Editors, where are you? – A Rant

I’ve got steam coming out of my ears. No, not from eating Bertie Botts beans, from a build-up of frustration. I’m going to have a rant.

First I wrote that as: ‘I’m sorry about this, but I’m going to have a rant.’ But I’m not in the mood to be sorry, so I’m not apologising. And I may regret this… no, I swear, I’m not going to regret it, this is going to feel too good.

Where to start?

Corporations. Big corporations. You know what they’re like: everything’s about the bottom line, chasing the big wins, the immediate gains. Who matters to the corporations? The clients, anyone who will buy the product. What about the workers, the people who produce the goods? Well, you’d better hope you’re the lucky one who catches the boss’s eye, who makes a quick splash and gets a name for being a money-spinner, because otherwise they don’t give a damn.

Right now, in the major economies of the world, we are facing a crisis of youth unemployment. Maybe this is partly to do with contracting economies, but that’s not the whole story, is it? The guys in their forties and fifties are holding all the jobs, because they’re the one who know what they’re doing, who provide immediate value to the company. In the corporate mindset, school leavers and new graduates are worthless, because they don’t have a clue – yet.

Before you think I’m disparaging the younger generation, let me tell you my gripe: companies don’t train people any more. Okay, massive over-generalisation, but, you know, I’m not in the mood to be all PC about this. I believe that, in general, short-term-ism rules. Nowadays, if you want to get training, you have to do it yourself – pay for courses, seek out mentors, and basically work your butt off, all while trying to hold down your day job if you’re lucky enough to have one.

You may be wondering why this bothers me on a personal level, since I’m one of those lucky forty-somethings.

It’s because I write. And I’ve been writing just long enough now to have realised that its not easy, producing a novel of a decent quality, or even half-decent quality. Like any other skill, it takes training and practice and hard grind. But just as any number of training courses won’t necessarily make someone an instant success story in industry, working at writing alone doesn’t get you anywhere. It requires mentoring, someone in the industry, more knowledgable than yourself, to take the time to look at your work, gently identify the flaws, and point you in the right direction.

People say publishing is facing a crisis. Well, of course it is, and you can’t place all the blame on a generation that supposedly doesn’t read. No, the problem is that it’s an industry dominated by a few big corporations. You see where I’m going with this, don’t you?

Who is taking the time to mentor new authors? Who is looking, not for books that will sell, but for authors who are willing to develop themselves? Who is training the authors of tomorrow?

I’m sick and tired of arrogant publishers who use agents as their gatekeepers and hang around waiting for a brilliant book to land in their lap with no effort on their part. I’m fed up with Literary Agents who expect an author’s manuscript to be so perfect when it arrives on their desk that all they need do is mail it to a publisher. And I’m gutted to see the closure of bookshop after bookshop, not only because of competition from on-line retailers, but because the quality and scope of books on offer from said big publishers is plummeting.

You’ve received something like this, haven’t you: “We regret that, owing to the enormous volume of manuscripts that we consider, we are unable to provide individual comment…”

Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. If you provide no feedback, that same author is going to send you another flawed manuscript, and another, and another, all the time wondering what it is they’re doing wrong.

As I write this, I’m struggling through the third major edit of the first book in my Transhumanity series. So you can see where I’m coming from. I don’t think it’s blowing my own trumpet to say that, if I can get this series finished, structurally edited, line-edited and polished, there are people who are going to enjoy reading it. Possibly, they might even be willing to pay a few dollars for the privilege. But how am I supposed to get to that point? No one in the industry has helped, or ever will help.

Individuals have helped. Other struggling wannabe authors have taken the precious time to read my work and comment, bless their hearts. I wanted to name them here, but this rant is going on a bit, so I’ll have to save that for another blog. The local council and library has helped, by bringing writing workshops to our little corner of Australia, bless them, too. But is that enough?

I’m now seriously thinking about self-publishing. Maybe it will condemn my books to unread obscurity, who knows, but it’s becoming a matter of principle. Why should I go through all the hard grind of training myself as a writer, only to give away a hefty chunk of my earnings to some faceless corporation that offers no author development whatsoever? No wonder publishing is in crisis.

Is it corporate realities and bean-counters stopping Editors from taking risks on new authors? I suspect so. And we desperately need good Editors – not the type who just proof-read and pick up the odd grammar mistake or missing comma, I mean the ones who have a stake in your product, and are actively trying to develop your book to be the best it can possibly be.

Professional Editors, where the bloody hell are you, when we need you the most?