Pub Rants

Editor Dance

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STATUS: TGIF. And all three contracts concluded! And here’s some irony for you. Even after yesterday’s blog, I got a person who called me today about their screenplay and how it was guaranteed to generate some cash. Sigh.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? BELOVED WIFE by Natalie Merchant

Today I received yet another email that an editor was leaving his/her house. This one, however, didn’t specify a new home. Oh no, another good editor bites the dust.

This is the third email I’ve received in the last two weeks.

It’s no secret that the publishing world has a “use ‘em till you lose ‘em” approach because being an editor (and don’t laugh) is not a glamorous job. They deal with long hours (non-commiserate and non-commensurate! pay), lots of demands (from agents, authors, their bosses), and books that tank (in sales numbers) despite their love and tender care.

And no, it’s not all bad. Sometimes they find a gem, have an exciting auction, see a sleeper book fly off the shelves but for the most part, it’s just hard, hard work. And it wears them down.

And it’s so sad when I get the news of a departure. Someone I liked. Enjoyed working with. Knew their tastes and what would work for them. Now I’ll have to scout out whoever fills their shoes. See who gets added to the dance card.

This month I’m lucky. None of these editors had any of my authors’ books. Next month might be a different story.

13 Responses

  1. Anonymous said:

    Over on Peter Rubie’s web site there is a flick about the agency world. Apparently publishing houses are downsizing (ie getting rid of editors) and the lost editors are moving into agent positions and thereby getting paid out of the author’s cut instead of the publsher’s cut. It seems to be wise trend on the side of the publishing houses. In other words, they still exist , but with a different title.

  2. Anonymous said:

    I don’t suppose you could say which publishing houses are affected? Just curious!

  3. Anonymous said:

    More editors becoming agents, trying it out for a year or two then giving up because they can’t make a living.
    Been there with an agent who lasted a year. Enthusiastic, great rep as an editor, and then gone. She needed benefits. I needed an agent.

  4. Anonymous said:

    My first book went through THREE editors, and no, I don’t think it was because of me. 🙂

  5. Anonymous said:

    I started my career by writing a dozen books for Silhouette 1988-1993. My first, second, and fourth editors all quit (and left the industry).

    I sold my thirteenth book to Kensington as a single title romance around 1995. My editor was laid off (and the program was shut down).

    A friend of mine writing for another house has been through 5 editors there, as they all keep leaving.

    I currently for Tor Books, where my second editor resigned after a year and moved to another house. My current/third Tor editor has been there for years and doesn’t talk about leaving… but my career as taught me NEVER to count on editors staying where they are.

    Departing editors… It’s a lot like rain in London. Count on it.

  6. Rachel said:

    Hi, there. First-time commenter here! I just found your blog, and I’ve just finished reading all of the past entries. I have a question about something that you’ve said. In one of your entries (sorry, I’m not sure which one it was) you said that you often offer advice to your clients when you take on one of thier projects, but they don’t have to take it. Then you said that you won’t take on a project that needs more than a few revisions, because if the client chooses not to take your advice, you still have to feel comfortable sending it out to the editors the way it is. So, does that mean you won’t take on a project with one or two errors that can be easily changed, or a whole subplot/some other, larger change? Sorry if this is a little illegible – I just pulled an all-nighter at the airport.

  7. Anonymous said:

    All of that (will she or won’t she take on a client) comes down to comfort level (IMO). If Krisitn thinks she can work with a client she will take them on (with varying levels of revisions needed), but if she doesn’t feel like she can communicate or if there are just too many problems with a piece…it doesn’t feel comfortable. In other words, it is a case by case thing. – I think.

  8. joanne said:

    (non-commiserate pay)

    Love it! Assuming you meant ‘non-commensurate’, though?!

  9. Marianne Mancusi said:

    Sometimes you can get those editors back though! My editor at Dorchester left for Berkley, then my other editor at Berkley left for Avalon and so Berkley assigned me back to my original Dorchester editor to work on my Berkley books!!!!

    Sometimes editors playing musical publishing houses can work out in an author’s favor. Especially if the editor believes in the writer and wants to continue to work with them over at their new house.

    The ones you hate to hear are the ones who simply get laid off though. That is so sad. Hopefully they will land on their feet!


  10. Marion Gropen said:

    Not all editors leave the business, or even become agents. Some, as you noted, go to other houses. But some found new publishing houses. This is a good thing, I think, for all of us.

    Unfortunately, a large proportion of these folks don’t know much about the underpinnings of the business. (Actually, that’s good for me, ’cause teaching them the ropes is a large part of what I do. But it’s rather hard on them until things get ironed out.)

    My point: sometimes the silver lining is a new baby publisher. And those tend not to be announced immediately.

  11. Anonymous said:

    Kristin, I hope you can do a post sometime about what happens to an author when their editor departs and the project is orphaned. Is a new editor automatically assigned? If so, do you try to “sell” this editor on the project? Do you sometimes try to follow the editor if they move to a new house? If so, what are the contract ramifications? Thanks so much for your blog. I learn something new every day.

  12. dannyboy said:

    Most writers will sympathise with poor pay! And they don’t have the comfort of a monthly salary either. Try working on a project for two years, only to be told at the end of it that it’s “hard to sell”, and eventually, after another few months, getting an advance which, if you’re lucky, is about a quarter of what an editorial assistant would start on. And having it paid in three bits spread over 18 months.