I took a look at the Word statistics for the two files comprising the new book I'm working on his morning. I was pleased to see it already a good 25% over my idea of the ideal word count for the book, even though it's not finished yet. That means I'll be able to do some cutting myself before I hand it over to my editor, who will cut it some more. A big part of the book editing process is simply cutting out text that proves a distraction from the main theme or introduces an uneven feel to the quality of the writing. It's entirely possible to improve a book by no other process than cutting, but it's pretty hard to make a book better stuffing in new content.
Unlike some professional bloggers, those who work in teams or are the spokespeople for companies and organizations, I do my own blog editing. Now you understand why I employ an book editor to go over my books before publishing them. The only part of editing that I'm good at is the cutting, but cutting is the last thing a long form blogger needs when trying to make the word count for an installment. I do get regular editing suggestions from new readers, which I appreciate, sort of;-) I can't get excited about going back and fixing old blog entries, unless somebody points out a factual error.
I'm somewhat less amused by book editing suggestions from readers, though I try to learn from them. My problem isn't with having errors pointed out, it's with suggestions that go against the theme of the book. This bothers me because it makes me wonder if the reader got all the way through the book and entirely missed the point. In some instances, I know this is just due to people seeing the world through their own filter, but in other instances, it seems to be that an open-minded person can read everything I've written on a subject and not be convinced. As a self styled preacher of print-on-demand self publishing, I find that depressing.
That brings us back to book editing, and the question of focus. I've always found it entertaining to read my professor friends academic books and see them arguing with their own point of view. That's just part of the academic style; you're supposed to think up the possible objections to your position, quote sources supporting those objections, and then dispose of them in such a manner that convinces your readers not to run out and check the sources. The result is that most academic books end up introducing a few ideas and a lot of footnotes without helping anybody reach a conclusion.
That may sound noble, but you wouldn't want to buy a nonfiction book that purposes to explain something and ends up leaving you more confused then when you started. The cutting process in editing is where the author and editor can concentrate on making sure that the book says what the author believes, and doesn't just offer a safe survey of the field. It's also a chance for the author to revisit the text and say, "Maybe I don't quite know what I'm talking about here."
edited by MR