Seventeen years ago I wrote a book, which you can find on Amazon and Google and elsewhere online. This is unusual only because my book was never published. It’s called “Goths,” fitting for a title that has left its traces on the Internet but does not exist. The traces themselves are ghostly. Other than the title, Amazon lists only the publisher (Random House Trade), language (English) and ISBNs (one with 10 digits, the other with 13). Google goes further by giving the publication date (March 1, 1998) and promising a cover image — but it turns out to be a placeholder. And unlike Amazon, Google neglects to mention that the book is a hardcover. Google admits, “We haven’t found any reviews in the usual places,” which in this case would be the planet Earth. “Be the first to review this item,” Amazon encourages, but has as yet found no takers.
What was the very first ebook? It’s hard to say with any degree of precision, but a pretty good candidate is Peter James’s Host, which was copied and stored on a floppy disk back in 1993. At The Guardian, a look back at the early life of the format. You could also read David Rothman’s tribute to the ebook pioneer Michael Hart. (h/t The Paris Review)
When I edit, I try to look at the big picture first. What is this book trying to do? In some cases, it’s telling an exciting story, in others it’s exploring a fascinating set of characters, or in others teaching the reader something new. My job is to make suggestions on how the author can take what he or she is already doing and make it even better. Mostly, I try to think about how the reader will react to the text. Is there something a reader might not understand? If so, the author should probably clarify it. Is there something that will make this a more page-turning read? If so, let’s do it. And of course, along the way, you’ll catch smaller things — plot and character inconsistencies, grammar errors, etc. — but it all leads to the same goal of making it the best possible experience for the reader.
Do you want to start a small press? Take advice from Spencer Madsen of Sorry House. In his article “I Made the Mistake of Starting a Small Press and So Can You” at The Toast, Madsen recommends making the book look “better than a breakfast burrito” and listening to 2 Chainz to get started. Pair with: Our article on how Curbside Splendor became a small press to watch.
Yesterday, VIDA released its annual count of women in prominent magazines, and while they found that most of the magazines they looked at still publish significantly more men than women, they reported that The Paris Review and The New York Times Book Review published many more women in 2013 than they did in 2012. Amanda Hess takes a look at VIDA’s findings at Slate.
Because I read slowly, I also remember odd little details that provide a strong visual image, and so as I read along, if my visual image is jarred by a description, I’ll backtrack to figure out if there’s some inconsistency. I remember more details about characters in novels I’ve copyedited than I remember from my own life.