My New Book!

Some of you may already know this, but I am excited to announce at last that I have a new book coming out early in 2020. Last But Not Least is my guide to becoming a better proofreader.

Nothing is worse than working hard on an essay or a report for work only to realize after you’ve submitted it that you let an embarrassing typo slip through. Last But Not Least was written to teach you the skills to avoid that ignominious fate. It not only reviews and explains the rules of grammar and mechanics (my favourite! 😄) but also introduces techniques and processes to help you hone your proofreading-fu.

I am delighted to see the project so close to publication. Proofreading is something that we can all use a little help with, whether we’re composing a tweet or working on the latest magnum opus — and, as the title says, it may be the last thing you do, but it certainly isn’t the least.

The details can be found here. I look forward to hearing from you when the book comes out. You can bet I’ll be singing from the rooftops when it does!

Link to Brush Education

A willing subject

If you are an editor, a grammarian, or just someone who enjoys the quirks of the English language, you’re sure to like Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen by Mary Norris. I was happily surprised by the great good humour and the tidy fusion of editing memoir and language instruction. Kudos, Ms Norris!

There is no way a single sentence could sum up the many delights of this book, yet one lovely clause keeps ringing through my memory:

Parentheses often act like giant commas, and commas like tiny parentheses. (p. 103)

Graceful, yes? A nice use of rhetorical schemes, without being ostentatious, and a fine, compact observation. The book is full of such gems. Such a pleasure!

Source: Mary Norris, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen (New York and London: W.W. Norton and Company, 2015).

Scarcity and abundance re book marketing

Last year I heard Richard Nash speak about publishing and learning to manage abundance. Several times in my teaching this year, I have quoted his memorable comment “Abundance breaks more things than scarcity does.” The excerpt below, from Giles Clark and Angus Phillips,  amplifies Nash’s idea and sets it into the specific relationships among publishers, authors, and readers.

However, scarcity is still present and comes in different guises, especially in respect of the resources needed to publish. Readers and institutional buyers have limits on their purchasing power. There are also and importantly individual limits on the amount of time available to read, be it a novel or a scientific paper, versus competing media and activities: time is a scarce commodity. Good authors who people want to read are scarce, whether their writings are paid for by readers or available for free. From a publisher’s standpoint, it costs money to find, select and buy such authors. It takes resources to develop the author’s work for market needs, and to produce the book in whatever formats the content is published. The marginal cost of a digital file may be close to zero, yet there is still a cost to the publisher to create a book and then distribute it through channels to market that are controlled and charged for by others. The sales and marketing costs to capture readers’ attention, to help them discover books, do not disappear in the transition from print to digital publishing.

In a world of abundance, the publishers offer a vital service in selecting authors and developing their content to meet readers’ needs. They manage the authors’ brands and focus readers on the books they have selected. That service is worth paying for when time is scarce. (20–21)

This is a key point for me when I’m teaching book editing: until students have worked in the business as publishing professionals, it’s difficult for them to understand how abundance works against consumers and how scarcity works in consumers’ favour. And Clark and Phillips add an important additional consideration: the scarcity of time. Very well observed!

Source: Giles Clark and Angus Phillips, Inside Book Publishing (London and New York: Routledge, 2014).

Regarding editorial efficiency

The Eleventh Time-Saving Tip:

… make all trivial decisions as soon as possible and keep all vital decisions as late as possible. The magazine, on paper and on digital, is now ‘plastic’ until it is fixed. (124)

This advice certainly applies to magazine editing, but also to editing in general. Editors need to think carefully about how to use our limited resource of time, particularly today, when digital workflows and leaner staffing mean that we have to work smarter than we did in the past.

Source: David Stam and Andrew Scott, Inside Magazine Publishing (London and New York: Routledge, 2014).