So… do you really want to be an editor? A comics editor? Really?
Seeing as how I’ve been editing lots of different stuff (newspapers, magazines, books, broadcast stuff, and a whole lot of comics) since President Johnson thought he was a shoo-in for a second term, I guess I’ve learned a thing or two about the job. I’ve come to that point in my life where I’m ready to share. I figure I’m no longer grooming any competition.
Here’s just a few of the skills you need for the job:
1) A deep, ongoing desire to be eternally satisfied with struggling to make ends meet. Publishing is an iffy racket on its best day, and that was before anybody with an internet connection and a self-serving sense of ethics could download whatever they want without paying for it. Maybe someday that will change, maybe Russia will want to better monetize bootlegging, but right now the only gold in them thar hills is writing this piece.
2) You are a control freak. Honestly, it’s the gist of the job. I have tried to avoid being a control freak when I’m not on the clock, but, hey, white-collar workers work home from time to time. There’s a fine line between being a control freak and being an asshole, but as an editor, your superiors are going to put you into the position of being one lest you lose your job. After a while — but before I got into comics — I discovered that finding out exactly where that line in the sand is can be enormous fun, but my sense of entertainment is very anti-corporate.
3) You enjoy being in the middle of a lot of shit storms. If you’re the type of person who watches those camera people on The Weather Channel chase tornados and wonders who in their right mind would want to do that, editing is not the best career move you can make. Taking comics as my example — after all, that’s what I said in my lede paragraph — let me explain why a comics editor titled one of his creations “The Human Target.”
Your job is to represent the interests of the company and all its contradictory and ever-shifting needs and practices to the talent. Because there is nothing more fun than owning a condo in the crossfire, if you have any sense of ethics your job also is to represent the needs and skills of the talent to the publisher, which includes the master of editorial, the master of marketing, the masters of art direction, the master of production, the grand-master publisher, the owners, their board of directors and the Grand Invisible Cop-Out, the stockholders. Oh, and the lawyers. Everybody’s lawyers.
(Fun fact: even lawyers dislike lawyers.)
Let’s make this even more interesting. Your job is to represent the needs and the skills of the talent to the needs of the other talented people working on the project. Let me remind you, I used the phrase “shit storms” in the plural. When it comes to creative vision, not everybody’s always on the same page. I’ve had to referee a great many such disputes, and, no, I am not going to rat out the perps. Talent is driven by ego, so what do you expect? It’s Chinatown, Mr. Gittes. But I’m just childish enough to note that the better the creative team is and the longer they’ve worked together, the more likely such conflicts will pop up like zits before a teenage orgy.
Chances are, you, as an editor, will be involved in several different projects at the same time. Let’s say you are handling five different projects, which might even be reasonable. Multiply everything I just said by five.
Now, let’s say you are a full editor and you’ve got an assistant and/or an associate editor or maybe several of them. Perhaps you’ve been around for a while and instead of offering you more money, which they probably don’t have, they make you a group editor or a senior editor or a master-of-Kung-editor and you’ve got several editors working under you… and they’ve got their own assistances and associates. Maybe you share a proofreader and other support staff. We used to have photocopy kids which, in many cases, was the only way to observe and learn the craft. Now that we have all these computers and scanners and wi-fi, these folks pretty much have gone the way of the buggy whip. Yeah, you might have to Google that. Anyway, managing all those folks is also a part of the job. What, you wanted to make friends?
So. Does all that sound like a barrel of monkeys? Well, life always is better with a monkey. There’s got to be a reason I’ve been doing this for decades, but at least it helps explain how I developed my warped worldview.
If you’re still with me, you’ve made it past your first hurdle. Congratulations. Continue following this series, the second part of which just might appear in this space next week.
But maybe not next week. The biggest hurdle you’re going to have to leap, every day of your career is what Marvel Comics long ago called the “dreaded deadline doom.” It is inescapable, and if it didn’t exist “they” wouldn’t need to hire you. I’ve got a way to train yourself to handle that, but I’ll hold that as bait.
Which is another stupid editor trick.
© 2020 Mike Gold – ArrogantMGMS. Watch your ass!