What a Respected Philosopher has to Say re: the Value of Editors

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  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    Ron Miller writes to me: "Your editing 'experience,' from your own description, was far less than professional, as I pointed out...indeed, it would appear to have been pretty your only experience. At least it is the only one I recall you having described. Am I mistaken in thinking that you have never actually worked professionally as an editor? I have on occasion edited a book or MS but would never use that limited experience to label myself an 'editor.' As for writing, I have no idea what your published bibliography consists of. Perhaps you might care to share that?"

    I see that you are still clinging to the view that you out-credential me, even given the fact that, in the terms you have described, I conceded that point at the outset. What makes you think continuing to hammer at it makes a difference? As it happens, though, I have never "labeled myself an 'editor'", contrary to the above. I have said I have done some editing and when you challenged me as to the level of professionalism I noted that I have, in fact, been paid for that work on a number of occasions. While I am retired and do not bill myself as a professional editor or writer, I have earned some money as both.

    Now, for the record, since my retirement I have edited three books although only two were advanced to publication using the POD model. The third was halted when I raised some serious concerns with the author about certain things he was putting in writing which I felt could put him in legal and moral jeopardy. As a result we agreed to deep six his project. Oh and there was another editing job I undertook but that, too, was halted when I withdrew because I was getting frustrated with the client who kept driving me crazy with his demands.

    I don't have a lot of time to spend doing that sort of work since I have my own projects to attend to, however I have done it on the few occasions when, between projects, I've found myself with some time on my hands. I have also edited numerous documents produced by offices I either worked for or was in charge of over the years though that is obviously not literary, just informational and analytical (in terms of assessing results, proposing options and so forth). So I have some experience with both writing and editing. (I've also written two works of fiction, self-publlshing the first and working with a small start-up English publisher using POD for the second -- Lulu by the way -- for production of the book here in the USA . . . .and that should put to rest your pal Kevin's mistaken claim that I have no experience with Lulu.)  Oh, and I also wrote a bi-weekly column for our local paper for roughly a decade.

    You seem to have a thing, Mr. Miller, about your status here and, apparently, you don't like having it challenged which you take my disagreement with your claims to amount to. Well, I don't really care about your status or your fifty years in the realm of publishing. You happen to be quite wrong on a number of things, some of which I have pointed out here numerous times already, and that's all there is to it. For instance, you want to maintain that securing the services of an editor is ALWAYS essential and you bridle at any disagreement, even though I have made it clear that I agree with you in a great many cases. You want me (and, I presume, others here, as well) to simply acknowledge your broader claim that editing is always essential. Are you selling your services here . . . or trying to?

    Anyone here who wishes to embrace your viewpoint, that editors are a must no matter what, is welcome to do so. I have no ax to grind on the matter other than to point out that you're wrong and show why by the examples and citations I've given above and on other threads. Nor is this a dispute between us about who has greater credentials. Surely you know, since you list yourself as a "professor," that being right has nothing to do with credentials. (See the well known logical fallacy of "argument from authority)

    https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/tools/lp/Bo/LogicalFallacies/21/Appeal-to-Authority

    (I'm sparing you another wikipedia citation since you seem to find it bothersome but feel free to check there too if you think I'm giving you an inadequate cite for that fallacy.)

    Mr. Miller further wrote:

    "I suggested that neither of you [referring to Donald Davidson and to me] knew the difference between the two basic forms of editing because of the way both of you seemed to conflate them." 

    I would just point out that, in terms of credentials, neither you nor I hold a candle to Davidson. So if you think your credentials outrank mine, and thus justify readers here taking your claims to be better than mine, you aren't even in Davidson's ballpark. So his view, on your own standard, must clearly trump yours, meaning that he knows a great deal more about the purpose and value of editing than you do. (I don't embrace the fallacy you rely on to make your claim however, but you would have to acknowledge Davidson's view over your own if you are to be logically consistent, since you claim to be right and I wrong on the grounds of being better credentialed than me!)

    But it really does seem that I've been wasting my time here. I thought that by joining in these forums I'd find some kindred spirits with whom to discuss various possibilities in self-publishing and find some ways to leverage up a platform like Lulu's. Instead all I've found are a couple of posters more interested in flaunting their self-proclaimed expertise than exchanging ideas.

    I'm not at all surprised that Kevin recently bemoaned the fact that these forums have seemed to empty out. Who, after all, wants to post in a place where all they can expect is to be constantly preached to by a couple of self-styled experts who aren't interested in hearing anyone but themselves?
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    This is why I think Kevin's input is so often more confrontational and unhelpful than constructive:

    I think it was Ron who pointed out to you that just because an opinion is not the same as yours, that it is neither confrontational nor non-constructive. The many links to advice we find for you proves the latter. In another thread I gave you a link to do with Marketing, because you have no idea what it is, you dismissed it out of hand, even though it did answer what you asked. But I cannot be bothered repeating what you accused Lulu and Amazon of.

  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    swmirsky    seems to be underestimating the intelligence of even the average reader, and of professional specialist Editors. I wonder who edited the 80,000 philosophical books to be found on Amazon? He procrastinates so much I have to wonder if he is worried about allowing a professional editor of philosophical works see his words?
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    Condescension and other unfriendly remarks prove the former.

    Oh and what did I "accuse Lulu and Amazon of" pray tell? (Though I'm sure it's a dumb idea to even ask you to clarify yourself.)

    By the way, I did not ask you or anyone for advice, let alone to cite URLs for me which focus on general promotion rather than achieving access to the select academic community I've been talking about. If you think there's something at that link you posted which addresses the specific issue I raised there then say what it is you expect me to find. Otherwise posting a link that doesn't address my concern is pretty pointless.

    As to what "Ron pointed out to me," as you so eloquently put it, I must say that I find it interesting how the two of you jump to one another's defense. Has this teamwork been going on for long? Reminds me of how dolphins and killer whales like to team up and move around the sea in partnerships. It's pretty useful to have someone watching your back in dangerous waters, of course, but I hadn't thought of this forum as like that. Maybe I got it wrong!
  • swmirsky    seems to be underestimating the intelligence of even the average reader, and of professional specialist Editors. I wonder who edited the 80,000 philosophical books to be found on Amazon? He procrastinates so much I have to wonder if he is worried about allowing a professional editor of philosophical works see his words?
    I know. I believe he could have written half a book in all the wordage he's expended here.
    __________________________________________
    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • As one who sees both sides of this point (or I hope that I do), I do agree that to re-write the narrative is to become a co-author or ghostwriter, and while it may be a much-needed service in many cases, it is not editing per se.

    Now when it comes to the issues in technical writing or specialized writing of any kind, there are things that arise if the editor does not fully understand the work, and to some degree this is unavoidable, which is why it is imperative that a writer and an editor work closely together to achieve clarity without sacrificing the technical meaning and the obscure vocabulary that may be invoked.

    Examples:
    In one work of apologetics, I used a phrase "study helps" meaning works which aid one's study of a given material. A beta-reader suggested changing this to "It would help to study."

    In other writing, it is common to see the work "Causal" as a misspelling of "Casual."
    "There is a causal link between these items" means that one causes the other;
    "There is a casual link between these items" means that it is not uncommon to see them in conjunction, though the relationship is ephemeral.
    Because "Causal" is a relatively obscure word, it will often be considered an error.

    But as has been pointed out, the editor's job is merely to illuminate and to highlight; it is the author's duty to rewrite, correct, and to expand, as needed, and in cooperation with the editor's work. It cannot be seen as a conveyor belt, with the author doing one part and then allowing the ms. to move on the a series of editors, each of whom does a certain function before the work passes into the printer, binder, cutter, and packager.

    Instead, it should be seen as a sculpture, with an editor pointing to discordant elements, which the sculptor may or may not choose to alter.

    I can only hope that this post pours oil onto the waters.
  • Bravo, Skoob! You summed up the whole thing brilliantly! 
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    Black Cat Studios http://www.black-cat-studios.com/
  • A very interesting article about the role of editors in the book publishing business:

    "On hearing the news about the role [Harper] Lee's editor played in the creation of To Kill a Mockingbird, Pulitzer Prize-winning author A. Scott Berg was surprised at first. The story immediately made him think of legendary editor Max Perkins — who shepherded the works of such greats as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe and Ernest Hemingway. Berg, who wrote a biography of Perkins, says Perkins had a huge influence on the editors who came after him because of the way he worked with his authors."

    And further down in the article:

    "The editing certainly shouldn't be showoff-y in any way," Saletan says. "And I always cringe a little and feel a little sympathetic for the editor when a review says, 'This wasn't well-edited.' Because it's very hard for anybody outside the process to know what went into it. There are writers who are really, really gifted and have it in spades and don't need that much editorial help. And there are also people who need a lot and occasionally people who fight over it. And it's very hard to know outside what really happened in that process."

    https://www.npr.org/2015/12/29/461289330/what-exactly-does-an-editor-do-the-role-has-changed-over-time
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    It seems folks here have a very particular understanding of what an editor is and what he or she does but, in fact, there is no fixed formula.

    The editor takes on the tasks of fixing written material to the extent needed which is determined by the venue (is it a fiction or non-fiction book? a magazine article? a piece for a technical journal?, etc.). and scope of the work. What is done by the editor depends on the condition and purpose the material serves and, of course, what the author wants and/or is prepared to accept.

    It seems people here have a somewhat more rigid (and I would suggest limited) understanding of this activity. Editors are there, according to some here, merely to point stuff out to the writer and offer some guidance which he can take or leave. Well certainly THAT is always an option. But it doesn't exhaust the editorial role by a long shot. It is certainly not the historic role of editors (see Perkins). In fact, in many cases editors can and do end up being ghost writers to varying degrees. It's not as if there's a fixed line of demarcation set in stone somewhere. Editing can be a kind of co-creation as in the case of Perkins and Harper Lee's editor mentioned above.

    Here's an interesting piece, also taken from the Internet, which addresses the editorial function:

    "An editor polishes and refines, he directs the focus of the story or article or movie along a particular course. He cuts out what doesn’t fit, what is nonessential to the purpose of the story. He enhances the major points, drawing attention to places where the audience should focus."

    The article goes on to specify and differentiate various editorial functions. Especially interesting is the section on free lance editing which breaks out various editorial tasks as follows:

    A freelance editor works for himself and is hired by a writer to ready his manuscript for publication.

    Copy editor—A freelance copy editor may deal primarily with spelling, grammar, punctuation, fact checking, and word choice (in the sense that he makes sure the words mean what the author thinks they mean).

    Developmental editor—As detailed above, the developmental editor helps the writer from the idea stage through the final draft. He may suggest topics, help with research, verify facts, and plan the structure of the manuscript. He works through successive drafts with the writer. He’s as concerned with the structure of a manuscript as much as he is the words and meaning.

    Substantive editor—Helps a writer improve his fiction manuscript by focusing on story elements, plot, characterization, dialogue, order of scenes, point of view, voice, setting, word choice, sentence construction and syntax, and pace—anything that could improve the strength of the manuscript.

    Helps a writer with a non-fiction manuscript by ensuring that sections lead logically from one to another, that there is consistency and flow, and that the right amount of information is presented. Will make sure that conclusions are sound and come from what has been presented.

    Substantive editors do not usually work with a writer from the beginning stages, but instead will come to a manuscript after the writer has completed several drafts. Points out weaknesses and suggests options to strengthen those areas. Examines both the big picture and the fine details of a manuscript (including grammar, spelling, and punctuation).

    Ghost writer—Shares the writing of a manuscript with an author or writes the entire manuscript based on the author’s suggestions, leading, and research.

    I think this shows that some of the discussants here have an unusually narrow and, I would say, blinkered view of what an editor is and does.

    https://theeditorsblog.net/2011/02/01/duties-of-an-editor-how-editors-help-writers/
  • Ron MillerRon Miller Professor
    edited October 2018
    Gosh! You are absolutely right! I have to give in! Five minute's research on line trumps fifty years of real-world practical experience involving scores of books and more than a dozen publishers. I am humbly forced to concede. How could I have been so silly?

    Of course, your list of editorial tasks defines the roles of the various editors no differently than anyone here has been doing, and restricts all of their duties (with the exception of the ghost writer) to advisory, as we have all been saying...but, hey, I guess that's a pretty petty detail.
    __________________________________________
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  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    Of course that list, taken from a section of the article I cited, points out that editing is a broad function which includes within it many tasks, some of which you happen to want to exclude. In this, you are confusing the prescriptive with the descriptive, essentially trying to stipulate the meaning of the term in question ("editing") so that only those tasks which you are prepared to call editing qualify.

    But that doesn't actually reflect how the term is used in the real world. So, to the extent this is an argument about your stipulated meaning, it's pointless. We can agree to disagree on your usage though I expect that won't satisfy you, so, suffice it to say, I don't accept your stipulation because it doesn't match how things really are. Continuing to argue about whether anyone should accept your definition in light of its idiosyncratic quality (reflecting your point of view, not general practice) is a waste. People here can decide to accept or reject it as they like, but that doesn't change the fact that in the world beyond this forum the term is used more broadly.

    As to your reading of the various descriptions I posted above, note that in the first, the developmental category, it states that the editor "may suggest topics, help with research, verify facts, and plan the structure of the manuscript. He works through successive drafts with the writer. He’s as concerned with the structure of a manuscript as . . . he is [with] the words and meaning."

    Such tasks make the editor a collaborator in the project, not just someone kibbitzing from the outside looking in. Needless to say there is often a fine line between what is described as "developmental" editing and outright ghost writing which in some editorial projects becomes necessary (for all or part of the material).

    Note also that "ghost writing" is included by the author of the article as one of the tasks an editor may undertake while editing.

    You accused me of "meddling" in the work I described, rather than merely editing it, because I explained how I had wanted to beef it up but, when that proposal was rejected, I eventually settled on a different strategy, with the consent of the rights holder, to develop two end pieces to give the otherwise flat text of the core manuscript more emotional resonance. Apparently you think that is beyond the scope of an editor.

    The article I cited demonstrates that it is not, whatever you wish to call "editing." So again, this seems to be about who is to define the term, you or those who pay attention to the actual practice of editing in the world. 

  • I probably should remind you that “meddling with it” is how you yourself described what you did with the MS you were asked to edit. The word was yours, not mine.
    __________________________________________
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  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Flogging a dead horse (alternatively beating a dead horse, or beating a dead dog in some parts of the Anglophone world) is an idiom that means to continue a particular endeavour is a waste of time as the outcome is already decided.
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    I used the term "meddling" in reference to how the rights holder, who had retained my services, viewed it. Understandable from her perspective, since she believed the text contained her mother's own words (though it later turned out that that was only partially true). In my view it would not have been "meddling" but enhancing a weak manuscript.

    In the event I limited myself to smoothing out some of the verbiage by eliminating run-ons, fragments and trite usages, restructuring paragraphs, rewriting some small sections in a slightly more polished way, etc. But areas of the narrative where there was potential for real dramatic tension or where the characters in the narrative were flatly portrayed I left alone -- and regretted doing so because I saw so much potential there. Of course, wherever I made textual emendations I adhered to the overall voice of the original, sticking with plain words and never introducing anything the narrator could not have known herself at the time or which was out of character with her as I had come to know her through her narrative.

    Still I was disappointed with the result (especially the very atonal ending which seemed to dribble away) and so I convinced the rights holder to work with me to augment the ending via inclusion of her aunt's parallel (though much shorter) account and an afterword which she would author reflecting her own recollections of the period, as seen through a child's eyes (which is what she then was) and which would include a wrap-up telling readers what had happened to the various survivors in the aftermath.

    The result, I believe, was a stronger narrative overall, thus a stronger book. My editing thus improved the final product in ways that went beyond cleaning up the text alone. And, indeed, when the rights holder subsequently organized a book signing party for her aged mother at the facility where she lived and invited me, I was gratified when the facility director took me aside and said that, having read the original typed manuscript, she thought the published book was much, much better. That's what I had hoped to achieve, to make the manuscript into a credible book. But I remained disappointed because so much more could have been done.

    Less than a year later, in light of that effort, I was approached by someone else who had come through the Holocaust and she asked me to write her story. After hearing hers I thought there was an opportunity to do with it what I hadn't been allowed to do with the first. Since the second survivor didn't have a manuscript at all, she agreed to let me write it as I wanted to.

    I took that as an opportunity to do what I hadn't been able to do with the earlier book. I met with this lady multiple times over a six month period, listened to her many stories, asked questions designed to elicit more details, researched the area and era of her story, created a timeline of events into which I fitted her many disparate anecdotes and then sat down to write her story (which is the one we used Lulu for here in America). That book was not an editing job but a writing job because I created a novelized account (dramatizing the events she described) from the material I had gathered from our interviews. So you see, I do recognize a distinction between writing and editing but in my experience the delineating line is not as hard and fast as you portray it.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    So, in actual fact, you Ghost wrote the book ...
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    Do you actually read what you reply to Kevin? Above I made a distinction between two jobs. The first was editing, albeit in places fairly substantive in nature (because I re-wrote a few passages and reorganized the manuscript by adding some augmented material at the front and back). That isn't "ghost writing," a point I have been at pains to make here repeatedly.

    The second I actually wrote, but it isn't "ghost writing" either, as it happens, since as part of my contract I insisted on being credited as the writer. Nowhere in the second book does it say it was written by the woman whose story it is. It's very explicitly identified as having been written by me.

    I prefer not to be a ghost in matters like this. In fact, I had told the second lady (and her son who was with her at our business meetings) that I'd write her story for free if she would give me the rights to it. But her son declined to do that (though we did agree that I would share in the subsidiary rights) and so I wrote it for a lump sum payment under contract (payable on delivery of the manuscript) with the proviso that I be identified as the writer.

    However, people sometimes get that wrong even though I am so identified on the cover. At the amazon site for this book I recently noticed one reviewer boasting that she had gotten a copy signed by the author. Since I am in fact the author and never signed her copy she was obviously referring to the elderly lady whose story it is. So in fact it turns out I became something of a ghost in spite of my efforts to ensure that I was credited as the author! 
  • Ghost-writing does sometimes involve having credit, usually in an "As told to..." sort of byline. In any first-person narrative, there is the assumption that the subject was the author, in fact, by dictation, or through the works of a ghost, however material he or she may be.

    As an example:

    One of my friends has an elderly "almost" sister-in-law whose father flew in Europe during WW!. I worked with this friend to take a scanned / badly transliterated copy of his diary and publish it for private access as a present to this lady. We arranged the text, and where words were garbled in the former scanning/transliteration, we attempted to reconstruct them. We did not rewrite any parts. We did index and typeset, paginate, and verify that the work was chronologically arranged.

    As such, we were not truly editors, but typesetters. The author, of course, was dead, and could be of no help. If we had advised him, but never made any changes ourselves, we would be editors. Had we written the diary in a novelized format, we would have been ghost-writers.

    So you see, I am somewhat uncertain that the words used here are being applied as the world understands them.
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Do you actually read what you reply to Kevin?

    Do you actually read what you type?

    " I was approached by someone else who had come through the Holocaust and she asked me to write her story. After hearing hers I thought there was an opportunity to do with it what I hadn't been allowed to do with the first. Since the second survivor didn't have a manuscript at all, she agreed to let me write it as I wanted to.

    I took that as an opportunity to do what I hadn't been able to do with the earlier book. I met with this lady multiple times over a six month period, listened to her many stories, asked questions designed to elicit more details, researched the area and era of her story, created a timeline of events into which I fitted her many disparate anecdotes and then sat down to write her story (which is the one we used Lulu for here in America)."


  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    Actually Skoob, what you describe reminds me of the work put in by people like Rush Rhees, Elizabeth Anscombe, G. H. von Wright, Norman Malcolm and other students of Ludwig Wittgenstein whom he had designated to be executors of his literary estate after he died. They and some others worked to collect and organize his notes and manuscripts to publish them posthumously, creating the body of work Wittgenstein came to be known for (other than the Tractatus, published in his lifetime).

    They selected and compiled, and in a lot of cases excluded, material, and, where the material was hard to decipher or existed in multiple forms they clarified and edited the texts involved to best represent the ideas they believed him to have been conveying. The result of their efforts were works like The Notebooks, The Big Typescript, Remarks on Color, Remarks on the Foundations of Mathematics, Culture and Value and On Certainty along with what became the magnum opus of his later period, Philosophical Investigations.

    Other posthumously published works of Wittgenstein include Lectures on Psychology, Ethics and Aesthetics and The Blue and Brown Books which were compiled from notes taken by some of his students in the course of his lectures (or, in the case of the so-called "Brown Book," from material he dictated to a student). In all those cases the author was unavailable to assist or take guidance from his editors (and surely wouldn't have had he been alive in any case since he, himself, was  considered the standard for his own work). The individuals designated worked together to reconstruct his material into cohesive, publishable form.

    Were they then merely "typesetters" as you describe? I think that would severely understate their achievement. And yet they had no author to advise how to proceed, only their own recollections of the nature of the man himself and of how he expressed himself and conveyed his thoughts. Editors do lots of things so I think we make a mistake when we presume to pigeonhole editing as consisting of only this or that. As the second article I linked to shows, editing is a wide ranging activity with many specialties and functions.

    Anyway, I consider the first job I alluded to above to have been a matter of editing and, even if Ron Miller were right (which he isn't) that because I intended to do something else I somehow  "meddled" with the text, the fact remains that, in the end, I only spruced up the main part of the text, and augmented it for publication with three added pieces put together specifically to enrich the experience of reading the main body of text.

    On the other hand, the second job I described was clearly one of writing the material from scratch (my client in that case had no written material to hand me). But it wasn't "ghost writing" because I was listed as the writer of the book, even while acknowledging that the material was based on her story and told in a first person voice as if she were telling it. (It wasn't her real voice by the way but one I created to tell the story in a more sophisticated way than she could have -- which is another reason I took the job since I wanted to see if I could write convincingly in the voice of a woman recalling her adolescence, especially since my prior book had been about Norsemen adventuring in North America circa 1050 AD!) .        
  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    So Kevin, I take it from your response that you are confusing my reference to the first job with my reference to the second when you write, rather disingenuously I might add, the following: "So, in actual fact, you Ghost wrote the book . . ."

    Since we were talking above about the first book which I did not write nor ghost write, and I said quite explicitly in that same post that I wrote the second, what's the point of your then saying  "So, in actual fact, you Ghost wrote the book"???

    I'd already said I'd written the second one hadn't I? Of course I didn't "ghost write" it but that's just another misunderstanding on your part since I am the author of record of that book (though I elected to share credit for the story with the woman whose story it was).

    Do you just have a hard time admitting ever getting something wrong? 
  • Alright folks, let's keep it civil. This is devolving into squabbling and there's nothing for anyone to gain from that.

    Individual definitions of 'editing' aside, the thread began (swmirsky correct me if I'm wrong) as an argument that some writers, in some fields, are more suited to editing their own work. Others argue that a neutral editor should be employed whenever possible.

    If we want to keep discussing the above, that is fine. But no more back and forth trying to prove someone is 'right' as we all know this is entirely based on opinion, experience, and best-practices as observed by others. 
  • Point taken. I, for one, prefer a civil environment since that's the only real sort of forum in which people can learn from one another and maybe get some things done. I will try to avoid personalizing things here if others will. We're all striving for the same thing, looking to write our thoughts down and find an audience for them, after all. Thanks for stepping in Paul. 
  • Looking over some of the recent input (and I admit I was just scanning, given how long some of the posts are), I think I see where some of us---myself included---may have been comparing apples and oranges.

    There are obvious similarities but there are also fundamental differences between freelance editing and the kind of editing provided by traditional publishers. In the latter case, the editor is an employee of the publisher, working on behalf of both the publisher and the author. I say on behalf of both because the ultimate goal is to make the book as good as it can possibly be, which benefits the author as well as the publisher, who, after all, is footing the bill for the book's publication. In the case of the traditional publisher, there is usually no need for rewriting on any kind of large scale. After all, if the acquisitions editor thought that the book had no merit or would only be acceptable after extensive work, they probably would not have accepted it in the first place or, at best, would have asked for the book to be resubmitted after changes had been made. If, for some almost unimaginable reason, the book was thought to be unpublishable unless another hand took part in writing---or rewriting---it this would not be something the editor would do. One reason would be that the editor would most likely not be an expert in the subject and an even more compelling reason would be that the editor simply has other things to do. Either the author would be asked to find a co-author (I'm not saying "ghost writer" at this moment since I think that implies more extensive work, up to and including writing the entire book) or the editor might suggest someone. One reason for having an independent person do this is that they could be someone with some expertise in the subject. Another would be more in the vein of legalities: there would have to be some contractual arrangement that spelled out not only the role the co-author is to play, but what their relationship to the book would be. In most likelihood, it would be a work-for-hire job, in which the publisher would own the rights to what the co-author produced. This would be much more likely to occur in the case of a ghost writer than a co-author, I should point out.

    In any event, the actual editing process would be much like that I and others have already described.

    The freelance editor is a somewhat different case. They would be employed by the author themselves. Their time and effort, so long as the arrangement held out, would be entirely devoted to the author, with the editor answerable to no one else. There are fewer constraints on what they may choose to do---or what they may be asked to do. After all, their time and efforts belong to the author. They may take on multiple roles, for instance, such as copy editor and fact-checker. The editor, if requested, might make direct changes or revisions to a work or even take a hand in researching, rewriting some or all of the text or in adding new material. (Though, in the event of their taking part in the writing itself, especially to the extent of adding new material, one would expect some sort of work-for-hire agreement be made in order to protect the original author's interests.)

    In short, the role of the traditional editor, one working for a traditional publisher, is pretty much as I and others have described it. The duties of the freelance editor, on the other hand, can be much less defined and much less constrained, even to the point of becoming a collaborator on a book.

    In both cases, however, I am referring to professional editors, rather than someone who may have simply inherited a similar duty or had one imposed upon them, just as I would make a distinction when defining "mechanic" as referring to someone with training and experience as opposed to, say, giving me a wrench and telling me something is wrong with a car...which would be a terrible mistake. That wouldn't make me a "mechanic" in any real sense any more than handing someone at random a manuscript and asking them to fix the spelling as best they can makes them an editor (except, perhaps, in their own mind---it does look good on a resume!). I agree with you that what Skoob did was in fact very much more than "typesetting," but I think he is probably right in saying that he is not an editor even though what he did was in fact editing. If he were to say, based on that experience, "I am an editor," I think he would be misusing the word. But if he were to say, "I once edited a book," there would be nothing to quibble about.
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  • swmirskyswmirsky Publisher
    edited October 2018
    I agree with that assessment Ron Miller. And especially with the distinction you make between free lance editing and editing for a publisher.

    I, myself, have been involved in editing four books since retiring, two of which advanced to publication (the first I was sole editor of but, on the second, I was brought in after the fact to clean up and prepare a manuscript for publication that had been ghost written by someone else but was not yet deemed publishable).

    The other two I have referenced did not advance to publication for the reasons already given. I've also written one book under contract for someone else (also already mentioned) as well as three of my own (the first that historical novel I spoke of, the other two being works of philosophy). Yet I would never call myself a professional editor in the sense you describe . . . or a professional writer, for that matter, since I don't make my living from such work. However, I have earned money doing this kind of work and spend much of my time these days writing (and, of course, editing) my own stuff.

    So perhaps you can see why I might have gotten my hackles up when told I didn't know what I was talking about (even if that wasn't what anyone intended to convey). I certainly do prefer exchanging ideas and information in a way that engages us all as adults who respect one another. I thank Paul for intervening when this discussion obviously became too heated (for which I take some responsibility). That sort of moderation is valuable in venues like this.
  • As I sit and think about it, Kafka's fragments were literally snatched out of the fire by his friends, as he, on his deathbed, attempted to burn them. What would we call those who arranged the fragments? Likewise, Matthew Henry's commentary was finished after his death, by friends, from his notes... Volume 6 primarily; 1-5 having been published already.

    So there is precedent, i suppose.

    But hey, those Dodgers are just cleaning up, aren't they?
  • Making you, Skoob, an editor of sorts, albeit not one with a particularly long and impressive editing resume -- rather like mine I suppose!
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius
    Quite a few books, even famous ones, have been published posthumously by someone finishing off unfinished manuscripts, and even just working from notes. On the other hand, in his will Terry Pratchett said the hard drives should be pulled out of his PCs, and run over by a steamroller so no one could finish off stories he had been working on, or write stories based on ideas from his ideas folder. And literally that's exactly what was done. His daughter, who writes plots for games such as Tomb Raider, has also said that no one, ever, will be allowed to write stories based on any of Terry's 'worlds.' 
  • Well, not for 70 years; after that it's fair game. Though probably pointless by then...
  • Just KevinJust Kevin Lulu Genius

    Copyrights can be renewed by 'Estates,' etc. I am not sure what his will said about his daughter now selling TV rights to his books left right and centre though.

    Who knows about it being pointless 70 years hence. His first novel was published in 1976 and still sells.

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