Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Shocking News!

This week’s Publishers Weekly has a shocking revelation about salaries in publishing: editors – mostly women – make less than anybody else in the biz. Oh, wait. Anyone’s that’s spent more than six months in any major publishing house could tell you that.

In publishing, the money belongs to those in sales, and those in what PW refers to as “management,” which I can only assume refers to people on the business end and those who run the creative departments, ie, your CEOs, Senior VPs, Publishers…anyone who heads their own department, imprint, or house.

Having never been in sales or a high management position myself, I can’t speak to how hard they work or how much money they deserve. What I can talk about, though, is the extreme discrepancies between the salary and promotion patterns in publicity/marketing department versus that of editorial, as well as those huge salary divide within each department between its lower and upper echelons.

First, let’s track the careers of your typical new publishing employees. One chooses editorial, the other publicity. Both have BAs - probably with a major in English, writing skills, and internships under their belts. Both are ready to take the industry by storm, to soak up the knowledge around them while answering phones and making copies. The publicity assistant is thrilled the first time she writes a press release or is allowed to make pitch calls. The editorial assistant is ecstatic the first time she is asked to read a manuscript. They work hard for their measly $30,000 a year, content with the knowledge that they are doing something they love, and that one day, they too will run their own department as their bosses do. Then, all the menial work, the living paycheck to paycheck, the lack of respect…it will all be worth it.

Fast forward three years. The publicity assistant has become a Senior Publicist. She is now working on several of her own books a month. Her salary as gone up somewhere between $15 and $20,000, although this is still one third of what her boss is making. She may even share an assistant, or at least manage the interns that rotate in a couple times a year. She has plans to move onto another house soon, perhaps strive to be a publicity manager. She crosses her fingers that by 30, she’ll be managing her own department, or at least be an associate director. Dreams of hitting six figures in the next decade do suddenly not seem so far away.

The editorial assistant has seen all this. But, three years later, she is still only an “assistant editor,” perhaps, if really lucky, “an associate editor.” Her salary has only increased $5,000, and she has no hope of becoming a full fledged editor anytime in the near future. She is still answering the phones of the people who hired her, and her bosses still control what books she can acquire. She is working longer hours than her publicity counterparts, and receiving fewer rewards. After three years, the excitement has gone and extreme frustration has set in. Is it any wonder that there are more “not satisfied” or “only somewhat satisfied” employees out there than “very” or “extremely satisfied?” Or that topping the list why are low salary, increased work, and lack of recognition? These, afterall, are complaints of almost every low-ranking editorial staff member I’ve ever known.

Yet, editorial is one of the most crucial phases in all of publishing. Without editors to spy a good book, snap up a new promising author, the industry is lost. Sure we need people to spin it, to make it look good, and to get it into bookstores, but the initial seed for the final product we all work so hard to create is born from a good editor. And in a world where the consumer attention span is shorter than ever, an editor with her finger on the pulse of our cultural shifts is more crucial than ever. But instead of tapping our young editorial staff for ideas, for rewarding them for their creativity, the powers that be frequently reject their ideas, ignore their suggestions, and often drive these smart and clever individuals out of the business. I’ve lost many former editorial friends to marketing jobs, teaching gigs, and the decision to just go back to school. People who started out with such passion to find the next great American Novel or Memoir, but by the end, just wanted to get the hell out of the underpaid and underappreciated existence.

Ask almost anyone under 40 (and some above) what they think of the state of publishing, and most will tell you it’s ass backwards, or at the very least, has some screwed up priorities. The salary survey in PW simply illustrates what we already know. The future of publishing is getting fed up and getting out. We need to give our up-and-coming editors a bit more credit and a lot more opportunities, otherwise the rise of the internet and the demise of book review sections will be the least of our worries.


1 comment:

La Gringa said...

I have the PDF uploaded here. - go download and read it.