February 25, 2011

Is There an Oscar for Book Editing?

It’s Friday and I’ve taken to a little musing…

Last night I was on Oscar.com, looking over the nominees for Sunday’s Academy Awards. I always appreciate the categories for those that work with words, or for editing, like Writing (Adapted Screenplay), Writing (Original Screenplay), Film Editing, and Sound Editing.

As I looked over the nominees and thought of other prestigious editorial awards such as the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Awards, or the Man Booker Prize (all for book authors), I began to wonder: are there prominent awards for book editing?

I Googled “editing awards” and the first thing that popped up was film editing awards. And indeed almost any search with  “editing” and “award” led me to either film or newspaper editing kudos—but those for book editors were much harder to find. (Bing didn’t find me anything more, either.)

Is it because our work, to most people, is invisible?

I was thinking I’d gone bust, when I found this blog entry, from the UK:

The award for best fiction editor goes to ... nobody
Behind every great book is a strong editor, but the role gets too little public credit.

“Editors are important. That much is certain. To put it simply, they decide who does and does not get published. And in the high courts of publishing that so many authors aspire to enter this makes them judge, jury and all too often executioner. But are they creative?

“When it comes to awards for artistic endeavour, it's an accepted norm that only the creative types get a look in. Hence Best Actor and Best Writer are valid awards, whilst Best Legal Adviser or Best Production Accountant are not. Editors, and in particular editors of fiction, sit uncomfortably on the divide between the creative and supporting roles in the publishing industry.” (guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/apr/17/science-fiction-editors-awards)

The blog does mention the Hugo Awards (guardian.co.uk/books/hugoaward), where it notes: “In the world of speculative fiction awards aren't just given to editors, they are named for them. The Hugo awards are a permanent tribute to "the father of science fiction" editor Hugo Gernsback. At this year’s Hugo awards not just one but two editorial awards will be made—Best Editor, Long Form and Best Editor, Short Form.”

Okay, I was getting somewhere.

Then I saw that Poets & Writers began handing out an Editor's Award in 2009, which recognizes “a book editor who has made an outstanding contribution to the publication of poetry or literary prose over a sustained period of time.”

I also found the Tom Fairley Award for Editorial Excellence (www.editors.ca/tomfairley/index.html), established in 1983 and presented annually by the Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC). The award (which includes not only recognition, but $2,000) is open to all editors—both freelance and in-house, and recognizes “the editor’s often invisible contribution to written communication.”

The EAC explains further what we all already know, and why our work is often overlooked: “Editing—the art of ensuring that a writer's words and meaning can be understood by intended readers—is seldom routine. Yet the best editing is inconspicuous in the final work. For the reader, the work must bear the stamp of its creator, not its editor.”

Well those few honors are a start. There are probably others. Maybe I’m even missing a biggie. If you’re aware of any, let me know.

I’m not saying that awards are all that important; to me, a paycheck and my authors’ heartfelt thanks and recognition that I’ve helped them improve their work is usually all I need. But who hasn't fantasized about being more publicly recognized for their work (and perhaps even standing on a stage, however small), with perhaps the result being more quality projects?

Well, we all can dream.


  1. Great idea, Kara.

    I went to the article on the Guardian that you linked to, and down the comments string, someone mentioned an award for mainstream literary book editors: "called the Maxwell E. Perkins Award, after the famous editor of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Thomas Wolfe. Perkins was the guy who pretty much invented the modern school of creative, interventionist editing, where the editor didn't just tidy up what was handed in, but often helped restructure and rethink it. He also signed up Hemingway."

  2. The Branford Boase Award honours both author and editor of the best debut novel for children: http://www.theguardian.com/childrens-books-site/2014/jul/10/branford-boase-awards-advice-from-editors

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