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I’m having a crisis of conscience today. Recently, a publishing company I have always very much admired posted an actual job opening for an editor. Not an intern, not an assistant, not a publicist, but an editor. This is very rare indeed.
Of course, I applied. I worked for days on a completely new cover letter – normally, I just mix’n’match from old letters and send them in. Anyway, because I recently made a couple of contacts within the company (and because of the stellar, typo-free experience that was the application), I have been called for an interview. And now I am worried.
The rub is that I am currently working part-time, on a freelance basis with a magazine, and I really enjoy it. There is lots of opportunity there for more work, and the editor and the whole editorial team have gone out of their way to make me feel like a part of things. Hell, I was all ready to give up on writing/editing before getting this gig. I feel very warmly towards them, and would be committed even if there was no formal contract.
The publisher would be a prestigious one to have on my resume. The question is – can or should I ask for flexibility to still meet the commitments of my current gig if I get this job? (The magazine editing involves a couple meetings a month, with the rest of the work done from my home, on my own time; the book editing job would be full-time and on-site.)
The book publishing job would be great experience, and I would hope it might lead to freelance work in the future, after the contract is up. On the other hand though, I have worked for two other book publishers in the past, and neither of those jobs have led to one single hour of billable freelance time. So I should not count on that happening here, either.
I’m just really happy with the way things are – working freelance for appreciative clients, etc. – and would like to build on what I have rather than give things up for one job, even if it’s my “dream job.” Yes, I want to fit it all in and make everyone happy, including myself. What would you do?
Normally, I don’t pick up the 24, but yesterday’s deliciously alliterative headline drew me in:
I wasn’t quite sure why it captured me so at first – perhaps just the rhythm of the three short words with their “o” vowel sounds. Then it was the “dooms dome.” Finally, I realized that it was the succession of sounds in the headline – o, oo, o – which sounded a lot like the “dum dum dum” that is the sound effect that often signals something ominous, like in a horror movie or an ironic turn of events. And so, the news of the report into the collapse of BC Place’s improbable roof was perfectly foreshadowed.
I don’t like the 24 on the whole, for the way they are always shoving it on people outside SkyTrain stations and then the bloody paper is all over the place because people discard it so easily, but I have to admit they have some brilliant headlines. Matt wrote last year about their deliciously ambiguous “Cold Spurs Rush to Shelters” headline, and I’ve never quite forgotten about it.
As a bonus, on my way home, the local community rag also caught my eye:
And the name of the program? “Project Protect”! Delicious.
The other night I went to a social hour drink thing at a hip little pub by Main Street. The people attending were all writers, editors, and publishers, and I think most of us were, at best, acquaintances or had at least heard of each other. Anyway, I was sitting next to two people who wanted to exchange e-mail addresses, but neither had business cards or pen and paper. I always carry a pen so I offered it. The woman accepted the pen, and wrote down what she wanted to write on a napkin. But then, instead of giving the pen back, she set it down beside her napkin and commenced to roll it around and play with it.
Listening to their conversation, I could only think “Give me my pen back!” It was lying there on the table, but on the far side of the napkin she had written on. The moment was positively Seinfeldean. I was George. I couldn’t concentrate on what was being said, so consumed I was at this breach of pen-borrowing etiquette, that is: borrow, write, return. I watched her fiddle with my pen for a few minutes. I needed it back. I love that pen.
She still kept it on her side of the napkin. As soon as I could, as subtly as I could, I grabbed it back. She looked surprised for some reason. Maybe she’s always gotten away with stealing pens lent in good faith. Hah! Foiled you!
There will be no more pen-lending to strangers for awhile. At least, not until the social contract as it applies to other peoples’ ballpoints has been repaired. In the meantime, have some business cards.
Five weeks to go and counting: I am almost finished my term in Print Futures. I’ve been so busy with both projects and job applications that I never looked at the Big Bad Book Blog, which was sent my way by a friend nearly two weeks ago.
Boy am I glad I finally did look at this site. It’s packed with great information on every aspect of modern writing, editing, and publishing, easy to navigate, and clearly written. I especially like the writing and editing section, which contains answers to some of the most pressing grammar and usage questions we’ve heard coming up time and time again over the past two years.
I encourage any would-be authors to look through the publishing and marketing & publicity pages before sending off that proposal or manuscript to a publisher or agent. For those on the other side of the desk, the news section contains daily link roundups to all the latest publishing news. Did I mention the fresh lime green + grey colour scheme?
A shocking confession: I don’t like Gawker. I don’t like the clever-clever writing that reads like the writer is poking me in the ribs saying “Huh? How about this? Isn’t this funny/cute/shocking/stupid?” Yes, Gawker, you’re cool, I get it. However, every once in a while they publish something useful.
Like many of my writer peers, I’ve got a little stardust in my eyes about the New York magazine world. Glossy pubs, prestigious bylines, and american dollars – it’s the dream. I’ve submitted a few queries so far but nothing has come of them. Oh well – as Gawker’s Hall of Shame series reveals, the only thing harder than getting into some national magazines is getting paid by them. Invoices being paid well after net 90 days are so very common, and so are stories of threatening to show up at the magazine’s offices in order to collect a long overdue cheque. Buried in the comments of one of the posts, there was a link to a story of one writer who set up a tent outside of Bob Guccione‘s office (founder of Penthouse and Spin) and stayed there until he got (most) of his money.
I used to get all annoyed with those scamsters on Craigslist who try to get people to write for their website or zine for free or those who promise abysmal rates such as $15 for a 400-word article. Then they add further insult by promising “exposure” as compensation. Honestly, if you people don’t have any money to pay writers, do the writing your damn selves.
But at least they’re honest about being a non-paying market, unlike prominent magazines and book publishers who pay their freelancers last and sometimes only if absolutely necessary. It’s one thing to decide not to write for free, it’s another to discover you have just giving away hundreds or thousands of dollars away in free content. What writers have to do in this situation is identify deadbeat pubs and refuse to work for them again. If possible, shame the offenders so others know to steer clear: Writers Weekly e-zine runs a forum called Whispers and Warnings that helps get the word out about scammers and deadbeats.
Cynically, editors know one thing about writers: there’s always more of them out there. So let’s be smart about who we write for. And stick together, kum-ba-ya.
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.
Book publishing is a bit like intergalactic anal probing; sometimes you just sit back and ask, “What’s the point of what we do?” We make sure that there are no typos in the book you just paid $19.95 for. We make sure that if the text says to look at Figure 9.2, that there is a Figure 9.2 somewhere nearby. We make sure those monkeys down in production didn’t accidentally set Chapter 6 in Verdana while the rest of the book is in Arial, or that there are no pages with just one word on them and nothing else.
Editing is the invisible cloak over a book; you won’t notice it unless something goes amiss, say, a word like “count” losing a vowel somewhere. Editors, and editorial peons, are certainly blamed when that sort of thing happens.
In most artistic creations – movies, albums – you get credit for being a part of the project, even if you’re not the star. Movies list everyone from the STAAAARS to the negative cutter in roughly the same font when rolling the credits. CDs usually come with a dense page telling who played what, who produced, who mixed, and all the people “we’d like to thank.” Books – in order to be mentioned – you have to be on the author’s radar screen to be thanked. You depend on a person who isn’t there to thank you for making sure their words look good on the page, and helping them not sound like a total jackass.
So what do we have here: no point, no visibility, and no credit. In some circles, being invisible is a mark of power and status; the visible ones are exposed, they have no status. Although I enjoy the invisibility thing, it comes with no compensating perks.
And that would be nice. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked hard for someone, and they’ve said in return, “We like you. You’re good. Here, have some money.”
That would be a much nicer sentence than something like this: “I know we’re not paying you much, but if you find a better-paying thing, you should feel free to take it.” Can you feel the love? In an eerie parallel, my first boyfriend used almost the exact same words to let me know he was still damaged goods from a previous girlfriend and that I should probably steer clear: “If you meet somebody you like, you can go out with them, you know.”
Give up the “no money” line. I have eyes. I see the publisher’s summer house, the owner’s luxury car, the snootful of toys belonging to the publicist. Yes, I am an an editor(ial assistant) and I give you my totally non-standard Gimme! I don’t just live for words; I want some money. I want a moped and a trip to Paris, too.
Give me some money and I’ll knock out every typo, every illogical argument, every research error in my way. I want recognition as the intergalactic anal-probing professional that I am. Spread the love, you purveyors of words, and say it with money.
Somewhere in the world, the new Harry Potter book is on sale. I confess, I might never have noticed, had it not been for the media coverage of 14 books that had been sold by the Real Canadian Superstore. It’s pretty ridiculous that Raincoast had to go and get a court order to prevent the buyers from disclosing the contents etc. Publishers generally don’t keep a lot of money lying around for lawyers as much as, say, mining companies. But I think they had to do it because they had to demonstrate to JK and the Bloomsbury gang that they were doing something about the broken embargo. They don’t call Raincoast’s super-sized offices and rather impressive warehouse “the House that Harry Built” for nothing, so I reckon our fearless Vancouver kids want to hang on the their Yorkshire Pudding gravy boat.
How thrilled was I when Jon Stewart and Rob Corddry tag-teamed to make sport of my town over this whole “literary security” issue? Rob Corddry in drag intoning “Could…It…Happen…HERE?” could have been Dave Foley if I blinked my eyes.
Tomorrow night, none of this ultra-secret plot secrecy preservation will matter as millions of rabid children get their hands on the latest thing. I’m happy that they’re reading but I’ll steer clear of bookstores for the next couple days at least.
Tra la la. Another day I am confusing Word with my habit of spelling the Canadian way. I stick u’s between my o’s and r’s, but use z’s rather than s’s in all my -ize’s. That’s about it, really.
I am also mad for properly hyphenated adjectival phrases. In the long term, I’d like to achieve my short-term goals.
Men who read are mad sexy. A man propping up with book with one hand and looking all rapt is just so inviting.
According to a study, which I don’t happen to have handy, but will post later, Canadian spelling is falling out of favour with Canadian book publishers. Because of concerns about sales of co-editions to American publishers and booksellers, we don’t want to distinguish and oft-put with a display of vibrant Canadian colour. I can attest that I wrote press releases and sales copy for our American distributor with proper attention to words like “center” and “neighbor”. It did feel a bit strange; it’s not as though the Americans insisted, its that we wanted to please.
By the way, poutine is vile. Pass the sushi.