Book Review: Editorial Niches

editorial-niches_coverWhen Editors Canada decided to update Editing Canadian English, now in its third edition, the twenty-four authors and their team of editors generated so much material that they decided to create a companion volume, Editorial Niches.

What’s in it?

Editorial Niches consists of two long chapters, each divided into many subsections with report-style enumeration to preserve the link with the online edition of Editing Canadian English. The first chapter – chapter 12, so numbered because it’s a continuation of Editing Canadian English – covers professional development, fact checking, indexing, email etiquette, and software for editing.

The second chapter – chapter 13 – lends its name to the book. Experienced editors offer an insider’s view of particular kinds of editing, with sections on

  • online materials
  • books
  • corporate, not-for-profit, and government documents
  • educational materials
  • academic books, journal articles, and theses
  • poetry, plays, and screenplays
  • cookbooks
  • magazines
  • science, technology, and medicine publications
  • visual materials

What’s in it for you?

If you are at all curious about the kinds of work editors do, you should read this book. It provides a rich overview of many areas of editorial work for freelancers (not in-house editors, however). If you are a new editor, you will gain insight into the types of work you might want to do. If you are a seasoned editor, you will be interested to know how other editors in your niche perform the work and be reassured that your practices are up to standard. If you want to try something new, this book is for you.

The content is relevant for English-speaking editors internationally. Only one section, on editing for government, is aimed exclusively at editors working in Canada.

Editorial Niches provides practical information about editing that is not available anywhere else. The only book I know of that is remotely like it is Editors on Editing, which as a 1993 publication is no longer a trustworthy source.

It’s an excellent resource, but …

If I were the editor: A modest proposal for restructuring

A large group of editors – beyond the twenty-four authors who are also editors – contributed to this book. It is therefore terrifying to offer constructive criticism. Yet I cannot help envision the book as a stand-alone publication. Sometimes it takes an outsider – someone not wedded to the original concept – to see what a book wants to be. 

Editorial Niches has a great title and substantial content. The ten niches covered in chapter 13 would form the basis for the new book. Each niche would have its own chapter. Further, I would subdivide some of the “niches” and expand the discussion. The section on books, for example, covers production, non-fiction trade books, self-published books, and fiction for children and young adults. I would like to see separate, fully fledged chapters on each of these niches.

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

Luxembourg Gardens, Paris

To these I would add fact-checking, plain language, and indexing from chapter 12, as these are arguably editorial niches too.

And I would add a chapter on editing novels and short stories. Editing fiction is covered only briefly in the section on editing stories for children and teens. The section on “editing self-publishing authors” deals with client relations but not the craft of fiction editing. The market for fiction is huge, and so is the need for trained editors. Any book on “editorial niches” should give fiction its due.

Of course the sequence of chapters would have to be changed to create a beginning, middle, and end. I envision a book with an introduction that, to steal the wisdom from section 13.2.5.1.1, “truly leads into the essence of the text.” Likewise, the book must not just stop, as it currently does; it must conclude.

Each section of Editorial Niches seems to be written by a different author, because like it or not – and I do – some individual voices come through. The book does not have a cohesive voice. I would therefore suggest attributing chapters to the authors, instead of listing the authors as a collective in the preliminary pages. The varied voices in this book would then become a strength, not a potential weakness.

The book has four levels of headings. I would suggest scaling back to two levels distinguished by heading style. I would omit the enumeration, because numbering schemes like 13.2.1.3.2 are aesthetically unpleasing and more confusing than helpful.

The cross-references to Editing Canadian English would have to be incorporated into the narrative, referred to in notes, or added in “further reading.”

Now the hard part: the book that I envision would not include much of chapter 12. The Professional Editorial Standards and sections on professional development, email etiquette, and software for editing – as good and useful as the information is – are not editorial niches and have to go.

Professional Editorial Standards is available for free on the Editors Canada website. It is also available in each of the four certification study guides and as an appendix to Editing Canadian English. There is no need to reproduce it here. The further nine pages on preparing for certification belong, in my view, on the Editors Canada website.

An important question to consider in restructuring the book is how editors will use it. Do editors want to read about the different niches for educational purposes, or do they want practical information on finding work? A related question is, Is the information about the different niches balanced?

I have to say no.

Most sections speak to editors who have work in the given niche. Only one section, editing for government, provides specific information on how to find work in that field. I would like to see “finding work” discussed in each niche – and not just discussed, but presented as paths to finding work that editors can act on. After all, the book is aimed at new editors looking for work and at seasoned editors interested in trying something new.

The more I think about a structural edit, the more questions come to mind. How many niches should be covered? In how much detail? Should the chapters be similar in length? Should every chapter cover similar topics, such as a publishing overview for that niche, the editing process, client relations, finding work, and resources for further reading?

What do you think? Would Editorial Niches be more meaningful to readers, and more marketable, as a separate e-book or print book?

2 thoughts on “Book Review: Editorial Niches

  1. What an amazingly thorough assessment, Ellie. It could be a valuable resource for when the next edition comes out. Kudos to you for undertaking what must have been a daunting task — critiquing other editors.

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    • Thank you, Arlene. I was nervous about writing this review, for sure. I hope it’s received in the spirit of openness, curiosity, and collegiality in which I wrote it. I would really like to hear from editors who were involved with the book. It may be too much to expect of my blog, but I hope it starts a conversation.

      Like

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