Sunday 31 May 2009

Writing the recession (1): where have all the editors gone?

Here's a nasty surprise for you - getting your first book published means you have to move on to getting your second book published. And then your third. And then your fourth. It does get easier - after all there is an editor you know likes your work - but it's never guaranteed. Published writers get rejections all the time. And at the moment it's worse than ever. 

Indeed, it's getting harder to track down and speak to even an editor who already likes your work. Or maybe that's just my editors, and me - but I don't think so. Publishing companies are getting rid of staff. Editors who go on maternity leave are not covered. Yet at the moment many publishing houses are still processing the last stages of books commissioned before the recession struck, so they have lots of work to do now, just not so much work lined up afterwards. The staff who are left have had a frantic time, and know that when the franticness ends, the desert looms. (If any editors would like to tell me I am wrong here, I will be very happy to be corrected. As long as you are not saying 'No, it's all fine, it's just *you* we don't want to talk to'.)

I had a party on Friday - it was my birthday, in case I didn't mention that. I am now officially Very Old. The party was a fantastic affair, organised almost entirely by @billt (for those of you who Twitter) in the new offices of Faber and Faber in Bloomsbury. (Big 'thank you' to Bill, and to Stephen Page and Jo). Lots of my very favourite people were there and I had a wonderful time. But - of the seven editors I invited, only one turned up. Excusing those who were genuinely ill, some were too busy (see above) and one went instead to the Royal Academy to see the exquisite Kuniyoshi exhibition (which was a sensible choice). It's really not like editors to stay away from free wine and food, especially when there is also the chance of seeing inside another publisher's offices. Now I know why they stayed away in droves. The one editor who did come (my very first children's editor, who has become a dear friend) said that she was constantly being hassled by writers, illustrators, proof-readers, indexers - asking why they haven't got any work. I'd have thought the answer is rather obvious - durrrr! recession! But an editor who is hassled all day by writers and illustrators probably doesn't want to walk into a room of writers and illustrators in the evening, even for lots of Prosecco and miniature smoked salmon bagels. Do little fluffy bunnies go to parties where most of the guests are ravenous foxes? They probably anticipated an evening of endless proposals - and not of the indecent variety.

So if you have an editor, hold on to him/her. Be nice to him/her. Don't invite them to parties full of writers - just send the Prosecco and bagels over so they can have them at their desks.

Coming next... The writer's dress code


  1. God help those of us that are trying to get a book published. If they are ignoring established writers what hope do the rest of us have?

  2. Don't despair! You might have more hope than us. In a recession, the publishers really want their next thing to be The Big One. That may well be more likely to come from an unknown than from their teams of people with a track record of NOT producing the The Big One ;-)

  3. That'll be why my lovely editor is already asking for the new synopsis of the second book whilst I'm still reeling about getting the deal on the first... maybe I should take HER out to lunch!

  4. Nicola Morgan steered me in your direction.
    I'm loving your blog, and this post speaks to me.
    Thank you.
    I love my editors, they are wonderful and very smart.