• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Where Have All the Flowers Gone

A reader asks: Is it true that editors no longer edit, and if so, why?

Good question but kind of boring. Still, I have a couple of theories. My first is that some editors don’t really know how. Editing was always an apprenticeship and you would toil away for years working with a senior editor before you got promoted and edited anything on your own. Now, editorial assistants get promoted in a few years or take the hint and go to Law School. You also typed and filed your boss’ correspondence. The first agent I worked for wrote 6 page editorial letters to his clients; I didn’t just type and file them, I inhaled them. Today, most of the work of editing and communicating is done via email so the assistant is no longer privy to the editorial letters, etc. that are exchanged between an author and her editor.

The other reason is expedience; some editors don’t believe that an edited book is going to sell a single copy more than an unedited one. And many are probably right on that score. If you want to read about Mackenzie Philips’ drug fueled consensual sex with her father, does it really matter if the transitions are weak? And for all I know that book might have been brilliantly edited by a whip-smart young editor with a PhD in linguistics from Princeton — it probably was.

Do editors edit? I think most do, and some quite brilliantly. Most of us still believe that if you strive towards making the book the best it can be, sentence by sentence, word by word, that if you search for the perfect title and subtitle, get the perfect jacket, write sublime flap copy, etc. then you will give the book its best possible shot in the marketplace and give readers what they deserve. We also believe that if we clap long and loud enough a little fairy will come and save us. Or do we save her?

3 Responses

  1. I began writing a response in the comments section, but the issue carried me away and I wrote a post instead: Do editors still edit? A response in part based on Mark McGurl’s The Program Era.

    You can see the money shot in this letter to the New Yorker’s editor.

  2. Would you say this puts more pressure on the writer to improve their own editing skills, or is the editing quality of books simply begining to decline. I’ve certainly noticed a greater number of typos in recent years, particularly in books which are later in a series. How much of this is the publishing house and how much is it the writer trying to meet deadlines?

  3. I’m speaking from limited experience here but there’s only 1 (out of 5) editor at my little imprint that actually edits all or most of her books. The rest are too lazy or are flailing idiots.

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