As I am writing this, I am so incensed that it is difficult to find words to adequately describe my feelings. The final 12 chapters of proofreading arrived this afternoon (a day and a half late). When I opened the package I found that there are now 114 pages more than the original page extent in my contract, i.e. I was contracted a specific fee for 528 pages, but the final book now appears to have 642 pages! This represents an increase of 21.5%. When I queried it with the project manager, and pointed out that I would like an increase of 21.5% on the original fee, I was told that this is not possible as they have a fixed budget for proofreading on this title. An email to the managing editor has elicited no response yet.
It is difficult to make a decision on how to proceed. To dump the project at this point is not an option for me, I have invested too much time in it already, and frankly, I depended on it for December's income. What is more is that I declined another project (albeit a smaller one) because of this one. The publisher also asked me last week to accept changes to the original schedule because the typesetters were having problems and so the second and third proofs will now only be done in January - and I will probably only be paid my fee at the end of February, not in December as originally discussed. I accepted this (albeit with gritted teeth and and eyes lifted heavenwards) as I am usually very accommodating (perhaps too much so). To now be told that I am expected to do 21.5% more work - for free! - is frankly insulting.
The project manager on a previous occasion (before this fiasco of page extent came to light) described the book to me as 'a nightmare' - one she wanted to be 'rid of' as soon as possible. The job thus far has been the worst proofreading job I've ever had - it is clear to me that many, many things slipped past the editor (who was probably in the same boat as I am now - fixed fee, and then suddenly found out that it entailed much more work than she anticipated. She must have decided to give up halfway - how else does one explain sentences that stop midway, paragraphs that are missing, words that make no sense at all, fullstops in the middle of sentences, misspellings and so forth? And the typesetters did an absolutely sloppy job, at times completely ignoring the styles that have been agreed upon for features.
I am pretty sure that what the publisher has done (i.e. change the terms of a contract) is illegal - but a suggestion from a friend to see a lawyer is not realistic, I'm afraid. The time, aggravation, and more importantly, money(!) it will cost me, is probably not worth the effort. It will also completely destroy my relationship with this publishing company, and believe me, in our current financial climate, this is not something I want to do. I have been freelancing for almost 19 years in various fields, and although I feel that freelancers (in certain fields) are sometimes taken advantage of, this is the first time I have ever been treated like this by a company. The company in question is not a tiny fly-by-night publishing house, it is one of South Africa's biggest educational publishers!
So, dear friends, forgive me for blowing off steam here. What to do? what to do?? Any clever and/or witty suggestions will be much appreciated. In utter disgust I downed tools for the day, and went to see the new James Bond movie tonight, substituting this company (who shall remain nameless -for now) for the baddies, and vicariously experiencing extreme pleasure with every skop, skiet & donner(*) executed by Daniel Craig. It helped a little. I also bought my first pack of cigarettes after having stopped smoking 3 years ago. Not so good ...
*skop, skiet & donner - Afrikaans term used for movies which contain a lot of action-type violence. Literal translation= kick, shoot and beat up.