Questions for a Cookbook Copyeditor
Karen Wise is a full-time freelance copyeditor, proofreader, and blogger. She “started as an editorial assistant fresh out of college, when there were still lots of book publishers around.” She worked in-house for eleven years and has been freelancing for about fifteen.
What's your current copyediting gig?
I specialize in cookbooks and textbooks, although I also do other trade nonfiction books when they come along.
What do you find satisfying about cookbook editing?
I love to cook, and I love to edit books, so the combination is really a dream come true. When I’m reading a recipe, I can envision myself following the instructions, so I’m likely to notice if something doesn’t sound right. I don’t have to test the recipes, but sometimes I can’t resist. (I recently copyedited a collection of cocktail recipes and felt it was my duty to do some quality assurance checking after hours.)
Ah, yes—the freelancer’s prerogative to define “fringe benefit.” What resources are particularly helpful for cookbook editing?
The Food Lover’s Companion, of course, which is a handy reference for names of ingredients and techniques and specific dishes. I also rely a lot on Google. For instance, if a particular wine is a recommended accompaniment, I search for the wine on Google images and check the label for the spelling of the wine itself, the style, the vineyard, and so on. I do the same thing for ingredients that are called for by brand name, just to check weird spellings and accents (like Kahlúa or Bits ‘O Brickle—yes, the apostrophe comes before the o, and it’s a backward apostrophe to boot!).
I also depend on my Twitter pals for questions like, “What size cans of beans do you have on your shelves? This recipe calls for an 8-ounce can, and I’ve never seen such a thing.” When all else fails, I go on a “field trip” to the supermarket. There are often regional variations to the brands and package sizes available, and I like to make sure that the ingredients called for in a recipe are items that people can locate without too much trouble.
Thanks so much, Karen!