Tip of the Week: The Business of Editing
Maybe you’ve read some of Adin’s posts; I often feature them in my daily News Roundup posts. His blog covers many topics of interest to copyeditors, including the editor’s role in publishing, the way publishing is changing, how to edit more efficiently, and how to run your editorial services business. He discusses processes, tools, theories, and practices.
It’s a well-rounded blog, making for a well-rounded book.
The advantage of the book is the ability to read several essays on the same topic. Although the blog offers an archive by date and a search function, it lacks an archive by category. Reading several essays on one topic is a good way to understand the points being made.
There’s plenty to learn from in the book. Adin is a successful businessman, with decades of experience in publishing. His essays offer guidelines for setting rates, including his excellent five-part “What to Charge” series; for considering ethical issues, such as “The Ethics of Billing”; and for other business concerns.
One of Adin’s methods for succeeding in publishing has been using technology to increase efficiency and consistency. He’s a strong proponent of Wild Card Find and Replace and macros, and he’s even created a suite of macros he sells to other editors. The book features several essays on macro usage, plus essays on using Word, choosing hardware and software, and identifying reliable resources.
Though Adin is gung-ho about using technology that sits on your desk, he’s reluctant about using the Internet. You won’t find lists of helpful websites here, though some of the books he recommends are found online as well.
The Business of Editing has its flaws. Adin runs a very specific kind of editing business, which he acknowledges: he and his editors work on medical textbooks. Manuscripts run to thousands of pages and are loaded with abbreviations, journal names, and citations. His approach to consistent, speedy editing is customized for that work, and his essays are focused on that approach. Readers should note: one size does not fit all.
While this isn’t a huge flaw, what it seems to lead to is a much bigger problem.
Adin is right that book publishers are in trouble. They’re looking to find any way to make a profit, including cutting editing time, cutting pay rates, and outsourcing editing to non-US editors while hiring US editors to proofread and (they hope) catch mistakes introduced or not caught by non-US English speakers.
Newspapers and other print periodicals are in similar straits. But to hear Adin tell it, the copyeditor is being phased out of existence. No one’s hiring anymore.
I completely disagree.
Publishing is changing, dramatically and quickly. It’s been changing for at least 20 years and it’s not done yet. The copyeditor’s role is changing as well. Additional tasks are often asked of us. More frequently we’re independent workers rather than employees. And our clients are more often not traditional book publishers and newspaper companies.
None of these things are bad—they’re just different. Being the person assigned to ensure an article is optimized for search engines to find can be job security. The bean counters might not understand how quality equates to the bottom line, but they do understand that having an article found directly affects it.
Adin’s view of the publishing industry is informed by one piece of it, which is not representative of the whole. If you don’t come to the book understanding that, you might come away fearing the worst.
Overall, The Business of Editing is a mixed bag. If you’re comfortable shifting through the essays to find the value, it’s worth purchasing the book. You’ll benefit from everything that fits your situation.
This is the last Tip of 2013, as I take time off to be with my family. May your holidays be joyful! I’ll meet you back here in 2014.