The flow of accolades (the writer/editor interface)

After catching up with Russell and Liz today, and continuing, in part, the long-running conversation about the role of editors and publishers, a few thoughts have crystallised.

Writers are a visible face/name for receiving accolades. A novel or collection wins an award, it’s the writer who gets the credit. On many levels, this is a justifiable and appropriately fair thing.

But what about those editors out there who commission the work, encourage its progress, labour over it, and invest the cash/time/PR to get the book out there? I’m especially talking about active editors/publishers. The people who always seem to get thanked in the author acknowledgement page of the book, but little else.

Publishers and editors are the guys out there doing the hard slog, particularly in the small press. Writers may invest many hours/days/weeks to write and redraft their work. However, editors spend just as much time working on the manuscript and then going through the steps of production and post-production. The many months it takes for a book to be published following the initial acceptance letter is not an abitrary thing. Editors invest an incredible (and often incredibly underappreciated, in the public eye anyway) amount of time on the works they publish.

The editors of an anthology, for instance, do receive the credit if that anthology wins an award – but the critical acclaim still generally goes to the individual stories (and their authors) in the collection.

It seems only the very high profile editors – those who’ve been in the game for years or most usually decades – who gain at least a passing nod. Even then, it comes down to resources. If an anthology is published, replete with many Big Names (TM), the editor usually gains a nod. But I’ve heard it asked – who is the better editor? The editor who publishes a good to great anthology from plenty of good to great stories, or the editor who publishes an average to good anthology from a pool of mediocre to average stories?

Anyway, I digress…

Editors seem to have the teflon shield on when it comes to critical acclaim from the bulk of the readership. Perhaps it’s my cynicism, but I doubt you’ll hear: “Russell, Liz, & Lyn from Ticonderoga Online had a great year – they published Ditmar and Aurealis award nominees last year” or “Angela and Shane published a multi-award nominated anthology and six reliable issues of a SFWA pro magazine, including the Aurealis horror award winner and several stories to be published in ‘Year’s best’ anthologies – one of them is a shoe-in for the Best New Talent Ditmar.” (I’m being facetious on that last one, but the point remains nonetheless).

Editors and publishers are the people who make the opportunities. The people who nurture the talent. The people who do their darndest to make your novel or short story look as good as it possibly can.

So thank you to the various co-ops such as ASIM and Borderlands for keeping post-Eidolon magazines alive; thanks to Lily, Mitch, and numerous small circulation anthology or micro press editors; thanks to the crew at Aurealis for keeping that old dreadnought afloat; thanks to ‘Nuke’ for years’ worth of online flash fiction; thanks to James R Cain for giving pulp horror a lone voice for so long; thanks to Liz and Lyn for keeping Ticonderoga Online afloat and publishing some cool stuff in the process; thanks to Russell for injecting new life into Ticonderoga Publications; thanks to Jonathan Strahan and Jeremy G Byrne for Eidolon (past and present) and representing Australia abroad; thanks to Cat Sparks and Sarah Endacott for giving Australia quality annual anthos; thanks to Bill Congreve, who remains one of the great unsung publishers, a man who has pumped out collections and anthologies when no one else would; and of course, thanks to Angela for the new era in Australian horror, darkening Australian spec fic one published page at a time.

Thanks to every editor and publisher out there who has done the right thing by writers through treating them with respect and professionalism, and bringing them readers and acclaim rather than an unpublished manuscript in the bottom drawer.

Editors and publishers, you are the unsung heroes of literature. I wish you the energy, resources, and motivation to produce the next project, and the one after that…

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