I usually tell people that I want to teach, that I want to get my Master’s and teach English at the community college that I work at as an English tutor. I guess it’s a reflex, because I’m scared of the naysayers who tell me that my heart dream isn’t likely to become a reality, or that I’ll be poor forever, or that my Plan A is stupid.
But Plan A is really what I’m aiming for. It’s the bullseye of the target that I’m trying to hit.
I want to get into editing and publishing. I want to work with indie authors. I want to help produce quality literature without stepping on the heart or the rights of the creator who put so much of themselves into their manuscript. It’s a sacred balance, and one that I want to work toward.
A friend of mine probed me about that when he was in town a while back. We had some pretty great conversation that led to him hiring me on as an editor with his publishing company in Alabama. He has me working on these theology books that help me in two ways: I’m gaining experience in the field I want to work in, and I’m learning more about my faith.
It’s definitely a win-win-win (’cause it’s one less thing he has to do). I mean, I might even call it a win-win-win-win, with the fourth win being the energy, time, and resources that he’s investing to help me grow.
One of the resources he’s shared is the article “A Designer’s Code of Ethics” from deardesignstudent.com (which I definitely suggest reading if you’re involved in any part of the design/publishing world, or if you’re an entrepreneur who’s working on developing a code of ethics). He sent me the link about two weeks ago, along with the request that I write a response, shifting the information from design students (the target audience) to myself as an editor.
“Throughout their entire career, a designer seeks to learn. That means confronting what they do not know. That means listening to other people’s experiences…A designer keeps their ego in check, knows when to shut up and listen, is aware of their own biases…and fights to make room for those who have been silenced.”
Here’s the take away:
It’s all about impact. How is this — the product I am helping to produce — going to impact the world around me? Mike Monteiro, the author of the article, says “By choosing to be a designer you are choosing to impact the people who come in contact with your work, you can either help or hurt them with your actions.”
I feel like a lot of people say “I want to be an editor” (or a designer, or whatever), get some freelance gigs, and then do the bare minimum before sending the project back and asking for their paycheck. But they don’t think about the long-term impact; they don’t think about the large-scale picture, and the large-scale picture is why I want to be an editor — specifically with independent authors. I want to help create literature of lasting quality, and I want to help produce literature with stories that shape and influence lives the way so many great pieces of literature shaped and influenced me.
Monteiro brings up a good point when he says “we must judge the value of our work based on that impact, rather than any aesthetic considerations.” Not to say we should let things look bad, but we should be putting the quality of the impact over the quality of the aesthetic.
My job as an editor is not just to “fix” what I’m given — it’s not only to correct the typos or the inconsistent formatting that I see in so many of the indie books that I pick up — but also to evaluate how the work I am editing will impact the world around me. If there’s negative impact, my responsibility is to tell my client and help eliminate the negative impact.
It’s actually something that I’ve learned in my time as a Writing Center consultant. When I first began tutoring, I corrected every wrong comma, every typo, every misspelled word. And that would often get in the way of my explanations of the higher order concerns (HOCs), like a lack of thesis or organization, or an idea that didn’t actually fit. I was focused on making each essay look good on a superficial level, and now I don’t know how many students I let walk away with bigger issues still present in their essays.
Which probably impacted their grades, both for that essay and for the class overall.
Alright, here’s another story.
I did an editing test for another publishing company while I was in NY. A coworker sent it to me, knowing that I was looking for gigs — before Kyle hired me on with his group. One of the samples that I had to work with was basically erotica. It was three paragraphs of trashy sleazy romance that I worked through in an airport terminal while waiting on my flight. I felt dirtier from working on those three paragraphs than from sitting in a seat that’s seen a thousand other butts, probably of varying levels of cleanliness.
I declined the position when it was offered. I didn’t want my name attached to that because I didn’t want people a thousand years down the line to pick up that book and see my name connected to that kind of story.
I didn’t want that to be my legacy. I didn’t want that to outlive me or speak for me. Because impact is more than an aesthetic; it’s more than the initial draw based off of how nice the cover looks. Impact is long-term — impact is the mark that the story will leave on your heart and your soul. And that should be a priority over anything else.