The Subversive Copy Editor | Book Review

Have you ever experienced a wave of panic washing over you because you agreed to take on far too much work? Do you struggle with saying no and managing a healthy work-life balance?

If any of this sounds familiar, then you should consider reading The Subversive Copy Editor. Although Carol Fisher Saller’s book is written primarily for folks in the publishing industry, Saller offers insights and tips that are useful to everyone.

What I appreciated most about The Subversive Copy Editor is that Saller provides practical suggestions on how to develop healthy work habits. Through the use of some pretty funny anecdotes, Saller compels copy editors to make the reader the top priority, then the writer. There is a lot to be said for this approach. As an author (primarily of academic works), I have always been grateful to editors for their guidance and assistance—my publications were better as a result of their hard work. At the end of the day, their work improved my writing, which meant that the reader would hopefully find my work more useful, and the journal article would be downloaded more often. Everyone wins.

Saller also offers suggestions on how to be careful, transparent, and flexible while working; these are skills that allow copy editors to build trust with the writer, good relationships with colleagues, and produce a well-edited book that readers will enjoy.

However, these skills aren’t useful solely to copy editors. Think of all the ways that being transparent and flexible can make working with colleagues easier! In addition, Saller discusses managing deadlines, documenting conversations and maintaining records, using professional e-mail etiquette, and making backups of your work. (It only takes one terrible loss to truly understand the importance of making backups.)

Saller does not delve deeply into questions about backups, security concerns, and leaked manuscripts, nor does she broach broader questions facing the publishing industry, such as the need for more diversity (in terms of workers and authors)—but I wish she had. The Subversive Copy Editor is meant to be a practical guide for making it in the publishing world and this is what Saller delivers. As a current student in an editing program, I found her book to be a useful, quick read full of great advice. I would highly recommend this book for young copy editors, and anyone else trying to develop productive work habits.  This book offers lots of great tips and tricks for us all!

A.

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