The Joy of Editing

September 1998
by Nick Weir-Williams, Northwestern University Press

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Of all the attributes necessary for a publisher to have, editing is the one I’m worst at doing. Editors are born not made, and my close attention to detail chromosome must have been left behind along with the neatness one.

I’m referring, of course, to copy editing. One of the many joys of this strange industry is that the same term, editor, can apply to so many actual tasks within a publishing company-production editors, executive editors, managing editors, acquisition editors, copy editors. I’ve discovered that I just can’t be a good copy editor, and I long ago learned to have experts do it.

Editing comes up as the topic of this month’s President’s column, though, because of an article in a recent issue of The New York Times about the dearth of editing talent in New York City publishing houses. These same New York publishing firms used to be the bastions of quality in this business as well as the dominators of the marketplace-and they increasingly are becoming neither. Not only are harried staff members unable to edit manuscripts the way they used to, they can’t even manage to hire competent freelancers to do it for them. Authors and their agents are now hiring their own personal editors to deal with manuscripts before they even dare send them to the publishing houses.

Does this matter? We already expect many of our authors to deliver their final manuscript on disc, properly formatted, and frequently to bear the brunt of their own marketing arrangements as w…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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