The life of a book editor is not as glamorous as some people might imagine. It’s not a bad life – I wouldn’t trade it for any other – but it’s a profession people choose out of love for books, not money. I’ve been having the same habitual exchange for years with my building’s super, who is from Ecuador. In my limited Spanish, I say, « Qui passe? » (What’s happening?) To which he replies, « Mucho trabajo! » (Much work!) And then we shake our heads and say, in unison, «Poco dinero!» – (little money) or sometimes “Pocito dinero,” – very little money. Then we laugh and smile at each other, enjoying our little joke about the injustice of the world.
It’s one of those rituals that make city life so sweet, an interaction with relative strangers that doesn’t take a lot out of you but is still a way of connecting with fellow New Yorkers. It’s safe, predicatable, and utterly comforting, like that tattered sweater you wear again and again because it reminds you of Christmas at your aunt and uncle’s house in the country, with its smell of pine and ginger cookies and homemade eggnog with nutmeg.
But I can play the game with him because, in fact, I probably make less money than he does. My profession may be more “genteel,” with business lunches at Keens Steakhouse with authors and agents, but his is more secure, with his union contract and wage negotiations. But we can both connect with the feeling that work is always piling up so quickly it’s hard to stay on top. In his case, it’s leaky faucets and clogged drains and rusting pipes, but in mine it’s a neverending slew of manuscripts – first drafts, rewrites, ARC’s (advance review copies), cover proofs, copy edited books, not to mention sales and editorial staff meetings. I’m not directly involved in every phase of our work – we have copy editors, editorial assistants, a tech staff, and a sales force. Like Alfred Hitchcock’s famous comment about a movie only being as good as its villain, I often think a publishing house is only as good as its sales force – especially these days, when the market is so glutted with self-published – er, junk. Don’t get me started – I promised Wally I would be nice. He’s my boyfriend, and he’s a cop, so I’d better watch what I say.
I do think it’s fair to say that anyone who has gone into publishing – and stayed there – loves books. Most of us also love writers, in spite of their neurotic, obsessive personalities, their egos and self-absorbtion. We love them because they give us the drug we have craved since early childhood – the chance to submerge ourselves in a story. To forget about the mundane details of life for a few hours, and live large between the pages of their books, whether chasing serial killers through the streets of Manhattan or following an orphan boy through the alleys of London. They allow us a peek at lives more exciting than our own, and characters who are somehow more intense, more fascinating – more alive than the people around us.
I’m not really sure how they do it, and I’m not sure I want to know. But I do know that as long as I’m able, I’ll continue to be a midwife to the crazy, talented authors I work with, even if it means mucho trabajo and pocito dinero. It’s the least I can do, si?
Who Killed Blanche DuBois? | Who Killed Dorian Gray? | Who Killed Mona Lisa?
New York mystery book editor Claire Rawlings has enough on her hands with her eccentric and ferociously egotistical authors. But life is further complicated by the unannounced arrival of precocious and equally egotistical twelve-year-old prodigy, Meredith Lawrence, who has “adopted” Claire as a mentor and parent figure. Claire and Meredith soon find themselves in the middle of mysterious murders, hunting down criminals who seem to have stepped out of the pages of Claire’s mysteries – though they soon discover that real-life killers are not so easily caught.
Meet the author
Carole Buggé (aka C. E. Lawrence) has nine published novels, six novellas and a dozen or so short stories and poems. Her work has received glowing reviews from such publications as Kirkus, The Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, The Boston Herald, Ellery Queen, and others. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and magazines.
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