My Very Occasional Book Review series is back with a review of the second edition of The Subversive Copy Editor: Advice from Chicago by Carol Fisher Saller.
Carol Fisher Saller is the editor of the Chicago Manual of Style Online’s Q&A. She also writes a column called the Editor’s Corner for the CMOS Shop Talk blog. As a longtime reader of both of these resources, I already knew that Saller’s writing is engaging and witty. Despite this familiarity, I was still surprised by her humorous, self-deprecating writing style in The Subversive Copy Editor. She will make you laugh!
Of course, most people will pick up this book because they want to learn about copyediting—not because they’re looking for an escapist reading experience. Thankfully, Saller provides fourteen chapters of straightforward, practical information for would-be and professional copy editors. For example, she offers advice on how to stay abreast of the editing industry, how to deal with difficult writers, and how to manage email communication like a pro.
She is particularly helpful when she discusses two topics that many of us prefer to sidestep: coping with our own mistakes and deprioritizing nonessential tasks (even when our obsessive inner voices start screeching). When a well-known editor like Saller admits to a few of her own blunders, the rest of us certainly feel better about ourselves!
Saller also touches on the fact that most copy editors aren’t wealthy. This observation is important because freelance writing is too frequently portrayed as a get-rich-quick scheme, and the allure of easy money seems to be bleeding into the editing industry. In recent months, I have personally encountered more than a few would-be copy editors in search of a quick buck. Yes, copy editors get paid (otherwise, no one would do it), but there is no fast cash in copyediting. The only avenue to success is through hard work, dedication, and continual professional improvement.
This book’s only potential drawback is that it is publishing-centric. Now, that’s a positive for copy editors who are interested in working for publishing houses, but many freelancers operate far outside the bounds of traditional publishing. I, myself, work directly with business clients, nonfiction authors, and academic journals. As such, some of my editing and business processes differ from those described by Saller. Regardless, much of her advice is applicable to any editing situation.
I highly recommend this book to all would-be and current copy editors because Saller shines a bright, unfiltered light on many of the ups and downs of copyediting. Plus, she will make you laugh!
Disclosure Statement: This is not a sponsored post. I have provided an Amazon.com link for my readers’ convenience and do not receive any reimbursement for sales or promotion.