In December 2012, the world was supposed to end, the U.S. was expected to fall off the so-called fiscal cliff, and some commentators had already pronounced Canadian publishing dead or nearly so. As we know, the world did not end, and the U.S. has avoided plunging over the fiscal cliff, at least for the time being. Will Canadian publishing also thwart predictions of its imminent demise? And what of the editors who earn their bread and butter by editing books?
Over the last decade, a long list of Canadian-owned publishers have closed their doors. Most recently, the venerable West Coast publisher D&M—which comprises Douglas & McIntyre and Greystone Books and is the largest independently owned publisher in Canada—filed for bankruptcy protection. If the company does revive, it is sure to be in a more compact edition. In general, the smaller publishing houses are hanging on, though sometimes barely. The multinationals are going strong, and with the recent merger of Random House and Penguin, some are becoming even larger and more powerful.
What does all of this mean for book editors? Not only have many in-house editors lost their jobs, but fewer places remain for them to ply their trade as freelancers. The midsize publishers are mostly gone, and the smaller houses often do most or all of their editing in-house. This leaves the multinationals, but only a handful of editors outside Toronto edit for them. Moreover, with the unleashing of so many editors from the various defunct or ailing publishing houses, there is increased competition for whatever freelance editing jobs are available.
Many of the former D&M employees, including the editors, do not even plan to look for jobs in publishing. Of the five members of the editorial team, only one is now editing books. I will be going into teaching—well-known repository of former in-house editors, as well as freelancers—though I hope to have a part-time job in publishing as well.
Some freelance book editors are taking on self-published authors as clients. Others are writing or branching out into other types of editing. How are other book editors dealing with the new landscape? And what is the future for book editors?