Yes, I’d Love Some Cheese With My Whine

Caveat 1 – I’m about to get pretty whiny.
Caveat 2 – I have never ever felt undervalued or unappreciated by the people I’ve worked with. This isn’t about respect and recognition during projects–just after, as you learn what other people think about what you’ve done.

So, the Dresden Files RPG. That Origins and Golden Geek award winning game, nominated for 6 ENnies. Did you know I worked on it? OK, most people reading this probably do because most of you are my friends. But if you don’t know me and you’re looking at the books through online stores, reviews, and awards, you’ll probably have to look at the credits in the actual books to know I was involved. Whenever the game is listed, reviewed, or nominated for an award, there’s often a long list of the many amazing people who worked on that book. And my name is almost never on that list, because I’m not a writer (I think I’ve mentioned that before!).

It’s hard to talk about this without sounding all whiny and ungrateful. Imagine me stomping my foot and pouting like a 3 year old: “I worked on it, too! Pay attention to me!” But as I see many conversations questioning the need for editors, this bothers me not only for my own sake but for the sake of other editors. Yeah, it’s hard to see the fingerprints of a good editor–if I’m doing my job well, the text just looks like the best work of those amazingly talented writers. It’s kind of like special effects–if they draw attention to themselves and pull you out of the story the movie is telling, then they aren’t exactly doing their job, no matter how spectacular they are. So a well-edited book shouldn’t scream, “I was totally edited by So-and-So!” And when editors get left off the list in online stores, reviews, awards, and so on, it only seems to support the idea that the editor played a minimal role in the final product.

Yes, the people who really know editing know what to look for and can easily identify a well-edited book. And the people who hire editors will check the editing credit on books they like or they’ll talk to other writers and publishers to see who’s worth working with. So I really am kind of being whiny here–I’m not losing work, just the opportunity to bask in the glory of great reviews and awards season. I feel like I have to prove I’m more than a hanger-on because my name isn’t on that list of people who made the game what it is.

Yet I have read all 15 bazillion of those pages (Oh, wait. It wasn’t actually that long? Seemed like it sometimes!). I’ve read them several times, in fact. Both as Word documents in rough draft form and as PDFs after layout. Not one word is in there that didn’t go through me. I sent things back time and time again until rules were clear and examples made sense. I even helped write marginalia. I am not saying that I’m more important than anyone else who worked on the game–it’s very much a product of a remarkable team. I’m just feeling a little pouty that, because I’m “only” an editor, I almost never get mentioned in the list of contributors. (This same argument can as easily be made for the people who do layout–although for the Dresden Files RPG, Fred was the first one to neglect to give him credit for that!)

I’m not fishing for compliments here–please don’t feel the need to pat me on the back in the comments. Not to be all arrogant, but I know it’s a damn good game and I know I played a significant role in making that happen. I’m incredibly proud of the work we all did to make the Dresden Files RPG what it is. And the people who really matter–the team I worked with–have been appreciative and wonderful and they’ve given me accolades whenever they can.

However, I do have a suggestion: if you have an online store or you’re reviewing a game, consider including credit for editing and layout (my thanks to the occasional reviewer who does call that out). If you’re listing the people who contributed to something, maybe find the room to add a few more names (I know–you have to draw lines somewhere. But honestly, editor and layout combined shouldn’t typically add more than two or three names). Yes, the writers and designers are incredibly important and they deserve the credit that’s given to them. But the editing and layout play a huge role in how you experience a book. I’m just asking for a little recognition for all the people who poured their time, talent, and creativity into producing the game.

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4 Responses to Yes, I’d Love Some Cheese With My Whine

  1. Pookie says:

    You have my absolute sympathies. It is almost unheard of for any editor to mentioned by the gaming public at large and certainly uncommon for publishers to mention the role, though I am sure that Fred Hicks has. Part of the issue is that your role and work is invisible, and should almost only be visible when it is done right. I am a proof reader and now an editor myself, so when I read a book and review a book I am looking to see how well the book is edited along with all of the usual aspects of the book. When it comes to the review itself, I will at least mention the editing or lack of it.

    Another issue is that the industry as a whole does not recognise the editing role. As far as I am aware no award is given out for editing just as no award is given out for reviewing games or writing about the hobby — though that is another hobby horse. All I can say is that your efforts are appreciated by those that know. Sometimes, that is all that really matters.

    • ayvalentine says:

      Many thanks, Pookie. I’ve been lucky enough to work with really great publishers who value what an editor can bring to the process (I’ll call out Evil Hat, Margaret Weis Productions, Galileo Games, and Bully Pulpit Games – my sincerest apologies if I’ve left anyone off!) and I do feel they’ve given me recognition when possible, but so much of the conversation happens around reviews and awards and online stores and it’s rarely the publisher who gets to decide whose names are listed.

      Fred Hicks had a great idea on Twitter about changing labels so that the core team is grouped together in the credits – I think small changes like that could make a big difference overall.

  2. Ryan Macklin says:

    However, I do have a suggestion: if you have an online store or you’re reviewing a game, consider including credit for editing and layout (my thanks to the occasional reviewer who does call that out)

    And in this day and age of social media, several editors are cultivating their own fan bases. It would be stupid not to tap into those folks by mentioning editors on sales sheets.

    The place where I tend to see editors most credited is on anthology projects, where you can’t really point to any other person to say “and s/he did this.”

    – Ryan

    • ayvalentine says:

      Yes – my one cover credit came on a book with too many authors to list, so the editor and project managers got our names on front!

      As has been said in other conversations, we may be reaching a point where editing credit matters more since that at least implies there was actual editing. And I’m certainly hoping that specific editing credit will begin to carry some weight! 🙂

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