The Joy of Being Edited – Part 1


By Marcy Claman, Callawind Book Publishing

Years ago, as a budding marketing communications writer, I eagerly submitted my first article to the company’s newsletter editor. When the article was returned, the editor had written “GREAT” in big, bold letters at the top of the article. But what was with all those corrective red marks scribbled everywhere? Rather than get discouraged—or even insulted (after all, I had won the Grade 8 English award!)—I was fascinated. While keeping my writing style and thoughts intact, the editor removed unnecessary words, cleaned up the grammar and sentence structure, improved the organization of ideas, and gave my newsletter article better flow and punch. The editor made me “sound” better than I’d ever sounded before. That firsthand experience was a revelation: an editor really can be a writer’s best friend.

I recently came across an informative article about editing that contained a simple, effective description of what an editor’s job is: “The editor is responsible for preserving and improving what the author is trying to say. An editor shapes the expression of the author’s thoughts, not the thoughts themselves,” writes Janelle Gates in “Why Every Writer Needs an Editor.”

A common mindset among first-time authors or people who have never been edited is: Why should I work with an editor if I’m a good writer? As Gates explains, “The author is always too close to his or her work (“baby”) to be objective; it’s almost impossible for the author to see gaps, redundancies, and distractions that are instantly apparent to the reader. The editor is responsible for satisfying the author’s audience. Thus, the editor always puts the reader first. Authors who opt not to have their manuscripts edited risk alienating their audience.”

In cookbook publishing, an experienced food editor is an essential part of the process. Cookbooks are essentially a “how-to” manual for food. “Consistency, clarity, and coherent directions are what enable home cooks to understand and reproduce in their own kitchens recipes invented by others,” explains Recipes into Type, a cookbook writing guide. One vague instruction or missing ingredient can spell frustration and possibly disaster for the home cook. Worse still, if the majority of your recipes contain flaws, the home cook will shelve your book for good!

Since word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful ways for people to find out about and hopefully buy your cookbook, you want to keep your audience happy: it’s not enough to create great recipes – you must also be able to effectively communicate these recipes. Therefore, your recipes must be clearly explained, well written, and free of errors.

So, how do you find a professional cookbook editor or, at the very least, an experienced general editor who is interested in cooking and excited about your subject? Consult publishing reference directories (usually available in libraries) such as Literary Marketplace (also online at www.literarymarketplace.com), contact local/national writer associations and editor associations, and perform searches on the Internet.


BIBLIOGRAPHY

EAC Directory of Editors, by the Editors’ Associations of Canada

Recipes into Type, by Joan Whitman and Dolores Simon (New York : HarperCollins, 1993). *Note: this book is currently out of print and may be hard to find.

“Why Every Writer Needs an Editor,” by Janelle Gates (SPAN Connection: The Official Newsletter of the Small Publishers Association of North America, Volume 4, Issue 7/40)

Stay tuned for Part II of The Joy of Being Edited.

For more cookbook publishing resources, head over to our Cookbook Resources section.