IPEd Conference 2021: Editing on the Edges

Katherine Day

Katherine Day
Katherine Day has been working in the publishing industry for over fifteen years. She was an editor at Penguin Group (Australia) for eight years before freelancing for Penguin Random House, Allen and Unwin, University of Queensland Press, Rockpool Publishing, Working Title Press, and Thames and Hudson. She is currently a lecturer in the School of Culture and Communications, University of Melbourne, and is undertaking a PhD at RMIT, focussing on publishing agreements.

Negotiating from the Edge – how editors facilitate communication in a post-contract space

Publishing houses are fascinating spaces. They’re industrious; they’re places where quick, pragmatic decisions are made alongside deliberate appraisal and development – where culture and commerce coincide. Yet they are also insular; they are closed sites where the publisher, design team, production, sales and marketing and rights departments – all those at the coal face of the creative synthesis – collaborate on a shared vision for each title. When a manuscript is given the green light, a well-oiled machine with many cogs sets in motion.

Surprisingly, one contributor – arguably the most important – is often absent from the process. Sitting at the margins of this exciting place of enterprise is the author. To the author, ‘in-house’ is intangible. But it’s a place to which they have contractually entrusted their work and where they hope it is respected, nurtured and distributed to its readers. Yet without the benefit of being ‘inside’, the author simply has no way for knowing if their plan for their book is the same as the publisher’s. And the more corporate the world of publishing becomes, the more concrete the barrier between the spaces inside and outside.

Editors provide the most effective communication between the author and the publisher and other professionals in the in-house space. Not gatekeepers, as such – their role is of key holder and ally, moving from the margins to the inside and back again, and facilitating communication from the edges when authors’ moral rights are challenged by commercial considerations.

Citing recent research into publishing contract negotiations, this conference paper explores a ‘post negotiating space’ where editors’ roles extend beyond finessing text to provide a crucial link for the author to the in-house processes, as well as mediating the power balance between authors and their publishers.
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Online, 28 to 30 June 2021
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