Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Editors: Underpaid and Overworked

Sandra Parshall

Do you think of publishing as a glamorous business, with book editors reigning supreme? Do you imagine editors lingering over lunch at fabulous restaurants, going home at night to gorgeous highrise apartments in New York City and escaping on the weekend to their spacious second homes on the shore?

The reality doesn’t quite match that fantasy.

Every year, the Publishers Weekly survey of salaries in the book business produces the same conclusions: editors, the most important people in the process of bringing books to the public, make the lowest salaries; and women earn far less on average than men. These two facts go hand in hand, because the great majority of editorial employees are female.

According to PW’s figures for 2006, the average salary for men in all aspects of publishing was $99,442, compared to $63,747 for women. Men received average pay increases of 4.6% last year, and women averaged 4.4%.

The biggest salaries go to management, operations, and sales/marketing personnel, and the larger the publisher, the higher the salaries. Trade publishers pay median salaries of $118,400 to management personnel and $45,750 to editors. This striking difference extends beyond straight salary to bonuses. In 2006, 31% of editorial employees received bonuses, and the median amount was $3,000, while 53% of management personnel received additional compensation, the median amount being $20,000.

Most publishing salaries are low by comparison to other businesses, so it’s not surprising that money is the main source of job dissatisfaction, followed by increased workloads, lack of recognition, management problems, and long hours. Only 49% of the people surveyed said they were extremely or very satisfied with their jobs. Almost half, 48%, said they either expect to be working elsewhere two years from now or were unsure about their futures. If they stay in publishing, editorial employees who started out earning $30,100 per year might work their way up to a $71,000 paycheck after 10 years. Management is better paid from the start -- an average of $62,500 in the first three years, rising to $149,000 for those with 10 years or more on the job.

Where’s the real money in publishing? At the very top, of course. For example, the president and CEO of John Wiley earned total compensation of $2,024,613 in the fiscal year ending April 30, 2006. The chairman of Penguin made $2,519,400.

What drives
editors, the people at the low end of the pay scale, to work long hours for little recognition? I suspect it might be the same thing that drives writers to write even though they may never become famous or get rich from it: a simple love of books and the written word. When publishing no longer attracts people like that, we'll all be in trouble.


Regina Harvey said...

What's even more shocking is that, unless I'm mistaken, the majority of these editors are trying to make their living in NYC, one of the most expensive cities to live in! And it's sad to see the gender disparity too - I thought we might be a bit past that, at least in an industry with so many celebrated females.

Ah, well. Thanks for the info.

Anonymous said...

I knew it was bad, but I had no idea it was that bad. On a practical level, compounding the problems for authors, is that, in many publishing houses, book purchases are tied to an individual editor, not to a company. If the editor who bought a book moves on before the book is published, there is a good possibility that the company will not publish the book.

Lois Karlin said...

And there's that rumor about editors who steam valuable postage stamps off the landslide of SASE's they receive....

One great reason to enter the publishing world as an editor is to meet folks. It'd be a fantastic (temporary) career for young people who hope to write novels. Think of all the insider knowledge you'd glean, to say nothing of the agents with whom you'd rub shoulders!

Sandra Parshall said...

The remarkable thing is that 82% of the people surveyed said they would still recommend publishing as a career to college graduates, despite the low pay and long hours. Sometimes writers seem to regard editors as a different species, but they have more in common with us than not. Most are doing their jobs for love. They're certainly not doing it for money.

Mitz said...

Good information on the entire industry. Interesting to see that most writers and editors seem to be at the bottom of the salary scale - the "jobs" that are really needed in order to have the finished product.