Welcome to the blog of the Consulting Editors Alliance. This is our forum for sharing views on the wonderful, bizarre, enormously frustrating and satisfying (depends on the day) world of book publishing and our roles in it as freelance editors, writing collaborators, and ghostwriters. Please join the conversation!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Philip Roth: "I Wised Up"

I enjoyed this interview with Philip Roth (from the Financial Times, via Slate).  My favorite moment: When Roth says that he doesn't read fiction anymore, and when the interview asks why, Roth replied, "I don't know.  I wised up."  A cryptic answer that Roth declines to explain further.

Perhaps I like this exchange because it might seem to validate my own strong preference for reading non-fiction rather than fiction.  Although I am willing to make an exception when the fiction is by Philip Roth.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Eek! Get Me Copy Editing!

As the writer (not the author) of a book, I recently sent the manuscript along to the editor, Judith Jones, at Knopf. The author’s agent commented that we could look forward to the book actually being edited. “So many editors today just send manuscripts straight to copyediting.”

I was not so surprised—we hear this sort of thing all the time—but then I read Ian Frazier’s review of John Darnton’s terrific memoir, Almost a Family. Frazier’s praise for the book was unqualified, but he closed with a paragraph expressing his disappointment with the editing of the book:

“Are books more carelessly edited than they used to be, or is it just my imagination? In general this book is not so bad in that regard. However, I was discouraged to see that Knopf’s copyeditors seem not to know the difference between “poured” and “pored” and “clamoring” and “clambering.” He goes on to note that the copy editors let “eek out subsistence livelihoods” slip by. “Eek!”

There is one obvious explanation: spell check. Whether the publishers are skipping real copyeditors and relying on that function or if lazy copyeditors are to blame, letting the computer do the job is an obvious factor. It isn’t enough. Spell check is great—for spelling—but writers, editors and copyeditors still need to be sure that the word itself is the right one.

Frazier closes with the hope that the next editions of Darnton’s book are corrected. And I suggest that more reviewers help by pointing out at least the most egregious flaws. Or is the age of shame also behind us?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Literature of the World in a Warehouse in Richmond, California

I love this story about Brewster Kahle, who has taken it upon himself to create an archive for hard copies of books scanned, digitized--and then mostly discarded--by Google.  Ultimately he hopes his collection will include some ten million books.

Is there a point to Kahle's mission?  There will be if, by some quirk of history or technological evolution, we arrive at a moment when the Internet is no longer available or useable, and we suddenly realize that one of those old tomes we uploaded decades ago contains information we actually need or want.

Digital technology is great, but I for one wouldn't want to bet our entire cultural patrimony on the continued viability of any single electronic data storage and recovery system.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

The Gap

And I am not talking about jeans.

Since I have launched an independently published novel into the blogosphere of book reviews and book bloggers I have come across an interesting phenomenon. I am sure it will straighten out eventually but for the moment, I am reminded of what our guest, Laura Von Wermer said about techgeeks scaring the book people away from our territory and how we have to take it back (I'm paraphrasing).

Reviews, a basic tool -- you send an ARC out to a list of time honored media representatives and they assign the book. Either the reviewer likes it or not, but there are givens: they know that the book is not proofed so they don't point out typos; there is the understanding that the font of a novel is probably not something to review.

More important-who gets the ARCs--if you are dealing with a virtual PR agency, as I am, this is wild. We are definitely not in the same world. I have been the host blogger on a mommy blog for a novel about Marilyn Monroe. I believe the thinking for where a book should go is fundamentally different. Rather than to a MM site, or dead celebrity, or Hollywood, the thinking goes in multiple directions. Blogs can take you deeper and sideways rather than staying on topic.

It's all a learning experience and once I've mastered it I am sure the entire landscape will change. C'est La Guerre.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

A book of and for the ages

I am telling everyone these days about A TIME FOR EVERYTHING, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, translated from the Norwegian by James Anderson. I have not been so moved and awed by a book in years. The time you give this book will be repaid a thousand fold in honest emotion (one of the rarest things in art), spellbinding imagery, and profound ideas.