How Editing Children’s Books Is Like Baseball

Nonfiction Baseball Picturebook

By Sara E. Hoffmann, School & Library Series Managing Editor

I’m often asked about my job editing children’s books. There are many ways to describe my day-to-day, but I really think the best analogy is that editing books is like baseball...

In some ways, this is an unlikely post for me to be writing. After all, I’m a words Nonfiction Children's Book Playing Pro Baseball person, really not a sports person. (Rewind to me as a kid, daydreaming that I’m Laura Ingalls Wilder or Ramona Quimby while trying to inconspicuously stay at the back of the line for a turn at bat in a Phys Ed ball game.)

Yet there’s just something appealing to me about baseball. One of the things I appreciate most about it is its quirkiness. That aspect of the sport, more than anything, is what reminds me so much of editing.

The Quirky Joy of Editing Books

Nonfiction children's books Baseball is FunGood baseball players and good editors are detail people, and detail people can be…well, “a little different,” as we say up here in Minnesota when we mean weird. Take Mark Fidrych, for example.

For those who don’t know, Mark Fidrych was a pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. He was six foot three with blond, curly hair and pretty hard to miss. A Tigers minor league coach nicknamed him The Bird (as in Big Bird of Sesame Street fame), a name that stuck for the duration of his career. He talked to baseballs during games and insisted a ball be removed from a game if he deemed it “bad.” He’d also walk out to the pitcher’s mound before each inning and manicure the dirt. He’d remove divots he thought shouldn’t be there and shape the mound until it looked just right.

3 Essential Pregame Editing Steps

Like The Bird, I can be particular when it comes time to take to the field. (My field, of course, is a desk equipped with my trusty computer and the latest copy of the Chicago Manual of Style.) Namely, I have a few big pre-game rituals.

Nonfiction children's books Super Baseball Infographics

1. I can’t edit a manuscript until the front matter is in place, including all title-page text and copyright information. The very first thing I do is drop all of that in.

2. I also have to have a favorite pen or two in reach, preferably one in black and one in a favorite color.

3. Choosing a font for the work I’m editing is of paramount importance. Sometimes it’s a Calibri kind of day. Other times, the font must have a serif. (At certain times, I’m just not feeling no-frills fonts.)

Do you have any pre-work rituals that you follow? If so, I’d love to hear about them. Feel free to leave a comment!


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