Saturday, October 10, 2009

So you want to be an editor

Staying home from work sick always sounds like such a good idea—until I am actually sick. When I'm healthy, I think "I'll be home alone! Practice the piano! Do some Pilates! Finish a book! Put away laundry! Clean a closet! Do some canning!" Right. Yesterday I stayed home from work and did almost nothing other than nap and read old copies of National Geographic. Until I got the call from school that Sophie was sick too. I retrieved her (almost an hour of driving round trip), and we napped together.

Today Sophie seems completely recovered and is off at the neighbors, where she lives on the weekends (they have other children and a more liberal television policy). I'm feeling just a titch better. And after a little Facebooking with a friend about fig preserves, I want to make this, this, or this. All of which would require standing up. And it's not like there are not other things to be done around this dump my house. So I've constructed a little challenge for myself. For each unpleasant chore I complete, I can make something in the kitchen unrelated to a meal.

Here's what's on deck:

An avalanch of papers in the office that needs to be filed.

Or a set of page proofs I brought home from work over a week ago and have not touched.

Being an editor is so much fun, right? So let's do that.

People often say "Oh, what FUN it must be to be an editor! You work with BOOKS! I love books!" Yes, but do you notice I do not get paid very much to work with books? And I have to work with AUTHORS. You know, those people who WRITE BOOKS. I have to admit, most of them are pretty good eggs. I enjoy working with them and admire their passion for their work, however arcane their subject matter and remote the chances are that more than six people will read their book.

Then there's this guy.

Aside from his confusing instructions written in spidery old-man European handwriting, he addresses me with exclamation points, like he's shouting.

He's been a naughty author: Requesting we send his editing in batches so to accommodate his vacation schedule, submitting rewrites upon rewrites, and doing super-annoying things like calling me to ask why his publicist has not responded to the email that he sent an hour ago.

At this point, I consider everything his mistake. If his original correction here had been legible, there would not have been a mistake.

And he is NOT the designer. The size of the subtitle is fine, although at this point I'd rather make the change than discuss it with him on the phone for half an hour.

Did I mention that transferring page proof corrections is a boring job that a well-trained chimp could do? We used to have assistants for this work, but they have become extinct. I am now my own editorial assistant, as well as my own secretary, processing invoices, applying for Library of Congress data, and other clerical tasks. How well I do my job depends increasingly not on my editorial judgment or skills but on how well I use my computer to keep the ever increasing number of balls in the air. A good day used to be when I got packages off in the mail; these days, it's pdfs emailed or dropped onto ftp sites. We're all shoveling more and shoveling it faster. When a book comes off press, I no longer lean back and gaze at it with a sign of satisfaction but rather hold my breath as I thumb through it looking for the errors I missed. From the outside, probably not much appears different. Our authors and their manuscripts still receive plenty of personal attention as we stand on our heads to convince them that their manuscript is the most important one on our desk. Reviewers continue to laud our books as well edited and beautifully produced. And as long as we're content to do more for less faster, faster, faster, all should remain well.

Still want to be an editor? Strangely enough, I do.


Rachella said...

Ho funny! I'm a writer and people say the same thing to me. In reality, even when we work in a large office, it's a solitary, deadline-oriented slog, day in, day out--not glamorous at all.

KatieGirlBlue said...

Ah, I know that point--when you finally think, "It's just not worth battling anymore"--so you make the change, or edit, or acquiesce, or whatever, just to get the bully off your back.

On the flip side, there's all that slashing with the red pen....

Hope you're feeling better!

Red Flashlight said...

I stay at home even when I'm well. (My house is not, however, clean and well-organized. It would be better if I had a regular job: less time equals more productivity.)

I admire your ability to set aside the National Geographic to do something more productive. Even if it's copy editing.

You've inspired me to stop reading blogs and go back to work, setting up a chart of accounts in QuickBooks. Fun.

Maybe I'll have some tea first.

Hobo Mama said...

The "not my mistake" part is killing me. As a copy editor, I'm feeling sympathetic.