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Old 12-31-2009, 12:34 PM   #1
HarryT
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BBC R4 programme about the role of the editor

For those who ask "what do publishers do to deserve being paid", this fascinating BBC Radio 4 programme about the role of the editor may be of interest:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode...ok_27_12_2009/

Description from the BBC site:

Mariella Frostrup and her guests discuss a generally unheralded figure in the writing of a book - its editor.

Mariella talks to Diana Athill, the former editor of novelists including VS Naipaul, John Updike and Jean Rhys, and herself the author of Stet, an acclaimed memoir of her life in publishing.

John Carey, the author of a recent biography of William Golding, explains how Golding's masterpiece Lord of the Flies was saved from the rejects pile - and extensively remodelled - by Golding's first editor.

The editor and writer Jenny Uglow reveals some of the tricks of her trade, and the novelists Giles Foden and DJ Taylor discuss how novelists rely on - and sometimes ignore - their editors, from Dickens to the present day.
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Old 12-31-2009, 01:25 PM   #2
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Thanks for the link Harry.

An interesting listen; but not entirely convincing about the necessity of editors imho.

Interesting that professional editors appeared in the 1930s to deal with matters of taste; especially in the UK for works coming from the USA. Things have changed quite a lot since then.
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Old 01-01-2010, 08:45 AM   #3
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Interesting, Harry. Thanks for the link.
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Old 01-01-2010, 12:33 PM   #4
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Thanks Harry!
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Old 01-02-2010, 08:20 AM   #5
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What you must remember, Sparrow, is that 'publishing' in the good ol' days was pretty well a simple deal between an author and a printer. When publishing became a money-spinning industry, some form of editorial quality control had to be introduced. After forty-odd years as a professional writer and editor, I can assure you that NOTHING should go to print without serious, pro editorial intervention. Only crass amateurs believe otherwise -- and the result is the deluge of arrogantly self-published nonsense that now confronts someone browsing for a book. Some self-publishers are sound, painstaking operators, but they are in a tiny minority and I think would be the first to agree that it's very difficult for the potential reader to sort the wheat from the chaff in a world where writing and publishing is made too easy. That everyone has a book in them might well be true ... but not necessarily a good book. An editor is necessary to spot the difference and to enable a good writer to get the best out of his work on behalf of the folks at the top of the food chain; the readers. Neil

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Old 01-02-2010, 09:15 AM   #6
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But listening to the programme, it seems that some 'editors' are more counsellors than anything else - filling up hot water bottles and offering advice on schooling for off-spring. That didn't convince me they were improving the quality of a writer's output.

Also, when it was mentioned that Jenny Uglow was A. S. Byatt's editor, it made me think that maybe the editor is the reason why I can't get on with Byatt.

And finally, most of the books in the shops aren't much good, even though they have been editored (just like most self-published stuff that hasn't).
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Old 01-02-2010, 09:30 AM   #7
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I gotta agree with Sparrow as far as current publishing is concerned. I think a lot of the editors these days are not very competent at editing and more like managers or counselors or hand-holders or author reps at publishing production meetings. All you have to do is look at the tripe on the shelves, not to mention any names, but the category of Dan Brown's latest comes to mind.

I think in the past the editors were truly editors and worked with the authors to produce the best product they could -- and certainly some of the small presses and some of the editors at the big corporations do that now, but I think like with many other things it's more what can we convince the sheep to buy, that working to create a product of worth.
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Old 01-02-2010, 09:38 AM   #8
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I gotta agree with Sparrow as far as current publishing is concerned. I think a lot of the editors these days are not very competent at editing and more like managers or counselors or hand-holders or author reps at publishing production meetings. All you have to do is look at the tripe on the shelves, not to mention any names, but the category of Dan Brown's latest comes to mind.

I think in the past the editors were truly editors and worked with the authors to produce the best product they could -- and certainly some of the small presses and some of the editors at the big corporations do that now, but I think like with many other things it's more what can we convince the sheep to buy, that working to create a product of worth.
Do you have any reason to suppose that there is any more "trash" on the shelves today than there was 20 or 30 years ago? I've certainly not noticed any particular change in its preponderance in my "awareness" of the book industry.

Why pick out Mr. Brown, by the way? His latest book was highly commercially successful. Have you read it? I did, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Old 01-02-2010, 09:59 AM   #9
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Do you have any reason to suppose that there is any more "trash" on the shelves today than there was 20 or 30 years ago? I've certainly not noticed any particular change in its preponderance in my "awareness" of the book industry.

Why pick out Mr. Brown, by the way? His latest book was highly commercially successful. Have you read it? I did, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Just based on my experience Harry. It's more about marketing today than it was even then and certainly moreso than 50 years ago. (btw highly commercial success and great literature don't necessarily have anything in common.) Many #1 bestsellers these days are more dependent on the advertising budget than the quality of the work.

Yes I purchased the Dan Brown book and agree with the multiple reviews that said it read like a draft. I read the first chapter before moving on to something else, I may return at some point, but it's way down on my list, just as is South of Broad by Pat Conroy another one that could use some serious editing. Glad you enjoyed the Dan Brown.

Also there is a difference in taste/style/genre and it well-edited.
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Old 01-03-2010, 07:49 AM   #10
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Do you have any reason to suppose that there is any more "trash" on the shelves today than there was 20 or 30 years ago? I've certainly not noticed any particular change in its preponderance in my "awareness" of the book industry.
I think there is just more on the shelves today, and in consequence more trash. Un-edited self publishing, or the argument that e-books remove the need and cost of a publisher, will increase the amount of this output that is unreadable.
The cost of editing, marketing and producing a well crafted story is the largest part of a Publishers expense and are required regardless of the method of delivery to the reader.
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Old 01-04-2010, 09:32 AM   #11
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Not sure there's proportionately more trash, but i do think there are fewer gems. Publishers are less into the risk of backing (financially) a piece of work that may be universally recognised as brilliant but is far more likely to be recognised by a tiny sliver of the buying public. I blame the demise of the Net Book Agreement.

Is it too flippant to say, Sparrow, that anyone who dealt with my hot water bottles and my childcare WOULD make me a better writer – by freeing up some hours and mental energy? ;0) I do know that wasn't your point.

Thanx for the link, Harry.
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Old 01-04-2010, 09:42 AM   #12
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Is it too flippant to say, Sparrow, that anyone who dealt with my hot water bottles and my childcare WOULD make me a better writer – by freeing up some hours and mental energy? ;0) I do know that wasn't your point.
I take your point, but I think editors are supposed to 'improve' books not writers.
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Old 01-04-2010, 11:07 AM   #13
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editors are supposed to 'improve' books not writers.
Yep!
I was slithering off topic, of course, onto my ol' hobby horse about a writer's Working Hours being taken seriously.
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Old 01-04-2010, 04:28 PM   #14
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The New York Times yesterday published a very good piece by Jonathan Galassi, chairman and editor in chief at Farrar Straus & Giroux on the need for (good) editors. Few writers have what Hemingway once declared a necessity, a "built-in shit detector", so good editors are required.
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Old 01-04-2010, 04:38 PM   #15
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The New York Times yesterday published a very good piece by Jonathan Galassi, chairman and editor in chief at Farrar Straus & Giroux on the need for (good) editors. Few writers have what Hemingway once declared a necessity, a "built-in shit detector", so good editors are required.
Still he had editors for his work. I read a quote from him in the last couple of days where he said

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

His 5 tips:
http://www.copyblogger.com/ernest-he...-writing-well/
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