« Discussion

Should Publishers Credit Editors, Proofreaders, Agents and Others in Books?

If publishing is a collaborative process, it’s time to give credit where credit is due.

By Edward Nawotka

stack of six books

In today’s feature story about publishing in West Africa, Bibi Bakare-Yusuf, one of the founders of Cassava Republic Publishers notes: “digital allows us to challenge the notion of the narcissistic authorial voice or the cult of the ‘genius’ that is at the heart of book production with its obsession over the individual celebrated author which masks the collective efforts that is involved in any act of creation.” Paradoxically, later in the same piece, the author, Robert Cornford of Oxfam, notes that in Nigeria, many are concerned that “digital publishing (or at least digital production and printing) makes it too easy for material of very low quality to be self-published.”

He explains,

“Some is to do with academics who will put a cover onto their lecture notes and then make this required reading for their students; some linked to self-publishing of memoirs and “autobiographies.” Many ‘publishers’ in Nigeria are printers who take on self-published work, so there is a lot of material of compromised quality. Most of this is at present in print, but participants could see how the ease of access to digital platforms could exacerbate this problem.”

These ideas seem at odds with each other. One arguing that digital publishing is naturally more collaborative, the second arguing that digital publishing makes it easier for publishers to go it alone (with poor results).

In the United States there are symptoms of this happening as well. Last week, I asked “Is Self Publishing Too Selfish” and suggested that self-publishers and DIYers can learn a great deal by taking on the role of “publisher” for another persons work. I argued that one is not truly a “publisher” until they start publishing other people’s work (many disagree), and suggested that until they do so, they are merely a printer. Self-publishing, by it’s very definition, is a go-it-alone endeavor. Yes, increasingly self-publishers collaborate with service providers — be they professional editors, proofreaders, designers, et al. — who all provide feedback and make contributions to the work.

That said, someone who his hired as a service provider has far less stake in the outcome of a book — especially one that appears under the colophon of an individual — and where their personal investment is invisible. At a publishing house, things are somewhat different, in so far as all the work the house produces is a reflection of that individual, whether they are an editorial assistant or the editor-in-chief: after all, they carry around business cards and a resume that features that very house’s name. It will be part of their professional reputation forever.

One solution to this issue would be for publishers of all kinds, traditional, self, DIY, whatever — to credit the editors, proofreaders, agents, publicists and others inside the books — and not just as a passing reference in the acknowledgements, but on the copyright or another page, much like a magazine does?

It would make for interesting reading.

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11 Comments

  1. Posted August 25, 2011 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    I must say that my role as a graphic designer has always appeared on the publications i have worked for. But yes, all people that made it possible for a book to be published and, often, an author known, should be mentioned in the credits.
    Authors should always seek the professional service of editors as often they do not see that thei ‘baby’ needs improving.

  2. Posted August 25, 2011 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    I whole-heartedly agree with this.

    I have self-published three titles. On the copyright page of each of them, right under the title and my name is my editor’s name, and my cover designer’s name. If I used an illustrator, artwork on the cover, had someone design maps, or anything like that, they would be credited too, right there in the front.

    I never had a moment’s thought it should be otherwise.

  3. Stefanie
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    I read a teen novel, Enclave, and the publishers, Macmillan’s Feiwel & Friends, listed every single person who worked on the book.

  4. Mohan Nair
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    This is entirely desirable. Acknowledging publishing professionals who have helped to improve the book will add to its market appeal and promote reader acceptability.

  5. Daniel K
    Posted August 25, 2011 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Although in some instances of course you would be crediting individuals who did very little other than collect a check.

  6. Posted August 25, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Some publishers have long credited the work of the designer, fewer have credited copyeditors, but I know of none that have credited everyone in a publishing company that contributes in any way to a book’s publication. If you take a step farther down that slippery slope, you might as well just include a page in the back of every book that lists every employee of the publishing company! This would get unwieldy for the largest publishing houses. And what purpose would that serve?

  7. Posted August 25, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    I see this happening more and more on Amazon KDP books, with editors and illustrators linked on the book sales pages.

  8. Posted August 25, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I credited everyone that touched my ebook. It works for film & television and is a great way to thank people who made your project better.

  9. Posted August 26, 2011 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    In all Giglets ebooks (on iTunes and Amazon and others), we do credit all contributors, including editors and reviewers, similar to credits in movies and computer games. It is a key element for thanking the team.

  10. Posted August 26, 2011 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I think that it may be useful for beginning publishers and self publishers as a way to impress upon potential readers that the requisite processes have been undergone with the hope that the potential readers may then translate that into meaning the book is of a certain quality standard.

    I think it hasn’t been done in the past because professionals used to be paid a good wage for the job they carried out and the books they worked on were produced by publishers that the public knew and trusted to bring out to a consistent and recognised standard.

    I can’t help thinking that crediting people en masse is often these days just another way of substituting actually paying them for their work. Usually in an ebook if someone has been credited for something it means they did it for free and all parties are hoping the credit will lead to paid work in the future to make up for the free work done on the book.

    I think most people would rather be thanked by being paid appropriately for their professional talents. Not everybody likes the limelight but everybody likes a roof over their head and food on the table.

    On the other hand if a credit is all that is on offer it is better than nothing in some situations. But I would not automatically assume every person would want a credit. Best to ask first and give them a choice.

  11. Posted August 26, 2011 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely this should be done, especially for cover designers and editors, but especially for editors (meaning copyeditors, as they actually put their hands on the work and improve it, but I used the term ‘editors’ in general because anyone who has edited as many books as I have knows that most books require a level of editing that goes well beyond basic copyediting. The work of a good editor makes the narrative flow more smoothly; fills in gaps in the narrative; makes the book a pleasant experience to read without tripping over the stumbling-blocks of grammatical errors, misspellings, poor sentence structure and punctuation errors.

    Editors have long worked silently in the background, but if not for our work, so many books — even those written by well known authors — would be a mess!

    It’s time we were thanked!

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