Amber Husain

4 February 2021

Editorial Distinctions

Last summer’s social media campaign #PublishingPaidMe was a display of solidarity of sorts, in which writers revealed careers’ worth of book advances in a bid to spotlight racial disparities in author pay. The collective effort from which the campaign emerged ranged in its concerns from the proportional commissioning of Black writers to the proportional hiring and retaining of editors of colour. By the end of 2020, most analyses of the year’s reckoning with racial injustice in the publishing industry were sensitive to the importance of ‘structural change’ as the only means of redressing its evident whiteness. None that I read, however, focused on the ways in which racial, gender or other forms of injustice are connected with publishing’s structural organisation of labour, in particular the distinctions drawn between different kinds of editor. The work of the copy editor, for instance, is today not only restricted to the task of ‘cleaning up’ texts that may or may not have been ‘substantively’ edited beforehand, but also largely outsourced to underpaid freelance workers who miss out on the employment rights and benefits enjoyed by their in-house counterparts.

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