IVP - Behind the Books - The Sweet Spot

January 17, 2008

The Sweet Spot

Maybe it's professional immaturity or personal failing, but when I get too close to something I'm working on, I go a little crazy. I made many a high school student anxious and even scared when I was planning high-school led church services and worship events back in the day. Somewhere along the way I discerned that it would be better for everyone if I kept to myself during any such production process, and so now I spend most of my time in an office by myself.

I spend that time, however, poring over the same manuscripts for nine months to a year, and so most days I'm still going a little crazy--or as I've lovingly labeled it, "going editorial."

Going editorial means reaching the breaking point where you've deleted one too many obviously errant commas, you've read one too many times the same sentence that you've pleaded with an author to change, you've sent the same contract or cover design or manuscript proposal through the same gauntlet of approval one too many times. The cyclical nature of business can get downright Sisyphean:

read the proposal
acquire the proposal
read the chapters
recommend revisions
read the whole manuscript
recommend revisions
read the revised manuscript
remind the author of the recommended revisions that were overlooked
read the second revision
read the copyeditor's remarks
advocate for the copyeditor to the author
review the author's responses to the copyeditor
commisserate with the author about the copyeditor's shortcomings
review the page proofs
review the author's reaction to the page proofs
review the proofreader's review of the page proofs
review the corrected page proofs
review the printer's preliminary work
review the final product
receive the critical reviews and the gleeful reader notifications of spelling or grammatical errors

But every now and then--and it probably happens at least once with every project--you hit that sweet spot. After a brief reprieve from the steady exposure to a manuscript (maybe the author's been revising it, maybe the proofreader's been proofing it, maybe the printer's been printing it), you see the thing again, and you notice one of those things that first endeared you to it, one of those insights or turns of phrases that made you however many months ago say "I simply must spend a good chunk of the next nine months to a year of my life watching this thing become a book."

That's the sweet spot, and in moments such as this I find myself at peace, and everybody in the office finds me a bit more tolerable.

I hit the sweet spot just this morning, in fact. I was flipping through a manuscript before approving it for the printer and turned the page to an idea that I can't wait to share with the leadership at my church. This book--this book that's been a burr in my brain for months now--has the potential to change things in all kinds of churches for the better. And that's enough to compel me to keep pushing.

So here's to the sweet spot. May your tribe increase. And don't bother asking what book I'm talking about; it might as well be any of them, really.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at January 17, 2008 9:06 AM Bookmark and Share


Cardinal rule: this list should never be presented in its entirety in one place. You will scare away idealistic, book loving writers who thought that maybe, just maybe, they could be editors some day. (Even if you do end it on a sweet note!)

Comment by: L.L. Barkat at January 17, 2008 2:48 PM

Yes, but L.L., every editor smiled all the way through the post.

Comment by: cas at January 19, 2008 12:34 AM

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