An Editor’s Life, or, Six Things I Did at Work Yesterday

photo credit Carlos Velez

Yesterday at work I felt very productive and realized that I got to do a little bit of just about everything that my job entails. I thought it might interest you, gentle readers, to see what it is like to be an editor. Now, this isn’t typical of most people of my position. Most editors just have to edit and they get other people to do all that extra stuff. However, our company is small, so we get to multi-task. Here is what I did yesterday, Monday, April 18.

  1. I get in at nine and usually allot myself an hour to answer emails and such. Sometimes it takes longer; sometimes it takes only a few minutes. Since I’m a workaholic and got up early today and checked my email, I already knew before I came in that I had three emails waiting for me. Two were from an author attempting and failing to send me her edits (she doesn’t know how to attach files to email). The last email was from a designer in layout. Her author wanted to change how the backmatter read and since she was Briana’s author, and I took over all of Briana’s authors, I was the go-to girl on this. Layout always checks with the editors whenever the author want to make any kind of word change to make sure that it is grammatically correct and still true to the book. It’s a good thing she checked with me this morning, because the author’s revised backmatter was missing a serial comma. I spent five minutes emailing her back and then uploading the new backmatter (comma inserted) on the author’s profile page.*
  2. We all have schedules that show us how much we need to edit each day to get through our books in the alloted time. I am supposed to read at least eighteen thousand words a day. But since I was ahead from yesterday and I really am not enjoying the book that I am editing, I only read sixteen thousand words. That took up the rest of my morning. And I played a little bit on Facebook.*
  3. On Mondays the office has pizza provided for us by Tate. Usually I stand in the long line to partake of this greasy food (coupled with iceberg lettuce salad so they can pretend to be semi-healthy), but Sean and I had Pizza Hut the night before so I skipped out. Instead I went to Homeland (which is located about twenty feet from my workplace) and bought my first bottle of dishwasher soap ever. Then I went home and loaded my dishwasher and ate a bowl of cereal. I should also mention at this time that a couple weeks ago our department started our yearly book clubs. They meet in groups of about five to seven and discuss a book’s merits from an editor’s perspective. My book club meets on Wednesday, but a couple of groups met during lunch today.
  4. After lunch I attempted to write backmatter for my books since I am far behind on this front this month. However, I failed miserably after realizing that I didn’t have bios for three of my authors. The bios are provided by the authors and then we tweak them to fit the word count and tone of the book. So I emailed my authors, asked for their bios, and then wrote the backmatter for those whose bios I did have. This took about an hour, but usually it takes longer. I’ll be dedicating myself to really polishing the backmatters on Friday. The backmatter is super important becuase it is the first thing the reader sees when he picks the book up off the shelf (other than the front cover art). It’s the place where we, the editor, have a chance to tell the reader what the book is about and what they will gain from buying it. It can be both stressful and challenging (the challenging was supposed to be the good part).**
  5. I think I read some blog posts that were tweeted by my friends around this time, and then I refocused myself by doing an R4L. That stands for “Ready 4 layout.” This is when we take the very last draft of the book, clean it all up, and stick in on the server. Then when the book gets assigned a layout designer, the designer pulls the file off the server and begins crafting it into a PDF. R4Ls aren’t supposed to take that long because most of the hard edits have already been done, but today’s took me almost two hours because the author had added some new material to her book and her grammar is poor.  So in addition to cleaning it up I also had to fix her grammar.**
  6. I barely had time at the end of the day to complete my PCF. This stands for Proof Correction Form. You might be familiar with this process if you’ve ever self-published, or ever published at all, for that matter. Layout sends the author a proof (rough draft hard copy of the book) and the author marks it up where they find grammatical errors. They also fill out a PCF so the editor (moi) can easily find the marks and approve them. Sometimes our authors find “errors” that are actually correct (like that want to add a comma that shouldn’t be there), or they want to reword a sentence so that it sounds better. This phase is only for fixing grammatical and layout issues, not for preferential changes such as using the word “different” instead of “dissimilar.” If we let them make such changes, they would be in the proof stage for the rest of their lives, because authors never feels like their work is perfect. They know that they could keep revising it forever, so we have to draw a line. Today’s PCF was pretty long and full of un-approved corrections. Basically the author wanted to add a comma after each introductory “so,” and she had a lot of so’s.

So there you have it. I finished the PCF, emailed the layout designer to tell her that I would have it on her desk in the morning, closed up some extra windows on my laptop, and headed out. Then I went to Sonic for a coke with cherry and lime (easy ice), went to Walgreens to pick up the prize for our easter egg hunt today at work, and went home to pet my dog and unload the dishwasher. And then Thomas Beard and I went up to Aaron Pogue’s to consort, because I feel like I haven’t seen Aaron or Courtney Cantrell in ages.

*I was also slightly distracted by my coworkers during this time. We often have funny author stories to share, which leads to other funny things. My author alluding to clams, for example, prompted my coworker to look up the reproduction habits of clams. Intruiging.

**I might have been listening to Ke$ha during this time. Make fun of me all you want.

Posted in Editing, Personal | Tagged as: , ,

4 Responses to An Editor’s Life, or, Six Things I Did at Work Yesterday

  1. Aaron Pogue says:

    That was terribly educational! I can see some processes we should borrow at the Consortium (including compulsory listening to Ke$ha).

    • jessie says:

      haha, Aaron. Glad I could help. I do find that Green Day is even more conducive to productivity.

  2. Jayne says:

    I find myself compelled to look up the reproductive habits of clams.