May 30, 2010

Are New York Editors Out of Touch with Middle America?

A couple months ago, I attended a writer's conference in North Carolina and I couldn't help but notice a recurring topic in some of the conversations.

"Editors in New York have no idea what life is like outside of the big city," someone would say.

"Oh yeah! Their whole point-of-view is changed by living in New York," someone else would chime in.

Huh. Interesting. As the conversations continued, I'd slouch down into my chair and hide my face behind my cup of tea. I I the only person who disagreed with this sentiment?

Here's what I think:

Most New York editors didn't grow up in the city. A lot of them have grown up in the Midwest or the South or out on the West Coast--in the towns that you and I come from. For instance, the two editors at my recent conference grew up in Florida and rural Pennsylvania respectively--hundreds of miles away from NYC! And so, I find it hard to believe that these editors can't relate to "Middle Americans" when they've spent so many years outside of New York.

Secondly, I don't think it's right to assume that an editor is automatically out of touch with the world simply because she works in New York. The world is such a connected place nowadays! I mean, we have Facebook, Twitter, and 24-hour news. Sure, it might be easy to get caught up in the bright lights of the big city, but living in New York doesn't turn you into some snobby elitist. (At least, it hasn't happened to my friends in New York!)

Third, I'm constantly amazed by the diversity of books I find in the children's and YA sections of bookstores. For instance, Rick Riordan's new series features bi-racial protagonists and Laura Manivong's "Escaping the Tiger" tells the story of a Laotian family. Plus, Laurie Halse Anderson's bestselling novels range in topic from anorexia to child slavery. What a broad mix! (Of course, I wouldn't mind seeing more Asian-American protagonists!)

At the end of the day, I think editors strive to publish books that have wide appeal because they need to sell books in Small Town USA as well as Big City America. They simply can't be out of touch with the rest of the country--because they need the rest of the country to buy their books!

So what do you guys think? Do you feel that the writers at my conference had a point? Do you agree or disagree with their thoughts? Tell me why!


  1. I agree with you. Maybe these people had a bad experience or two with NY editors that colored their view. I don't see how living in NY can change a person into an uber-snob. I have friends who grew up in NY and they're all very down-to-earth people, though when they're around each other or talking to family back home, they get loud and obnoxious for some reason :)

    It could be possible to run into more editors who seem "out of sync" simply because there are so many editors in NY (as pretty much the biggest seat in everything literary). The odds of running into this would naturally be higher because there are more editors there per capita than anywhere else.

    Did they say what made them think the editors were out of touch? Very interesting conversation to come across!

  2. Hi Angela!

    Thank you for your thoughts! You know, I think this sentiment might stem from the fact that some of the conference attendees came from very small towns in the South. New York just seems like a whole world away when you live in rural North Carolina, I suppose! Or maybe they've had a bad experience before, like you mentioned.

    What's crazy is...some of these conversations occured during lunch or dinner---with the editors sitting at our table! Eek! Fortunately, the editors were very gracious and just kind of nodded along. I don't know if I could show such restraint! Haha.

  3. I definitely agree- agents have to sell books to a lot of different people. And they know what sells.

    Also, I really like that Rick Riordan's newest protagonists are bi-racial. I thought that was totally cool when I read The Red Pyramid.