Editors and literary agents are the heart of the traditional publishing industry. They work with the author to correct the pacing, facts, grammar, and tone before the manuscript is ready for publication. They are the first point of contact for an author in the creation of a book and are therefore called upon to make judgment calls on a manuscript before it is sent to production and sales. Good editors need to know what they do not know and where to find it. Up to the end of the last century, this meant editor’s offices were strewn with manuals, dictionaries, and style guides. Luckily, most of this information is now readily accessible online.
The main resource for many editors across the industry is The Chicago Manual of Style. This esteemed manual is the go-to guide for almost all editors who work in book publishing. The guide has been available in print since 1906; a digital version, The Chicago Manual of Style Online, provides an electronic manual as well as online forums, samples, and access to “Chicago Style Q&A,” where the editors of the manual answer users’ questions on the manual and best practices.
Two other resources for editors are the Literary Marketplace and Books In Print. Literary Marketplace is the most complete listing of publishers, printers, agents, distributors, and associations in the United States and Canada. The annual list is produced by Information Today Inc. as both a print book and an online database. Each entry provides a brief description of what topics the company publishes in, as well as current contact information and usually a contact name, something often missing from publishers’ websites.
Books in Print is the authoritative source for bibliographic information on all books published throughout the world. The current iteration lists several million titles. It is essential for research on a given subject area, author, or publisher. The database is maintained by Bowker, a ProQuest affiliate, which is also the official agency for assigning ISBNs to all domestic publishers. Bowker provides reports on the number of books published each year by traditional and self-published authors, as long as they registered with an ISBN.
A good editor will also need to have a grasp of current copyright issues as they pertain to print. The current regulations for U.S. copyright are available through the United States Copyright Office. Starting in 1989, the United States enacted the Berne Convention Implementation Act, which aligned U.S. copyright with the main international agreement for copyright. The text of the Berne Convention can be found on the World Intellectual Property Organization’s website as full text and as a PDF. These two documents outline the legal framework of copyright in the United States, but they provide little guidance on the doctrine of fair use that allows limited use of copyrighted material.
For information on what constitutes fair use, two good resources for publishers are the Stanford Copyright and Fair Use site and the Copyright Clearance Center. Stanford’s site, sponsored by the University Libraries and Academic Information Resources, Justia, NOLO, LibraryLaw.com, and Onecle, is a clearinghouse on opinion and rulings on copyright and fair use. It also provides resources and information on best practices for fair use. The Copyright Clearance Center (CCC) is an organization that works as a global licensing agency. It handles permissions for dozens of content owners around the world. The CCC Resources page provides much information on copyright and fair use for academics and publishers.
Editors looking for professional development opportunities or career advice will find it on one of the online communities dedicated to editorial work. The Editorial Freelancers Association website provides a directory and job bank to connect employers and members, and offers its members educational resources and access to The Freelancer, the official newsletter. The site has a list of specialized publications available on book production, indexing, copyright, and skills for freelancers, as well as an online archive. The Society for Editors and Proofreaders, the equivalent professional organization in the United Kingdom, offers training, a section on best practices, and member access to the archive of its magazine, Editing Matters. Editors who specialize in medical, scientific, or technical publishing will find additional support from societies like the Council of Science Editors, the World Association of Medical Editors, and the International Society of Managing and Technical Editors.
For copy editors and proofreaders looking for peers and advice, the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) provides a blog and standards for copyediting. This nonprofit formed in 1997 to help copy editors at newspapers, but it has grown to support copy editors in an array of media companies. Copyediting newsletter is another online resource. The site offers free access to the current newsletter as well as access to the blog. Members have online access to fourteen years of newsletters.
The website of the American Society for Indexing provides a long list of online reference resources, including specialized sources for art and architecture, biography, business, computers and technology, health and medicine, law, science, and technical writing. The site also offers several books on indexing and access to the Key Words bulletin. The Society of Indexers, based in the United Kingdom, is responsible for another publication on indexing, the journal The Indexer. Its website includes short guides to help authors and publishers understand the need for good indexing. The site has important information for indexers, including a questionnaire and a sample contract. For indexers working in Canada, there is the Indexing Society of Canada, which hosts a website with key information on working in the Canadian publishing industry.