Edit

It seems improbable to me that Danny Fisher has a day job given how frequently he posts things to the internets (including Lethal Weapons clips to my Facebook posts). Earlier today, he posted this to Twitter.

The article, about Amazon changing terms of service to publishers around the world, includes this aside:

Authors will suffer as publishers claim that paying large advances is increasingly risky and, of course, authors are traditionally paid less on print books if publishers concede high discounts. On ebooks they are paid a proportion of net receipts so higher terms for Amazon will result in less money going to authors,” said Solomon… The changes, she said, “highlight one wider, and growing, trend across all publishing and bookselling. Namely, that the author is the only 100% essential component in the creation of a book.

On a not-at-all unrelated topic, I received a lovely email from the editor of my book the other day. It included not only her own very encouraging and supportive feedback but the feedback of an anonymous peer reviewer which was also quite helpful. Let me tell you. When you’re in the middle of a large project, deep in the weeds, it’s easy to get lost, to feel like you’re not at all sure you’re saying things that make sense or merely talking out of your ass. So it was good day.

Also in not-unrelated news, for most of my professional academic career, I’ve served on a variety of committees — as an editor, advisor, peer reviewer, and so forth. I have been the man behind the curtain who herds all the cats to pull off a conference or symposium (often with amazing help and support from others). It’s generally the kind of work that goes unnoticed (unless it’s done poorly). I can attest from both sides of that fence — as the creator of scholarly content and one of the invisible folks who makes it possible for scholarly content to see the light of day — all persons are important. All forms of work are valuable.

Think back to the last really great book you read. Fiction or non-fiction. It wasn’t just the author who created it. And it wasn’t just a bookseller (local independent, online MegaCorp, or brick and mortar MegaCorp) who got into to your hands. A dozen or more people are responsible for that book being both really good and in your hands. Now think of the last book you read that was genuinely crap. And not crap because of the tangible details but crap on technical levels — being poorly copyedited, badly researched, full of factual errors. Yes, the author made some mistakes. But so did the editors and a dozen other people whose jobs it is to make sure the book isn’t crap.

That’s what you’re paying for. It’s not unlike the movies, really, except that the dozens of people who are responsible for making a movie happen all get their names in the credits. Perhaps we should starting doing that with books, too.

This isn’t to say that the publishing industry — especially academic book publishing, lord knows! — is not without its flaws. There are plenty of ways to critique and improve upon the publishing model, including some valid and wholly revolutionary ideas. However, let’s not kid ourselves. Really good writing can arise spontaneously and be self-published. But it’s not as common as our culture — obsessed as it is with individual genius — would have you believe. (Kerouac’s On the Road scroll would still be a scroll without some help from an editor.) No, really good writing is most often a collaborative affair, especially if there’s only one author listed.

Which is really my long winded way of saying thank you, thank you to all the editors and other folks working behind the scenes whose names never appear in the credits. Much appreciation.

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