I've pondered this subject on and off and still haven't lit on an attitude I'm comfortable with. (Yeah, okay, so I dangled a preposition.) I've been an editor at two different houses: first, the august Llewellyn Publications, known for serious nonfiction works on every aspect of occult studies, e.g., astrology, witchcraft, high magick, divination, the afterlife, psychic powers, etc.; second, a micropublisher that specializes in regional, local, and family histories. Whenever I wrote anything during my tenure at either company, it had to do with my my job.
Since I started publishing my own fiction several years ago, I've noticed that many e-pub owners and editors are also writers. I can't speak about larger print houses, because I have no experience with them, but a lot of peeps in e-publishing seem to like working both sides of the desk.
Is this good or bad? Is it neither good nor bad? Can it be both?
This situation does have distinct pros and cons. There've been some notorious instances in e-publishing of owners allegedly writing under multiple pseudonyms and giving themselves preferential treatment. Teddypig, a reader and reviewer, recently posted on this topic at his blog. Other companies have been accused of the same shenanigans. I suspect it's damned tempting to further one's own writing career in this manner ("Hey, I'm the owner of this sandbox!"), but it certainly isn't ethical.
On the other hand, many owner-writers like Tina Engler (aka Jaid Black) at Ellora's Cave, Margaret Riley (aka Shelby Morgen) at Changeling Press, and Treva Harte at Loose Id have done little or no spotlight-grabbing beyond what's necessary for promotion -- and I mean the promotion of any title. In their stadiums, or sandboxes, the playing field is level. Margaret Riley has said that her experiences as an author have helped her be a more responsible, and responsive, e-pub owner, and I don't doubt her one bit. She's a marvelous lady.
The issue of editors who are also published or aspiring authors is a bit thornier. On the plus side, a writer understands other writers . . . or should. We all have similar aspirations, fears, concerns. There is, I believe, such a thing as a creative mindset. So far, so good. We're cut from the same cloth. We're simpatico.
What happens if a writer-editor starts imposing, however inadvertently, her authorial voice and/or viewpoint on the work of her "editees"? It's always a possibility.
Then there's the matter of prioritizing. I know how rabid I am about writing. When I'm on a roll, I often won't bother answering the phone; I resent cleaning and cooking; I don't venture outdoors or even watch television. Coffee, potty, and letting the dogs in and out are about all that can drag me away from the computer. This isn't a good place to be for editors, however. To excel at what they've been hired to do, they can't put their own projects first. Emails need promptly to be answered; paperwork, shuffled; manuscripts, evaluated or edited; batches of material transferred to scores of different people. Any delays or mistakes resulting from an editor devoting too much time to her latest and greatest brainchild are . . . well . . . inexcusable.
I've often considered getting back into editing. I have the credentials, and I sure as hell need the money. For the reasons mentioned above, I've invariably scrapped the idea. The impulse to fashion my own stories is too strong. I'd be guilt-ridden as hell if I started neglecting my obligations on either side of the desk . . . but one side, at least, would certainly suffer.