An essay on the dark arts of book editing

Sometimes an editor’s job is a crap job.

Mainstream publishers can, frankly, be a bit crap. One sent me a travel manuscript to edit and three days later rang to ask, “Is it any good?” She hadn’t read it. But there was a publishing date with publicist and advertising booked, so it was published even though my answer was “No.” (It didn’t sell.)

The same publisher sent me a manuscript, another rush job for similar reasons, but I couldn’t check anything with the author because she was about to give birth. OK, fine. But the manuscript… She had written it on a computer, using it as if it was a typewriter, so had put a hard return at the end of every line. Dear old Word treated every line I could see on the page as a paragraph. There was no way I could think of to get an editable text other than deleting these hard returns manually and recreating paragraphs as I went. I asked a typographer who agreed: manual it was. That took three days, possibly the most tedious three consecutive days I have ever spent since working on a lathe in the Masport factory.