Rantings of a sub-editor

December 23, 2010

Me, me, me (and a book)

Filed under: Substuff says... — substuff @ 3:24 pm

Firstly, merry Christmas!

Secondly, and, hehe, more importantly, let’s talk about me. I need a little advice.

A few people have suggested that I “get the blog published as a book”. I’m very flattered by this, and more than willing. However, I have no bloody idea how to go about it, or even what exactly I have to offer. So if anyone has any suggestions, advice or information, I’d be grateful to hear it.

I think the main things I need to consider are:

What would it be?

A grammar guide? A style guide? A how-to-write guide? Or not a guide at all – a series of rantings (similar to some of what I have written on the blog, but more polished)? An illustrated gift book with humorous tips? I’ve tried to do a bit of all of these on my blog, but I’m not really sure where to focus. Or what length I should be looking at. Or how deep to go.

Who is it for?

I have some quite strong opinions on this point. What I don’t like about some existing books on good writing is the haughty tone that they take, and the inaccessibility. If I were to write a book, I would like it to be one that most people could understand. That means no Latin, no assumptions of cultural knowledge or level of education, no long and unfathomable quotations.

I’ve read plenty of books on writing, and some of them make me feel stupid. I’m not stupid, and neither is anyone else with enough love for language to spend their time finding out more about it, I must assume. So I don’t want to write anything that makes anyone feel stupid. Ever.

Getting more specific, would it be for journalists? Sub-editors? Students? General interest? A stocking-filler gift?

Erm… how to do it?

Yeah… that’s the biggest question of all. I could make the time, by writing during my commute. That’s fifteen usable hours per week. But where do you start? Do you contact a publisher first and pitch them an idea? Or write first and then pitch? Or…?

As you can see, it’s an idea that really is in its earliest infancy. I don’t have any contacts in the world of publishing, or know anyone who has successfully had a book published. For all my ranting, at the end of the day I am just a lass from Bognor Regis (aww) and it’s all very well telling me to publish a book, but… how? So, if anyone fancies giving me their tuppence worth, I’d be glad to hear it! Here’s your chance to help mould my new year’s resolutions.

While I’m on the subject, last year I resolved to:

  • Give up alcohol and sugar for January (achieved, with a few wobbles)
  • Get a new job (I left The Grocer for Which? in June: achieved)
  • Do some national newspaper shifts (yep, I’ve done quite a few at The Sunday Times and the Guardian, and a couple on The Times supplements: achieved)
  • Become a lean, mean yoga goddess (erm, well… there’s always next year)

So, overall, woop!

For bonus woops, the Guardian’s Mind Your Language folks have listed Rantingsubs as a “site we like” (down there on the right-hand side), Wordsworks put it at number three on its 12 links of Christmas and Emphasis has asked me to write some (paid, yeah!) guest blog posts.

I’ve been writing the blog for more than a year now, and am shocked and delighted to say that it’s had more than 25,000 hits. Thank you to everyone who has read my ramblings, commented on posts, corrected me (usually gently, sometimes brutally), argued with me/one another, sent me material (Andy, Mum, Vince) and generally participated in the geekiness. Thanks too to the excellent guest writers who joined in the fun – and if anyone else would like to have a rant, get in touch. Thank you specifically to Kit and Pete, without whose prompting and poking I would certainly not be considering writing a book, and who have gone out of their respective ways to open doors for me. Even if one of them spells petfood as a single word and the other plays fast and loose with his whiches and thats.

Write a book? Sure, I’m game. So, er, what do I do again?



  1. Merry Christmas.

    Typically, I think you pitch when you a have conceived a brief, same as writing an article. An interested publisher would probably want to modify the brief before you start work. Getting a book commissioned, creating something that people will want to buy and having something to write about all have something in common: they all need a good idea. Even if you can come up with an idea, you then have to see if there’s a gap in the market.

    You’ll just have to keep trying to come up with a brilliant idea while you’re walking around. Once you do, bounce it off other people. If they’re not enthused, you cant expect a publisher or a customer to be interested.

    I can’t help thinking there must be an idea connected with writers on writing. Something like, the writing and working process of ten successful writers or writers who’ve switched from staff job to freelancing and working from home. At least you’ve got some contacts, some profile and regular access to working writers.

    Of course, the other option is self-publishing. This is what I’m planning on doing as what I’m writing is a labour of love that I wouldn’t be willing to modify and I don’t think anyone else would want to publish. I’ve already got a bit of experience with self publishing. When it’s nearly finished, I’ll show it around to see if anyone wants to publish it.

    You’ve got some advantages, as aforementioned, but I can’t give you feedback on the idea until you’ve got an idea.

    Comment by Michael Reed — December 26, 2010 @ 12:36 pm | Reply

    • Why not, hmm? C’mon Michael. And write a bit of it for me too, while you’re at it. 😉

      Yes, all fair points. Best I go and get myself one of those idea thingamys.

      Comment by substuff — January 4, 2011 @ 4:44 pm | Reply

  2. I think the most successful book in this area is Eats Shoots & Leaves so something anecdotal about subs and subbing, past present and future could be fun, with a few lessons along the way, from old school subs to new media web eds. Pick out the best posts from the blog. Illustrations of funny typos. Some serious stuff on where sub-editing is going and how to join the profession…


    As to the big question of how to write it, how about a potential collaboration?

    If you’re interested, email me offline? [fionacullinan at hotmail dot com]

    Comment by Fiona Cullinan — December 31, 2010 @ 1:13 pm | Reply

    • Hi Fiona, thanks for your thoughts. I must confess that every time I hear or see the words “Eats Shoots & Leaves”, I’m inspired to kick a kitten. That may, of course, just be envy. 🙂 I’ll drop you a line.

      Comment by substuff — January 4, 2011 @ 4:47 pm | Reply

  3. Just a thought on the concept – perhaps a collection of anecdotes relating to language and its use? I find your posts amusing so I imagine a whole book of such would be a very good read.

    Comment by Khairie — January 26, 2011 @ 6:48 am | Reply

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