Richard Walsh reviews 'What Editors Do: The art, craft, and business of book editing' edited by Peter Ginna

This is an American book and no doubt primarily aimed at those interested in how American publishing works, and specifically at those interested in gaining employment there or upgrading their skills. In Australia it will be of limited use to those with similar ambitions and interests, because the Australian publishing industry is structured in a significantly different way. But it contains enough wisdom for aspiring Australian authors to be worth the price of admission.

Even after the impact of the cyber-world, American book publishing at the top end is sufficiently prosperous to be able to offer such attractive advances that the contributors to this symposium can talk airily of good books needing five to six drafts. By contrast, Australian bestseller lists are dominated by overseas authors; quite a few of these titles are acquired from overseas publishers or authors, and the local house has little creative input whatsoever. The majority of successful Australian authors are of course represented by agents; but most local publishers are much more alert to the possibilities of unagented talent than are their New York counterparts. Even American and Australian job descriptions are different; this book discusses editors acquiring and commissioning books and subsequently liaising with sales and marketing; but we tend to call such senior editors ‘publishers’.

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Published in April 2018, no. 400

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