An American Editor

December 3, 2014

On Today’s Bookshelf (XIX)

In only a few weeks, it will be gift-giving time again. High on my list of gifts to give and to receive are, of course, books. What I like about books is that they are educational (I always learn something) and long-lasting. When I give a book, I know that for as long as the recipient keeps the book, every time she looks at it, she will think of me.

If you are looking for ideas for books to give, the On Today’s Bookshelf series here at An American Editor can be a place to start. Besides buying books at Barnes & Noble, I also buy a lot of “remainders”, which are new books that are leftovers and overruns the publisher didn’t sell through normal retail channels and are now being sold as remainders, which translates to very steep discounts. My primary source for remainder books is Daedalus Books. The other source for books, particularly older books, are bookstores that sell used books. I generally only buy used books that are graded near fine, fine, or new; occasionally, I will buy one graded very good. As I have mentioned before, when it comes to print books, I only buy hardcovers.

As to what is on my bookshelf — and some gift ideas — here is a list of some of the hardcovers and ebooks that I am reading or acquired and added to my to-be-read pile since the last On Today’s Bookshelf post:

Nonfiction –

  • Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I by Alexander Watson
  • Klansville, U.S.A.: The Rise and Fall of the Civil Rights-Era Ku Klux Klan by David Cunningham
  • The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America by Marc Levinson
  • The Paper Trail: an Unexpected History of the World’s Greatest Invention by Alexander Monro
  • The First Modern Jew: Spinoza and the History of an Image by Daniel Schwartz
  • A Book Forged in Hell: Spinoza’s Scandalous Treatise and the Birth of the Secular Age by Steven Nadler
  • Churchill’s Empire: The World That Made Him and the World He Made by Richard Toye
  • Year of Meteors: Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War by Douglas R. Egerton
  • Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom: China, the West, and the Epic Story of the Taiping Civil War by Stephen R. Platt
  • Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962 by Yang Jisheng
  • Isaac’s Army: A Story of Courage and Survival in Nazi-Occupied Poland by Matthew Brzezinski
  • The Wars of Watergate by Stanley Kutler
  • Shelley: The Pursuit by Richard Holmes
  • The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale
  • Russian Roulette by Giles Milton
  • Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields by Wendy Lower
  • The Kaiser’s Holocaust: Germany’s Forgotten Genocide and the Colonial Roots of Nazism by David Olusoga and Casper W. Erichsen
  • Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer by Bettina Stangneth
  • Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore
  • The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In by Hugh Kennedy
  • Young Romantics: The Shelleys, Byron, and Other Tangled Lives by Daisy Hay
  • The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley
  • Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II by Kieth Lowe
  • Edith Cavell by Diana Souhami
  • Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S.C. Gwynne

Fiction –

  • The Thousand Names and The Shadow Throne by Django Wexler (2 books)
  • Magician, Magician Kings, and The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (trilogy)
  • Personal by Lee Child
  • The Tyrant’s Law and The Widow’s House by Daniel Abraham (2 books)
  • Bye Bye Baby and Beautiful Death by Fiona McIntosh (2 books)
  • The Necromancer’s Grimoire by Annmarie Banks
  • To Kingdom Come and Some Danger Involved by Will Thomas (2 books)
  • The Path of the Sword by Remi Michaud
  • The Immortal Prince by Jennifer Fallon
  • Eye of the Red Tsar and The Beast in the Red Forest by Sam Eastland (2 books)
  • Traitor by Murray McDonald
  • A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

Of course, if you are looking for books to give colleagues or would like someone to give you to help you with your freelancing business, you can’t do better than these books, which focus on the business aspects of the freelancing rather than on editorial skills:

Are you planning to ask for or give books this holiday season? If yes, why not share with us what books you are giving or asking for. If no, tell us why not.

Richard Adin, An American Editor

November 21, 2014

Worth Noting: The Business of Editing Holiday Special

Thinking of a holiday gift for yourself or your favorite freelancer? Why not a copy of The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper by Richard H. Adin, An American Editor. Waking Lion Press is offering The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper at a special holiday price through December 31, 2014 of:

paperback $20 hardcover $27

which includes shipping for U.S. addresses (non-U.S. addresses: please contact the publisher for shipping costs). To get this special price, go to this special page at Waking Lion Press.

November 29, 2013

Worth Noting: The Business of Editing Now in Kindle Format

Some good news for those waiting for the Amazon Kindle version of The Business of Editing — it has arrived! Here is the link:

http://www.amazon.com/Business-Editing-Effective-Efficient-Prosper-ebook/dp/B00GWU2AC8/

Coming shortly is a hardcover version of The Business of Editing.

Here are links to the other options for buying the book. For the print version of The Business of Editing, go to:

  1. Waking Lion Press at http://www.wakinglionpress.com/businessofediting.htm or
  2. Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Business-Editing-Richard-H-Adin/dp/1434103692/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1385545644&sr=1-1&keywords=the+business+of+editing
  3. Barnes & Noble at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-business-of-editing-richard-h-adin/1117405104?ean=9781434103697

For the ePub version of The Business of Editing, go to https://www.swreg.org/com/storefront/47578/product/47578-23

November 18, 2013

Tale of 3 Editors, a Manuscript, & the Quest for Perfection

My book, The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper, was recently published. Its making makes for an interesting tale about the quest for perfection.

Most books are subject to three limitations: one editor (chosen from a range of experience), limited editing budget, and short schedule. In contrast, The Business of Editing had three very experienced professional editors, essentially an unlimited editing budget, and no set time by which the editing had to be completed. In other words, from an editorial perspective, it was the dream project.

If I was to present this scenario to forums that were made up of noneditors — and even forums made up of some/certain editors — the comments would be the same: the book should be “error-free,” with various meanings attached to “error.” After all, there are multiple sets of eyes looking at each word, sentence, and paragraph, looking multiple times, and no schedule pressure; consequently, “perfection” — which I assume is synonymous with error-free — should be achieved.

Alas, even with three professional editors, no schedule pressure, and no budget worries, perfection is nearly impossible to achieve.

There are many reasons why perfection is not achievable even under such “perfect” circumstances, yet I think the number one reason is that one editor’s error is not another editor’s error.

In the editing of The Business of Editing, there were numerous exchanges concerning language and punctuation, which are the meat of editing. Spelling is important, but a professional editor isn’t focused on spelling. True spelling cannot be ignored; whether reign is correctly spelled is important. But spelling as spelling is not the key; the key is knowing which is the right word — is it rain, rein, or reign — which is why a professional editor does not rely on spellcheckers; they know that doing so often leads to embarrassment. If the correct word is reign but the word used is rain, rain is correctly spelled — it is just the wrong word.

The “real” editorial issues are word choice, coherence, grammar/punctuation — the things that can make for interesting discussion among professional editors. And such was the case with The Business of Editing. I don’t recall an issue of spelling arising, although it may have; what I do recall was the discussion over punctuation and wording. It is this discussion that demonstrated to me that there can be no perfection in editing.

We were three editors with at least two, and sometimes three, different opinions. (It was nice, for a change, to be the powerhouse. As the author, I got the deciding vote.) It is not that one opinion was clearly wrong and another clearly right; it was, almost always, that each opinion had merit and was correct. On occasion, one opinion was more correct, but on no occasion was an opinion incorrect in the sense that there would be universal agreement among professional editors that implementing the opinion would be tantamount to creating error.

Sometimes consensus could be reached; at other times, each of us stood firm. Yet in no instance was one of us “wrong.” Which brings us back to the matter of perfection.

How can we judge perfection when perfection cannot be pinned down? Given two equally valid opinions, how can we say that one leads to perfection and the other to imperfection? We can’t.

It is true that if all else were equal, using reign when it should be rein can be pointed to as clear error and imperfect editing. Reign, rain, and rein are three distinct things and one is not substitutable for the other. But if the correct one is used and is correctly spelled (i.e., reign and not riegn), then we must look elsewhere for imperfection and that elsewhere takes us down the path of opinion. (Of course, the question also arises if the correct word is rein but it is spelled rain, is it a misspelling or incorrect word choice? I would think that the latter is more problematic than the former.)

Is The Business of Editing perfect? With three highly skilled professional editors perusing it (and let’s not forget the eyes of the many professional editors who read the essays when they were originally posted on An American Editor), the expectation would be, “yes, it is perfect.” Alas, it is not. It is imperfect because there are elements whose grammar and construction are reasonably questionable.

This is the folly of client expectations, which we discussed several months ago in The Business of Editing: The Demand for Perfection. More importantly, this is the folly of “professional” editors who affirmatively state that they provide “perfect” editing or who declare that x number of errors are acceptable. The flaw is that the editors and clients who make these demands assume that only their opinion has any validity, that contrary opinions are inherently erroneous.

Consider this issue: An author writes, “Since taking aspirin thins blood, at least one aspirin should be taken daily.” The question is this: Is “since” correctly used? In my view, it is not; “since” should be replaced by “because” and “since” should be limited to its passing-of-time sense. However, a very legitimate argument can be made that its use in the sentence is perfectly good usage today. What we really have are two opinions of equal merit, neither being inherently wrong.

But if you are of the camp that believes correct usage demands “because,” how likely are you to declare the sentence (expand to manuscript) perfect or error-free? Clearly, those in the “since” camp would consider it perfect/error-free. Consequently, we either have an imperfect manuscript or an error-free manuscript.

Which is it in the quest for perfection? The truth of the matter is that both can be perfect and both can be imperfect — it just depends on who is doing the grading, which is why the quest for perfection is never-ending.

Consequently, depending on whose camp you are in, The Business of Editing is either perfectly or imperfectly edited.

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