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Editors Who Publish Their Own Fiction.

So, considering this question was posed of the editors on the board, it'd be good to get a writer's viewpoint on it: what do you think an editor's job is (and on the flip-side, isn't)?

...

Okay, so. What's not an editor's job?

Well, an editor is not meant to rewrite you, obviously. Likewise, it's not the editor's job to make an unreadable story readable. But for all that, the one thing, the one personal thing I dislike seeing, is editors who publish their own fiction.

I asked Russell Farr (punkrocker1991) the same question, because I was curious to see his response, and he said, very sanely, that he figured if a story of his was good enough to be published, then it was good enough to be published elsewhere. And I like that, for it is a sane and rational thing to say. He also pointed out that there are exceptions, such as with Dozois and as with everything in this world, there's an exception to everything said. Which is fine. So if you're reading this and you're an editor and you publish your own work, perhaps you're an exception.

Wouldn't count on it though.

In the independent scene here in Australia, or across the world, when an editor includes their own story into a collection, it's pretty much vanity publishing. Especially when some many of the independent editors are actually the publisher. It has the unfortunate result of making the author (such as me) think that I've had my fiction bought in a publisher's vanity project that exists, in a way, to fill the need to be published when they could not legitimately do so elsewhere.

Is that a harsh statement? Sure. Untrue? Sometimes. But it is also true that the weakest stories in a collection will belong to the editor or editors, more times than not. It's not a terribly surprising thing, really, when you think about it, because how can an editor have the objectivity that is required when approaching work if they are also the author? an author, by and large, is not very objective about their work. They must love it or admire it or think it publishable to some degree, otherwise why bother sending it out, again and again, after rejection and rejection?

So an editor's job is not to be an author, in any kind of fashion.

The Ben Peek Show.

There is, of course, a bit about my experience with good editors, who make me look good. But I'm linking this bit cause it substitutes me actually writing real content in this blog today. Back to helping move, or some kind of thing like that. Anyhow, this forum thing still has like a week and a half to go and I got no idea how it's going to last that long. Shouldn't people be asking me how to my training as a cosmonaut went?

Comments

coppervale
Apr. 10th, 2006 01:52 am (UTC)
It does make for extra scrutiny, I think. The ones I've discussed with people are usually McSweeney's editions (or spinoffs)that include pieces by Eggers. In his sphere of things, it's probably more a matter of adding appropriate celebrity than adhering to literary scruples. But as a general rule, I think you're right, Ben (and Deborah - hi, Deborah!)

Sure - I've published my own graphic novels and comics (which profession views that sort of thing differently anyway), and published others' work. But I don't know that I'd mix the two.

James
benpeek
Apr. 10th, 2006 05:06 am (UTC)
yeah, the comic industry has a very different view on a lot of things, and i tend to think their view on vanity/independent publishing is a lot more healthy. (that it's an admirable thing from a putting your money where your month is stance--though there is a lot og crap that is produced for that money, but that's with all things.)

like i said, there's always going to be exceptions, but it's a good general rule, i find.