Jason Boog of GalleyCat has taken a look at an essay by agent Andrew Wylie coming out in the new issue of WSJ Magazine. Wylie, Boog reports, is concerned about the quality issue in publishing, noting that even with all the self-publishing options available, editors and other quality controllers are an essential part of the process.

Here’s an excerpt: “The devaluation of quality editing and writing is sad and it’s inevitable. Each house has a large number of titles to publish, and with a difficult economy, fewer people to handle the publications. But publishers need to become smaller, leaner, and they will have to learn new disciplines. The whole one-year publication process must be reduced.”

At first glance, this might seem a little ironic. Wylie is the agent who caused a big uproar last year when he announced he was starting his own backlist e-publishing company. But the backlist titles he would have published (if he had not subsequently cut deals with most or all of the publishers of the print editions of those backlist books) had already been through the complete editorial process, so editorial concerns would not apply.

Wylie is talking about writing and editorial quality here, but perhaps a more urgent issue for big publishers who already have the editorial side of things covered is the matter of e-book quality. As both Joanna and I have pointed out, the state of commercial e-book quality these days is kind of a mess, and it seems to take heroic measures on the parts of both authors and readers in order to get anything done about it. And that’s with the slowness of the current “one-year publication process,” which Wylie wants publishers to shorten. Perhaps it might be best if publishers focused their attention on improving the quality of their e-books instead.

I’m reminded of the old adage that something can be “fast, cheap, or good: pick any two”.  If Wylie wants publishing to become both fast and good, then I doubt it will be cheap.


  1. Fast good cheap – you only get two. That’s kind of an old industry paradigm. Faster, better, cheaper – you get them all is where we are today. One of the reasons people self publish is the timelines for traditional publishing. As I understand it, if you spend a year writing and revising, you can easily spend another year waiting to get a deal. When you get a deal, another year before it hits the book shelves. In 3 years a self publisher can put out at least 3 books – Faster and Cheaper – and they can still have it edited – Better.

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