Starting tomorrow you can get your own copy of Exploring Vancouver: An Architectural Guide, the story of Vancouver as told through its architecture. The book is organized into fourteen walking/driving tours of the city’s neighbourhoods and its closest suburbs, each showcasing structures of note—for their architectural excellence or for their historical significance. Architectural historian Harold Kalman and architectural critic Robin Ward have put together an authoritative but accessible guide featuring eye-popping photography by John Roaf in a stunning package designed by the fabulous Naomi MacDougall.
East Meets West event at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks
Over the course of two years food writer Stephanie Yuen scoured Vancouver’s Asian food scene for the best dishes from some of the city’s most acclaimed Asian restaurants, and the result is East Meets West, a gorgeous, full-colour cookbook featuring not only eighty-eight mouth-watering recipes but also an introduction to the ingredients commonly used in Asian cooking and a directory of where to find some of Vancouver’s best Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Thai, Filipino, Indian, and Nepalese cuisine. Stephanie will be signing books at a free public event at Barbara-Jo’s Books to Cooks on Saturday, April 28, from 11 am to 2 pm. Call 604-688-6755 to RSVP.
An Alcuin Award for Fred Herzog: Photographs
Congratulations to D&M’s art director, Peter Cocking, who won second prize in the pictorial category at the Alcuin Awards for his design of Fred Herzog: Photographs, featuring text by Claudia Gochmann, Douglas Coupland, Sarah Milroy, and Jeff Wall. D&M’s design team has a tradition of doing well at the Alcuins, this year winning seven awards in four categories.
Find a full list of winners here.
BC Book Prize nominations
The 2012 shortlist for the BC Book Prizes has been announced, and Fred Herzog: Photographs is a finalist for both the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and the Bill Duthie Booksellers’ Choice Award. Congratulations to Fred and the book’s contributors—Douglas Coupland, Claudia Gochmann, Sarah Milroy, and Jeff Wall!
Winners will be announced on May 12, 2012.
Oh wiki, you’re so fine; you’re so fine you blow my mind
In my consulting work, one question I always ask my clients is, “Do you have a central repository for your editorial information?”
If not, I say, get one. (And by posting this, I’m pretty much giving away the farm here.) If all of the editing is done in house, this repository could be as simple as a folder on a shared server. If you do any work with freelancers, this resource must be online.
Most clients I edit for understand the importance of regularly reviewing and adjusting house style guidelines for relevance. But how those changes are communicated to editors—and freelancers in particular—can make the difference between a seamless transition to the new style and a confused mess that someone in house is left to clean up. Having a single online editorial resource means that you’re making changes in one place: all of your editors, including your freelancers, learn to look there, every time, to check for updates; you’re not having to email everyone each time the guidelines are modified; and editors aren’t left with numerous copies of a style guide on their computers, wondering which is the most up-to-date.
There are probably a number of feasible forms such an online resource could take, given the flexibility and accessibility of content management systems out there today, but the one I’ve found easiest and most effective is the wiki. Wiki pages are extremely intuitive to create and update, the entire wiki is searchable, and, best of all, wikis are structurally flexible—internal links are a snap to make, and there is no inherent hierarchy, which allows you to arrange your content for one group of users and do it completely differently for another group, all the while not having to change the underlying content. Wikis are designed for collaboration, so they are ideal for resources that require contribution from several sources (for example, if the editorial director wants to update style guidelines while the managing editor clarifies invoicing procedures and the art director wishes to give a list of specifications for digital images). What’s more, thanks to Wikipedia and the like, most Internet users are already comfortable using wikis to seek out information.
One of my most well-received projects while I was editorial coordinator at D&M was the editorial wiki, which turned out to be so useful for in-house editors and freelancers alike that I expanded the model to a wiki for authors. Before the editorial wiki, every time a template was tweaked or the house style updated, the managing editor had to send a note to all editors alerting them to the changes. And each time she had to decide who should receive it. That freelancer she hasn’t used in a few seasons but might use again when things get busy? And the relatively new contractor—does he have all of the guidelines and templates he needs? It’s easy to see how time-consuming and fallible this system can be—and with a central editorial wiki, it’s completely unnecessary. Send all of your editors to the same place, and they can access the up-to-date resources as they need them.
When I initially put the editorial wiki together, I used a free but proprietary WYSIWYG wiki program, but eventually I migrated all of the content to MediaWiki. It’s the open-source wiki software behind Wikipedia, so it’s certainly been well tested, and its default look is something most people are familiar with. Because it’s so widely used, it has a vast support community, and learning how to solve a problem or customizing a feature on MediaWiki is usually just a Google search away. MediaWiki has its own search feature, it has the ability to show users the full history of page edits, all pages can be tagged with categories for easy organization and navigation, files like Word documents, PDFs, and JPEGs can be made available to users, and templates can be used for multipurposing content. And if you don’t want your style guidelines broadcast to the public? No problem—MediaWiki can be customized with password protection.
So what should go on an editorial wiki? At minimum, include your house style, any specific editing and formatting guidelines, editorial checklists (more on these later), templates, and, perhaps most importantly, a description of the steps in your editorial process. After I transferred this bare-bones content to MediaWiki, I found that the latter’s ease of use and extensibility made it a breeze to create new content specifically for fiction editors or cookbook editors or art book editors. The editorial wiki became an extremely powerful tool that, all at once, improved communication with our freelancers, empowered them to find their own information, and freed in-house staff from having to answer recurring editorial questions.
Follow the editor
Earlier this week my esteemed colleague Barbara Pulling forwarded me an article by Jeff Norton—“Follow the editor: a recommendation engine for readers”—which suggests that editors should be credited for their work on books just as producers are in music and film. He writes:
Pick up any paperback and the author’s name dominates the cover. Big authors are “brands” unto themselves, even though the final prose was a collaborative effort. Flip the book over the cover designer and illustrator get credit (in quite small print) but search for the editor’s name and you’ll be lucky to find it in the acknowledgements (at the author’s discretion). How are we to value the role of the professional editorial process if publishers themselves don’t even celebrate their most crucial contribution to a book’s creation?
I suppose I’m spoiled in that I’ve done the majority of my work for a company that does choose to acknowledge editors, though not to the extent that Norton would perhaps like to see. In fact, in Saeko Usukawa’s acceptance speech when she won the 2007 Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence, she specifically thanked Douglas & McIntyre for being one of the few publishers to credit editors on the copyright page. It’s interesting that the practice isn’t more widespread, since giving an editor credit is one of the easiest ways to establish a strong publisher-editor relationship. Not only is the acknowledgement in itself extremely meaningful, but the credit allows an editor to confidently promote the work as part of his or her portfolio. It seems as though sometimes the publishing industry doesn’t want to admit that books get edited at all, perpetuating the myth that prose flows from the author’s brilliant mind onto the manuscript already perfect.
Norton’s assertion that editors are akin to music and movie producers, however, may be too narrow a focus, since only acquiring and developmental editors typically get the same level of creative control as producers would. When a substantive editor is assigned a finished manuscript, the process is often less about building and more about shaping with what’s there. Crediting only producer-like editing would also sell short the vast contributions of the copy editor and all other members of the publishing team that make a book happen.
Norton also talks about “the growing sentiment that in this era of digital books in general, and the rise of self-publishing specifically, that conventional publishers were no longer relevant or required.” He adds, “I believe the most important role that publishers perform is the one they are strangely reluctant to celebrate: the editor and the process of editing an author’s manuscript into a readable book.”
Traditional publishers may have reason to bemoan the rise of the ebook and self-publishing, but editors hardly do. At last year’s Vancouver launch of I Feel Great about My Hands, I had the opportunity to speak with David Mitchell, who I believe was quoting one of his friends at the Globe and Mail when he said that these days, “Anyone can be his own publisher, but very few people can be their own editor.” I know some successful freelancers who now deal almost exclusively with self-published authors. Although I’d be the first to acknowledge that there is a lot of rubbish out there, more and more self-publishing authors are beginning to see the value in having an editor’s expert eye pore over their text—and they’re willing to compensate that editor accordingly.
The thrust of Norton’s article, though, is that he feels books should be catalogued not only by author but also by editor, which “would give readers another recommendation engine, another way to discover new fiction: follow the editor.”
As a nonfiction editor—and as an editor who never acquired projects—I have no coherent theme in my list of work, and such a recommendation engine based on my projects wouldn’t be particularly enlightening. One aspect of my job that I love is that I can be a generalist, learning a little bit of something about everything. (Editors with a more specialized focus may yield more useful results to the general reader.) Still, I’d appreciate the built-in portfolio aspect to such searchability—it would certainly make it easier to show prospective clients and employers what I’m capable of.
Top 10 controversies surrounding cattle
I’m an (extremely) occasional contributor to Listverse. Its quality has been hit or miss as of late, but I usually see one or two lists a week that I find interesting and learn something from. This morning my most recent list, inspired by Florian Werner’s Cow: A Bovine Biography, and a David Rotsztain cheese workshop I attended a couple of months ago, was published.
Thanks to Grace Yaginuma for reminding me that this past week Flavours of Prince Edward Island by Jeff McCourt, Allan Williams, and Austin Clement (Whitecap Books) won Gold at the Canadian Culinary Book Awards in the Canadian Culinary Culture Category, English-Language and Vij’s at Home: Relax, Honey by Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij (Douglas & McIntyre) won Silver in the Cookbook Category, English-Language. Congrats to all authors! The awards were announced November 7; see a list of all of the winners here.
A celebration of Fred Herzog
“Today’s cameras are not designed by photographers. Today’s cameras are designed by geeks. And geeks do not take good pictures.” —Fred Herzog
Tonight’s event was, hands down, the best book launch I’ve ever attended—probably because it was more than just a book launch. It was also the advance screening of a documentary on Fred Herzog (part of the Snapshot) series, which will air on the Knowledge Network on Monday, November 14, at 10 pm.
The screening was hosted by Knowledge CEO Rudy Buttignol and featured speakers Douglas Coupland, Gary Stephen Ross, Sam Sullivan, Andy Sylvester, and Shelagh Rogers, who each chose one of Herzog’s photos and interpreted the image from his or her own perspective. Rogers had a family emergency and couldn’t attend personally, but, being the pro that she is, recorded her essay in studio for all of us to hear as an MP3. These special presentations were capped off with Herzog himself, an incisively witty and charming man, who gave his take on the photos that the others had commented on.
At the beginning of the evening Scott McIntyre got an opportunity to briefly recount the growth of D&M’s relationship with Herzog, and even gave me and Peter Cocking shoutouts for working on the new book. That was the evening’s first surprise. The second was that I’m shown in a scene of the documentary shaking Herzog’s hand at the opening of his Reading Pictures exhibit at the Equinox Gallery this past February.
Herzog said very explicitly in the documentary that he doesn’t sign books, and so although I’d brought along my copy in the hopes that I could get his autograph, I was a bit too intimidated to ask him at the reception. Zoe Grams and John Burns gently egged me on (the latter even providing the pen), and Herzog was gracious enough to make an exception, even as he was just on his way out.
All in all, it was a spectacular evening and a complete privilege. I’ve thought about contributing to the Knowledge Network for several months now, and tonight has strengthened my resolve.
I’d been vacillating about adding a blog component to this site, primarily concerned that my personal musings had no place in my business. But September’s Editors’ Association of Canada BC Branch meeting, which began as a showcase of portfolios and quickly morphed into a discussion about online marketing opportunities, convinced me that maybe blogging wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
Since this post is my first, and I’ve got a backlog of news, let me dive in. In no particular order:
1) After a long wait, Cow (Greystone Books), written by Florian Werner and translated from German by Doris Ecker, has finally been released. A million thanks to the amazing Temple Grandin for providing the foreword to this cultural history of the cow.
A massive part of my work on that book involved picture research—seeking out public-domain images whenever possible, tracking down image copyright holders, negotiating permission fees, and the like. At the September EAC meeting, I was lucky enough to win a free EAC seminar and am looking forward to the April 12 Picture Research seminar by Mary Rose MacLachlan and Derek Capitaine (MRM Associates).
2) D&M Publishers celebrated its fortieth anniversary with a party at the Vancouver International Writers Festival. In addition to seeing my old D&M colleagues, I got caught up with Jesse Marchand and Michelle Furbacher from Whitecap Books (friends from my old Ubyssey days!); Megan Brand of UBC Press; Ann-Marie Metten of Talonbooks; and fabulous freelancers Grace Yaginuma, Lara Kordic, and Stephanie MacDonald.
3) I’m excited to attend an advance screening on November 2 of a Fred Herzog documentary for the Knowledge Network, which will also be the launch of Fred Herzog: Photographs, an incredible privilege to work on. I’ll post the air dates of the documentary when I find out what they are.
4) This snort-inducing article about Mary Walsh as Marg Delahunty intimidating Toronto Mayor Rob Ford into calling 911 reminded me of the actress’s contribution to Shari Graydon’s terrific collection, I Feel Great about My Hands—a celebration of the unexpected benefits of aging. To keep up with Shari, read her blog here.