I’m not going to dive into the Hachette vs. Amazon fracas. There are steadier minds than mine currently involved in that, although I will say that there are a few authors I won’t be buying books from any time soon. I don’t mind a healthy debate (I am an ENTJ, after all), but propagating untruths is counter-productive in the long-term.
What I wanted to cover today, however, is related to the Amazon/Hachette thing. It’s about editors. I’ve been reading a lot about Big 5 editors over the past year. How they’re selfless, overworked, underpaid, and have to do too many other jobs. I have followed the trials of several writers as they’ve submitted manuscripts to publishers, only to wait and wait and wait! because…yep, you guessed it…the editors are overworked, underpaid and have to do too many other jobs. In fact, I now tend to regard Yer Average Big 5 Editor like this:
If you consider each chocolate to be a manuscript, you start getting some idea of how overworked those poor editors really are.
But seriously, let’s examine that metaphor a little more carefully. If a person really is as overworked and underpaid as we’re constantly told a Big 5 Editor is, how effective is she? Look at all the overworked, underpaid people who surround you in your daily life. Would you consider them to be productive? If a Big 5 Editor is in a time crunch, will she (a) push back against an unfair workload, or (b) give the work the barest minimum possible and move on to the next task on her gargantuan list? I’ve read about shoddy editorial work from Big 5 houses as much as the next writer, so I think I know which option is more likely.
These people, then, are supposed to be gatekeepers? Ones who can’t even get back to writers about their submissions within, oh, few years? (I’d link to different blogs but there are so many writers out there who’ve been left hanging for months, extending into years (including me) that you can just search for them.)
Here’s the difference between a Big 5 Editor and a Freelance Editor. When a Freelance Editor has enough work, she doesn’t take on any more. She usually puts up a sign that says, “My submission queue is full. Please check back in x months”. Unlike a Big 5 Editor, a Freelance Editor is more likely to concentrate on quality because she isn’t stressed or overworked. What I’d like to know is, how can this model possibly be detrimental to books or to their readers? Because that’s what we keep hearing. Somehow the stressed-out Big 5 Editor–constantly afraid of missed deadlines, bad first-week sales figures, bad cover art, corporate downsizing, sickness, looming manuscripts, conferences, marketing calls, etc. etc.–equals quality, while the structured Freelance Editor–who only takes on what she can finish–equals dross. It doesn’t make any kind of sense, does it?
Yes, of course I know there are self-published works out there that have been written in a day and flung up on various ebook sites. But I also know there are self-published works out there that go through the same kind of process as traditionally published books. The only difference is that it’s the author’s publishing enterprise that’s controlling the workflow, not a third party.
You know how you were (and still are) told that the best person to look after your interests is yourself? How is it that that advice holds true for things like finance and health, and yet is untrue for the very personal product of your sweat and imagination? Seems to me that a lot of authors are being sold a bill of goods and the problem is, they’re buying into it. As JA Konrath says (although I don’t agree with him all the time), very “Stockholmy“.
PS Sandal Press has two (edited) releases in September, together with a two-month promotion. Go to the Sandal Press blog for more details!