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What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  270 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Editing is an invisible art where the very best work goes undetected. Editors strive to create books that are enlightening, seamless, and pleasurable to read, all while giving credit to the author. This makes it all the more difficult to truly understand the range of roles they inhabit while shepherding a project from concept to publication.

In What Editors Do, Peter Ginna
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published October 6th 2017 by University of Chicago Press
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Beth Jusino
Jan 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
A book about the business of books, and the people who make them, particularly those who work in traditional publishing and developmental editing. Since that's been my work and business for almost 20 years, I found a lot to love. Those who are curious about making an editing career will benefit from listening to those who have gone before, even in this time of disruptive change.

Like most collections, some essays are stronger than others. Jon Karp's guide for acquisitions is insightful about how
Dianna Winget
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a VERY informative book. It gives an up close and deeply personal look at the many varied jobs that go on in the publishing industry. What sets this book apart from similar ones is that this one is not specifically written for authors, it's aimed equally at those who might be interested in working in the publishing industry as editors, researchers, copy editors, cover designers, publicists, ect. I learned a lot. Highly recommended.
Neil R. Coulter
Nov 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: editing, non-fiction
What Editors Do is a collection of 26 chapters by 27 authors about all aspects of professional editing. Often multi-author volumes such as this have a lot of ups and downs: some chapters are excellent, other chapters less so. But this entire book is a fascinating read. I enjoyed every chapter and wouldn't single out any of them as "skippable."

As a freelance copyeditor and proofreader myself, it was enormous fun to read other people who understand that way of seeing the world. As Carol Fisher
Oliver Brackenbury
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I've no interest in becoming an editor, but as an author I figured there'd be some useful stuff in here. From that perspective I'll say this - writers, even ones who only want to self-publish, would do well to breeze through this to not only get a better understanding of a process they've been through or want to go through, but also a better understanding of the editors themselves.
Jun 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
As one might expect from a bunch of editors, this book is elegant and balanced, with a collection of voices who are at least diverse enough to point out each other's biases. The picture they give of the profession is by turns charming, cynical, and uncertain, but they all care deeply about what they do, and that alone makes it a worthwhile read.
Louise Miller
Mar 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is an informative book for new authors as well as anyone interested in a career in publishing (or the curious reader who wants a peek into the business of the book world.)
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
“...for those with a passion for books, editing offers rewards that are hard to improve on--including a community of like-minded colleagues. One effect of the mediocre entry-level pay in publishing that that those who enter the business, almost to a one, do it because they love to read. Though it may sound simplistic to say, I have found that a peer group self-selected in this way is an incredibly congenial one.”

“...a good editor asks the right questions, makes you better than you are, or more
Jason Lundberg
Never before have I read a text that so perfectly encapsulates my day job; I found myself nodding along to so much of this. If you’ve ever wondered what editors do and why they’re so vitally important in the publication process, pick up this book.
James Korsmo
Jul 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
This varied collection of essays tries to give a snap shot of the world of editing in its various forms. As with many multiple-author collections, the essays vary in quality and in approach. I do think this book does a good job of conveying the wide variety of tasks editors perform. There are in fact many different types of editors, and what various types of editors do in any given company can vary rather widely. I think this book does adequately convey that. Some of the pieces are very good. ...more
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Great resource for editors and publishers. The essay about "the alchemy of acquisitions" is worth the price of the whole book. If you're an agent or an acquisitions editor (or a writer trying to get a book proposal accepted) then I encourage you to at least read that essay.
Caroline Tew
Jan 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was SUPER informative. I learned so much about editing, what editors do every day at the office, how to start a career in editing, how to deal with authors, and all the different types of editors there are in the world. This only made me want to pursue this career even more. It also made me realize what was for me and what wasn’t (I don’t think I would want to self-publish, work for a university press, deal with textbooks, or edit nonfiction unless it was a memoir or something). Hearing ...more
Eliane Mitchell
Dec 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
Needless to say, I learned a lot about book editing from this book. For me, the chapters on University Presses and freelance editing were a bit slow, but that's mainly because I am not interested in those fields myself. There are a lot of good quotations about what makes "good writing" in this book too.
Deb Caletti
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was amazing
After 17 years of writing and publishing books, this taught me stuff I didn’t know, and made me appreciate - even more - the hard work (and HEART WORK) of my editors. Writers, if you want to understand what goes on behind the scenes, this is an interesting and helpful read.
Rachel Pollock
Feb 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: writing
One more for the “books I wish I’d read in graduate school” list.
Apr 16, 2019 rated it liked it
A modern update of "Editors on Editing" - this is a series of essays by editing professionals on the topic of editing as a career, and the pitfalls and pleasures therein.

I went into this book looking for an overview of the day-to-day of editing and the skills required, and while I found some of that here, overall I found the majority of these essays to be repetitive. I think about half of them could have been excised with no overall loss to the quality or structure of the book. The majority of
Peyton Stafford
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: publishing
Clear explanation of the various tasks performed by editors.
Derek Ithen
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Really informative and well done. My only knock against it would have been that it was too book-centric. Information or insight in other types of editing could have been interesting as well. Overall, very useful though.
Jan 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: young people considering careers with publishers
It's ironic that this book so needs an editor. As with any edited collection, the authors were given a pretty broad latitude. That means there's a LOT of repetition, with the various roles of the editor laid out in half a dozen different chapters—and done perhaps best by Ginna, in his introductory chapter The book would likely have been stronger if he'd just written it himself, interviewing his friends rather than turning the mic over to them directly. This is one of those cases in which the ...more
C.B. Matson
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
If you are writing anything from weekly status reports to the next Middle Earth trilogy, you need an editor. Whether you're hacking away in the back office, self-pubbing that hot romance, or chasing agents in search of the elusive trad contract, yup, you've got to know what editors do.

Writers, get this book. Read it, then read it again. 'Nough said.
Blake Atwood
Mar 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-writing
Unless you're in the business of writing, you may not be aware that "editor" means much more than someone who fixes your grammar. What Editors Do: The Art, Craft, and Business of Book Editing fixes that problem.

Through contributions from many leading editors and publishing professionals, this book defines the broad scope of what editors do in the twenty-first century. Even as a full-time freelance editor for going on four years, I gleaned new information and insight from this book.

More than
Jordan Stepp
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was ok
If you’re already in the biz, I wouldn’t bother. If you’re new to the publishing world, the book will offer some glimpse into the more mundane details of how books get made. The essays are generally solidly written but too much time is spent on the intangible “magic” of acquisitions. At times the essays turn more self congratulatory exercises than legitimate commentary on life in publishing.
Richard Jespers
Nov 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ginna has amassed a large number of essays by editors and agents, or those who used to be one or the other. He organizes their pieces around broad topics such as acquisition, editing process, and publication. But he also includes a section concerning memoir and one about careers in publishing. Writers have heard ad infinitum what editors want when they attend workshops, but somehow, when one is suddenly on the other side of the desk peering through the eyes of those editors one begins to ...more
Aug 31, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating insider's peek at the book world. I was struck by how subjective the acquisition process and the whole manuscript-to-printed book journey are and thus how prone they are to be insular and prejudiced. I was also taken by how an author's "platform" (i.e., number of followers on social media, number of mentions, all sorts of metrics, etc.) become a factor in assessing her/his marketability. With all this, it becomes like a high school clique or a whole set of them.

A few quotes:

WHAT EDITORS DO is an informative and comprehensive collection of essays on the roles and significance of editors in writing and publishing. It doesn't just go into the day-to-day responsibilities of an in-house editor at a big publishing company. Rather, it explores what editing entails at different types of publishers (academic, small press, freelance / self-publishing), for different genres (literary, nonfiction, YA / children's, etc.), and within the different types of editing ...more
Anne Nerison
I was pretty underwhelmed with this book, to be honest. As someone who's been in the business for a few years, both in small press and as a freelancer, there wasn't a lot here that was really new to me, and what was new tended to be repeated in multiple essays. I also didn't care for the self-congratulatory tone prevalent throughout. I'm proud to be an editor, don't get me wrong, but something about the tone of "without us this whole industry would crumble" was off-putting.

I did find value in
Mar 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Informative and interesting

This is a great resource for both new and experienced editors. The essays cover just about every aspect of editing, as the title stays, as art, craft, and business. And as publishing evolves, so does editing. This books looks back at the past, as well as looking into the future while accurately describing what is happening now. Good stuff.
Antonio Arch
If their job has been done, you'll never think of or thank the editors while you're reading because your eye will have travelled from left to write without effort and repeat without you ever thinking about the process of the message getting from ink to brain. This book is essential reading if you want to know all about the role of a professional so many of us know so little about!
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent resource. Obviously for anyone interested in being an editor, but also for authors. Having been an editor for 20 years now, I was surprised to find that it was an enjoyable read for me. Sometimes because it was validating, sometimes just for the peek into the lives of editors in other areas of publishing, sometimes just for some tidbit of information that was shared.
Carol Cronin
Apr 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook
A wide variety of essays that provide a varied education for an entry-level editor (or someone considering the profession). Reading the audiobook, I was somewhat distracted by the female narrator; I would've been perfectly happy if the male narrator had read the essays written by women, too. Also I would've liked to see a little more perspective from smaller presses.
Rowley Write
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and thought it gave a clear picture of "what editors do." I found it in-depth and informative, as if you were listening to a talk from different types of editors at a conference. It is nice to be able to compare types of editors and different publishing careers.
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