I’ve been a bit absent on this blog this week – sorry! I finished this book ages ago and have been absorbed in Henry II (you’ll have to wait for my review of “King of the North Wind” until it’s out on Shiny New Books, and no, I haven’t quite written it yet. Or finished the book). I’ve had a lot of work on this week and just don’t seem to have got round to writing this review, especially as it’s quite a special book.

Being Book 9, you can see the white spine, well, well over half way up the pile you can see in the pic. So I’ve probably got fewer pages to read before the end of the challenge than I’ve read already (right?).

You see, I basically bought it because it had a chapter by a friend of mine in it. Whoo hoo! But I read it all because it was fascinating, engaging and useful. Hooray!

Peter Ginna (ed.) – “What Editors Do”

(15 October 2017)

The book’s subtitle – “The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing” very aptly sums it up. Oh, and it’s beautifully edited itself, too. After an excellent introduction giving us useful definitions (trade, mass market and scholarly publishing, for example) and the three phases of editing (acquisition, text development and publication), Ginna shares that he is optimistic about the profession, which sets the scene for a fascinating and engaging read. We then have a series of wonderful chapters covering the bigger themes of acquisition, the editing process, publication, categories and varieties of careers in book editing. Although I am an editor, I only cover the text development side of things (and then narrower categories within that, as I tend towards line and copy-editing and proofreading rather than developmental editing) so it was a revelation and great learning experience for me to find out more about how the publishing industry works as a whole.

All of the chapters are fascinating in their different ways, and the chapters aren’t too long and are full of personal experience and honesty (with lots of people admitting all sorts of mistakes along the way, with Matt Weiland even outlining a Terrible Error he made with someone’s book, which is very refreshing but very like the edibuddies I’ve come to know during my career), so it’s engaging and attractive to read all the way through and never dips or drags.

The book is full of great, down-to-earth advice. Some things appear more than once, so are obviously hugely important, the two main ones I noticed being never buy a book you don’t love and there’s a lot of emphasis on making sure the writer’s voice and intent shine through in everything you edit which I think would reassure writers.

The categories or genres section is full of really interesting case studies – especially the one on developing and editing the different kids of children’s books by Nancy Siscoe. I was pleased to read that Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” (which I reviewed here) was the best memoir that Jonathan Karp has edited, and I enjoyed Betsy Lerner’s experience of being edited herself (I wrote about my experience of that over on my work blog here).

I enjoyed Carol Fisher Saller’s piece on the nuts and bolts of copyediting (I read her book a while ago and loved it), especially her comparison of different ways in which different style guides expect editors to format abbreviations, etc. and her discussion of “the mistaken belief that there is a single ‘correct’ way to render a piece of writing” (p. 110). This is something I’ve encountered with some of my own clients and I’ll be quoting from the piece when I write an article for my work blog on this topic: it was great to see it treated here.

Katharine O’Moore-Klopf’s chapter on making a career as a freelance editor, which is of course is super, is what I bought the book for and how I knew about it, but I stayed to read all the chapters and the whole thing was a complete delight.

I would recommend this book to all editors, writers and people generally interested in the process of how books get from ideas to the printed (or electronic) page. The chapters I’ve singled out are by no means the only stand-out ones: it’s of a very good quality and level of interest throughout.

This was Book #9 in my 20BooksOfSummer challenge.


I’m currently finishing off “King of the North Wind”, and very good it is, too (I’m learning an awful lot about this not-well-known king) and I’ve just started on Prajwal Parajuly’s “Land Where I Flee”, which promised to be a very good and entertaining culture-clash story about returning to one’s roots. What are you reading? How are you doing with your 20 Books of Summer or other challenges?