Saturday, June 02, 2012

Working 9 to 9: editors are more accessible than ever

Submitted by Francesca Main on Thu, 05/31/2012 - FutureBook

I can't speak for all editors, of course, and can only assume that there is truth in the assertion that many editors, particularly younger ones, "never say no". But for many editors, particularly younger ones (and as a child of the 80s I'm counting myself amongst them, despite an increasing number of grey hairs), this simply isn't the case at all. For one thing, we learned from the best; in my case as an intern for Carole Blake at Blake Friedmann and as an editorial assistant to Simon Prosser at Hamish Hamilton, who each led by example in replying to submissions promptly and courteously, with thought and care, and with an inherent respect for the work of all authors. As a result, I always aim to acknowledge submissions on the day of receipt and respond within a month, and I know many editors (of all ages) who work the same way.
I say ‘aim to' because this is absolutely the intention, but sometimes the reality falls short. And this is why: because editors today have broader roles than ever before, less administrative support than ever before, and more submissions than ever before.
We have broader roles because we are working in an ever-changing and ever-challenging world – we have to stay on our toes, diversify, and adapt to new media and developments, whilst staying true to the core principles of our industry and doing the work that editors have always done. In our increasingly digital and international age, editors have a wider range of inter-departmental responsibilities, and a greater variety of ways in which to promote authors. The range of activities we are involved in behind the scenes is vast, and it often keeps us away from our desks. Yet we still need to edit (and we do – don't get me started on all those ‘death of the editor' articles. . . ), and brief jackets, and write copy, and meet production deadlines, and tirelessly champion our books both in-house and out. And read submissions. And respond to them.
With so much energy focused upon the books and authors that we do publish, perhaps responses to those we don't are lacking. But it's undeniably hard to keep up when we are receiving more submissions than ever – in no small part due to advances in technology which enable us to forge connections instantly and globally. As a result, we receive submissions not just from agents in the UK, but from agents and publishers all over the world.
But – and I say this cautiously, because I am grateful for every manuscript I receive and approach each one with optimism – the number of incoming submissions doesn't reflect the fact that we are publishing more selectively. So far this year, from the beginning of January to the end of May, I have received 156 novels on submission from agents. Of those, I have acquired three. That's a lot of rejection correspondence.
Full piece at FutureBook

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