Checking out the competition
This week's post relates to today's post on the blog I maintain on LinkedIn. In short, I took my own advice and hired an editor for a short story intended for submission to a magazine.
The RFP was pretty clear, I thought. I went through Fiverr, which places a limit of 300 characters on buyer requests. Here's what I wrote: "A second pair of eyes is needed to proofread and edit a 9,600-word fantasy short story for published author. Pick out grammar errors, missing words, malapropisms, etc. Identify defects in the story. You must be able to work through Google Docs. Native US-English speakers preferred."
My solicitation gave a 3-day deadline for delivery, which would be adequate for a thorough editing job on a work of that length. I did not specify a budget, because I knew what I'd charge for the job and wanted to see what others would charge.
Within minutes I received over a dozen proposals. I'm a seller, too, on Fiverr and thought that this might be an interesting way to check out my competition. Of the 31 offers received, here are the first three:
I don't think it's just me, but the offers seem to be lacking. I noticed:
Most of the vendors promised 24-hour turnaround, which I didn't specify because I'd rather the vendor edit the work properly the first time and take three full days than rush through it and deliver crap.
So, on with the experiment. I chose someone who promised to do the work in only 24 hours. I asked her a few questions before selecting her. Her replies were terse, abrupt even. But I can live with that. I'm not necessarily chatty myself.
The story is one that begins where the fairy tale ends. (No, it's not The Diamond Gate.) I asked if the vendor were familiar with fairy tales. No, she replied. I thought that might actually give her an edge in identifying what worked and didn't work in the story.
It turns our that her brevity was only an indication of a failure to comprehend the gig requirements and/or her demonstrated lack of competence. Sure, she delivered the edited document to me within the 24-hour deadline; however, I rejected about three-quarters of her suggested changes because they were simply incorrect: improper capitalization, comma and semicolon errors, word changes that would have substantively altered the meaning of their sentences, etc. In short, she provided basic proofreading, poorly done at that. I'm not sure how I misled her into thinking that I wouldn't recognize incompetence.
Now, on the Fiverr platform, ratings are king. Every vendor wants a 5-star rating. I rated that vendor five stars for completing the assignment on time and three stars for mediocre performance. She contacted me asking how I would like to receive a negative rating. I replied that I hadn't rated her negatively and pointed out where her performance fell short of what was asked in the RFP and what was expected. I added that I was OK with honest ratings. A nasty message later, she gave me a 1-star rating.
You know, I don't care. I won't compromise my ethics to deliver a glowing rating for work that doesn't deserve it. The rating was honest.
The subpar performance of the vendor didn't surprise me. Her absolute lack of professionalism did.
I hired someone else today to edit that story. Perhaps he'll do a better job.
Another blow to a writer's self-worth
I spent two hours online Sunday night chasing after freelance gigs. That's not unusual. I typically spend two to four hours daily doing that. Competition is fierce and my proposals are but drops in an ocean of claims for better, faster, and cheaper. But what really lowers my spirits are buyers who want to hire skill and expertise for nothing.
Here's the buyer request. Pay attention to the delivery time (7 days) and the budget ($20).
Here's my proposal, which is based on a maximum length of 7,500 words:
Instead of silently dismissing my proposal, which is what happens to most proposals, the buyer responded:
I just couldn't ignore the insult and replied:
To which the buyer responded with her somewhat incoherent reply:
I can't be the only one who finds that answer insulting. But because the freelance platform requires that I respond to every message promptly or have my vendor rating downgraded, I moderated my answer to her and wished her well:
How many of you, dear readers, would work for, say, 10 or 12 hours at a maximum rate of $2.50 per hour? That's how long I estimate it would take me to crank out 7,500 words of original content, edit it thoroughly, and then format the document for upload to a digital publishing platform.
I've ranted on this topic before: if writing has value, then so does the writer's time and skill used to produce the content written. I stick by my guns in that this buyer doesn't value the effort and skill necessary to generate good content. If she finds a writer who will work for such paltry wages, then I guarantee that the content produced will be of inferior quality. She might sell a few copies, but certainly not enough to recoup her minimal investment of $20 or $25.
And I've said this before, too: If I want to write for free (or damned near for free), then I'll write my own stuff, publish it myself, and keep the royalties earned.
In step with Mr. Will
My adult sympathies have always leaned toward the conservative. Blame it on my very conservative upbringing, if you wish. But it becomes apparent more and more frequently that I fit uneasily in this age of anything goes.
I'm not talking about politics.
Years ago, conservative columnist George Will commented with despair the utter lack of decorum in fashion, stating that all concept of elegance had disappeared. His basic premise was that if Grace Kelly wouldn't be seen in public wearing something, then neither should any other woman. Last night while enjoying a dinner out with my husband and boys, I found myself agreeing wholeheartedly with Mr. Will. One of the Gabor sisters--either Zsa Zsa or Eva, I can't remember which--said that a woman's fashion should leave something to the imagination, create a little mystery. I agreed with her, too.
It was very obviously prom night for the local high school. Boys, dashing in their rented tuxedos, escorted their dates wearing outfits, many of which could have graced a Hollywood stage. My husband commented, "It's nice to see a return to elegance" I turned around to see a girl in a long skirt, sky-high heels and midriff-baring top. The girl's pierced navel was proudly on display. He looked, too, and said, "Oops, I spoke too soon."
We watched as more prom-goers strutted past us. I noticed a trend among a majority of the girls: 2-piece dresses that bared a lot of skin. I reminded me of attending a ceremony at my older son's high school. The boys dressed in suits; the girls were more undressed than dressed and what they wore completely unsuitable to anyone not legally an adult and definitely unsuitable to a parochial school environment. (Let's just say that my husband and I agreed it was a good thing we didn't have any daughters.) And I could not help but remember Mr. Will's lament. No, Grace Kelly--an icon of elegant fashion--would not have been caught dead in those dresses.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating a return to 1950s social mores and prejudices, much less the oppressive and restrictive allowances of certain countries that penalize a woman for showing anything more than her hands. I firmly believe in women's rights and political equality even as I recognize that women and men are different. (Why a uterus makes one unsuitable for the priesthood is something I'll never understand.) However, we could learn a lot from the fashions of the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, like how to be sexy and elegant without being slutty. It's a wish for more personal restraint that I fear we won't see any time soon.
So, let's turn this fuddy-duddy's diatribe toward literature. Simply put, women who present themselves as nothing more than sex objects should not complain when men perceive them as such and treat them as such. Self-respect requires some restraint in dress and behavior. A man will more likely respect a woman who respects herself.
The blatant lack of respect is evident in today's romantic literature. I came across a new release, Pimp, in which an innocent college girl is forced to turn to prostitution in order to cover her father's debts. Her pimp is none other than her stepbrother. Of course, the premise is that girl and her lecherous stepbrother fall in love. But really, would any female with an ounce of self-respect tie her future to someone who sells her body for his profit? Abuse under the guise of the BDSM subculture also pervades modern romantic literature. Beat me, hurt me, make me bleed, because that's how show love. Nonsense. Rubbish. Hogwash. And a whole host of other synonyms that aren't fit for polite discourse.
So, I challenge readers and writers: read and write about the women you'd like to know or be. A strong female character doesn't have to be foul-mouthed and promiscuous, she can stick to her principles, demand that her love interest treat her with respect, and think for herself.