What Defines Authorship?
Here’s a question for you: If a person grows a crop, harvests said crop, and yet never sells any of the produce that they yields….are they still a farmer? By definition, the person in question had just completed all the necessary tasks to be labeled as-such, but if they do not go to market...does that mean they are in the profession of farming? Does profit change the definition of an action? The same question about authorship has come up many times over the years: What constitutes authorship? Is it like being knighted? Must some authority figure tell you just who you are as a writer? Do you need to sell a certain amount of copies to even be considered an author?
It’s really a silly notion: writers are writers regardless of whichever title one wants to bestow upon them. Authorship is just a business term, however, in this humble blogger’s opinion: I believe anyone who has had the courage and magnitude to write a 100,,000 word manuscript is as close to being an author as anyone could be. Most people try to avoid writing that many words in a year! Some make it a personal goal to do it in one month. The very idea of worrying whether-or-not you’re authenticated by the semantics of what the business deems an “author”.
Writing is a passionate art-form, in-that it takes a geat deal of creativity, knowledge, and a fluid voice to create a world, or interesting characters. Author as a title, versus Author as a profession is where the lines become clear. Anyone who writes books is an author, but those who publish reports, articles, books, even professional blog posts is an Author. Most who doubt, or have impostor syndrome tend to believe they aren’t something because they were not given the proper recognition for it by some sort of authority. It is self-doubt, but the reality is that if you write, you’re an author. It distinguishes those who do not write at all, from those who do. Writing is an action, it’s a form of energy exerted onto a page, and thus creating an experience, no matter the amount of pages.
The accountability of writers should never be held to the premise of publication! If that were the case, nobody would ever write, as it would seem a fruitless endeavor. I would agree that our counterproductive crowds would hearken to times long past where a publishing house was the end-all, be-all of literature! It is not the case today! For years I’ve stated that writing is the incomprehensible truth of man’s creativity, and their ability to recreate something from the granules of a pencil’s graphite...or digital keys. It is the quintessential facsimile repetition equaling insanity, and the dire notion that eventually...a mountain of paper equals nothing but failure. Yet failure for a writer is good! It’s humbling, and an author that has never failed, is an author without much to offer the written word! So you are an author! You struggle, you fight and claw like every mongrel begging for scraps does so all for that moment a book pays the bills. Many noodle bowls in-between, you learn that struggling artist isn’t a misnomer, but a stage in the process. When we cut through the legalese, it call comes down to writing.
Writing is a fundamental skill, and as-such is a daily routine for the vast majority of entrepreneurs, politicians, teachers, blue, and white collar workers, and most obvious: journalist and writers of all accounts. There are very few positions in life that will not require one to write daily, if-not hourly basis. Not all writing is authorship, we can establish that here-and-now. Writing up reports, applications, and such are not truly authoring works. Although it is a thin line to say an author writes business letters, the proper syntax would be closer to a scrivener. Most people would never think that if they file a letterhead, or if they write a company e-mail, or design a presentation, or even have to read several pages aloud; that they would ever consider themselves an author! Yet, by archaic definition, and modern alike, they are truly an author by all accounts.
Leo Rosten, author of The Education of Hyman Kaplan, an Polish-born American humorist said about authorship: “The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can’t help it.” This is a snickering joke on the process of the need to be a writer, but he is one-hundred percent correct! We write because we are driven, and it drives us mad, and with a glamorous opus of symphonic voices of characters worlds apart strewing through our heads, we write, and write, until the voices have been heard, the stories been told, and the world goes on, another round, another day, and another story to be discovered. We all write because we are authors, we have an passion for the written word, a developing lexicon, and finding it deceptively fun to finger through the dictionary while sitting on the commode. This is why we write! Because there’s really no other option for us! We can avoid the call to pen and paper for years, but alas, if the muse bites, and summons our attention, we go barreling to meet the call.
Writing is like the first love of one’s life: it is never forgotten, always a fond reminiscence, which on a cold, lonely night, comes off the mantle to remind you of that loving innocent youth once known, but never too-far. It is always there, a passion present like a mistress floundering between a scorned woman, and a perusing cheater. It is a deadly passion, a dangerous game, a daring act of challenging the status quo….writing speaks the voices of generations past, immediate, and forthcoming. We are all authors, we are all writers, and the two in my eyes are synonymous. There is no way around the fact that if you are writing, and you do-so without worry, without warrant, and it makes you happier than anything else...you are by definition, an author.
What are the functions of an editor-in-chief of a book publisher?
Most writers know that the editor is the individual in a said company that takes a raw manuscript, and helps to flesh it out into a finished product. They give feedback on books that are in-need of revising, and many of them now-a-days are sensitivity readers, making sure that the work you write won’t offend a particular person, or culture. Editors are the backbone of bringing a manuscript to market as a fully realized novel, and thus helping spark the dreams of writers everywhere.
The editor-in-chief has the final say on that manuscript’s journey to publication. Editors-in-chief are best equivalent to CEOs of a publication, magazine, or even a small press. They are typically the highest paid individual in the company, but not always the case, depending on the publishing house they work for, as many make far-less than the gross sales from the top tier authors they house. Still, their job is important, and they are the ones that assure a book is of the quality to represent their company, and thus, they oversee the daily goings-on of the editorial branch of any publication.
An editor-in-chief can be the manager of a blog, the owner of a magazine, the highest-ranked employee of a publishing house, or the employee with the most stock. They are the fundamental face of the company, hence the face of the products launched to represent the vision of the company. Most authors will never directly work with an editor-in-chief, but some may take the time to work with a particular author, that is, a number one bestseller, or an author working towards their fiftieth book for the same publisher, which is honestly a very rare occurrence today.
Most editors will never reach the status of editor-in-chief, and most editors-in-chief are key to the success of any given publication that comes out of a house. This statement is broad, but in the intricate realm of publishing there really is only one lone gunman at top, firing down the offers made from less-than-memorable manuscripts. Having personally dealt with an editor-in-chief, I can assure you my experience as a potential novelist wasn’t always fun, and in-the-end, I put in far-more work than I ever had, which was a plus...but the work was shot down with barely a glance. I was young, ignorant, and not as adept in the industry as I am today, and understood that the subtle blow to my artistic ego from the head of a press, was more a godsend than a detrimental setback. I had learned that my book wasn’t ready, and the amount of work you put in, no-matter how minuscule it seems, has to be vying towards near-perfection, or else an editor will simply toss it aside, never to be heard from again.
So knowing that for the majority of publishing houses your work may be seen is overseen by one-or-two editors, and editor-in-chief; it is a fair assumption to make that the best-bet is to research each publishing house prior, and research the editor-in-chief, who they’ve worked with in the past, and what sort of books appeal to them. Writing a book on the needs of the publishing house you’re fitting to send to gives you a much better chance of publication. If you are writing erotica, and send it to a religious publisher, there’s a good chance it may not make it past the query letter. However, if you do your research, and write up a compelling argument that your work is the perfect benefit for the publisher you most want to work with, then your chances of publication go up exponentially-so.
The Editor-in-Chief’s primary goal is to launch a campaign around a book that will yield the most sales, and highest net profit, while also showcasing the talents that exist within the company. They have illustrators, editors, proofreaders, beta readers, sensitivity readers, and a superfluity of social media marketers to literally form a phalanx around your book, and protect it from the cruel realities of the overabundant retail book markets. They give the book protection, like armor to make it shine out, and backed with capital that provides it a safety net to sell in a treacherous market. Editors-in-chief stand at the helm of your book, and make it so it can survive. So as great of an enemy they can seem when your proposal is turned down, they are the greatest of allies, usually having years of experience, and the capabilities to reach audiences that were unattainable while venturing out on your own. They have more channels to embark your book towards, to get the right eyes on the manuscript than one can even imagine. They are also surprisingly human, and many of them are former writers, editors, or interns that started where you may be in your career, most even lower, so many will empathize with your hustle and bustle struggle. Optimism is key, because it is a business, and a business should always have the notion of going ever-upward, and being ambitious about your work stands out from the typical protocol of copy and paste querying. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to reach out to the editors. It is a crucial moment in realizing the fatal flaw of losing a contract comes from not being bold enough to ask what is at stake.
So what makes a good editor-in-chief? What makes them the best boss to help funnel your book in the right direction? Experience is key: an editor-in-chief has fundamentally worked in their field long enough to have participated in every single rudimentary aspect of publishing. They know the business better than anyone, because they deal with the most prevalent aspects of the business. They are in charge of the editing department, marketing, publishing, working closely with literary agents to make deals on book proposals. They decide where money gets loaned, what the market can withstand, and literally are the end-all-be-all of the company. This is the captain of the S.S. Book-Birther, and they decide whether-or-not you’re coming aboard. So work well, and work close to your editor, because even if they have to report to someone, it's best to make sure they’re backing you up, because the editor-in-chief holds everyone accountable. Research, research, research!