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Editing for Multiple Authors: Case Study

Four Authors, One Book: A Nightmare, Or A Dream?

by Jasmine Bingham

As a securities analyst for many years on Wall Street, I’m not easily intimidated. With an extensive background in financial writing, and having to learn the ins and outs of technical jargon in order to understand a company’s business, analyze it, and write about it, no subject matter scares me. But working with four of the top attorneys in the state of California with their legacy law book—now that could be a nightmare. It was quite the opposite. And here’s why:

One Co-Author Played Point Man

As much as a publisher and an editor can help with effectively organizing a book written by numerous authors, the most effective way to keep the writing process smooth (and the publication process smoother), is to establish a point man early on. Tyler G. Draa played this role in Mastering the Mechanics of Civil Jury Trials (Balcony 7 Media and Publishing, Fall 2015). He shepherded the process, took the initiative in making sure all sections were finalized to meet our deadlines, and even helped make sure professional photos were supplied before we went to print.

All Co-Authors Had Specific Roles

This should be a no-brainer since redundancy and multiple points of view on one aspect of a book wouldn’t be beneficial to readers—in fact, they would be confusing and counter-productive. Each author should know what their specific contribution would be before the project gets going. In Mastering the Mechanics, for example, Tyler spoke to defendant representation; Doris Cheng spoke to plaintiff representation; Maureen Harrington is a master of computer animation and other simulations used to present a case; and the Honorable Franklin E. Bondonno is a sitting judge with over thirty years of trial practice under his belt, all of which cemented his role for judicial comments throughout the book. All the pieces fit like a highly intelligent puzzle, maximizing the legacy aspect of this book for anyone who reads it.

The Editor Dove Into The Subject

The authors did not know my love of law. They knew my expertise in financial writing but aside from that and the poetry and children’s books, how could they know I was a lawyer in another life? I dove into each aspect of trial procedure to make sure each section was readable rather than too technical, that nothing was inadvertently misspelled, and that the essence of voir dire strategy, for example, was effectively communicated with the right adjectives and other word choices. Editors must respect the subject matter of every book and learn it so the end user, the reader, experiences seamless flow from cover to cover. “Wow! That book was really well edited!” said no one, ever. A great read comes across as effortless.

Mutual Respect Was Ever-Present

Just as the publisher and the editor must respect the authors and their titles, the authors must respect the expertise of the publisher and the editor. We are all professionals. Letting each of us do our thing, and following each other’s lead on what we’re good at—now that is the essence of successful partnerships. In publishing, it’s essential for authors to take seriously a publisher’s request to “Get out there and let people know who you are and what you are doing.” These authors do just that, with passion and aplomb (save for the Judge, who must take a non-participatory role for ethical reasons). It’s a formula that works because awareness is more than half the battle in publishing.

Everyone Participated In Fine-Tuning

This might seem to go against what I just said in the above point, but it’s wise to be inclusive about author photo choices, table of contents layout and depth, social media style and content, and even the book cover (to a point). While not all points of view can be accommodated, it certainly helps to get feedback on certain aspects of the publishing project and, when the publisher has to make an executive decision (such as for the final cover), ongoing communication throughout the process makes everyone become part of the process. The end result is a happy partnership where everyone had a say on multiple fronts.

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Editing for Multiple Authors, Case Study, Legal Reference, Balcony 7