So yeah, I've been sipping deeply from my stained, rapidly-cooling mug of Haterade when writing these columns, ranting about the dumb things authors do, the dumb things agents do, and the dumb (but slightly more defensible) things editors do. But this week, I thought I'd cut out the petty shit, pull back, and look at the big picture. I don't often find myself thinking deep thoughts about the state of the book biz as a whole, and I never thought this was an appropriate venue for discussing it - I mean, seriously, that's what Sara Nelson's letter from the editor is for. But recently, my thoughts turned to the sentiments voiced by a certain RPMCESTMOI, who had this to say in response to one of my columns:
Dear fool, Did you ever consider the possibility that editors like to edit books, and that some have vocations as opposed to careers? And that their position in the corporate firmament does not mean dick-shit to them because they love doing what they do? Of course you didn't.Ok, right off the bat: 1) dick-shit? I'm uncomfortable, and thinking unbidden thoughts of Dustin Diamond. Ugh. 2) If you have a 'vocation' rather than a 'career,' you probably also have 'a trust fund' rather than 'a steaming pile of credit card debt.' So fuck you, RPMCESTMOI! Wait. Uh-oh, the comment is still making me feel guilty. And here's why.
I do think it's bad that some young editors are more concerned with moving up through the ranks than with having integrity, acquiring books that have some shred of goodness associated with them, and actually nurturing their authors' careers. It's not really their fault, of course. The quest to find the next megaselling thing, the speed with which the hot stuff sells, and the hugely skewed crap-to-good ratio forces editors to make snap decisions based on wisp-thin proposals (see: blogger book deals). Also, young editors are often charged with adding to their employers' lists as fast as they can, and they're often punished if they hold out for quality rather than buying in bulk. But that doesn't fully excuse the fact that most of us seem happy to settle for short-term rewards rather than hold out for something lastingly better. Of course, there are some other unignorable problems facing young editors: the rising cost of living in NYC vs. steadily not-rising publishing salaries, the increasing me-me-I-get-credit-ness of our culture vs. the inherent behind-the-scenesness of being an editor. It kind of seems like the best and the brightest tend to get weeded out by these factors, and the careerist grinds are the ones left behind to run the show.
But you know what? Books are important. Making good books happen is hugely important. Editors, I am being sincere here (on Gawker no less!): get out there and make it happen.
Unsolicited is . . . well, you know.