Why the editor at your publisher is so hard to get ahold of

I recently saw a picture of the publishing industry that blew my mind. Here, in a graphic from Al Mossawi, are the imprints of the Big 5 publisher Penguin Random House.

Your editor’s world

All the other big publishers look like this.

Consider your editor’s job.

They’re probably one of four or five acquisitions and developmental editors at their imprint. That imprint is one of dozens and dozens at their publishing company.

Their support staff have been trimmed to the bone.

Proposals are flooding in.

They’re besieged by partially developed manuscripts from authors.

And their job is to create a hit — or at least avoid a miss — that will stand out from all those other books from their fellow imprints and from other publishers.

Because one hit will make up for lots of misses.

They may focus on the title, the emphasis, the audience, the positioning, and the cover, but they’re not going to get in there and start tinkering with the words and the table of contents. They just don’t have time.

What your publisher is thinking

Now consider the job of the people running these publishing organizations.

They have thousands of titles coming out. Most of them won’t make back their advances. But somewhere in that morass are dozens of moderately successful books and a few surprise hits.

Given the massive power of Amazon to negotiate prices along with the high cost of printing, they feel constant pressure to cut costs. If they’ve just been bought by private equity, as Simon & Schuster just was, I’m sure the pressure is increasing.

Looking at that chart, what would a typical CEO do?

First, combine imprints and reduce the number of editors and publishers (imprint managers) you have to pay. Consumers don’t know or understand the names of most imprints, so they won’t likely notice.

Load more work onto editors. They’re just taking crap shoots already, why not try more?

Reduce the size of advances or eliminate them altogether.

Focus less on bookstore marketing, since more and more book sales go through Amazon.

Cut the publicity staff and make them work on more books.

And in the extreme, attempt to merge with other big publishers to cut costs even more.

Your visibility is proportional to your past sales

Now do you understand why your editor is so hard to get a hold of? Their workload is insane, and they’re worried about their future.

As an author, if you’ve got a track record of selling a lot, you’ll get the attention you deserve.

If you don’t — or if, heaven forbid, you’re a new author — you’re pretty much on your own.

You need to get your own editor.

You need to hire your own publicist.

You need to do your own promotion.

It may seem insane that they just paid you $10,000 or $50,000 or $150,000 for an advance and they won’t respond to your emails — but that’s how publishing works now.

They’ll design a cover. They’ll copy edit your manuscript. They’ll get it printed and make sure it’s visible on Amazon.

The rest is up to you.

Is it any wonder so many authors are hiring hybrid publishers that actually have the bandwidth to work to help them succeed?

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

One Comment