27 August 2010

Fictitious entry

Fictitious entries. Copyright Easter Eggs. Trap streets. Whatever you call them, these are little tricks that publishers of reference works (dictionaries, encyclopaedias, street directories, maps etc) play on us all, in a (possibly vain) attempt to help protect their copyright, or at least prove that someone has nicked their work.

They put errors into their work. On purpose.

Dictionaries usually have a word or two or many more (one older dictionary has around 200!) that are completely invented by the dictionary's editorial staff. The American Oxford Dictionary (which I use on my Mac) has the word esquivalence, for example. It takes a bunch of lexicographers to pinpoint the incorrect words, too, as the (unofficial) hunt for them is always a bit of fun (although it somewhat negates the purpose of having them there in the first place and probably pisses off the publisher once their fictitious entries are revealed!). The fact there are no synonyms listed for esquivalence is a bit of a hint (although there are plenty of perfectly normal words that don't have common synonyms).

Atlases will have extra "Trap streets" (usually just places or cul de sacs), or distorted streets, with non-existent or misspelt names. So if another map is printed, and the error appears on it - they can quite legitimately say "Ah haaaa! You copied our work!" There's a good article on the practice here.

I just think it's cool.

13 August 2010

Not a sausage

The thing about writing puzzles for a living is – well, it's not much of a living. Sure, the work is really interesting, challenging, and unusual, and it's mostly fun (although there are times when my brain recoils from the merest suggestion that I require it to come up with yet another blasted crossword clue). But I earn less than the dole (or New Start, or whatever it's called nowadays) ... and newspapers are struggling, losing ad revenue, which means they cut things that cost them money, like puzzles, including mine. Not much happening on the book front either.

I've tried selling puzzle PDFs on my web site (not a single sale, in a year), I've tried cold calling (never to be repeated, shudder, but it did get me the Royal Flying Doctor's puzzle book job), I've advertised, I've quoted, I've proposed, and all to no avail. Not a sausage. Well, a few rather weeny sausages. Cocktail frankfurters.

All this has really been getting me down. Significantly down. Closing-the-business, throwing-in-the-towel, getting-a-job-as-a-checkout-chick down. I've tried so hard, for so long, to turn this into a full time, well paying career. Currently it's a part time, seriously crap paying career. I still love it, I'm not giving it up, and I have obligations to my syndicator and a few steadfast clients, but I've got to broaden my horizons.

So I'm falling back on what is, after all, my profession. Graphic design, web design, all that good old designy stuff. Pixels, picas, and proofs. Grids, gifs, and gutters.

However. I don't want to go back to those intense (and let's be frank, somewhat horrible) years of seeing multiple clients every day, insane deadlines, power networking breakfasts, and billing and contract hassles. Well, there's no getting away from deadlines in this industry, they're a given. Just give me the work, I'll do it on time, and pay me. But I need to be flexible - if Wiley offer me another book deal, I've got to be able to take it on without problems or letting clients down.

A few days ago I remembered there's a group in Canberra called Design Emergency. They subcontract designers and editors out to government departments, businesses, and even design studios, for short term projects. Editors with design experience (and vice versa) are a hot property, apparently, which is cool, cos I can tick that particular box. I've spoken with the owner, and it looks like it could work really well - I can put myself up for 3 days a week (I need about 2 days a week to do my puzzle work), and if something big turns up, I simply say I'm not available for a bit.

I needed a portfolio, of course. It felt weird digging out all my old CDs of design work, going back through 12 years ... remembering past clients (there were a lot of them!), seeing who was still in business, who wasn't, who still uses a logo I designed for them, and all that. Finding stuff I'd forgotten I'd done, like this illustration for the Department of Maths at the ANU :

And this logo (from the "no longer in business" category) :

I've even ordered the upgrade for my Adobe Creative Suite (going from CS3 to CS5, for a horrendous amount of money - I skip every other upgrade, so it was about time), so I'll be 'industry standard' again.

So. I've just submitted my design resumé, writing/editing resumé, and design portfolio, for consideration. Hopefully I'll get onto their books. Wish me luck! It's all a tiny bit scary ...