From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:
Last week, as I was searching for a friend’s book on Amazon, I made a loathsome discovery. My friend’s book, which is up for preorder, lists her name and the name of someone else on the byline.
I had never heard of that someone else. So I clicked on the preorder, and what did I see? A cover, with just my friend’s name on it.
So I glanced up at the title. Beneath it was this byline:
My Friend (Author), Annoying Person (Editor)
I went through the roof. My friend wrote that book. She hired Annoying Person to edit the book.
I looked up Annoying Person and found her terms and conditions. She sounds like a fairly knowledgeable editor. She only handles copy editing and line editing (although it sounds like she would have a pretty heavy hand). She explicitly says she does not do developmental editing.
Which means she has done exactly nothing on this book. She didn’t come up with the concept. She didn’t brainstorm the characters. She didn’t improve the plot. She didn’t imagine the setting.
All she did was tweak the words.
So why the hell is she getting credit for this book?
When I searched her name on Amazon, I found her listed on the byline of dozens of novels by many different writers—too many for this to be simple ignorance on the part of the writers themselves.
Annoying Person asks to be credited as editor on the book as part of her agreement with the writers. If they hire her, they have to list her as editor.
This is a great ploy by Annoying Person. It got me to look up her name. I’m sure it brings her a lot of business.
And it decreases the sales of every single writer whose byline she leaches onto.
Got that? Having her name as editor on that byline hurts sales of the books dramatically.
. . . .
For years, traditional publishing has needed brand names to sell its books. Because traditional publishing has to go from bestselling book to bestselling book to meet its monthly quota, traditional publishing’s beleaguered editorial departments do what they can to manufacture bestsellers.
Some of those are movie tie-ins. Others are books that are “just like” the books by a big name. Mostly, though, the manufactured books piggyback off an established name.
Right now, James Patterson is running a regular fiction factory. By my count, he will have 25 new books with his byline on them in 2018. That doesn’t count the “James Patterson Presents” line where he introduces a book.
The dual byline thing is very generous of Patterson. A couple of friends of mine have worked with him on collaborative projects. He’s hands-on (unlike some writers who’ve done this), and he teaches his collaborators a lot about writing and plotting, even if they’ve been in the business a long time.
The dual byline usually boosts the sales of the secondary writer. I was familiar with almost every writer he worked with. All of his collaborators were established writers before they signed on to work with him. But as I scrolled through the list, I found a couple of names I didn’t recognize. I looked them up as well, and discovered they were established, but they were new to me.
That system works well for the secondary writer. It also works well for the publisher, because they’re minting money. And it works well for Patterson, because as he’s said in more than one interview, he has more ideas than he can get to in his lifetime.
He’s happy with this arrangement. And he’s not the only one who does this. Clive Cussler does the same thing, and has done so for decades.
This is actually a 1990s trick that publishers used to use a lot more than they do now. Now, most writers who want to let someone play in their worlds either do it with Kindle Worlds or something similar.
. . . .
I got to see lots and lots and lots of sales figures from these joint byline books. I know young writers who were brought in to work with the established writers, and I know established writers who mentored young writers.
I also was in the thick of publishing when this Thing was important in traditional publishing. Dean and I, as Pulphouse Publishing, were in a co-publishing deal with Bantam Books, and as such, were privy to a lot of their business decisions back in the day.
To a person, everyone involved in these co-writing ventures acknowledged that books with a joint byline did not sell as well as books with the author’s single byline.
Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and thanks to Melinda and others for the tip.
Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.