- What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing ed. by Peter Ginna
Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2017. Pp. 320. Paper: isbn-13 978-0-226-29997-6, us$25.00
What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing, edited by book editor and publisher Peter Ginna, is a title in University of Chicago Press's Chicago Guides to Writing, Editing, and Publishing series. Books from this series bow the shelves of editors everywhere, and What Editors Do should quickly join any aspiring or current editor's collection. [End Page 148] The volume covers the gamut of tasks and approaches to editorial work across the markets of the book industry, including trade, mass market, children's and young adult, academic, textbook, reference, and self-publishing.
Ginna's introduction discusses the ways in which What Editors Do serves as an update to the classic Editors on Editing, 'in the era of Amazon, downloadable e-books, and social media' (4), while contributors aim 'to demystify the editor's job and put it in context within the publishing process' (5). The collection is organized into five parts: acquisitions, editing, publication, genre case studies, and professionalization. Part I begins with an overview of the acquiring process, where Ginna underscores the acquiring editor's role in building a press's pipeline of books—which creates work and revenue for a press overall—as well as the importance of an editor's track record in acquiring successful books by developing relationships, assessing a book's value, identifying markets, and contracting a project. In a chapter on trade book editing, Jonathan Karp provides a dozen rules for acquiring, with memorable examples of successes and failures to support his tips. Gregory M. Britton then delves into how the commitments of academic presses differ from trade—namely, by the need to account for the financial bottom line as well as the scholarly merit of a publication. Part I is rounded out by Peter Coveney's chapter, which breaks down the particulars of textbook publishing and working with professors and campuses to develop projects. The chapter also offers practical advice for becoming a college textbook editor.
Moving on from the role of acquisitions, Part II takes a more nuts and bolts approach, with each chapter focusing on a specific function in the editorial process. Nancy S. Miller walks readers through the steps of turning a proposed project into a final book, characterizing the editor as both constructive critic and cheerleader in the developmental editing stage. The author-editor relationship is at the core of editorial work, and Betsy Lerner shares her experiences of how that relationship plays out on the page—where exchanged notes lead to a synthesis of new ideas and an improved project. Susan Rabiner brings an important point of view as a literary agent, where the guiding editorial question is, 'is this project convincingly conceptualized?' (77, emphasis in original). Perfectly following a discussion of conceptualization, Scott Norton gives an overview of the stages of developmental editing. Norton draws on the perspectives of four acquiring editors at University of California Press to provide insights [End Page 149] into a range of tools, from coaching versus modelling to peer review and market research. After this developmental work is done, the editorial focus is line-by-line, and George Witte shows the benefit of line editing at the word, sentence, and structural level. Part II closes with a piece about copy-editing from Carol Fisher Saller. Anyone who wants a concise introduction to the multifaceted nature of copy-editing—complete with loads of professional development tips—should read this essay.
Following discussions of distinct editorial roles, Part III broadens back out to consider the editor's part in bringing the book to the reader. Framing the editor as manager, Michael Pietsch discusses the merits of authors seeing their editor as a business partner, and reinforces the myriad roles an editor plays. Calvert D. Morgan Jr. then frames the editor as an evangelist who goes well beyond the role of a cheerleader to a person...