Not Sufficient, but Very, Very Necessary

Finished McLynn’s Richard and John: Kings at War. I enjoyed Richard and John, even if McLynn’s uneven pace and flagging enthusiasm when writing about John would’ve benefited from the help of a more involved (or listened to?) editor. It’s a bit odd that the book did not include the now-near-ubiquitous “Acknowledgment” section in which authors profusely thank their agents, editors, and spouses (usually in that order).  Whatever the arrangement McLynn had with his publisher, it’s sadly obvious that his book did not get the copy editing it needed. There were no typos in the book, but there were multiple instances of confusing name switches and typesetting errors resulting in duplication of phrases or irrelevant words being inserted*.

It’s really a shame because copy-editing is one of those auxiliary functions to book publishing that, although clearly not sufficient to produce a great book, is very, very necessary to it. Nobody remembers good copy editing, but everybody spots the few instances that slipped through the fingers of the very-good-but-perhaps-pressed-for-time-and-still-human copy editors. I wonder if the fact that a lot of publishing houses outsource their copy editing jobs to freelancers has an adverse effect on the quality of the copy edits. Of course, that doesn’t have to be the case — a lot of things are outsourced in our globalized world without a deterioration in their quality — but it’s not unthinkable that such an effect exists. After all, the piece-meal copy editors probably have little face-to-face contact with the authors, little prospect of moving up the corporate ladder at the publishing houses, and consequently less investment in the books they’re copy editing. Does this affect the quality of the final product? Does any of you have experience with publishing or copy editing and can shed light on this matter?

(*I should’ve kept a log of examples! Sorry for the sloppiness. Better next time!)

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2 Responses to Not Sufficient, but Very, Very Necessary

  1. Copy editing from my little corner of the indie world:

    I write the book. The editor of the press reads it. He has a page of notes on big idea concerns and smaller editing stuff.

    A free lance editor is hired. I just worked with the same editor on my second novel. We have a good working relationship. She reads for big idea stuff and copy editing concerns.

    I revise and pick up more the editing stuff. Editor reads again and picks up on more of the editing stuff.

    An advanced reader copy comes out. I read the heck out of that and try to get as many people as I can to read for little errors. The publisher reads it to.

    What is left at that point is going to get published. I feel like my first novel, Love on the Big Screen, made it out there pretty clean. However, my dad–a retired English teacher–read the book a lot with me. So he was also a force in getting the manuscript as clean as possible.

  2. teasandbooks says:

    Thanks for the info. I have some idea of the editing process from reading John B. Thompson’s books on publishing, but it’s great to hear from your first-hand experience also. Were there some (other?) aspects of publishing that you encounter as a published author that you found unexpected or noteworthy?

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