Should Editors Get Credited in Books?
It’s been a question I’ve asked myself and others in the industry and never really received a satisfying answer. The most interesting thing I’ve heard goes something like:
“Because the book is all about the author and book industry people don’t want the spotlight anywhere else. When congratulated on a great accomplishment upon the release of a new title, the editor will step back, blush and sheepishly say, ‘I had almost nothing to do with it — it was all the author.’”
As I said, no satisfying answer.
It seems to me that at a time when book publishing companies are struggling to create brands that one small way in doing it would be putting the people behind the book front and center and give them some credit for the work they do on the book. (Random House is doing this in a big way, but I’ll save that for another blog post.)
Move credits and magazine mastheads give credit to every person who had anything to do with the creation of the product. As a result, many moviegoers look forward to the next Pixar release or next Woody Allen film; many magazine readers know what they’re getting out of David Remnick, editor-in-chief of the New Yorker. Why not do the same for books?
A post today on the An American Editor blog turns the question on its head: Do editors want to be credited?
Here are some questions the anonymous blogger asks:
(a) How much control over the final product does an editor really have? (b) Can an author credit an editor without the editor’s approval? (c) What can an editor do to prevent or get acknowledgment by the author? (d) What harm or good can an acknowledgment do? (e) Who determines whether the final book is of low quality or high quality? (f) Does an acknowledgment really matter?
These questions were prompted by the concept that an editor wouldn’t want their name associated with poor work. The rest of the post goes on to discuss whether people read the acknowledgements section and whether any acknowledgement for the editor matters and how one can prevent being mentioned if one so desires.
The blogger’s conclusion:
So in the end, I come down on the side that says it doesn’t matter. With more than 1.5 million books published each year in the United States alone, it doesn’t even matter statistically. Unless the book garners a wide audience, in which case it would be a bestseller and the editor’s belief that it is of low quality matters not at all, it is unlikely that more than a few people will read the book, some of whom will believe it is a 5-star contribution to literature and some of whom will view it as a 1-star insult.
The post doesn’t really consider the existence of a masthead-like page, where editors, publishers, marketers, publicists, designers, developers, salespeople, interns and executive leadership of a publishing company and/or imprint would be acknowledged — not with a personal message from the author, but as a perfunctory measure in list form.
Read more at An American Editor
I would suggest it would have the following effect:
– Readers who cared to look would see all the people and work that goes into producing a book
– Editors, marketers, etc (especially those in the lower ranks) could point out their name in each work they helped create with pride — this creates an added benefit to working in the industry as well as an enhanced marketing channel of book industry folks who would be further incentivized to promote their titles
– Journalists who wanted to find out more about a particular book or author would have a bevy of names to contact
– Readers could learn to follow star editors or publishers who acquire and produce work they love
– Publishing companies could begin to think about their own public-facing brand in how they crafted these pages and who they included
It’s a small step, but potentially a significant one.
I’ll leave you with a story.
Last week at BEA, I had the pleasure of spending some time with my uncle Ilan Greenfield (he’s really my dad’s cousin, but that’s what I call him). Ilan was in town because he runs a small publishing company out of Israel called Gefen Publishing. Gefen mostly publishes books in English to sell in the U.S., like this one and this one (full disclosure: these books are by family members, though the vast majority of Gefen’s catalog is of course not by family members).
Visiting his booth, I noticed something interesting: The Gefen name and logo is on the cover of each one of his books.
When I asked him why this was, he said:
“Once, the New York Times did a big story about one of our books and it was great for the book. They even printed a picture of the cover. When my father read the story, he noticed that it didn’t even mention Gefen once. So we put the logo on the covers in case they publish pictures of them.”
Related: Five Thoughts From My First BEA