The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper
R Adin, Waking Lion Press, 2013, 462pp, £19.41 (pbk), £18.44 (ebook)
Reviewed by Wendy Toole
Richard Adin's blog 'An American Editor' is read by editors around the world, and his many followers are likely to be delighted by this book. It brings together a large selection of past blog posts to provide a comprehensive overview of his ideas on running a successful editorial business. The book is divided into sections that cover editors' roles, tools, processes, profits and careers, and concludes with a selection of essays on something we are all curious about – the future. The print book is over 450 pages long, so to write this review I mainly dipped into essays whose titles took my fancy or that seemed likely to contain material that would be of interest to SfEP m.
The first set of essays I turned to with positive anticipation was the subgroup 'Working effectively online', seven articles looking at the editor's use of books, macros and style sheets. I felt that these should have wide relevance across the industry and across the Pond, unlike some others I had browsed that seemed more narrowly relevant to the niche in which Adin works (lengthy and complex medical books) and to reflect a strongly US mindset. The essays here explained the time-saving nature of macros and the ways in which they could be used to ensure consistency over vast extents of text, and mentioned books by Geoff Hart and Jack Lyons, with which readers of Editing Matters will probably be familiar, and also Adin's own collection of macros, EditTools. I didn't feel I learnt anything new from these essays, but I was interested to note that Adin encourages editors to develop the skills to record and write their own macros rather than relying solely on those available off the peg.
Another subgroup of essays that struck me as potentially useful to editors everywhere were the three on the stages of copy-editing, which Adin calls 'processing', 'copyediting' and 'proofing'. These essays gave a genuinely interesting and well-presented analysis of the procedures involved in turning raw manuscript into setting copy. Adin's recommended approach is, however, very macro-intensive for all stages, and as such will not appeal equally to every editor reading this review. Among other tools, Adin recommends PerfectIt for use during the final proofreading stage – and I for another certainly never consider any on-screen job finished until I have given it the PI treatment!
As well as these and other essays on actual hands-on editing, there are many concerned with the business side of being an editorial freelance, from fee-setting and scheduling work to insurance and invoicing procedures. While such articles are worth a look, I would recommend that new UK start-ups turn first to our home-grown SfEP Guides, particularly those by Val Rice (Starting Out: Setting Up a Small Business) and Melanie Thompson (Pricing a Project: How to Prepare a Professional Quotation), for more directly relevant and easily digestible information on these topics.
I did not identify strongly with the editorial world that Adin depicts. This is perhaps not surprising as he works in a sector of the industry of which I have no experience and on a continent where I have never worked at all. Nor do I share his conclusion in the penultimate essay that 'the future for freelance editors in the eBook Age – at least from the current view – is bleak'. Yes, the copy-editor's role is changing, but many of us are developing new business models that not only work but enable us to flourish. Perhaps the arguments he presents to support his view will, however, strike a chord with other editors working in publishing contexts more like his own.
Underlying all the essays in this book is a rallying call to editors faced by this challenging future to hold the line and fight the good fight. The messianic tone is strong throughout. At the same time, many of the essays fall very firmly into the category of 'preaching to the converted' – but that is possibly one of the reasons why editors enjoy reading Adin's blog anyway! So, although experienced editors may find comparatively little in the book that is totally new to them or that is directly relevant to their own professional situation, they may well enjoy dipping in and out for encouragement, inspiration and a toughening of the sinews.