“The Most Unheralded Job in Publishing”

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By Kathryn Comment

This week, Adam Langer devotes his Book Standard column to “the most unheralded job in publishing,” that of the copyeditor. Here’s some highlights:

AL: Do you feel that your job is too anonymous?* Should you get more credit?

SL: The anonymity is appropriate. It’s akin to a referee or umpire in a sports contest: If you become aware of his presence, chances are, something’s wrong.

CD: I once had a colleague who complained that text and book-jacket designers are credited, so editors should be too, but I don’t feel a need to be credited. I usually receive thanks from authors in e-mails or phone calls, and that means a lot to me, especially since my job is to be an annoying gadfly and question every little decision they made. Sometimes, frankly, I would not want credit, particularly when an author insists on atypical or inconsistent style choices, errors, anachronisms or offensive wording.

***

AL: What if you have to copyedit a book that you hate? Can you distance yourself?

SL: You have to. It’s like a mechanic who hates Volkswagens: He still has to do a good job fixing whatever’s wrong, no matter his personal dislike of Jettas.

JZB: I work in fits and starts, bitch and moan to others in the business, toy with the idea of leaving everything just as it is, walk around the block when I find myself sarcastically reading passages aloud to myself. When the deadline looms close enough, I sit down and do what I’m being paid to do. You just do your best and wonder why you didn’t make a career of grooming poodles or putting wheels on toy trains when you had the chance. And why you didn’t have the business sense to whip out a piece of trash and sell it to a publisher for a huge advance.

*In this case, anonymity would only be the result of my laziness. So, though it takes extra typing, here’s the names the above initials refer to: JZB = Judit Z. Bodnar (favorite projects: Thursday’s Universe, by Marcia Bartusiak, and Wakefield, by Andrei Codrescu); SL = Steve Lamont (favorite projects: David Sedaris’s books and The Ice Queen, by Alice Hoffman); and CD = Courtney Denney (favorite projects: How to Survive a Robot Uprising, by Daniel H. Wilson and Candyfreak, by Steve Almond).

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