So, I talked earlier about the whole notion of paying percentages.
I want to mention one last thing about it, and that’s the notion that everyone other than the author provides “day labor.” What do I mean by “day labor”?
Everyone who reads my blog knows how I feel about giving a percentage of any kind of your property for day labor. (Like giving the gardener a percentage of your house for trimming a hedge.)
Oh, the word “day laborers.” It’s implied that you could go down to the street corner and hire anyone to do precisely the same job. And it may be true that some of the people in publishing do work that is noncreative and fungible. But…all of them? Really? Getting your book edited is like getting your hedge trimmed?
Let’s be more specific. You think that a good substantive editor can’t act as a true creative partner?
Look, I get that some editors are crap–I don’t have the longevity that Kris and Dean do, but I do keep my ear to the ground, and I have friends who gossip. I know that there are editors who don’t edit. I know there are editors who edit badly. I know there are editors who suggest changes just so they can feel like they did something.
But I also know there are editors who can work with an author, not against her, to help produce the best book possible. (I had one.) I know that there are editors who are so magical, authors will take paycuts to work with her. (I don’t know this personally, but based on available evidence, I’d be willing to bet good money that Angela James is one.)
Many editors, in fact, edit late at night or on the weekends. They edit when they’re visiting their families over Christmas (personal experience again here). They do so carefully, methodically, and with an eye toward helping the author write the best book she can manage. I’m kind of offended on behalf of some of the amazing editors out there—people who are vastly underpaid and underappreciated. I get that I’m supposed to disrespect traditional publishing at this point, but I can’t stomach talking like that about people who spend 60-80 hours a week making almost nothing, while living in one of the most expensive cities on the planet.
They do that because they really, truly believe in making amazing books. That just makes me angry.
You can talk about authors being underpaid, but editors are underpaid, too–and the very first person I could see myself paying a (time-limited) percent to is an amazing editor. These people may be attached to a business model that doesn’t make a lot of sense to you, but that’s no reason to denigrate what they do.
And maybe I’m just showing my colors here. Because here’s the other thing—I am okay with not maximizing my income. It’s totally fine with me if I make a little less money, if that means I’m paying someone enough that they can earn a living wage. I don’t need all my business deals to cut the other party to the bone. I don’t want to screw anyone. Just because I won’t be the frog doesn’t mean I have to be the monkey.
I’m being very careful with how I spend money now, because I don’t know how much I’m going to make. But if I start making reasonable profits, I don’t mind sharing them with the people who are most vital to my success. Maybe that’s crappy business sense, but whatever. I didn’t take this step so that I could replicate the things that most bug me about the industry.
Okay. Rant over.