Editors, the redundant species

“I am compelled to express my observation that over the past decades, the editorial role has been profoundly devalued. As corporate structures have gulped down and digested independent publishing houses and imprints, their corporate agendas have brought about a slow steady erosion of reliance on the editor’s skill and intuitive vision. In order to release the magnificent sculpture that such an editor may perceive in a stone, the work of editing takes time, focus, sometimes isolation, silence, deep cogitation, and some eureka moments when the objective eye finally perceives the solution to a thorny dilemma. Few editors today are granted the luxury of so much quality time. As a result, most are on a search for near-perfect manuscripts that they can present to their editorial boards, where sales and marketing can immediately perceive the potential for a successful publication. Needless to say, the less editors are encouraged to flex their editorial muscles effectively, the more atrophied those muscles become, and the safer it seems to reject than to commit.” MORE

The author of the above tries to justify the existence of literary agents, nevertheless the piece poses and interesting question: are editors needed at all? As Alberto Manguel wonders in his excellent book… Why are writers the only creators whose works “need” to be edited? Why is it that painters present their creation directly to their audience, but writers “must” be polished?

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