Perhaps it was unfair of me to call this editor a dumb a**; what I should have first acknowledged was that she was doubtless just following company policy, stupid though it may be. The official rationale behind such policy is that the editor is the conduit for all author/company exchanges, in both directions (i.e. from the author and to the author)--if another editor wants to ask my author for a blurb, that request will (or should) come to me, because I'm in the best position to know the disposition of the author toward such requests--to know, that he is feeling anxious about completing a draft of his current book, and is consciously trying to cut down on "outside" distractions (e.g. book reviews, magazine articles and--yes--blurb requests)--and, so, to know that this is a particularly bad time for such a request. In that direction, such policy makes sense: an editor, attuned to his authors' individual circumstances, can (if needed) serve as a gate-keeper/filter/contextualizer for the various queries and requests that various departments might have.
An author who just finished taking my buzz class today told me her editor wouldn't give her the last name of a sales rep who did something lovely for her last book. "Just write to her and give it to me and I'll get it to her," she offered. When the author asked why she couldn't just send it herself, the editor said: "We can't have our authors communicating with sales reps."
In the other direction, though? In a company as large as MultiMerge Inc (the corporation for which most of us work these days), it's in the best interests of both editor and author for the author to have and maintain as many personal contacts within the company as possible. The reasons for this are self-evident: more contacts=the possibility for more love. An editor is but one person; and since it's rarely the case that any of my colleagues is going to care as much about my authors as I do, it's a critical (if unacknowledged) aspect of my job to increase the love, to extend to as many departments as possible an awareness of the author behind the book, the author as (gulp) human being [this tends to work best in cases where the author is, in fact, a human being]--to get others to be invested in, indeed feel responsible for, my author's success.
It boils down to this: an editor's job is to do everything in his (legal) power to further the success of his author. Sometimes this means helping out in arenas (marketing, publicity, promotions, subrights) that are officially beyond the bounds of his responsibility, to ensure that the proper attention & care are being given. Sometimes this means placing a boot where it doesn't, institutionally, belong--in the back, say, of the marketing department or the publicity department or the art department, arenas that are technically outside the editor's official sphere of oversight. Often it means schooling the author in the various ways she can help herself: building visibility by writing for magazines; developing and maintaining relationships within the writing and reviewing communities; taking an active role in self-promotion (via websites and blogs, e.g.); expressing gratitude toward all booksellers, even the ones who've just done a lousy job promoting your reading; building a database of bookselling contacts, and engaging them as personally as possible--by sending thank-you notes after events, and Christmas cards, and personally inscribed ARCs of the next book; maintaining similar contacts with readers who come to your events and website; and so on.
Now let's return to the editor mentioned at the top of this "essay." Friend, tell me this: why would we encourage authors to be so attentive to the bookseller AND the customer, but discourage the same behavior toward the people actively involved in selling the book? It's a stupid policy--a dumb a** notion designed, no doubt, to protect the delicate flowers in sales from the pestering of pesky authors. Yet sales reps as a group are among the best and most passionate readers in the world; they play a HUGE role in an author's chances for success--and, in my experience, they generally love the opportunity to interact to some degree with authors they admire. [And if they don't especially admire your author? An earnest expression of appreciation for a job well done is likely to do wonders...] So when an author wants to take the initiative to write a thank-you note, why not give her the address? Do you really think the rep is going to complain?
According to the letter of the law, you behaved appropriately by following MultiMerge policy; and you're likewise blameless for any minor deleterious effects following said policy might have. You're just being a dutiful and conscientious employee--and fair enough. But sometimes duty requires you (to borrow & misappropriate a notion put forth long ago by Jonathan Galassi) to be something of a double-agent. If institutional stupidity presents a roadblock to your author's success, then some degree of circumnavigation is called for....And while working for a corporation as large as MultiMerge often means having to contend with (among other things) a remarkably extensive list of regs & policies,
Statute XI. Clause B: "Editors shall be responsible for and answerable to all Author queries and concerns, and shall serve as primary conduit for same..."its size also allows editors perhaps slightly greater opportunity to work both sides, since the consolidation of MultiMerge's back-office operations (through its multiple mergers) has left all parties spread, shall we say, a little thin. I'm not advocating for murder, or thievery, or a Tanya Harding-like sabotaging of the competition--just for advocacy itself, and the recognition that the more genuine connections your author has in-house, the greater her chances for success. And, so, for yours.
"Writing is considered a profession, and I don't think it is a profession. I think that everyone who does not need to be a writer, who thinks he can do something else, ought to do something else. Writing is not a profession but a vocation of unhappiness. I don't think an artist can ever be happy."
PRACTICAL MARKETING [Courtesy Zornhau, 2005]
"They should put the 1st couple of pages up in subway adverts. Having read them several times, you'd feel compelled to try the book - if it was any good."
PLATE OF SHRIMP [Courtesy Alex Cox’s REPO MAN, circa 1984]
"A lot of people don't realize what's really going on. They view life as a bunch of unconnected incidences and things. They don't realize that there's this like lattice of coincidence that lays on top of everything. I'll give you an example, show you what I mean. Suppose you're thinking about a plate of shrimp. Suddenly somebody will say like "plate" or "shrimp" or "plate of shrimp" out of the blue, no explanation. No point in looking for one either. It's all part of a cosmic unconsciousness."
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- ▼ February (16)