Meanwhile Back At The Ranch

January 31st, 2006 · 1 Comment
by Booksquare

As things settle down on the ranch — there is only the faintest hint of dust swirling in the distance — we turn our attention to What Went Wrong. Things were moving along so swimmingly, it looked to be a successful season, and when disaster struck, and disaster is always a possibility, we know that, we didn’t see it coming. But surely someone out there is in charge of the publishing farm?

And increasingly the question becomes “Who?” The front line of defense was formerly editors, those people who labored over each word, each paragraph, each book. Editors are not, nor should they be, fact checkers. Editors should edit, till each book until it emerges healthy and strong. But that sort of care doesn’t jibe with the world we inhabit.

“Publishing has become the land of the nonreturned phone call,” he [William Zinsser] said. “Editors are either in a pre-sales conference, a sales conference, a post-sales conference, or at the Frankfurt Book Fair. They have no time for editing.”

The suggestion is that the labor of policing the industry will fall to those with the least-vested interest: the literary journalists. They do not participate in the bottom line and only a truly juicy scandal — and those simply aren’t as plentiful as one would hope — will create the kind of lucrative windfall that makes the drudgery of exposing truth and lies worthwhile.

Ultimately, the publishing industry will realize that cutting corners isn’t worth the bad publicity (though the current disaster is not necessarily reinforcing this lesson) and do something positive, like let editors edit and fact checkers check and proofreaders proof. Until then, we have the Smoking Gun.

File Under: The Future of Publishing

1 response so far ↓

  • Lorra // Jan 31, 2006 at 2:57 pm

    I still believe that when all is said and done, it’s the author who is responsible for what he or she writes and how that writing is then represented to an agent/publisher.

    But why not lie? We live in a culture where lying is so pervasive it’s lost its ability to shock. Like the daily body count in Irag now relegated to the second page of the daily paper, lying has become quite ho-hum.

    Or is it? Could it be that it’s not our lack of interest but our sense of helplessness that makes us feign disinterest to avoid opening the floodgates to all those harmful stress hormones?

    I believe that we all care deeply about all of these issues but in order to survive emotionally, we have learned to pick our battles.

    Fortunately enough outraged readers chose to pick Freygate as their battle, forcing Oprah to reverse her stand on the book.

    And speaking of memoirs about recovery. Last week PW Daily printed comments by an author who has written an honest accounting of her disease and recovery. I’m only a little way into the book, but it is far more believable than “Pieces” because sensationalism has been kept to a minimum. I’d love to mention the title and the author’s name, but don’t want to hijack Booksquare’s blog.

    Lorra Laven