Build a copyeditor from scratch!

stack of manuscript pages

My stats page tells me that that nice Brian Winters has namechecked me again over at Metafilter. This time, it’s to Baethan, who wants to work in publishing. Her question was,

What sort of courses, experiences, certifications, degrees, etc. should I pursue to tailor me for a career in editorial publishing?

When I return to college in the spring, I’ll be a sophomore. I want to use the next three years to make me into a dream applicant for a job in editorial publishing- proofreading or copy editing. Random House’s example of an entry-level job, “Editorial Assistant“, sounds like what I plan to apply for.

I’d like to work in fiction, preferably fantasy, but I’m not too picky. I also have an interest in art history and some knowledge of music. I really like learning and I know from a high school chemistry class that working my way through technical papers is a lot of fun, so I probably wouldn’t mind a nonfiction editorial job. I don’t think I’d like to work for a magazine. I want to stay the heck away from newspaper jobs. Oh, freelancing is also something I’d rather not do for a living (though I suppose it would be good while I’m in college). I love cubicles.

What sort of resume would make me attractive to a publishing company? I’ll be attending one of Connecticut’s state schools (not UConn, probably) so any ideas on majors and classes would be welcome. (SCSU has Journalism and English as majors, so I’m thinking a combination of the two would suit.) I’ve also been looking for relevant distance learning courses, but haven’t had any luck. Money is not abundant, so I don’t want to end up going to grad school.

Finally, what can I learn at home that will be valuable in an editing job? I know my vocabulary could use improving. My knowledge of grammar is lacking- I never learned grammar, I just got a feel for what’s correct and incorrect through reading. Any good websites or books for this?

In short, I’m looking for all your knowledge regarding copy editing. I believe I’ve read all the pertinent MeFi questions, but please point me to any you feel I should pay particular attention to. (Er, to which I should pay particular attention?) Thanks!

There’s some good advice at MeFi already, including the most obvious—study the Chicago Manual and Strunk & White, get an internship, volunteer—but I’m wondering if y’all have additional suggestions.
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Maira Kalman’s Tel Aviv

detail of an illustration by Maira Kalman - bookstore in Tel Aviv

This here, my friends, is art direction at its finest: I ask an artist I’m all fawny over if she wants to draw something for us, she very kindly says yes, and then I don’t lift another finger (well, except to digitize five gouache paintings, which was a nontrivial task given their size, my mediocre scanner, and the fact that the text was written on separate tracing paper overlays). If only I could get paid for doing this.

Oh, wait . . .

Go see “My Tel Aviv” by Maira Kalman. As one of our senior editors just opined, it “KICKS ASS!”

Job application tips

help wanted

I’m in the process of hiring an assistant, someone who can toil away at the work thing while I’m at school making crafts, and I’ve finally dug down to the bottom of the pile of résumés that began pouring in thirty minutes after I posted the job. (And if you haven’t heard from me yet, it doesn’t mean you won’t—I’m still sorting and procrastinating, as will soon become more obvious.) And do you want to know what’s the most striking thing about most of these hopefuls? They are completely wasting their time. And mine, of course, but mostly their own. Because they’re not only not going to get a job with me, they’re not going to get a job with anyone unless that person is as slovenly and illiterate as these applicants.

Howlers spotted among the hundred-odd submissions include

  • Misspelling or camel-capitalizing my company’s name
    • Notebook
    • Next book
    • Nextbbook
    • NextBook
  • Misspelling the name of a past or present employer
    • FexEx
    • Merril Lynch
    • Pareksy Ctr. [This is at my own college, so I know it’s Paresky]
    • BabyAlpalca.org
    • Rollingstone Magazine
  • Misspelling a degree or job title
    • bachelors | masters
    • B.F.A | G.P.A | F.I.T | C.U.N.Y
    • assitant [I feel that this should be a word, but if it were, it would denote someone who is an undesirable employee]
    • photo- retoucher
    • Communication’s Coordinator
  • Misspelling or improperly camel-capping the name of a piece of software the applicant supposedly knows inside out
    • PhotoShop
    • Quark Express
    • the In Design program
    • Word Press
    • In-Design CS3
    • Abode Photoshop / Abode Illustrator / Abode InDesign [this is presumably marketed as a hamlet]
    • Indesign
    • word, excel [but the same person managed to type PowerPoint]
  • Misspelling or improperly camel-capping the name of the site where the applicant found the listing
    • Media Bistro
    • media bistro
    • MediaBistro.com

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Prepress Gremlins: The Duotone Edition

Archipelago Books catalogs

Twice a year I lay out a cute little catalog for a publisher friend, and I’ve been doing it for four or five years, so the files have gone through several software upgrades. They were originally supplied to me as Quark XPress 4.1 docs, and I probably kept it that way for one or two issues before converting it to InDesign CS. Then the files upgraded to CS2, and then the fonts upgraded to OpenType. For the latest issue, I started the job in CS2 at home (hello, my name is India, and I am a late adopter) and then made the final round of corrections at my office, using CS3. Everything preflighted okay, and I sent the printer both PDFs and application files.

Two weeks later, I got an excited message from our rep at Kromar. They’d had some problems with the files, which they’d taken care of, but their prepress guy wanted to tell me about it. Ooh, curious! So I called back immediately, and the nice man in Winnipeg tried to explain to me what had happened.
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The Week in Pictures

thumbnails of four illustrations

I’ve been on vacation since last Thursday, so I forgot to take screenshots of the glory until yesterday, but for nearly every day in the past week, Nextbook.org has been running stories garnished by illustrations I commissioned. Two are by artists you’ve seen here before—Samantha Hahn and Vanessa Davis—and two are by new! people!—Jonathon Rosen and Leela Corman.

You can see the pretty pictures at the following links (I’d do an image map on the banner above, but WordPress.com won’t let me):

Yay, illustrators!

“If I spike you, you’ll know you’ve been spoken to.”

Camberwell Carrot

So, the other day, I was asked to set up HTML for an e-mail that someone else—let’s call them Agent B—is sending. Today Agent B sent us a preview of the e-mail, with the Agent B logo added at the top and the usual “Click here to unsubscribe, etc., etc.” at the bottom, but the middle of the message—my part—has become completely verkakte in the process. So I looked at the code and found that my nice, clean, valid HTML had been run through MS Word’s garbagealator. For example, this—

<p>Sunday, May 18, 2008<br /> 11am to 5pm<br /> The Times Center<br /> 242 West 41st Street</p>

—was converted to this—

<p = style=3D'mso-margin-top-alt:0in;margin-right:7.5pt;margin-bottom:12.0pt; margin-left:7.5pt'><font size=3D3 color=3Dblack face=3DHelvetica><span = lang=3DEN style=3D'font-size:12.0pt;font-family:Helvetica;color:black'>Sunday, May = 18, 2008<br> 11am to 5pm<br> The<span class=3Dapple-converted-space> <st1:place = u2:st=3D"on"><st1:placename u2:st=3D"on"></span><st1:place w:st=3D"on"><st1:PlaceName = w:st=3D"on">Times</st1:placename></st1:PlaceName><span class=3Dapple-converted-space> <st1:placetype = u2:st=3D"on"></span><st1:PlaceType = w:st=3D"on">Center</st1:placetype></st1:place></st1:PlaceType></st1:place= ><br> <st1:street u2:st=3D"on"><st1:address u2:st=3D"on"><st1:Street = w:st=3D"on"><st1:address w:st=3D"on">242 West 41st = Street</st1:address></st1:street><u1:p></u1:p></st1:address></st1:Street>= </span></font><font color=3Dblack face=3DHelvetica><span = style=3D'font-family:Helvetica;color:black'><o:p></o:p></span></font></p>=
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Well, nobody can accuse book designers of price fixing.

revised price list

Tom Christensen did an informal survey of four book designers to find out how much they’d charge for a hypothetical job.

I was trying to determine a reasonable price for a 320-page hardcover collected poems, interior and cover/jacket design. . . .

According to the 2001 edition of the Graphic Artists Guild handbook of Pricing and Ethics, for an average poetry book a designer might charge $7,500 to $15,000 to design and set the interior plus $1000–$2000 for the jacket. That gives a total range of $8500–17,000. Those figures are seven years old, but several people say the prices in this publication skew high.

Yes, in my experience, they do.

The results? Each different, like a snowflake: $3,100, $8,000, $8,800, and $12,800. See Tom’s post for each designer’s breakdown of charges: rightreading: Book design fees.

Photo: price list by Nick Sherman; some rights reserved.

A PSA to U.S. publishers that do not have legal departments

(and to anyone else in the United States who hires freelance designers):

If the designer of your book’s jacket or interior is not an employee of your company, rather than an independent contractor, and if you do not have a written contract that expressly says that the design work was done “for hire,” then you do not own the design.

This means that if you or anyone else wishes to reuse it—say, if you sell paperback or foreign rights to another publisher—you can’t just send along the layout files. You do not own them. They do not belong to you. You must negotiate a usage fee with the designer. It will probably cost you money.

Ouch.
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Now’s your chance

red pencil

Remember Merrill Perlman, the New York Times copy queen who did a loooooong Q&A last year? Well, she’s just started another one: Talk to the Newsroom: Director of Copy Desks Merrill Perlman. So now’s your chance to have those burning editorial questions finally doused. One of my esteemed former colleagues at St. Martin’s has a question right on the first page:

A Vanishing Breed?

Q. I’m a managing editor at St. Martin’s Press in New York City. We are having more and more trouble finding literate freelance copy editors and proofreaders — people who know the basics of punctuation, spelling, grammar, something of what the English language can or can’t do, perhaps enough knowledge of a major European language to add an accent or make a past participle agree with a noun. Are newspapers experiencing the same problem, and if so, how are you dealing with it?
— Robert Cloud

A. You’re right, Mr. Cloud, it’s harder to find people who know what good copy editors need to know. You can argue that English usage has gone downhill, or you can argue that English is changing, but a better answer, I suspect, is plus ça change. . . .

Note that although Ms. Perlman is, of course, answering many general questions about copy editing, her primary field of expertise is newspaper style, and the Times‘s flavor thereof in particular. Should you have questions relating specifically to U.S. trade book style, you might want to ask the wonderfully salty Chicago Manual answeristas instead.

Photo: colour me red by :: Rick :: / Rick Truter; some rights reserved.