Oh hey. Looks like you found us. Yep, here we are, two bangin’ editors who work in trade publishing, and the one blog where we can talk shop, spill the tee† and exercise our hivemind about the industry that we love and loathe, often both on the same day. We love it because we get to work on incredible books by incredible creators, and seeing them through from their inception to publication is honestly one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have outside of a hospital birthing unit (there are less gross fluids involved, too). No two projects are the same, and there’s so much to love about each book we work on.
And the loathing? Well. Grab yourself a beverage and settle in—there’s a lot to say, and a whole blog in which to say it.
Weirdly, pop culture has gotten a bit obsessed with the world of publishing in recent years. Zac Efron and Miles Teller are (frankly crap) book designers in 2014’s Are We Officially Dating? (That Awkward Moment, if you don’t live in Australia). Charlize Theron is a ghostwriter for a popular Gossip Girl-esque YA series in Young Adult (2011), and Offred/June from Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-) is fired from a publishing house in the pre-Gilead USA. There’s Younger (2015-), the utterly-trash-yet-utterly-addictive TV offering from Darren Starr of Sex and the City fame, which gets about 7% of publishing realities right and the rest is spectacularly, spectacularly wrong. And of course, let’s not forget 2009’s The Proposal, a film I literally can’t watch past the moment Sandra Bullock agrees to a 20,000 print run on a manuscript from an untried author whom Ryan Reynolds is championing. This is a pretty niche gripe I have with the film, I know.*
Turns out Hollywood doesn’t actually get most of the details of what it’s like to work in publishing right. GASP! So here are a few #publishingtruths to get us started with this blog. It is a truth universally acknowledged that:
- Publishing pays peanuts unless you’re in upper management. And we do mean peanuts. Like, live-with-your-parents-because-rent-will-beggar-you, or lol-what-even-is-health-insurance peanuts. This is partly because the profit margins are rarely enormous given how much it costs to produce a book. We say partly. There are other reasons, such as…
- Publishing houses are almost entirely staffed by women. Unless you’re at the top, in the CEO’s chair, of course. If you think we’re being facetious, check out the CEOs of Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Allen & Unwin, Scholastic Inc. and Hardie Grant, among so many others. Lee & Low Books in the United States conducted a 2015 study into the publishing industry and found that 78% of all employees at 34 different publishing houses were women. There’s a reason (well, several) why Ryan Reynolds isn’t proposing a visa marriage in our office.
- Publishing is an overwhelmingly straight, white industry. Lee & Low’s Diversity in Publishing study lays that out pretty clearly for the United States, and the state of racial and sexual diversity in Australia’s (admittedly much, much smaller) industry is even more dire. Tellingly, there hasn’t been an equivocal survey conducted for the Australian publishing industry, although there is growing scrutiny of diversity of the creatives whom we publish, such as this great piece by Natalie Kon-Yu for Peril. But take it from two brown girls—we’re few and far between among Australian publishers.
These are three fundamental truths that shape a lot of what we do and our various feelpinions about it. It’s also a truth specific to us that the editorial teams that we’re a part of are peopled by incredibly supportive, passionate women who want to have conversations about the often-dodgy state of affairs that govern our industry, and we know that there are so many other dissident voices throughout the publishing world as well.
So here’s the deal: we’re going to dissent in this blog. There is going to be a lot of shade. We’re also going to applaud, recognise and revel in the victories, however big or small. Above all, we’re going to chat about, laugh and share the strange idiosyncrasies of this bizarre little world we’re a part of. We hope you’ll join us.