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Sue Archer

Review: The Complete Canadian Book Editor by Leslie Vermeer

When I first heard about The Complete Canadian Book Editor, I couldn’t help but be intrigued by the notion of a “complete” resource on book editing. I edit the works of self-publishing authors, so my knowledge of the world of traditional book publishing is limited — gained mostly through conversations with other editors and my editing courses at Ryerson. Would this book provide useful information for someone like me, a practising freelance editor who would like to learn more about the inner workings of the book editing profession in Canada?

Certainly, the book has broad coverage of the various skills involved in book editing. As Vermeer states, “Very little of a book editor’s day-to-day job involves working with text.” I loved how the book moved from a description of the publishing industry in Canada through to acquisitions and contracts before tackling the more technical aspects of editing (as well as book production and design). Much of this content was familiar to me through my editing education, but Vermeer peppers the basics with useful and interesting sidebars like how to develop a good title and how to spot common mistakes when proofreading.

I especially enjoyed the stories that Vermeer tells about her real-life editing experiences. (I chuckled in sympathy when she described the saga of a manuscript that had been formatted in PowerPoint.) It would have been lovely if she had told more of these, because her tone when relating these is quite engaging. Most of the book reads more like a typical textbook, which I found a little dry at times, even if the information itself is useful.

I also found myself wishing on behalf of new editors that a little more time had been spent on the role of grammar and usage in editing. There is an appendix that covers the basic terms of grammar, but there is little discussion on how approaches can differ by author or genre or how usage is continually evolving. There is also little time spent on stylistic editing, which was not surprising to me but was somewhat disappointing.

The most intriguing chapter of the book (for me) was the one on sales and marketing — a critical topic for both in-house and freelance editors. Vermeer discusses the practical aspects of how to develop a marketing plan, write a news release and hold successful author tours, among several other activities. Her detailed rundown of the money side of the business is fascinating, and her deep knowledge of the publishing industry is evident both here and throughout the book.

I would recommend this book as a useful resource for anyone who would like to obtain a broad overview of what the role of the book editor entails. This is not a book for someone looking for specialized technical knowledge, such as all the details on how to copy edit. (There are other useful guides for that, such as The Copyeditor’s Handbook by Amy Einsohn.) Vermeer does provide an excellent resource list at the end for those who would like to learn more, along with a handful of editing exercises and a sample editorial checklist.

It would be impossible to cover everything about book editing in one book, but I believe Vermeer has provided an excellent place to start.

This book was provided to The Editors’ Weekly free of charge by the publisher. Neither The Editors’ Weekly nor the reviewer received any compensation for this review. The opinions contained in this review are those of the reviewer alone and were written free of any obligation or agreement with the publisher. 


Previous post from Sue Archer: Oh, My Aching Eyeballs!

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Sue Archer

Sue Archer’s official job title keeps changing, but she remains an editor at heart. During the day, she helps people from different worlds (business and technology) communicate with each other. At night, she writes urban and paranormal fantasy and occasionally assesses manuscripts for indie authors. Her debut novel Fortune’s Shadow was published in April 2020.


3 Comments on “Review: The Complete Canadian Book Editor by Leslie Vermeer”

  • Anita Jenkins


    Leslie Vermeer, PhD, is a writer, editor, and professor at MacEwan University in Edmonton. She worked in book publishing for more than 20 years, and has edited or contributed to more than one 100 books.

    • Tracey Anderson


      I took a book publishing course from Leslie when I was a student in the professional writing degree program at MacEwan. Great to see that some of the things she taught us are now available for other editors. Congratulations, Leslie.

  • Rosemary Shipton


    It sounds like a good overview of the traditional book publishing industry – one that should be useful especially for all those who are setting up their own small businesses and have never had the opportunity to work inside a publishing house. Thanks for showcasing it, Sue.

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