“Acquiring Editors Stab ’Em, Managing Editors Slab ‘Em”

When people talk about writing, they tend to imagine a simplified yet elegant life. Writers are seen as a happy (if pensive) bunch, lucky to live their dreams out successfully. They don’t make good money, sure, but they’re assumed to be happy.

In reality, publishing is an inglorious business — just like every other job. Any and every profession, however desirable, is going to have aspects that aren’t fun. I got my first taste of this during my own experience publishing fiction, which involved a back-and-forth email chain of 10 or so replies on a particular comma usage.

Anita Samen described the publishing business as being divided by a particular distinction:

Acquiring Editors Stab ’Em, Managing Editors Slab ’Em

It’s an inelegant way of describing publishing, but it’s also rather refreshing. Until today, I’d never heard anyone describe the world of publishing and writing with this level of completeness. The whole (publishing) industry can’t exclusively run on smooth interactions and simple logistics, even if that was the primary focus of those who worked in it.

As things are, writing is as complicated as any other industry, regardless of how romanticized it is.

Even as someone who hopes to publish fiction for a living, I love hearing the description of editing as work, but above all as dirty work in the daily grind. Stabbing and slabbing aren’t exactly pretty words, but they’re accurate. Publishing — particularly from the little that I’ve found out through personal experience — involves negotiations upon negotiations, and reworking time and time again. These tasks, particularly when you remember that reworking can mean proofreading each of the dozens of drafts of a work, are about as ‘daily grind’ as they get.

It shows how unrealistically people portray those who write for a living — in one form or another — that hearing authors described as grumpy and moody, and hearing their work likened to meat has a genuinely positive effect on my desire to listen earnestly to what someone (in this case Anita Samen) has to say. With all this complexity involved in the industry, I really appreciated hearing clearly how to navigate (in some form) that complexity.

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