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Editors and Publishers

  • The writer — more especially the novelist — who has not, at one moment or another, considered his publisher unworthy of him, has still to be conceived.

  • You see what stupid folk my publishers are; but they are all alike.

    • George Sand,
    • 1855, in Raphaël Ledos de Beaufort, ed., Letters of George Sand, vol. 2 ()
  • The copyeditor I drew was a brachycephalic, web-footed cretin who should have been in an institution learning how to make brooms.

  • This is what happens when the discourse of publishing, defined and driven by spoken and written language, is talked about in exactly the same vocabulary and syntax as any widgetmaking industry. Books are reformulated as 'product' — like screwdrivers or flea-bombs or soap — and the majority of writers are perceived as typists with bad attitudes.

  • Publishers of course have you altogether in their grip; if they say you must do a thing you have jolly well got to do it.

    • Rose Macaulay,
    • letter (1907), in Jane Emery, Rose Macaulay: A Writer's Life ()
  • ... it may be said of me by Harper & Brothers, that although I reject their proposals, I welcome their advances.

  • Most publishers, like most writers, are ruined by their successes.

  • The perfectly natural thing to do with an unreadable book is to give it away; and the publication, for more than a quarter of a century, of volumes which fulfilled this one purpose and no other is a pleasant proof, if proof were needed, of the business principles which underlay the enlightened activity of publishers.

  • You say I must write another book? But I've just written this one. / You like it so much that's the reason? Read it again then.

    • Stevie Smith,
    • "To An American Publisher," Harold's Leap ()
  • The share of the sympathetic publisher in the author's success — the true success so different from the ephemeral — is apt to be overlooked in these blatant days, so it is just as well that some of us should keep it in mind.

  • Bringing out our little books was hard work. The great puzzle lay in the difficulty of getting answers of any kind from the publishers to whom we applied.

    • Charlotte Brontë,
    • 1845, in Elizabeth Gaskell, The Life of Charlotte Brontë, vol. 1 ()
  • My relatives, Ellis and Acton Bell, and myself, heedless of the repeated warnings of various respectable publishers, have committed the rash act of printing a volume of poems. The consequences predicted have, of course, overtaken us: our book is found to be a drug; no man needs it or heeds it. In the space of a year our publisher has disposed but of two copies, and by what painful efforts he succeeded in getting rid of these two, himself only knows. Before transferring the edition to the trunkmakers, we have decided on distributing as presents a few copies of what we cannot sell; and we beg to offer you one in acknowledgement of the pleasure and profit we have often and long derived from your works. — I am, sir, yours very respectfully, Currer Bell.

    • Charlotte Brontë,
    • in Muriel Spark, ed., The Letters of The Brontës: A Selection ()
  • I dare say you will try to make me believe that Editors are human. Now I deny that, for I myself have, in past days, had evidence to the contrary.

  • After toiling so many years along the uphill road — always a hard one to women writers — it is peculiarly grateful to me to find the way growing easier at last, with pleasant little surprises blossoming on either side, and the rough places made smooth by the courtesy and kindness of those who have proved themselves friends as well as publishers.

    • Louisa May Alcott,
    • 1869, in Ednah D. Cheney, ed., Louisa May Alcott: Life, Letters, and Journals ()
  • I don't believe in publishers who wish to butter their bannocks on both sides while they'll hardly allow an author to smell treacle. I consider they are too grabby altogether and like Methodists they love to keep the Sabbath and everything else they can lay hands upon.

  • He was nothing but a brain picker like the rest of them, and where would the lousy publishers be if it weren't for writers like himself?

  • Writers are always a great nuisance to publishers. If they could do without them, they would.

    • Fay Weldon,
    • in Sybil Steinberg, ed., Writing for Your Life ()
  • The successful publishing house is the one that can guess ahead, not the one that imitates the past.

  • ... the publishing firmament pales / When the firms that once shone as its stars / become Jonahs / EnGulfed by conglomerate whales.

    • Felicia Lamport,
    • "Brief History of Publishing -- From Start to ...," Light Metres ()
  • To me, all the juice of a book is in an unpublished manuscript, and the published book is like a dead tree — just good for cutting up and building your house with.

  • Publishers are in business to make money, and if your books do well they don't care if you are male, female, or an elephant.

    • Margaret Atwood,
    • "Dissecting the Way a Writer Works," in Graeme Gibson, Eleven Canadian Novelists ()
  • Being edited is like falling face down into a threshing machine.

    • Margaret Atwood,
    • "The Rocky Road to Paper Heaven," Internet "sermon" ()
  • The man might have become a Power, but he preferred to remain an Ass.

    • H.P. Blavatsky,
    • referring to an editor (1875), in Collected Writings, vol. 1 ()
  • Every author knows what a stimulus it is to have an understanding publisher.

    • Gisela Richter,
    • My Memoirs: Recollections of an Archaeologist's Life
    • ()
  • ... the right to remove passages without consulting the Author seems to me to be quite new, and not yet common practice. This is the opinion shared by the half dozen Authors that I know personally. However, the Good Lord having not marked me with the sin of obstinancy, I shall give in to your demand ... and I await the next set [of proofs] in the humble attitude of a deflated balloon.

    • Madame de Ségur,
    • in Sophie Heywood, Catholicism and Children's Literature in France ()
  • And it does no harm to repeat, as often as you can, 'Without me the literary industry would not exist: the publishers, the agents, the sub-agents, the sub-sub-agents, the accountants, the libel lawyers, the departments of literature, the professors, the theses, the books of criticism, the reviewers, the book pages — all this vast and proliferating edifice is because of this small, patronized, put-down and underpaid person.'

  • The worst sin of publishers, to my mind ... is their suicidal wish not to sell the books they publish.

  • [On the children's book-publishing industry:] It's a bunny-eat-bunny world.

  • The publishing business is an amoral industry.

    • Carol Ehrlich,
    • "The Woman Book Industry," in Joan Huber, ed., Changing Women in a Changing Society ()
  • [On working with James Joyce:] So, either you run your publishing business far away, where your writer can't get at it, or you publish right alongside of him — and have much more fun — and much more expense.

  • The war between authors and publishers has been a conflict of ages. On the one side, the publisher has been looked upon as a species of Wantley dragon, whose daily food was the brain and blood of hapless writers. ... On the other side, the author has been considered, like Shelley, 'an eternal child,' in all that relates to practical matters, and a terrible child at that, — incapable of comprehending details, and unreasonably dissatisfied with results.

  • I was born to be an editor. I always edit everything. I edit my room at least once a week. Hotels are made for me. I can change a hotel room so thoroughly that even its proprietor doesn't recognize it. ... I can't make things. I can only revise what has been made. And it is this eternal revising that has given me my nervous face.