Tuesday, 17 April 2007

An Editor is Like A Record Producer

On my first day as Publisher of Portico Books, I managed to pull off having a meeting with a rock star. If you ever get a chance when starting a new job, I’d recommend it. Far better than the tour round the office as you forget everyone’s name or sitting at your new desk pretending to look busy and important.
I’d even succeeded with the golden rule of potential author meetings – always bag the last one of the day as a. this is when the author will be at their most relaxed and b. as you’re at the end he’s more likely to remember you. Having the meeting at six meant the meeting was facilitated by beer and wine rather than tea and coffee. It also meant the meeting could run on – and run on it did. Six became seven, became eight, became nine, with the rock star (let’s call him Rock) holding fascinating forth. Rock also slept in the following morning, missing his meetings with the other publishers he was meant to see. As you can imagine, I wasn’t over-gutted about that.
The point of bringing all this up is not to suggest that an editor’s life is all about meeting rock stars – far from it, as days two to the present of being a publisher of Portico will confirm. Instead, it’s because of an analogy I made to Rock about what being an editor is all about – which according to the agent, struck home with Rock.
The relationship between an editor and a writer, I’d suggested, is like that between a record producer and a rock star. It’s the writer/ rock star’s role to come up with the creative magic, and the editor/ producer to shape it, to edit it and to rein in as appropriate. The best music is the stuff where a decent producer has been able to keep control of proceedings, and producing a book is no different. Once a rock star decides to self-produce their work, quality control normally goes out of the window. The more cynical might consider this editor’s unedited ramblings further proof of this point.
Rock liked the record producer analogy. This week the agent sent through the material he’s been writing. It’s like Rock – arresting, uncompromising, and downright great. Here’s hoping I’m the one let loose behind the mixing desk.

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