Further thoughts on outsourcing

When last we checked in on the outsourcing controversy kick-started by Wednesday’s Observer piece:

  • Publishers Lunch was ready to hand out a Pulitzer to any journalist willing to research editors’ practices and refute the Observer’s claims that outsourcing (and editorial sloppiness and apathy) are on the rise; and
  • An acquaintance of mine who works in a reputable publishing position outside New York — yes, believe it or not, folks, these jobs exist — acknowledged some instances of editorial outsourcing among editors he knew.

Here’s what you had to say:

  • Book Angst 101‘s “Mad Max Perkins,” an editor at a big house in these parts and undercover blogger, writes:

    Re: outsourcing, I’ve never done it and don’t know of anyone here at my cozy little house who has; though once one of my bosses, worried that I was cracking up, hinted that if we needed to hire somebody “from outside” to lighten the load on any particular book, just say the word. I never did. In fact, every editor I know — every one — still edits his/her own books. Extensively. Some dumb-asses (me, anyway) several times.”

  • A friend with experience in British publishing offers this withering response:

    When I read an article as ludicrous as this one, any legitimate points — and sure, more editing probably is outsourced these days — are inevitably eclipsed (and de-legitimized) by my hearty amusement. “Charlotte
    Bronte,” the first time novelist quoted, is wise to stay anonymous, because she apparently lives in some alternate universe where it’s an everyday occurrence for a debut novelist to get a ‘healthy’ advance before she’s written anything and then to be treated to months of coaching and
    hand-holding. Please. As for Seth Mnookin, if his freelance editor lopped off one hundred hours from her bill, how many hours were there? It sounds like she should get a co-author credit.

  • A well-established writer sends email with the subject line “Snort” and this pithy evaluation: “Piss on Publishers Marketplace — they all outsource editing.”
  • These secondhand observations from a publishing veteran have wound their way into my inbox:

    Even though editing is being outsourced, there are still great editors editing the books. So, essentially, it doesn’t matter whether it’s being done in or out of house, just that it’s being done. However, [the publishing veteran] also said that there are some publishers that are notorious for just not doing any editing at all — [one particular publisher] being the most infamous. I think someone [paging Mad Max Perkins] essentially needs to do some comprehensive investigation with the big 5 and others to get the full picture. There are probably a lot of people who would be willing to talk off the record.

  • Ron Hogan (of Beatrice) says, “having just turned in a nonfiction manuscript myself, I do have some recent direct experience to draw upon in framing my response, and I basically feel that I got plenty of hands-on editorial attention.”
  • Finally, a correspondent at a major NYC house wonders: “Shouldn’t there be an acronym for publishing insiders who speak out anonymously? A “NYMPHo” or “NYMPHette”–New York Mammoth/Major/Midlist Publishing House . . . Hee!”


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