The role of the editor

The Art of Editing is an interesting podcast from the Guardian in its books series that is well worth listening to. For someone who lives abroad in voluntary linguistic exile, like myself, the mix of voices and the variety of accents is refreshing; so unlike the schooled tones of BBC Radio Four news programmes or the seasoned actors who narrate the audiobooks I enjoy so much. 

Particularly of interest in this podcast is the idea that a multiple skill set is required of editors these days that goes well beyond what was traditionally seen as an editor’s role, i.e. getting the manuscript of a book into shape for publishing. The podcast hints at the historical evolution of such work. With this expanding role of editors, not all have the various skills necessary from that skill set. 

This dilemma can be found in many other professions where a move away from specialisation requires the individual to be proficient in a range of skills, even when those skills don’t necessarily fit together. An author, for example, is nowadays expected to also be a saleswoman, a marketing specialist, a public speaker and a businesswoman. Yet running after an audience is time consuming, and shifts an author’s preoccupations away from words and story and characters, making inspirational writing all the more difficult. Why? Because such writing requires the author to plunge herself in the world she is creating. Business and marketing are unwelcome distractions. This move away from specialisation and the demands placed on the individual to master a multitude of skills invariably leads to frustration and a loss of quality.

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