Why are book editors nowadays so bad at their jobs?
November 6, 2012 1:46 AM Subscribe
What's gone wrong with book editing at major publishers?
posted by deeper red to media & arts (23 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Increasingly nowadays it seems to me that books simply aren't being edited rigorously enough. It feels like editors take a laissez-faire attitude and don't even attempt to get the best book out of the author.
The result can be novels that are simply overwritten, the most notorious example being the last Harry Potter book. That could have been half, even a third of the size without suffering. It sounds like JK Rowling's new book suffered too, with reviews mentioning a bizarre assembly of extended/mixed metaphors that should have been spotted.
Non-fiction titles seem to be hit -- I just finished a biography that was badly organised and leaped around in the timeline (at one point a wife died in a sad protracted segment, then a few pages later she was alive again in an anecdote that clearly should have come earlier). Factual errors were common -- the same book talked of The Muppets creator as "Jim Hansen" and a Q&A at the back used American English spellings despite everybody involved being British and the book being published by a British company for British readers. I assumed the spell checker was set accidentally to US English.
I have some theories of my own:
1. "Editors" aren't really editors any longer, but simply business types who believe the book will sell itself on its title, author and cover pic.
2. The process has been stripped down to bare essentials to save money, in the mindless process of rationalisation that happens at some companies.
3. Educational standards have fallen so much that there simply isn't the talent any longer to do a good job, and the craft of editing is dying. I've worked in magazine publishing and experienced this first hand with sub-editors to whom I had to explain how a comma works.