With a view like this from the office, you could be forgiven for thinking that an editor’s life is a doddle. Unfortunately, there are always challenges to act as a distraction from the lochs and mountains. Take editing a crowdsourced book, for example. A normal ELT book has between one and three authors, and the rule of thumb is usually that the trickiness in author communication increases exponentially with the number of writers involved – the time taken to liaise with them, get agreement on changes, extract material to a deadline, get proofs checked, etc. all increases massively the more authors you have. So imagine the problems in dealing with multiple authors in a crowdsourced book (26 of them in the latest example). It simply isn’t feasible to maintain the same level of communication and requests for feedback with that many people as it is with a normal publishing project. The only answer is to change the approach, and that means having much less author involvement in the publishing process after the manuscript has been handed over. Of course, some authors find this difficult to accept, as their contribution is inevitably changed en route to publication to bring it into line in terms of style and content with the other sections of the book. And when the book is being produced to a tight schedule, there simply isn’t time to check that everyone’s happy before going to press.
On the positive side, a crowdsourced book is a very vibrant thing – each contribution still maintains its own ‘feel’ (despite the editorial smoothing that goes on!), and each author has the opportunity to be part of something big without the drain on time and effort that being a sole author involves. So next time you feel the urge to contribute something to a crowdsourced project, go for it! Just don’t be too surprised if the end result isn’t exactly the same as the manuscript you submitted 😉