I linked yesterday to an intriguing op-ed from Book Riot called ‘Why We Still Need Publishers.’ At the time, I thought writer Susie Rodarme made some salient points about the value of a second eye in the editorial process. But now that it’s sat with me overnight, I think Rodarme has reached the wrong conclusion. She is correct that authors—good authors—probably can’t or shouldn’t try to do it all without a helper. But she makes a terminology error and confuses ‘publisher’ with ‘editor.’
For instance, just after declaring in paragraph 4 that ‘publishers perform a necessary and not-easily-replaced service to the book industry as a whole,’ she goes on in paragraph 5 to start enumerating these services—starting with ‘editors help shape books in significant ways.’ So…the publisher’s vital function is to employ editors? Can’t an author simply pay a freelance editor and employ one themselves?
After three paragraphs extolling the virtues of the editor, Rodarme moves on to ‘Publishers know books. They know the industry upside down and inside out.’ Okay. But don’t editors know the industry just as well, since they are employed by these publishers? Wouldn’t the self-publishing author be just as well-served by a freelance editor, and maybe some contract PR or social media help?
She concludes with the idea that working with a publisher is forming a ‘partnership’ and that cannot be discounted. I would suggest that, given the spate of complaints authors have had in the media about low royalty rates, poor promotion and so forth, the value of this ‘partnership’ has been very over-stated. As author Laura Resnick wrote on this blog yesterday, ‘I, too, have passionately taken a side here. I am on my side.’
You don’t need the ‘publishers’ here. There is not one function Rodarme names in her article that a good editor couldn’t take care of for you. Employ one yourself and be on your own side.