Wednesday, September 27, 2006

There is pain in contribution.


I reach this point when I have been editing really crappy writing for too long. Like today. It's a 4,400-word article that should have been 2,000 words, from a contributor whose name is on the newsletter and who gives us content free every month. This arrangement is the oil that lubricates much, if not most, of b2b publishing. B2b publishers could never afford to pay professional writers, or heck any writers, a fee for all their content. They would have to fold the tent and go home. And that's saying something when writers are woefully underpaid to start with. Instead, b2b publishers pay editors a nominal salary to fix the mess. That's where I come in.

I wish that I merely corrected the use of that and which, unsplit some infinitives that didn't need splitting, added or deleted some commas, and called it a day. That is certainly my wet-dream fantasy for today. I have had contributors who wrote so well I barely had to touch their work. I ADORED those contributors, even if they came with a prima donna attitude. It's a lot less work to massage egos than to fix horrible writing. Life really, truly, deeply sucks as an editor when you have to do both.

I try not to be mean when I edit. I know that despite their crappiness, the contributors writing for us do sweat some blood. I know it hurts when your purple prose that you stayed up late writing gets whacked without much explanation, let alone with the snarky comments I would love to make. I rather hope that it hurts less to be edited by a professional, and dare I say decent editor and writer, than by someone in your firm who is just more senior and wrong-headed than you are when it comes to writing. That happened to me frequently in days of old when I practiced law.

Here is my favorite editing story from those ulcer days: The young lawyers in the office who worked for a particular partner, Thinman, were sick and tired of all the crazy, nit-picking, make-your-writing-worse edits he insisted upon. So we decided to have a monthly contest. Whoever got the worst Thinman edit of the month would get lunch on the others' tab. It was a great idea, but shortlived. Thinman's secretary won the all-time title in the first month.

In legal affidavits, there is boilerplate language to include at the end. Lawyers who litigate for a living can recite it in their sleep, and it goes like this: "I certify under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge." (Even after 9 years away from practicing law, I don't have to look that up.)

Well, Thinman gave his secretary this edit on an affidavit: "I certify under the penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct to the best of my knowledge." Yep, he added THE to the boilerplate. We just couldn't go on with the contest after that.

Unfortunately, I still edit lawyers' writing frequently. I just don't work directly for them, and for that I'm grateful.

Now excuse me while I mop up the blood dripping from my eyeballs from having to edit today's verbal diarrhea.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Spinning Off

Crawling into the office yesterday just barely in time for the weekly editorial, marketing, and management confab at 10, I check my email for any bombs before heading to the conference room. SOP. I see a note from my boss, saying the meeting is cancelled, but he wants to meet with a group of us underlings at 9:30. WTF??? He, like me, never gets in on a Monday before 9:45. And the email is timed 9:08. Jesus, what am I going to do if he has suddenly become a morning person? I really cannot cope with being articulate before 10am, let alone showing up for work much before then. Dammit. And now, I look like a total slacker because I wasn't there for the 9:30 confab. I hate being a nightowl stuck in a morning person's world.

Waiting for the minute amount of caffeine from my decaf shots over ice to hit, I am clearly missing the point. My best office friend Ethyl stops by, and soon things come into focus. "Oh good, you're here. Now we can have our meeting. Did Absent-Minded Boss tell you?" "Uh, he mentioned something late Friday about new products for 2007." "Oh, no! That's not it. We're selling the printing division." Holy crap, Batman.

Oh yes, it's one of those square between the eye with a two-by-four events. No one seems to have seen this coming. Even AMB seemed out of the loop--he did not have a boatload of answers for some basic questions, like, "are we going to make a profit on this sale?" Dunno, seems like a thing you might want to know if you're the head of content for a company. Though speculation is that he himself didn't know until Monday morning.

I am sad to see some very nice colleagues being shipped off to an uncertain fate. Though not as sad as they are, I'm sure. Supposedly, there won't be job losses of major proportions--a couple of folks here and there, not too bad I guess for a transaction that takes about a third of the company's workforce with it and doubles the size of the acquiring company. But we all know how these things go--the real test is six, eight, twelve months down the line. And those of us that remain aren't feeling real sure this is going to put the company on the right path. It may well. Most publishers these days do not own printing companies, so we were a bit of an anomaly. Maybe our grand and glorious EBITDA will improve after the spinoff, and we can get better financing on the company's debt. I don't know.

What I do know are a few things. One, I'm very happy that rumors did not float around for weeks. I've been through that, and it is just horrible for morale and for just getting my fat ass to work. Not to mention getting anything done besides gossiping and IM'ing all day. Two, I'm pretty damn glad my biggest product is doing well. I would not want to be the guy down the hall who is three months late on his new product for no real reason, and who got majorly called on the carpet for trying to weasel around that fact a few weeks ago by the company's president in the Monday confab. Three, I had better turn a few other products I inherited around quickly! I don't want to be pounding the pavement in a city where I have few work connections yet. Plus, there just are not many b2b publishing jobs here. Freelancing is always an option, but could it please just wait until my husband finds a job?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Why The Editrix?

The simple answer is that I could not find any blogs that answered the questions I had in my job as a b2b editor.

So what exactly were those questions? Some were mundane, like, "is there an online tool, or hell any tool, to help me map out next year's editing and production schedule? I'm way tired of doing this by hand. Or rather, by head." Others were more philosophical, as in, "are there other newsletter editors out there who are bored out of their skulls with their newsletter's content? and if so, absent quitting your job, do you have any good ideas for getting enthusiastic about your pub again?"

Once upon a time, Folio: answered some of these questions, but like so many other publications about publishing, that magazine is more interested these days in whinging on about synergy, cutting costs, branding, online presence, and related crapola. Yes, editors need to understand these things. But for the love of all things holy, the money side of publishing is NOT THE ONLY SIDE OF PUBLISHING. There are the people who write, who edit, and who design--without whom, of course, all the marketing and money folks would have little to do but contemplate their navels and clean out their toejam. After getting their manicures and playing golf, of course. I don't hate marketing types, but they do try my patience on a semi-regular basis.

If you want help in the daily struggle that is editing, I want this to be your place. If you want to vent about the airhead marketing princess, be my guest. If you want to bash management for being short-sighted when they cut writers and other content acquisition costs, go for it. If you have a great tip for making life more fun in the editing trenches, please share. And if you have some really good sites to share, send them on. Please. I hate it when my job overtakes my surfing time.