Guest Author 2: Book Publishers Behaving Badly

Last week’s essay started quite the kerfuffle amidst a friend’s group of friends, leading to today’s guest column. Darling, this is all so instructive as the subject is quite out of my bailiwick although I did, as ever, assist in making the language more colorful, precise, vivid and expressive. I would also like to declare that the editor of my charming book displays NONE of the execrable qualities described below.  [Mark Givens at Pelekinesis; ; ]

Before I published my academic book, I thought of a ‘book editor’ as a minor-level fairy god-parent. I had dreams that I would receive a little money, a little attention and perhaps be invited to a party. In truth he’s like the Loch Ness monster, you see him once, get flustered-excited-happy, then you never see him again.

Of course it’s good to have an academic book published and there is a joy in saying “Oh, an e-mail from my editor.” But the truth is that editors most closely resemble selfish ex-friends. Any e-mail is a request for something, never once did mine say anything positive, nor help me deal with the royalties or the paperwork. Not one positive word about the book and as soon as it was published, not another word. And this is one of the ‘big 5 publishers.’

The worst part is that they are horrible at their job. An ‘editor’ should ‘edit.’ That’s their raison d’être – without editing they are just miserable people who drink coffee and are hoity-toity about books, graduated graduate students. But my book was published riddled with type-os and the same section was printed in two different chapters.

Plus, it costs over $150 and my royalties are LESS THAN THE PRICE OF THE BOOK. Did I mention that I never received a free copy of my book?

In reading this sad tale of woe, Darling, of course my first instinct is to help. There must be some way for Etiquette Central to jump into the fray as we (royal we) are most excellent at fray-jumping. After a bit of thinking and an aperitif (or six), we have recommend they cut-back a few perks from senior staff [as someone who works very close to the C-suite, I know all about the perks that could be cut – I am looking at you, Mr.  CFO who hired a Brown’s Hotel-level barista as an ‘administrative assistant.’ Said AA spends the days reading manga, texting and making a few espressos] and create an author perks program.

First, all authors whose yearly royalties are less than the equivalent of $200 are automatically entered into a drawing (twice a year) for a weekend at the Connaught, airfare and meals included. That should perk up the hard-working, poverty-stricken academic mice.

And top publishers should hire away whoever does those nice limited edition gift boxes at the London Review of Books. Such cunning little collections – we do so admire someone who can put together a nice gift box.

Then each major publisher must create an ‘author encouragement’ program (of course the misanthropic types can opt out) which sends out a weekly pep e-mail:

yes, we know that no one will ever read your book and sales will be in the double digits, but we love you, yes we do. We love you and we see how hard you work and how little return there is for all your efforts but some day a lost soul shall be looking for information on ferry terminals in the 1800s in Central South American and they will find your book and bless you. Live for that day!

And gifts – of course a little gift bag now and then. A canvas bag with the name of the publisher so the impoverished author can say, “why yes, this is new, my publisher sent it to me.” Perhaps a bookish candle or new pencils. Not bookmarks. Of course, I recommend skin-care, a little Glow Recipe or Fresh but, sigh, I fear academic authors might not have use for such frivolities, perhaps send them fresh pears?

Très simple, people who work at fancy universities or who receive big advances get nothing, as they have more than enough already and anything in excess would be wasted on them, like giving gift bags to those who attend the Oscars. Give the gift bags to the fans who stand for hours to see their favorite actress, not the actor who already has 28 motorcycles.

I am so pleased Etiquette Central could be of assistance, please let me know if there is anything else in the world I can fix.