 in another and so forth. Of course each book would be slightly bigger or smaller than the previous based on the volume of mail you received. Then if you took your reply letters and formatted them at, say, 5.5” x 8.5” or 6” x 9”, to fill that 200-250 pages wouldn’t be a problem and you’d save a little on your per unit print cost. As an idea, too, I wonder if adding even a three-page Cerebus story or one-panel/page Cerebus gag would get readers from the regular storyline to pick up the Letters book(s) because of the included art?
The other day I thought, “Gee, I wonder if Dave has ever thought about crossing over into the electronic publishing business either through Aardvark-Vanaheim or via a partnership with another firm?” I’m referring to eBooks. Though I don’t see them ever replacing an old-fashioned print book, they do open the doors to readers who prefer the electronic reading format. There’s 10+ different e-formats ranging from a simple PDF file you can read on your computer screen to a format where you can download the text into a handheld device that’s akin to a Tricorder and you can tote it around like a regular print book. I had thought, “I wonder if Dave has considered doing this for either his text-based Collected Letters volume(s) or even for the Cerebus trades?” Obviously the goal with any creator is to share his/her work with as many folks as possible. As a thought, putting the Cerebus trades into e-format might be beneficial to the sales of your phonebook volumes. Your phonebooks retail for about $25-30 Canadian. Well, if I’m new to Cerebus and his world or just have a partial interest in it, I might not be willing to spend the $25-30 for the book. However, I might be willing to spend $10 for the eBook edition (eBooks typically retail for less than the print version by about half). If I liked what I read/saw in the e-version, I might get the next volume in print and/or replace my e-version by shelling out for the print version (I know of some people who do this for novels). EBooks are a good way for people to try out authors they’ve never heard of or are just interested in but are unsure if that author can deliver the same wallop every outing like, say, Stephen King or Alan Moore. Anyway, it’s just a thought, Dave, but since eBooks require zero maintenance save the initial work to format them, the profits yielded might be a nice additional income during your retirement. Passive income. I believe Gerhard has a site set up for auctioning off some original art, right? If you pursued the “e-option,” he could put up some links on there as to where online readers can purchase the e-versions of Cerebus, make an announcement to the Yahoos, send out a press release online, and all the rest.
Anyway, I’ve rattled on a little longer than I originally estimated. I hope all is well with you. I look forward to your reply.