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Stop the Presses: An Editor Admits Looks Matter in Publishing

In an article on, a few editors from book publishing companies share their reasons why they're paying big advances for debut writers. The collective answer is they will pay well to work with writers whose transcripts could turn into best-sellers.

For all the game-recognizes-game talk, one quote from Knopf editor Claudia Herr stood out the most:

Herr, for her part, acknowledges that an author’s appearance can affect an advance — “We look at all of that stuff” — but insists, “We would have paid her the same money if she weighed 500 pounds and was really hard to look at. That’s my firm belief.”

Finally—someone finally said what most women in publishing always suspected: It's easier to work with a female writer or editor who is classically thin and/or pretty.

Earlier today, Mallory Ortberg of posted a response to the article. Instead of crucifying Herr for her loaded quote, Ortberg thinks it's an opportunity to open up a discussion how relationships between editors and writers can improve:

" its own way, [it’s] also an extraordinary opportunity for the people working in publishing to look at how easy or how difficult they make it for fat writers, for queer writers, for writers of color, for writers with disabilities (especially those with immediately visible disabilities), to stop seeing size as a setback or a deviation from the norm that must be overcome with some additional, extra-special qualities."


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