Via the hip Canadian kids of Bookninja, I found yet another tale of being overworked, underpaid and practically invisible in the publishing game. Alex Peake-Tomlinson toiled at several publishing houses in her three-year career, being paid so little that one higher-up took pity on her and gave her a handful of 20 pound notes:

 

One morning I was greeted with the words: “Whose monkey are you now?” I was collusive in this–there’s a kind of kick in being paid £17 a day on the off-chance that you might bump into one of your favourite novelists. My days were punctuated with reminders that I was not quite part of the team. I was allowed to attend editorial meetings on the apparent understanding that I sat in the corner and didn’t speak. Did I care? No–I was privy to discussions on how to market the next literary blockbuster.

Later I was paid £30 a week to skivvy round after a publisher who made me take dictation, sitting in the dark on his chaise longue. I think it was after I finally burst into tears that he handed me an envelope, and said I was not to tell anyone about it. The envelope contained three £20 notes: alone, in his dank office, I felt like an odd, clerical prostitute.

You can’t live on free books and reflected glory. I’ve read a lot of these publishing house memoirs – Salon’s old classic Confessions of a Slush Pile Reader comes to mind – over the years. I’ve posted a couple of my own rants on the situation. Until I learn to stop loving books, and writing, and editing, so damned much, there’s no hope for me. But unlike so many other bright young things drawn to the bug zapper that is publishing, I’m not working for free. Slightly above minumum wage maybe, but not free.

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