A review of The Frugal Book Editor by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

Review by Marlan Warren 

The Frugal Editor fell into my lap like the proverbial manna from heaven. I received the e-book from author Carolyn Howard-Johnson, in exchange for an honest review.

Like most writers and editors, I worry a lot about punctuation, grammar, style and elusive typos. Author and seasoned publicist/journalist, Carolyn Howard-Johnson, offers a Table of Contents that is in itself a work of art with such promising and funny titles such as:

  • “Getting Cute with Caps”
  • “Effusive Italics”
  • “Quotationl Marks for the Two-Dumb Reader”
  • “Ellipsis Dots Gone Wild”
  • “What About Those Double Adjectives?”

What I found inside this comprehensive handbook is a well organized wealth of information that covers the most common editing questions that may still niggle even the most seasoned of editors.

Howard-Johnson also makes the valid point that even if you were an English teacher or scholar, those “credits” don’t perfectly transfer to the knowledge required for acceptable book editing. Likewise, although she provides many handy tips, she still urges authors to seek professional editing assistance. Four eyes are better than two, right?

In addition to its 18 chapters, The Frugal Editor offers seven appendices that include “My Generous Agents” (Howard-Johnson has gathered responses from agents about what turns them on and off…Priceless!); as well as sample letters for queries,  including those for media kits and film consideration book submissions.

This book fills a very special niche between the dry, technical style manuals and the more user-friendly, kinder-gentler teacher approach. Howard-Johnson’s presentation gives us the feeling that we are seated in her classroom (she is, in fact, a UCLA Writers Program Extension instructor) with the benefit that she will not disappear at the end of the semester.

The Frugal Editor is not just one more book of rules and regulations regarding grammar and style for professional or amateur book editors. The ease and simplicity with which this book is presented (deftly organized) belies what I’m sure was a mammoth task:  compiling all this detailed info, leaving no author’s manuscript need unturned.

There’s probably a manual called “Book Editing for Dummies,” but this handbook, like all Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s books (e.g., The Frugal Book Promoter), falls into the “Not for Dummies” category.

After reading The Frugal Editor, I wrote author Carolyn Howard-Johnson and suggested the book’s motto could be “You have to be THIS smart to read this book.” She promptly asked me for permission to use that as a slogan.

Permission granted!

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