The comment was made by a coworker today that for all the evidence her title indicates to the contrary, she spends very little time actually editing books. It was a sentiment I’ve heard countless times at conferences and lunches with other editors I know: most of our job is spent on things other than actually editing. I know why that is, but I don’t really know at the same time. It’s a strange little fact that I find many writers don’t quite understand when they talk about their editor or what he or she actually does for them.
My morning today was spent writing a proposal, typing up a memo for an internal department concerning a legal matter, handing off a pile of manuscripts to be declined to the assistant, checking on a conference call I’m supposed to be involved in later in the week, and getting a report about the likelihood of Dr. Dobson shooting the remainer of the video segments needed before we can be finished with the accompanying curriculum. Most Monday mornings are worse with meetings and phone calls as everyone tries to get a handle on the most pressing projects of the week by making countless phone calls to all their usual contacts. Throw in morning devotions, and you’ve got a fairly busy morning.
My point here isn’t to complain or to air my intimates. I’m just trying to show a few of the things that take up the day besides actually editing. “Project management” is a more accurate title for it, but still farily unhelpful in really telling what it is book editors do. And it isn’t easy to quantify even for us. So many days slip by where you wonder, What in the world did I do today? It helps to be able to go down a list, so sometimes I’ll write out everything I can remember just to get an idea of what to tell the boss in our staff meeting, but even that can be a mystery. Everything gets chalked up to “R&D.”
But what’s really interesting about the average work week is how many different books, ours and others, will happen across your desk or computer screen in a given day. I’d estimate it can reach about 200-300, especially if you’re researching catalogs for new projects. “Big deal,” you might say. “I go through that many on amazon all the time.” You probably do. But do you know how much the publishers made on them, the editors personal relationship with them, the life situations of the authors who wrote them? This is an essential part of the job too, where editing and agenting intersect and where I often feel incapacitated and out of my element among all those details. I’m a macro guy, if you couldn’t tell. An author’s birthday is just not going to get a red light in my brain.
Thank God for Christmas cards so I can remember all the people I worked with this year. I think someone should write a Christmas carol about that tradition, of writing the business Christmas cards and trying to recall all the details about that person and your working relationship. It’s definitely a part of the season that goes unmentioned. I just wonder why…