Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Introducing MOE

There's a shadowy character haunting the virtual corridors of our house. He doesn't work for us. He might work for a magazine or an e-book publisher. Maybe he even works for a micropress, but never yet for one of the big New York trade houses.

We call him MOE. He's a bit of a puppetmaster, our MOE, with an uncanny ability to pipe his words through the mouths of our authors.

"MOE wouldn't want me to change that scene."

"MOE prefers a different procedure for line edits."

"MOE hates commas. MOE would never add a comma there."

He's kind of a pain in the ass, what with all this backstreet pontificating on how we should conduct our business. His opinions are quoted like scripture and brandished like swords. Authors offer his latest edicts as if we should all adopt his every whim as law.

It may be true that MOE is wise beyond his years, infallibly upbeat, a paragon in every possible way. But, you see, as brilliant and noble as MOE may be, there's one important limitation he will never be able to overcome.

He doesn't work for us.

He doesn't know our house standards. He doesn't understand our production process, our corporate structure, our mission or our goals. He's never read our style guide, and even if he had read it, he'd be more interested in his own style guide than in ours.

Which is as it should be, because he doesn't work for us. He works for someone else.

So whenever an author says,

"MOE says shocking language is good. MOE says there's no such thing as a dirty word."

we wonder why, exactly, MOE should be taken as an authority on allowable language, or on any other thing happening in our house. The truth is, we don't care much about what MOE thinks or does or says. His words are interesting anecdotes to us. Even if we know MOE personally and count him among our friends, he doesn't impact our publishing or editing decisions.

Which is as it should be, because -- say it with me now -- MOE doesn't work for us.

In case you haven't already figured this out, MOE is "My Other Editor." We respect the fact that writers often produce for multiple outlets. We respect that this is often a smart career decision, and we accommodate scheduling requests as best as we can whenever MOE needs an author's time. We expect MOE does the same for us, because this is pretty much ingrained in the business model, and because professional courtesy generally governs interactions between professionals at different houses.

But that is where MOE's influence ends. Which is as it should be. And by now, you all know why.

who is MOE in every house but her own


Anonymous said...

MOE's pretty cool, but Curly's my man! ;-)

Seriously, I never would have thought of using that excuse for being obstinate about changes. I guess it must be the same people who used 'my other teacher', 'my other professor', 'my mom', etc., in school.

Edittorrent said...

Larry always seemed like the ringleader to me, so he was sort of my favorite.

I'm always mystified when MOE pops up in a conversation.


Dara Edmondson said...

I'm a fan of Larry, too;-) I have 2 MOEs and they are very different in their wants and needs - as I would expect. Makes sense that MOE shouldn't have any voice or even be mentioned.

Ian said...

Woop WOOP woop woop woop WOOP woop woop woop!

*Doin' the Curly Shuffle*


Anonymous said...

I've had a few MOEs now. Each one works a little differently. I try to think of them as brilliant and myself as...malleable. It helps when they really are brilliant, like you, Theresa!

(Sucking up)

Edittorrent said...

/\/\/\/\/\ applauding that most excellent suckup /\/\/\/\/\/\

Kate, an editor is only as good as her authors make her appear. It's a magic trick that starts and ends with you. :)


Edittorrent said...

Okay, so why do so many of us like Larry? What does THAT mean?

I bet MOE liked Moe best. :)


Dave Shaw said...

I've lost it now, but somewhere on the 'net there was a study that suggested that women preferred Larry and men preferred Curly. It at least fits our small sample size here. ;-)