I've been a professional author for over 25 years.
In all that time, I have encountered perhaps four or five genuinely intelligent, well-adjusted, trustworthy, decent editors. Four or five. In more than a quarter century of putting words on paper.
Stupid. Vain. Dishonest. Sub-literate. Incompetent. Mentally ill. Sociopathic.
Not an exaggeration, I assure you.
Take the editor who worked for a major SF/fantasy publisher, a New York institution, one of the most celebrated imprints you'll find. This individual read portions of an early draft of what later became my novel So Dark the Night. She responded within weeks of my submission, excited, wanting to see the rest of the manuscript. I complied, waited, waited...and finally called up 6 weeks later. She was apologetic, said she remembered my book, was anxious to get to it.
Then...nothing. For two months. So I phoned again and she curtly told me off, said she'd get to it when she'd get to it and that was that. Indeed. Never heard from her again. About four years ago I heard she'd been let go in the latest "down-sizing". Couldn't have been happier. Hope she's living on the street right now, eating out of a fucking dumpster. Some fate befitting her winning personality. Choke on that stale pizza, you hapless cow. And good riddance.
Or how about the individual employed by one of Canada's biggest publishers, an arsehole who kept me waiting for over a year, rarely responding to my queries, finally phoning me to turn down the book.
There was nothing really wrong with the book, it was well-written, engaging: "It's just not the sort of thing we publish." Oh, really? And couldn't she have told me that somewhat sooner? But she wasn't done:
"It's too bad you're not an East Indian writer," she gushed, "they're very hot right now."
"You mean race factors into your editorial decisions?" My wife, who was listening in, said my face had turned grey with fury at that point.
Long pause. She realizes she's in trouble. "Er...no. Ah...of course not. Actually, I was thinking," digging herself even deeper into a hole, "your book, it seems awfully, um, American to me."
Meaning it lacked Canadian place names. Meaning it lacked elements that Canada's cultural poobahs insist must be included in any "real" Canadian artistic offering, an aspect that celebrates our multi-nationalism, gives voice to the oppressed, offers a regional perspective, etc. etc.
Plus, y'know, my novel had an actual storyline, characters that didn't sit around pondering their identities and origins but actually did something.
I think you begin to comprehend why I chose the independent course. Since I started my own imprint in 1990, I see no reason why I have to pander to morons. I work without an editor, publisher or agent. I create and print my own books, distribute them worldwide and don't have to cater to the kind of dunderheads who work like mindless cogs in the big publishing machines of New York/Toronto/London.
I set my own terms and on those occasions when I am contacted, people soliciting my work, I make it clear that I write what I want and no outside input will be accepted. Folks in publishing aren't used to writers talking like that. They HATE the notion of authors empowering themselves, calmly telling traditional publishers and their hired lackeys to take a flying fuck at a rolling hand grenade.
My very last brush with an editor was regarding an anthology of Canadian fantasy stories. Intially, one of my longer works was accepted, then one of the editors phoned me and said that "due to space restrictions, we're going to have to cut your story". Understand, they had already accepted the tale, sung its praises...but then they started having second thoughts and they wanted permission to slash the story, not because ot was overlong or lacking in any way, but simply because they wanted to keep their page count down.
My response was, shall we say, brutal. I told them if they touched one WORD of the story, I would fucking wipe the floor with them. The editor was shocked, voice rising: "You don't seem to understand. If you don't let us edit it down, we're not accepting it."
"No," I countered, "you don't understand. I'm pulling the fucking story. I don't want it appearing in your piece of shit anthology. Fuck you, fuck the two of you."
I know most writers don't behave this way. Most writers are gutless, simpering assholes who would sell their grandmother's walker to get their name in a book. They are pathetic, craven and beneath contempt.
Sometimes editors deserve respect. Most often than not, they require nothing more than a right hook to the face and a knee to the groin. Editors are scum. Agents are scum. Publishers are scum.
That's how we end up with shit like Fifty Shades of Grey and its ilk.
Welcome to contemporary publishing.
I opted out years ago.
Maybe it's time you did the same.
Causes Cliff Burns Supports
The Stephen Lewis Foundation, Community Radio