Editing, off-shore style

Dateline: Tue 24 Jun 2008

Reader and free-lance editor/writer Susan Hobbs shares this story about outsourcing and making the Indian connection:

"Several years ago, I worked for Macmillan Publishing. They outsourced a whole series of computer-related titles to an Indian firm that would write and tech edit the books and then we here in the states would copyedit them. I was one of the copy editors for this project.

"On page 5 of the first book I was editing, I came across this sentence and had a feeling it was going to be downhill from there: 'Click Print to accomplish printer lactation.'

"Printer lactation. I assumed that they meant printer output, but who knows? Throughout the entire series, the Indian writers used absolutely no articles, so every book read like a poorly written Hitachi owner's manual. I'd put the articles in, and the Indian authors would take them out during author review. It got kinda comical after a while.

"But these books were so bad, I didn't put my real name in the

credits. I used Elizabeth Crocker (Betty Crocker) and Tia Jemima (Aunt

Jemima) because I didn't want my name connected with these in any way,

shape, or form. In the end, the books were so awful that Macmillan (Pearson Education) donated them all to a few school systems.

"A couple of months ago, I contacted an old client to see if any editorial work was available. (I'm a freelance editor.) They told me that they were primarily doing 'off-shore editing' now, meaning that their editorial work was going to India. Lovely. More and more publishers are using Indian companies in an effort to save money. So I'm now looking for a fulltime job outside of the publishing industry. Sad, but true.

"Apparently quality isn't a high priority any longer."

UPDATE from a later email, another story:

"In another book written by the Indians, they referred to the Florida Defense Department. Apparently the employees of this Indian company weren't clear about the concept of the 'United' States and thought each state had it's own individual defense system. There were things like this throughout the entire series, and I was so hoping that the use of Indian companies was a passing fad, but obviously it's not."

Thank you, Betty Crocker!

If anyone else has a story to tell about outsourcing overseas and some of the language barriers, please share.


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