Commited as a Teaching Press: Editor’s Reports

The University Press of North Georgia is proud to be a teaching press and is committed to providing NGCSU college students with real-life instructions and internship experience in a variety of different arenas of publishing.  One of the ways this is accomplished is through the “Intro to Publishing” class offered by the English Department and taught by Dr. Bonnie Robinson, UPNG Director.

Many students, especially those English majors whose concentration is in Writing and Publication, look forward to taking “Intro to Publishing” and exploring the various fields that they might be involved in as a part of their future career. Rachel Alsup called “Intro to Publishing” “a pretty eye-opening experience…as a student and a writer.” She further expressed her excitement about being able to be a part of the class:

“Growing up, I aspired to be a book editor but never really had any tangible clues as to what that truly entailed. Thanks to North Georgia’s learning press, I can get a hands-on experience that, in all respects, prepares me for my dream career. As a student in this class, not only do I participate as a member of the Student Editorial Board for the press, but I also learn more information about every imaginable aspect of the publishing business.”

This week the students are focusing on writing Editor’s Reports for one of the manuscripts UPNG is working on entitled Who Is the Masaai? by Saitoti Ole Ngambus. The UPNG editors take the students’ comments into consideration when they revise or edit the manuscript. Effectively writing an Editor’s Report can be a challenge, however, especially in regard to tone.  Chris Smolarsky shared the difficulties he faced when writing an Editor’s Report:

At this point in the process of publishing a book, the editor has already decided that the author has written a story that’s worth publishing, and the editor wants the author and his book to succeed. If the book and the author don’t do well, then the work and judgment of the editor comes into question, and this could possibly harm his career and reputation. The editor–or in the case of our assignment–the assistant editor is now focused on making the manuscript fit for publication by going over whatever portions, large or small, that could be improved or deleted altogether. According to our professor, Dr. Robinson, the purpose of the editor’s report is to provide a “general diagnosis and prescription” for the author to use to improve his manuscript. Many of the suggestions that the editor’s assistant will mention must meet the author’s approval, so as not to compromise the story or to anger the author.”

When I took Intro to Publishing (and any of my other English major classes, for that matter), tone was always the most difficult part of writing for me, as well. Learning to respond with positive criticism was a value skill that I worked on attaining through my experience in “Intro to Publishing.” Rachel agreed with Chris and me, stating that

“this is a particularly challenging assignment because not only am I responsible for discerning issues within a manuscript and suggesting potential solutions for those issues, but it’s also a chance to try and navigate the realm of professionalism. As an editor, I will have to be able to maintain a professional and respectful tone in a letter to the author, yet also convey my serious concerns and persuade the author to consider making suggested changes. Even if I do not enter into a career path specifically in editing, these skills are universal in almost any career—just another advantage to the very future-focused class!”

Being able to offer “Intro to Publishing” is rewarding for the staff of UPNG, especially for Dr. B.J. Robinson, who tells her students that she expects that they will be great friends and peers after graduation. “Once you’re in my class, we’re bonded for life!” Dr. Robinson can be heard saying at least a dozen times a semester in each of her classes. She views the “Intro to Publishing” class as a way to mentor students from all walks of life.  The best part about “Intro to Publishing” is that it prepares students for any occupation. Chris agreed:

“Though I do not plan on pursuing a career in publishing, I still think that employees of any profession could benefit from the basic lessons learned from the editor’s report process. People can learn from reading samples of these reports the importance cooperation between people in the workplace, or in any situation, especially between employees and their clientele. This also teaches people to communicate effectively and respectfully and how to deal with jobs they may not want to do, considering the editor’s assistant in this profession may not like the manuscript that an editor asks him to review.”

Have you ever had problems with tone in your writing? How have you worked to overcome poor tone?