Here I am with Bruce Tracy at the Guggenheim earlier this year on the Keep Going tour. Bruce edited the last four of my books and it is a sad day for me because today is his last day at Workman Publishing. (He’s off to chill in the woods and freelance.)
From the very first time we spoke on the phone, before we were even officially working together, Bruce has been a great partner in crime. It was on that very phone call (August 2011 — I’m looking at the notes right now!) that he said presentation slides are usually landscape, and books are usually portrait… so how about a square book? Sold!
When I visited him in New York, I brought him a dummy made from James Kochalka’s The Cute Manifesto — the only book I had on my shelf that had the exact trim size we were thinking about. “Can I keep this?” he asked. At the cover meeting, the late Peter Workman supposedly went through a few mocked up covers and pointed to my dummy. “That one.”
Anyways, we worked together for over eight years. A few more good stories like that, but mostly the hard, often unsexy work of patient emails and phone calls and line edits and sales meetings. It was a good run and I’m very grateful.
What’s the value of a great editor? Here’s how Michael Crichton put it, as quoted by Robert Gottlieb in The Paris Review:
In my experience of writing, you generally start out with some overall idea that you can see fairly clearly, as if you were standing on a dock and looking at a ship on the ocean. At first you can see the entire ship, but then as you begin work you’re in the boiler room and you can’t see the ship anymore. All you can see are the pipes and the grease and the fittings of the boiler room and, you have to assume, the ship’s exterior. What you really want in an editor is someone who’s still on the dock, who can say, Hi, I’m looking at your ship, and it’s missing a bow, the front mast is crooked, and it looks to me as if your propellers are going to have to be fixed.
Thank you, Bruce, for standing on the dock and helping me see the ship.
When your editor likes the book pic.twitter.com/U8lZmJ1Lef
— Austin Kleon (@austinkleon) June 15, 2018