Five Book Mentors for Editors


Five Book Mentors for Editors

While there’s no substitute for a mentor of the flesh-and-blood variety, the five “book mentors” below provide indispensable advice on the processes, philosophy, and business of editing.

(Note that these are not writing or style guides. Click here for my look at the major style guides.)


The Business of Editing by Richard H. Adin

A collection of essays by Richard Adin (aka the American Editor), The Business of Editing: Effective and Efficient Ways to Think, Work, and Prosper collects Adin’s sage advice on these key aspects of the profession:

  • Roles
  • Tools
  • Processes
  • Profits
  • The Career of Editing
  • The Future of Editing

While these essays are free at the American Editor blog, the handy arrangement of selections helps lead you through the above topics, and I thought it well worth the purchase.

Of late, editor Ruth E. Thaler-Carter has taken over most writing duties on the site, including this post on backups for files and equipment. Thaler-Carter also organizes Communication Central’s Be a Better Freelancer conference, which I attended last fall.

The Subversive Copy Editor by Carol Fisher Saller

As senior editor at Recorded Books, I ensured that all the editors had a copy of The Subversive Copy Editor (or, How to Negotiate Good Relationships with Your Writers, Your Colleagues, and Yourself).

In the book, Saller shares her kind, helpful approach to editing. Her “subversiveness” refers to her belief that editors are not the writer’s adversary but people who work in service to the author (and reader).

The second part of her subversiveness is her belief that editors often need to look beyond the “rules” and do what makes most sense for the work at hand.

Not so subversive at all!

The Subversive Copy Editor is broken into two parts: “Working with the Writer, for the Reader” and “Working with Your Colleagues and with Yourself.”

Saller also edits the Chicago Manual of Style Online’s Q&A. More about her can be found here.  

What Editors Do Edited by Peter Ginna

With essays from the best editors in the field (including the above-mentioned Carol Fisher Saller), What Editors Do: The Art, Craft & Business of Book Editing provides a host of insights into the profession.

The book is broken into the following parts:

  • Part I: Acquisition: Finding the Book
  • Part II: The Editing Process: From Proposal to Book
  • Part III: Publication: Bringing the Book to the Reader
  • Part IV: From Mystery to Memoir: Categories and Case Studies
  • Part V: Pursuing an Editing Career: Varieties of Editorial Experience

Many independent editors don’t have the opportunity to work in-house for a major publisher, and this books opens a window into that world.

Peter Ginna has been an editor and publisher for Bloomsbury Press, Oxford University Press, Crown Publishers, St. Martin’s Press, and Persea Books.

The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn

The following quote from Kim Hawley of the Chicago Book Clinic says it all about The Copyeditor’s Handbook: A Guide for Book Publishing and Corporate Communications:

“A definite ‘must have’ for the beginning to intermediate editor or author, and even the experienced editor. An indispensable reference tool.”

The book, which includes exercises and answer keys, is broken into these parts:

  • Part 1: The ABCs of Copyediting
  • Part 2: Editorial Style
  • Part 3: Language Editing

A professional editor for scholarly, trade nonfiction, and corporate publishing, Amy Einsohn also taught copyediting courses. A tribute to the late Einsohn can be found on here.

Copyediting: A Practical Guide by Karen Judd

The oldest title on my list, Karen Judd’s Copyediting: A Practical Guide is still a well respected resource for copy editors and a good addition to any editor’s shelf.

The book begins with “What Is Copyediting?” and runs through the subjects of copyediting and proofreading symbols, punctuation and grammar, style and word usage, notes and bibliography, specialized copyediting, and other aspects of copyediting.


These are all books that have helped me in my copyediting career. I hope you find them useful as well.

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