Has the Book Publishing World Finally Gone Topsy-Turvy?

It used to be every author’s dream to write a book, submit their manuscript, and have a publisher tell them they’d love to publish it. Today, author’s are just self-publishing and why? They won’t have anyone telling them how to change their words. I was disgusted when I read online that NewSouth Books was going to put out an updated version of the classic, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, because when he wrote it he used the “N” word. What right do they have to change his words? That’s the way the book was written. I live in Jersey City, and as much as I hate the “N” word, I hear it used out there on street all the time, in New York City as well. Unfortunately, it’s still part of our culture and students should learn history the way it was written, the way it happened. No one’s words should be cleansed.

Mark Twain from Wikimedia

Then there’s the issue of book design and who should be deciding what’s appropriate. I remember when I worked on staff at various publishing companies in New York, I’d sit and talk with the editor, who was representing the author. The editor would tell us more about the book, and as the art director it was my responsibility to read the manuscript, get a sense of the writing style and design what I thought was right. Of course each company had a different system for cover approval. Some held weekly meetings where marketing, sales, editorial, and the president were all at the conference table and could all voice their opinions at once. This seemed like a great and easy solution until someone chimed in they didn’t like that “yellow” and before I knew it everyone had destroyed that cover design and it was back to the drawing board. Other companies had the walkabout, where I started with the editor and if he/she liked it, it was on to the publisher, and then to sales, marketing and if I made it through all of them, finally to the president, who could reject it and we’d start over again.

As someone who loves books, reading and designing them, I’m wondering what’s happened to this industry and if too many boundaries are being crossed. Who’s in charge of what anymore?

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