My First Book

The first Trade book I worked on as a copy editor was North Pole or Bust by Canadian author and film-maker Frank Rasky. I had been with the company for all of one day. The book was a series of vignettes of Arctic explorers (subsequently made into an NFB film by Rasky.) That was in 1977.

It’s interesting because as I recall it, I was given a first set of “galleys” to proofread. On my second day the Managing Editor took me in to meet the VP Editorial at the time. She was perceived as the dragon-lady who sat in a darkened corner office, smoking her lungs out. She asked me what I was working on and I told her I was proofreading the Rasky galleys and that I had almost finished them. She then asked if I was finding many typos and I said no, they looked pretty clean.

She then said, “Oh, the typesetter must have hired a new compositor.”

That’s all she needed to say. I immediately went back to my desk and started proofreading the galleys from scratch!

That one comment was enough to send you slinking back to your cubicle knowing that your work was being scrutinized, even though no-one was actually looking over your shoulder.

It was my introduction to the world of copyediting.

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The Editorial Director

One of the most amazing people I ever encountered was the VP and Editorial Director. In 1977, when I first joined the company, you could not hope to escape the purview of the V.P. and Editorial Director who had an uncanny act of finding errors in printed copy. No matter how meticulous the copyediting, or how conscientious the proofreading, he would inevitably find an error in the final product. And he did it with such nonchalance. Totally without any preconceived notion as to where typos, misplaced photos or captions might exist, he would simply receive his comp copy from the Warehouse and open it up randomly to any page. There it was. Staring him, and anyone else remotely involved in the project, right in the face.

Many a red-faced editor was called to his and/or the Editorial Manager’s office on the day stock was delivered to face the music. Sometimes, you simply dreaded signing off on the van dykes authorizing Production to push the “print” button.

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