Editors Should Get Royalties? The Ann Patty Model

By David Comment

Ann-Patty.jpg.jpegEditor Ann Patty has an intriguing essay up on Publishing Perspectives this morning, wherein she wonders out loud whether book editors should be getting royalties.

The set-up: “In the Internet free-for-all book editors may become more, rather than less important. The editor is the author’s interface with the world at large; the other roles in publishing houses, as they are now configured, may become obsolete in the digital future.”

Patty (pictured, via) was the editor of Poseidon Press, editorial director of Crown and executive editor of Harcourt, from which she was cut when it was bought by Houghton Mifflin. She worked on three bestsellers, including Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, so it’s easy to see how this proposition would benefit her. (Or would have benefited her in the past, at least.)

And Patty’s argument: “A book editor should participate in such a bonanza along with the publisher, agent and writer. When a book editor’s work is extensive (re-structuring, re-plotting, re-writing) and substantially contributes to the final book, a one or two or three percent royalty is not too much to ask. If a book editor is on staff at a company, such a royalty should begin only after the advance has earned out, or after some number of copies which insure the company’s target profitability have sold.”

But it raises a few questions: Is the writer/editor relationship too subjective for an agreement like this? What about books that come in in near-great shape–would the editor still deserve a cut? The problem here, to me at least, is that it’s rarely easy to quantify an editor’s mark on a manuscript, and you have to quantify it to monetize it. But enough from us; what do you think, readers?