The pressure for demonstrable and quick success mountedrnalong with the workload. The typical editor now has about 20rnbooks on his desk at one time, all on serious deadline, and eachrncomes with a profit and loss forecast sheet that says exactly whatrnnumbers that book has to turn to pay out. If it fails, the writer isrngone. If too many of them fail, then the editor is gone. Profitrndrives the industry, and potential profit determines what willrnand will not be published.rnAt the same time, and illogically, the very houses that arernsqueezing staff and demanding measurable success from everyrnwriter’s work will pay millions of dollars for a book by a politicalrnfigure, movie star, celebrit}’ athlete, convicted criminal, or accusedrnfelon, even when the named author was no closer to thernactual manuscript than most of them have been to an actualrnbook since they left school. Ghostwriters, slaving away for arnfraction of a percent of what the supposed authors are getting,rnare hard at work for a decimal point of what they might havernmade writing their own books a decade ago. The supposed authorsrnare raking in the big bucks, and so are the publishingrnhouses. In the meantime, they are quibbling over a few grandrnpaid out to a new writer who is a few months late on a deadline,rnor whose work might require some editing or management inrnorder to find a place on the publisher’s list. A big loser in allrnthis, typically, is the writer. A bigger loser is the reader. Andrnpossibly the biggest losers are the formerly idealistic young peoplernwho became editors, who are now reduced to a collectionrnof brown-nosing company cogs, fiercely loyal to policy, nornLIBERAL ARTSrnWHO SAYS JOHNNYrnDOESN’T READ?rnHanson, by Jill MatthewsrnThe story of the pop-rock group composed of three youngrnbrothers.rnHanson: The Official Book, by Jarrod GolliharernA profusely illustrated account of the pop-rock trio.rn—from “Paperback Best Sellers,”rnNew York Times Book Review (January 11, 1998)rnlonger able to take any pride whatsoever in their product. Asrnone editor lamented to me, “Nobody edits books anymore. Wernjust catalogue them, manage them, and shove them to copyeditrnfor processing.”rnOne timely result of all this is a demand for categories. Ever)’rnbook now has to “fit” some surefire category on thernpublisher’s list. Let’s say Editor Al gets a novel he really likes byrnAuthor Ray. He takes the manuscript upstairs to the corporaternVP, who is functioning as editor-in-chief Instead of looking atrnthe book, she asks, “What kind of book is it?” Editor Al says,rn”Well, it’s about this young boy and this old man . . . ” She interrupts.rn”No! I mean what kind of book is it? Have you seenrnour list?” Ofcoursehe has. “We have crime, mystery, thriller,rnromance, adventure, horror. Western, children’s, juvenile, andrnscience fiction. Which of these categories would it go under?”rnHe shakes his head. “None of them. It’s kind of literary.” Shernshakes her head. “Best-seller?” Al admits that it has potential,rnbut no iron-clad guarantee. “Then we don’t want it,” she says.rn”Get back to your desk and quit fooling around.” End of consideration.rnTo put it another way, the midlist is dead, and literary fictionrnis on life support. But this isn’t news, either. Look what happenedrnto poetr)-. In 1950, almost every one of the 23 “major”rnNew York houses had a “poetry list.” Today, only three or fourrnhouses in New York publish any original poetry at all except inrntheir textbook divisions. They regard poetry as a “loss leader,”rnsomething they publish in order to reduce their corporate profitsrnand taxes and maybe snag a Pulitzer Prize in the process.rnAlarmingly, some houses, faced with horrendous competitionrnin categon,- fiction, have dropped fiction altogether. There arernnasty stories of “payola” floating around, too, stories of editorsrnpaying to have some titles placed on regional best-seller lists,rnanything to keep their numbers up, their jobs intact. In sum,rnthe machine has to keep running, keep churning out product,rnfor that is what generates the profit that drives the industry.rnThe irony is that the quality of editorial work is diminishingrnas well. The average editor in New York starts out at aboutrn$25,000 a year, or less. And he is living in Manhattan or a nearbyrnborough, where a one-room apartment in a dangerousrnneighborhood can go for a grand a month, plus utilities. Thisrnis less money than a public school teacher can make. (Yet applicantsrnfor editorial positions are standing three deep at anyrnemployment office in New York. Go figure.)rnIn exchange for this princely sum, the editor is asked to putrnin close to 80 hours a week. Advancement is possible if a bestsellerrnemerges; but by and large, editors work in a sweatshop environmentrnwith little hope of anything good coming their wayrnfrom the companies they work for. Moreover, because of thesernconditions, the quality of aspiring editors is declining. One hasrnonly to look through a few published novels on any bookstore’srn”recent release” rack to discover that major errors in grammar,rnfact, style, structure, and even chronology and logic occur withrnregularity. To put it another way, and to quote a dozen NewrnYork agents, “No one knows how to edit anymore. MaxwellrnPerkins is dead.”rnSo is loyalty. Turnover is at an all-time high, and it is not unusualrnfor a writer to discover that his new publisher has assignedrnhim to the same editor he abandoned at a previous house, or tornthat editor’s assistant.rnSo what does this mean for the writers out there who havernmanuscripts in progress or even already making the rejectionrn20/CHRONICLESrnrnrn