Category Archives: copyeditors

One Last Thing

Since turning in the first draft of George Lucas back in March, the manuscript has been through the hands of my editor at Little, Brown, John Parsley, vetted by the legal department, and then given a rigorous copyediting. Now it’s landed back on my desk, where I’ve got until next week to finish it all up, answer any questions my editors might have, add any new material (Lucas Pulls His Museum From Chicago!), make sure the endnotes are correct, and generally make any necessary tweaks and revisions before sending it off to production.

There’s a lot going on in the margins of an edited manuscript; the document is edited with Word’s ‘Track Changes’ function on so you can see every change to the draft and — one of my favorite parts — read the comments from the various editors where they ask whether a suggested edit works, seek clarification, or even just maintain a friendly running commentary, like a less sarcastic MST3K. And, of course, I can’t resist making my own comments as I go through it, either.

And seriously, guys: editors and copyeditors are amazing. They not only edit for clarity, for instance, but they also fact-check things, remind you when you’ve used a quote twice, or somehow manage to clean up and make better sense of hundreds and hundreds of endnotes. I’m always impressed.

Wanna see what the Table of Contents for George Lucas looks like on my computer screen as it’s being edited with the ‘Track Changes’ function on? Have a look:


And now, back to it.  I’ve gotta get this done, if you’re gonna have it in your hands on December 6.

Beatlemaniacs Suck!

Yes, we really do. I’m one of them, and I’ll admit it: I’m part of the problem.

As hardcore Beatlemaniacs, we read anything about the Fabs we can get our hands on, whether good (Bob Spitz’s The Beatles: The Biography), bad (Hunter Davies’ The Beatles, though it’s not his fault), or ugly (Albert Goldman’s Many Lives of John Lennon, so ugly it’s one of my favorite books ever). We’ve read books by friends and sycophants, critics and musicians, pop culture analysts and psychiatrists. Some are elegantly written, some are clunky, some are gushy, and some are snarky. But after a while, they all eventually start marching out the same old stories, cribbing from the same sources, and relying on the same dumb cliches. And still we read them, because as Beatlemaniacs, that’s what we do.

So many books are written about the Boys every year, in fact, that it seems like it should be getting all but impossible to say anything new. Yet, some of them — like Jonathan Gould’s Can’t Buy Me Love — still manage to beat the odds and manage to be really thoughtful, and look at even the most familiar Beatle stories in new and interesting ways.

But here’s why Beatlemaniacs suck: we’re a brutal, picky crowd — and any writer who publishes anything about the Beatles earns my instant respect, because it’s like jumping into a tankful of sharks waiting for the taste of blood in the water. That means that no matter how good a book might be, we’re still going to pick and pick and pick, applying our own impossibly high standards as we determine whether the book does our favorite subject justice. It also means we’re going to groan and obsess over even the slightest mistakes, whether it’s a mis-labeled photograph, a garbled spelling, or a skewed date.

But what makes us the craziest is a misquoted song lyric. The music is what matters the most, so while an incorrect date or time might be somewhat forgivable (especially when you’re in the weeds and trying to make sense of recording logs), a botched lyric is another story entirely. It’s like writing a book about Wordsworth and then misquoting The Prelude.

So, Jonathan Gould . . . I’m watching you. I love your book, I’m enjoying it immensely, but I’m on page 405, and you’ve already driven me nuts with two botched lyrics.

Botch #1 is on page 214, discussing “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The opening lyric is “Oh yeah, I’ll tell you something…” and not “Yeah, well, I’ll tell you something….”

Botch #2 comes on page 326, during the discussion of “Paperback Writer.” I’ll quote you here:

“…[Paul] brings a starry-eyed reverence to this dubious occupational title that almost stands up to the punning counterpoint of “Pay-per-back-er” (sung to the tune of “Frere Jacques”) that John and George provide.”

Uh, no. The backing counterpoint lyric is “Frere Jacques.” Isolate it in your headphones, then try again.

Proofreaders and copyeditors everywhere, take note: when proofing Beatles books, triple check those song lyrics — because there are millions of anal-retentive, obsessive Beatlemaniacs who’ll shriek when you get it wrong.

Yeah, we know: we suck. But it’s our job.