PUB 412-1
SEVEN WEEKS – February 24 to April 6, 2019
$825.00 CDN (includes course material)
MAX. 25 participants
Instructional hours: 42—lectures (approximately 6 hours [per week] of reading, interactive discussions, Web research, watching guest videos, virtual cafes, sharing edits)
*This is an online only workshop that will feature flexible lectures and readings each week, guest speakers, interactive elements, and active edits, peer reviews, and feedback. While it is self-paced, there are set deadlines for assessment purposes. 
Early registration is recommended.


This course offers an intensive overview of transferable substantive and stylistic editorial skills for fiction and non-fiction as they apply to book, magazine, and online formats, including guest audio-visual lectures by 5 of Canada’s top print and digital editors. In the midst of the dizzying change of our Gutenberg 2.0 era, the evolving demands of a wide range of audiences, formats, and genres across platforms means there is only one constant – quality content always requires the unflinching eyes of an astute editor. If you are working in the field, or hope to, or wish to upgrade or transfer skills to get into this career, this course will give you a hyper-contemporary snapshot of life on the frontlines for editors in the print and digital age.

Over the course of this seven-week (42+ hour*) workshop, you will read, appraise, restructure, and edit (a 10-page portion) a full manuscript by a published Canadian author (genre to be selected by applicant—adult fiction or non-fiction) for the format of your choosing – print or e-book, print or online magazine or website. Learn to develop fiction or non-fiction work to suit the writer’s vision, the publisher’s requirements, and the format and audience for which it is best suited.

Whether you are a current or aspiring in-house or freelance editor working in these genres, a would-be or junior editor, or one with a specialty (scholarly, government, business, copy editing, etc.) who wants to transition into another aspect of the field, you’ll learn how to assess a work’s readiness and potential, its strengths and weaknesses, its possible structures, and how to leverage the draft to most efficiently reach its intended reader on a variety of platforms. For those considering beginning or advancing a career in editing, it’s a chance to gain hands-on experience, garner feedback professional and peer feedback, build your credentials and portfolio, and network with experts in the publishing world poised to give you targeted advice.

After working with the course instructor in online lectures and interactive discussion forums, classmates, and hearing from a featured guest speaker each week, students will be able to:

• appreciate the full range of editorial roles/responsibilities per genre and trade format
• understand the exigencies of acquisitions: agents, contracts, press mandates and brands
• develop, and compensate for, an editor’s personal tastes to embrace new audiences
• determine the ms’ market, budget, audience, and publisher expectations
• identify a ms’ structure, thesis, argument, bias, and balance, and prioritize concerns
• assess plot, structure, character, dialogue, setting, point of view, voice, tense in fiction
• prepare a ms assessment, annotated Table of Contents, revised outline, author letter
• communicate the edit via queries, emails/letters, Track Changes or a combination
• learn to work professionally and diplomatically to accommodate authorial sensitivities
• transfer editing skills to electronic media, learning basic SEO, and Web best practices;
• condense and clarify text without cutting core content, voice, or nuanced meaning;
• appreciate how freelance differs from in-house editing and build a portfolio

Teaching Method

Lecture, online exercises, discussion, multimedia guest lectures, and assignments.

Course Texts

Bell, Susan. The Artful Edit: On the Practice of Editing Yourself. NY: WW Norton, 2008.
Lerner, Betsy. Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers. NY: Riverhead, 2010.


Week 1 Oct 7 Editorial Roles, Stages, and the Author-Editor Relationship

Topic(s) —substantive and stylistic editing and its relationship to copy editing and proofreading; editorial titles/managerial roles; editor’s characteristics and skill sets; roles and scenarios; managing special cases (multiple authors, ghost writers, expert non-writer, long-distance author); setting professional boundaries; understanding magazine types, article formats and context.
Readings: Read Lerner Introduction and Ch 5. Bell Ch 1, 5.

Week 2 Oct 14 Manuscripts & Mandates

Topic(s) —trade vs scholarly publishing; sources of manuscripts; defining a list’s mandate; editor’s personal tastes and subjectivity; branding; agents, sub-agents, scouts and auctions; key book fairs; unsolicited ms; writing schools; competitions and prizes; magazines; the Web; radio, TV, film; self-publishing; sales forces and retailers; concept proposals; reader’s reports; rejection and offer letters; contracts and rights.
Readings: Read Lerner Ch 4, 7.
Guest: Taryn Boyd

Week 3 Oct 21 Substantive Editing Non-Fiction

Topic(s) —the author’s expectations; the book’s market and audience demographics; the publisher’s plans for the book; budgets; the first reading; assessing thesis, argument, bias, and balance; four basic structures; checklist of the component parts of a publication; packagers; annotated Table of Contents; a revised outline; how to mark up the ms with queries or edits; writing a letter to the author; thumbnails and schedules; setting a deadline; conducting a meeting with the author.
Readings: Read Lerner Ch 1, 9.
Guest: Jennifer Hale
Assignment 1 Due Oct 28 midnight

Week 4 Oct 28 Line Editing: Non-Fiction On and Offline

Topic(s) —condensing text without cutting core content; tone and distance; POV; active voice, better transitions, clarity, and concise language; biased language, sexism, racism; syntax; paragraphing and transitions; strong verbs; modifiers, cliché language; reading for the Web 101; keywords; posting and editing articles online; linking; citing and checking sources; adding photos, video, and audio; the writer-editor relationship online, editorial management and payment; editing e-books, pros and cons of onscreen vs hard copy editing; etiquette.
Readings: Read Bell Ch 3.
Guest: Alexandra Samur

Week 5 Nov 4 Substantive Editing Literary, Genre & Children’s Fiction

Topic(s) —Fiction as a special case; preserving the author’s voice; literary fiction (short story collections, anthologies, novellas); mysteries, romance, thrillers, historical fiction, and the audience expectations that drive their formats; picture books, chapter books, young adult novels, teen novels; design/chapter length issues; attention to vocabulary/reading level; series consistency; plot, structure, character, dialogue, setting, point of view, voice and tense.
Readings: Read Lerner Ch 2, 3, 8. Bell Ch 2, 4.
Guest: Alana Wilcox

Week 6 Nov 11 Line Editing Fiction

Topic(s) —beginnings; transitions and paragraphing; credibility; dialogue and natural idiom; pacing; undigested research, translating jargon; plot and stage managing; endings; practice edits of passages from either the ms assigned for the course and/or recent fiction read by the students for leisure.
Readings: Read Lerner Ch 10, 6.
Assignment 2 Due Nov 18 midnight

Week 7 Nov 18 The Working Freelance and In-house Editor

Topic(s) —freelance vs in-house editing; an editor’s career path; résumé, cover letter, and portfolio requirements; work scenarios; the editorial lifestyle and types of work; online editors; pay and job estimates; courses and resources to upgrade skills; an editor’s library; next steps.
Readings: in-lecture links
Guest: Anicka Quin
Assignment 3 Due Nov 25 at midnight


Marking Scheme
The grade for this course adds marks received for each of the following components:
Method Percent/Weight Due Dates
Assignment 1: manuscript assessment and revised ToC 25% Sunday Oct 28
midnight PST

Assignment 2: 10-page Edit suited to format of choice 30% Sunday Nov 18
midnight PST
Assignment 3: Letter to the author 30% Sunday Nov 25
midnight PST
Online participation (reading and responding to weekly discussion questions) 20%
TOTAL 100%

Assignment Details

Assignment #1 Manuscript Assessment—25 marks

Assess either the fiction or non-fiction manuscript provided for this class and discuss your evaluation in a memo directed to the Editor-in-Chief (or her equivalent). The memo should make clear the format and name of the publisher of the work and provide a 1-paragraph summary of the ms before an analysis of the manuscript’s top 5 strengths and weaknesses in descending order of priority. It should outline your suggested solutions to weaknesses you’ve noted and should include a revised Table of Contents reflecting your structural changes to adjust balance of pages, voices, length, pacing etc. Estimate the amount of time you and the author will require to go through various drafts and edits (substantive, line, copy). The memo should be 1500-2000 words. Submit to the instructor by email by the due date and time.

Assignment #2 10-pg Substantive and Stylistic Edit of the Manuscript—30 marks

Choose 10 consecutive pages of either the non-fiction or fiction manuscript provided (should be the same ms you did the assessment on) and substantively and stylistically edit these pages, restructuring where needed at the macro and micro level, according to the format for which you are publishing (restate print or e-book, magazine, web). This means assessing the audience’s expectations and reading tendencies and recasting as necessary for length (a book chapter, one or series of articles/posts), and indicating formatted items: links and anchor text, target keywords, illustrations, captions, credits, sidebars, lists, additional elements to complement the text including potential audio and video supplements etc.

Assignment #3 Letter to Author—25 marks

Write a letter to the author of the fiction or non-fiction manuscript you’ve chosen and edited. In this letter, introduce yourself as the editor, describe the manuscript’s top 5 strengths and outline the 5 key problems in order of priority. Discuss your proposed suggestions for addressing each of these issues and establish a work schedule indicating a deadline for the next draft. Include when you will next contact the author. The letter should be professional, tactful, and sensitive to the author’s intentions and 1500-2000 words. Submit to the instructor by email by the due date and time.

Participation—20 marks

Complete short weekly assignments (ungraded) as set out in the lectures and forum, read all fellow students’ posts and instructor examples (ms assessments, revised ToCs, letters), and participate in the online discussions at least once per question per week. For full marks you should try to contribute to all topics and should read all posts. This plus reading time should occupy approximately 6 hours per week.

Joy Gugeler has edited over 100 literary works of adult and YA fiction and non-fiction and 6 magazines, both print and online, since 1991 for ECW, Raincoast, and Beach Holme presses; ARC, Quarry, Room quarterlies; and Suite101, NowPublic, and Orato online. She operates Chameleon Consulting: Change Your Mind editing up to 10 titles a year and frequently juries national and provincial publishing awards and grants. She hosted CHLY’s Books & Bytes on Be the Media, and oversees Portal magazine and the editing and publishing of the Gustafson Chapbook series for VIU. She has hosted on-air programming for CBC radio and Bravo! and has reviewed books for the Globe and Mail, Vancouver Sun, and Ottawa Citizen. In 2001 she co-founded the Canadian Book Camp in Vancouver for children aged 11 to 16 and was on the board of the Red Cedar Award 2006-13. She sits on the board of the Vancouver Island Children’s Book Festival ( She has taught editing at Ryerson since 2002 and at SFU as a guest instructor in the Masters of Publishing and Summer Publishing Workshops (since 1996) where she hopes to soon defend her PhD in Communications/Publishing.

Taryn Boyd is the Associate Publisher of Touchwood Editions and Brindle & Glass Publishing in Victoria. She has also worked as the Education and Engagement Coordinator and as a sales rep for BC, Alberta and the territories for the Literary Press Group of Canada. She was the Managing Editor for Whitecap Books and frequently speaks to publishing classes.

Jennifer Hale is a book editor (with experience in magazines and newspapers) in all areas of book publishing—acquisitions, development, substantive editing, copy editing, and proofreading. For 15 years, she was the in-house senior acquisitions editor at ECW Press, but now works as a freelance editor for them, Wolsak & Wynn, and various other authors and publishers. She specializes in fiction, pop culture (TV, movies, music), memoirs, and non-fiction publishing. She also writes under the pseudonym Nikki Stafford, for various television companion guides on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, Angel, Alias, and Xena, and has become a television/radio/newspaper go-to person for discussions on pop culture, fandom, and specific television series. She does public speaking at libraries, universities, on television, and at fan conventions.

Anicka Quin is an award-winning editor and writer with a passion for building community while creating nimble, successful, and dynamic media. She is the Editor-in-Chief of Western Living and Vancouver Magazine and teaches at Capilano University. She is regularly called upon as a guest lecturer at higher-learning institutions and at national conferences.

Alexandra Samur is known for social media strategy, blogging, and packaging content and ideas to engage audiences via digital and traditional platforms, and providing media support for non-profits, educational institutions, and small businesses. She has worked for Echo Storytelling Agency, Open Space Architecture, Penner & Associates Interior Design, Paperny Entertainment, and the Asian Canadian Writers Workshop. She has also worked as a journalist for Enterprise Magazine, The Tyee, BC Business, BC Living,, OpenFile Vancouver, NowPublic, Ricepaper Magazine,, Adbusters, CBC Radio One and New York Magazine. She teaches digital journalism at Langara College and co-teaches a community journalism class for current and former Downtown Eastside residents at SFU Woodward’s. She was awarded a Tyee Fellowship to produce an investigative health series.

Alanna Wilcox is the Editorial Director of Coach House Books, an independent literary publisher of poetry, fiction, and select non-fiction. She is the co-founding editor of the uTOpia series of books about Toronto and the author of a novel, A Grammar of Endings. She lives in Toronto.