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January 92 - Editor's Notes - Editing FrameWorks

Editor's Notes - Editing FrameWorks

Don Sawtelle

FrameWorks is looking for a new editor, so in this column I'll talk a bit about the editor's position to help some of you think of whether you might like the job.

A short while ago MADA board converted the editorship from a volunteer position to a part-time compensated position. I'm holding this position for an interim period, through production of the March '92 issue; this should give the board time to conduct a formal selection process to choose a permanent paid editor.

I'm not going after the permanent paid position; instead, I'd like to write more, edit less, spend more time on Stonecutter Software's projects, and spend more time with my family. So after this January issue, I'll edit the March issue, then that'll be it.

How much time does it take?

Editing FrameWorks is about a quarter-time job. Because it's published every other month, few enough hours are required so you can also have another full-time job. It's easier to get the issues out on time, though, if you can regularly schedule a break from your other work every two months in order to spend a big block of time on FrameWorks right before the issue is due to go into production.

A while ago the board asked me where the time goes when editing an issue. Some of the time tends to be spent in a block right before the issue goes into production; some of it is spent as ongoing background tasks that never end. Here are the estimates I came up with:

12Find & encourage prospective authors.
Guide authors in their topics & treatment thereof prior to receiving drafts. (The amount of guidance needed may vary widely.)
16Review & comment on drafts.
Suggest or request changes.
(Some articles are submitted in finished form;some come in multiple drafts.)
4Coordinate with copy editor.
30Edit final copy.
10Communicate & coordinate with publications manager, who does graphical design, layout, handles advertising, and anything else required to get the content the editor provides into final printed form. The publications manager also oversees a person who handles mailing and subscriptions.
12Write editor's column.
Proof galleys.
Do pull quotes.
2Review and critique finished issue.
4Communicate with the board & readers.

These figures total to 90 hours. This is the minimum time that must be spent on the basics of getting an issue out when things are going smoothly. 90 hours doesn't allow for time that may be needed every three or four issues to design and implement major changes and improvements. A time budget for this might be 40 hours every 4 issues; that raises the average to about 100 hours per issue.

It may not seem so, but the time I show for communication-related tasks really is the absolute minimum. Unless you strictly limit communication-and if you do, you won't keep finding new authors and getting enough good articles-an average total of 120 hours per issue is probably a better figure than 100. But perhaps it's OK to think of it as a 100-hour task with respect to compensation, because the number of hours in excess of 100 are-in theory at least-spent at the discretion of the editor.

Sometimes it takes lots of extra time to get an issue out. This can be because of a learning curve on the first issue or two; designing and implementing changes to the magazine; an amazing amount of email with authors; or a preponderance of articles that require extensive editing to be made suitable for publication.

How does it pay?

The editor is paid not by the hour, but by a fixed amount per issue. I'd be happy to tell you how much I'm being paid each issue. I suppose the board might not want me to put that in print, so I won't mention it here; but if you want to know, no problem. Give me a call at (209) 966-3066 and I'll tell you. It's not close to what you can make spending the same hours doing software development as a consultant. It's not all that far from what you make spending the same hours doing software development as a programmer employee.

What skills does it take?

I tend to think that FrameWorks will benefit the most by bringing in a new editor who is light on editing experience, but strong in general communication, writing, and programming skills. Such a person would benefit the most from the experience of editing a developer's publication, and might thus be highly motivated. Such a person also might be willing to stretch the compensation to cover more hours than I described above. In the first couple of issues these hours would be absorbed by the learning curve; after that, they could be spent making evolutionary improvements to FrameWorks.

Skills in more detail:

Communications skills are needed for finding, encouraging, and guiding authors.

Writing skills are required for editing articles so that they communicate with maximum effectiveness. Because of the high technical content, a copy editor can only get you part way there. I have found that it saves me the most time if the copy editor cleans up the article copy first, before the editing that I do. Higher-level editing that requires knowledge of content can be done more quickly if wordiness and grammatical mistakes have been eliminated by the copy editor.

A reasonable amount of object programming experience is needed in order to understand the content of articles, and to ensure you have the expertise to determine what subjects are of interest and value to the readership.

Although I suppose it's not a requirement, it seems to me that that someone who has the skills and motivation to be editor would have published technical articles in FrameWorks or some similar publications in the past.

What are the non-monetary rewards of FrameWorks editing?

  • Getting to know a bunch of authors online. They are all good people.
  • Expanding your network of contacts within the Macintosh development community.
  • Conducting a wide-ranging, flexibly organized, multi-faceted management task.
  • The pleasure of helping shape each author's article so that it communicates the author's content as effectively as possible.
  • Coming to understand a publication, and the process of publication, in much greater depth than you can achieve as a reader.
  • Getting to implement all the good ideas you have for making FrameWorks better. I changed FrameWorks quite a bit when I became editor-building on the good work of Howard Katz who was editor before me-and I look forward to seeing my successor make big improvements.

Finally, though they may not mention it often, readers truly appreciate a good publication; especially, they appreciate a publication that keeps improving. Through a general lack of complaints, and certain amount of faith that you're doing the right thing, and from a compliment or two that come in from readers each issue, you can know the appreciation is there.

Who do You call?

If you're interested in editing FrameWorks, and have the experience or the skills to take on the job, please contact Tony Meadow, the president of MADA. He can be reached at AppleLink: D0068, or at Bear River Associates: (510) 644-9400. If you want to hear more about the job from me, give me a call at (209) 966-3066. I'm not involved in the selection process, and I'm not a contender, so I'll help you however I can.

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