Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Unsung Heroes of the Industry

There was (for publishing) a relatively large fuss at the end of August when Sue Grafton made some rather careless remarks about self-publishing authors. The slurs were returned with interest by those who know how much work self-publishing actually is, especially when the result is intended to be more than mere ego-indulgence. But the incident made me think of some of the unsung heroes of the publishing industry.

I had in mind those who run the indie and small presses, who usually do their publishing work along with a day job. And hence, often putting their own writing on time-share, or even to the side, they help so many writers see the light of independent publication, who otherwise would struggle much harder, if they ever reached any daylight at all.

I thought of these heroes also because I currently have or had two stories and an academic article in the publication pipeline, all due to indie or part-time editors who happen to be women. So here's a word about these heroes, just for once.

In alphabetical order by surname, first, there's Janet Brennan Croft, who is editing an academic collection, originally titled Forward Momentum, on the work of Lois McMaster Bujold, which includes a piece from me on Lois's novel Memory. Janet's day job is as Head of Access Services and Associate Professor of Bibliography at the University of Oklahoma libraries. Like most academics of note, she has published extensively in the academic scene herself, including  War in the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien (Praeger, 2004; winner of the Mythopoeic Society Award for Inklings Studies) and several book chapters on the Peter Jackson films. But she's also edited three previous essay collections on Tolkien, and will be working on a festschrift for Tom Shippey (McFarland 2013).

On top of that Janet's written for library journals, edits an academic journal, Mythlore, and is book review editorof Oklahoma Librarian. And to fiction writers, book reviewers are valued only second to acquiring book editors. This publishing work, needless to say, would be considered paid for by her academic wages, and comes, usually, outside "normal" working hours.

Next by alphabet comes Jennifer Parsons, who so nicely selected my story for the September issue of her e-zine for women's specfic, Luna Station Quarterly. I'll let her fill you in with her own words:

I currently hold a day doing web design and development, but started out doing print design for a newspaper. All the skills I have acquired over the last twelve years in these industries gave me the tools I needed for actually running the press and quarterly, while my lifelong love of stories and my own experience as a writer and my editing work for other authors gave me the confidence that I could put out something worth while as well.
While I was unemployed I had the time to get LSQ off the ground and went for it. Fast-forward three years and I decided to spread the LSQ mission of bringing women genre fiction writers to greater prominence by starting Luna Station Press. My biggest challenge now is making sure that I continue to develop my own writing as these two sister ventures keep growing.

Finally, by surname, and only by surname, there's Phyllis Irene Radford, author in two other identities, in urban fantasy as P.R. Frost and space opera as C.F. Bentley, and in between, indefatigable planner, general contributor and founding member of Book View Cafe, the online writers' community. She's also a freelance and indie editor, who among other projects has taken my story "The Honor of the Ferrocarril" for a third steampunk anthology from Sky Warrior Press.

Anyone who was ever involved with an anthology or journal or magazine issue knows that one such is almost a full-time occupation.The indie editor/owner,like the self-published author, has to do the lot: think of an idea for an issue or antho, coin a cfs, make sure it is circulated, correspond with, pick up and read the submissions, even before the hard graft of actually editing them, and then getting the antho/issue released, available and promoted. Oh, did I forget, arrange or arrange to have designed, a cover? Not to mention, later, dealing with the royalties to the authors, or at the least, their free copies.

Almost all of this work these three women have done and will go on doing, for very little in the way of kudos and almost nothing in the way of payment except "the lifelong love of stories" that Jennifer Parsons mentions. Those of us who benefit from their labours have much reason for gratitude. My hat's off to you, ladies, if you don't mind me calling you that. Long may you flourish!

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