After last week’s post detailing some of the disappointments editors and agents face, I received several intriguing comments. And of course, it got me thinking (as these things often do) about the underlying concept swirling through all of them.
There are tons of blog posts and articles and exposés and even books about life from both sides of the publishing fence, but much like I pointed out last week, there’s still this sense of divide, this lack of empathy, this disconnect in perception — regarding publishing professionals especially. Now maybe that’s simply because there are more authors than editors in the world, or maybe it’s just that they’re more vocal about the less glamorous sides of publishing than the rest of us. But more likely, it’s the shroud publishing has kept so tightly wrapped around itself that has perpetuated this myth, this idea that editors and agents are mythical, deadly beings who deign to walk among the masses only so they can destroy fragile author egos and feast on their pain.
Don’t believe me? Stop for a moment and try this: clear your mind and, without any sort of precursor, think the word “editor.”
What image pops to mind? Did you see a person, or did you simply see the title, the word itself, floating in your imagination like some incorporeal stamp. Or, worse, did you see some sort of deranged monster hanging out in the back of the editing cave looking like this:
Regardless of what you saw, I can almost guarantee that you didn’t truly picture a person. No one does. More often than not, the word “editor” is synonymous with a concept, a perception, and everyone’s idea is slightly different, sort of like this:
Notice that final photo — that’s what it really looks like, kids. Because, contrary to what we’ve all been told, editors (and agents) are human. We’re not cyborgs or demons. We’re people stuffed full of emotions, and dreams, and expectations, and flaws. We’re not infallible; we make mistakes. We’re not pre-programmed with all the infinite wisdom of generations of literary masters, we don’t have built-in grammar bibles or the latest in spell-check software hardwired into our brains, and we’re not static. We learn, we grow, we hope, we dream.
And yes, the process of editing does often look like this for us too:
And yet, the myth endures. Interesting, isn’t it? How easily we throw aside the idea of human compassion when it’s only words on a screen staring at you. How easily we cast aside the thought of the person behind the comments and see only our wounded egos. How easily we direct our rage and hurt at the person/people who are actually our allies.
I’m not saying that the editing process isn’t painful — it often is. I’m not even trying to make this a PSA-type plea for empathy. I’m merely musing on this strange sort of limbo publishing professionals are relegated to — a land where the reality of deadlines, and mountains of paperwork, and the necessities of life are brushed under the rug of perception until they don’t exist. Until everyone assumes that editors live in this sort of perpetual state of editing, that we only creep out of the ether to work, subsisting on nothing but the words before us.
So, I guess the point I’m trying to make is this — yes, editors and agents are people.
And really, we’re just trying to save you from the pain of this:
Maybe it’s time to we let the misconceptions fade and remember that we’re all human — whether we’re an author, an agent, an editor, or any of the other countless jobs that go into producing the books we love so much. Maybe it’s time to let the shroud of mystery fall and send the ghosts and ghouls, demons and monsters back into the shadows where they belong. Maybe it’s time to put the humanity back into our interactions and stop letting labels, titles, words stand between us.