Friday, January 30, 2009

Sky is not yet falling on children's books

Perhaps you are aware of the controversy surrounding the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) as it relates to the manufacture of children’s books. The law, due to go into effect February 10, would have required that every book (or anything else, but the panic in publishing circles was about books) be accompanied by a certificate showing that the particular title had been tested for lead levels and phthalate levels.

Nobody was arguing there should not be limits on lead and phthalates in products intended for children under twelve; the industry concern was over the delay and cost involved in obtaining certification from a third-party laboratory for every new book produced, considering that lead-based pigments have not been used in book printing for a long time and it is easy enough for a book manufacturer to avoid plastic coatings containing phthalates.

Today the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced the certification and testing requirements are being suspended for a year, pending review of the regulations implementing the act. That gives the publishing industry a much-needed reprieve from this onerous requirement and allows time to work with the CPSC staff to craft more reasonable rules.

One possibility is to have the companies that specialize in manufacturing children’s books (a limited number of plants, mostly in Asia) inspected and certified annually, with the certificate number printed on the copyright page of any book they manufacture.

Meanwhile, the chemical limits remain in place, and children are protected. All that is lifted is the requirement for independent testing and certification on a product-by-product basis.

Thanks to eagle-eyed Beagle Bay Books president, J.C. Simonds, for the link and the tip.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Thanking all the little people

The best authors—those who need the least help—are the most profuse and inclusive in their thanks to all the people involved in producing their books. They go to the trouble of finding out the names of unseen functionaries and even spelling them correctly. The converse is also true. Those who need the most help mention the first name of one person at the publishing house and indicate with a sweep of the arm the nameless and faceless “team.”

If you are having trouble deciding how much of a book the named author actually wrote, count the names mentioned in the acknowledgments. The more names you see, the greater the author’s contribution.

Monday, January 19, 2009

What EditorMom said

KOK links to Sister Salad, and her commentary says what I would say, so I’m letting her say it.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Person the barricades!

English, like all languages, changes over time as well as distance, both physical and cultural. We editors sometimes argue that certain types of change are morally superior to other types of change, and many a hair is split (or pulled!) in interminable debates of such arcana. Meanwhile, linguists tend toward the opposite point of view, perhaps unfairly caricatured as an unwillingness to call anything a human being ever uttered a mistake. This caricature is often trotted out in response to equally scurrilous mischaracterization on their part of what editors do as constantly fixing things that aren’t wrong.

If you want to both think clearly about and speak intelligently about linguistic change, though, I highly recommend as background this guest post on Language Log by linguist Don Ringe. It puts our quotidian concerns about comma placement in a grander historical context than we usually consider.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Taking the show on the road

I belong to an organization here in Connecticut called the Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association (CAPA) that has an ambitious schedule of monthly speakers. Because of the frequency of meetings, the number of members, and the travel distances involved, the group has splintered into three geographic chapters (saves gas), and a speaker generally gets to all three over the course of a few months.

Last October, the long-scheduled speaker at the main chapter had to back out, and I volunteered to fill in. So I jotted down a few notes and I rambled for forty-five minutes or so on what it takes to move from a manuscript to a published book. People seemed to enjoy the presentation, and I spoke a month later at the southeast chapter. Today I was asked to trot out my show again at the southwest chapter.

This is a pleasant way to spend an evening, and it might also be a way to pick up a client now and then. So I’m thinking I should take the show on the road (call it a New Year’s resolution, although I just now thought of it, five days into the year). I haven’t started to pursue the idea in an organized way yet, obviously; but if you belong to a writing-related or publishing-related organization that hosts speakers on a regular basis or at an annual conference, keep me in mind. If you’re more than an hour from me by car, I’ll expect reimbursement for travel expenses. And if we’re talking about a conference with a budget, I’ll expect a fee, too. But in that case I’ll actually put a presentation together—PowerPoint and all—rather than just jabbering ad lib and answering questions.

As only a few dozen people read this blog on a regular basis, I’m not expecting an overwhelming response to this post. I’m mostly just thinking out loud. But if you know someone who might be interested, let me know.