This Manuscript Hires People
Apropos to Charlie Stross’ piece today about what goes into making a book and why it’s not just as simple as tossing out a bare manuscript to whomever might be willing to buy it, I’d like to point out something that I think gets overlooked as a net benefit to books being made the way they currently get made, which is:
As an author, my manuscript makes jobs.
For example: When I turn in my manuscript, it’s taken up by an editor, who looks at it, gets it into commercial shape, and shepherds the manuscript through the book production process. That editor has a job because of what I wrote.
That manuscript is handed off to a copy-editor, who makes sure that my lack of attention in junior high composition class does not haunt the final book. That copy editor has a job because of what I wrote.
The editor talks to an art designer, who manages the process of giving the book a distinctive look. One thing the art designer does is assign a cover artist, who makes something to catch the potential book buyer’s eye from across a crowded bookstore. Then there’s the interior/page designer who makes the words on the page look like something other than a Word document. The art designer, cover artist and interior designer have jobs because of what I wrote.
All that done, off my book goes to marketing and publicity, who will do the job of letting other humans know my book is about to exist in the world, and that they should be excited about that fact (and they should!). The marketing person and the publicity person working on my book have jobs because of what I wrote.
And so does the person at the printer who actually prints the book. And so does the person at the warehouse who makes sure the book gets to the bookstore. And so does the person at the bookstore who sells the book to you.They have jobs because of what I wrote.
So, right off the top of my head, ten people who have jobs because I took it into my head to write a story. There are more I’m forgetting about or omitting for the moment, but these ten will do for the point I’m making. How do I feel about the fact they have jobs because of my work? I think it’s pretty damn awesome, to tell you the truth. Not only does my work feed, clothe and house me (and my family and pets), but it feeds, clothes and houses an exponential number of people as well (and their families and pets).
True, it’s not just my work that does that for them; they have jobs because of what other people wrote, too. But my own work has a direct and material contribution to their employment and well-being. And I like that, a lot. I like the idea of what I do being a cause for many different people, some of whom I will never meet, to have employment and productive lives.
And here’s the kicker: Not only do my words give all these people jobs, but under the current system, I don’t have to pay them anything. In fact, I actually get paid to do it! Getting paid for giving other people work — hey, that doesn’t suck.
Which is one of the other reasons when people declare how great it’ll be when there’s nothing between authors and readers I give them that cocked-head puppy dog look. What will be so great about not giving work to a whole bunch of people, all of whom can do their specific and essential book-creating job better than I could? Sure, I could hire them personally if I felt I needed to, but then I would have to pay them. As opposed to someone else paying them, and also paying me.
Bear in mind, of course, I’m saying all this as someone who has a) self-published, and b) has actually hired artists and editors to work on stuff for him, and may do so again in the future when the mood strikes him. I’m not anti-DIY. But I am pro creating jobs for other people, and pro doing it while getting paid myself. I mean, seriously: Job creation and personal profit! How much more rampagingly capitalistic can I get?
So, yes, just one more perspective for folks to consider when they’re talking about the future of books.