At lunchtime today Anthropapa brought home a smallish cardboard-wrapped package for me that had come in the mail. It was from one of the publishers I work for, which was odd because I normally only get paychecks in the mail from them, not anything that requires cardboard — all the editing is electronic.
I was intrigued, especially since the return address was not their editorial headquarters in NYC. A fulfillment warehouse, perhaps?
I cut open the box, and to my delight there inside was a beautiful, brand-spanking-new copy of the very first book I copy edited for them last April. And an invoice, which I was thankful said the copy was gratis, because the cover price is $90.00!
It was a little daunting to see that book in my hands. I have copies of other books I’ve edited, but this was the first one I had done for a “real” New York City publisher — not one that was published by people I know personally, for example.
Then I opened the book to take a look, and I noticed that I was mentioned in the acknowledgments. That really blew me away somehow.
I had always thought I was pretty much a cog in the great publishing machine. Most of the time, I am in email contact with the managing or production editor, or maybe just their assistant. I work at my little desk here at home, and zip off the files when they’re done. Sometime later, I get a check. I never interact with the authors directly (though I do sometimes work directly with authors, but then not through a publisher) and I always assumed I was sort of working anonymously.
This has reminded me that there are real flesh and blood people behind these books. Real authors — for this publisher, typically university professors — who have worked quite hard to get where they are, and who need to publish in order to advance their careers. And I am reminded that most of them are quite intelligent, intellectual people, who nevertheless might not understand every little grammatical or formatting quibble. And, that they are grateful that there are patient, persnickety editors like me who can help their thoughts read more clearly.
And about that cover price, you might ask? Well, I’m sure there are numerous commentaries out there in blogland about the hideous price of books. I’ll just say that, given the nature of publishing right now, and the probably fairly tiny projected sales of a book like this one (an analysis of a German art historian’s response to and involvement in the creation of public art in 1890’s Hamburg), the price really does probably cover costs. Now what are those real costs, in the face of on-demand publishing such as via Lulu.com?
Dunno. I’m just glad they pay me.