I’m looking forward to a time when only a devoted specialist with abilities and endurance left over from a bygone age is able to edit books of 300 pages or longer. In some real ways, I can’t stand editing long books.
For those of you who are aspirants to book editing, let me tell you, being at book editor of any type (production, substantive, managing) means working on a book three or four times, sometimes in passes separated by weeks, sometimes by months. I don’t know what hurts more, the former or the later. With weeks, you don’t have to re-prime yourself creatively, but you don’t have a lot of really fresh new approaches to editing a book after just a few weeks. But if you get to wait a month or two, its pretty tough wrenching your mind away from the unique problems of some other book.
I can still remember doing my first book, a textbook on crisis communications of about 110,000 words. I handled a macro-edit first, meaning that I labelled every little section of the book with a topic or format label (e.g., case study, interview, best practice–planning, best practice–key messages, et cetera. This process is essential, but soon after you begin, you realize that much of the material splits hairs between two or more topics and format as well as other new factors you only realize late into the edit would have worked better.