An email from a friend brought to mind the number of people required to make a book out of an idea. My name goes on the cover, and you'll judge me to be successful or not on your own terms. You may never hear of the others who played a role in the final result.
Often authors thank family and friends in their acknowledgments, and that's certainly appropos. Whether they read for content and clarity, listen and share ideas, or just tolerate odd behavior, their contribution is immense. My husband's repeated comment for four years, "Just keep doing what you're doing," served as inspiration and encouragement. He didn't think I was wasting my time, even when the rejections kept arriving.
Next is agents, who both encourage and discourage, providing a professional eye that measures, as well as human beings can, public acceptance of a work. Yes, they're wrong sometimes, but their criticism balances family pride with honest feedback. In addition, their expertise in finding where a work fits into a publishing house's needs is invaluable.
In publishing houses, there are people who read and sift, read and sift, continually looking for MS Right. Sometimes the initial readers are volunteers who read simply for the free books and the love of reading. Sometimes they are junior editors who never dreamed that their degree in English would lead them to ceiling-high slush piles. My suspicion that these people are a little crazy is more than countered by my admiration for their dedication. In speaking to a few of these people I've found that they are more than fair, giving even a bad MS a chance to save itself and often writing constructive criticism for those who are close but not yet ready for the next tier of editors.
In the editing tiers are those who hunt diligently for errors, to eliminate weaknesses before the reader sees them. One editor at Five Star surprised me by researching a name I'd used for a secondary character. Contrary to what seemed logical to me, she learned that "Megan" was not a name in use at the time of my novel, but "Meg" was. Easy to fix, but her attention to detail brought to light something I'd assumed I knew but didn't.
Reviewers make important contributions, bringing books to the attention of readers. With 90,000 new books every year, someone has to point people in the direction of those they will enjoy and even those they won't. Reviewers who have no stake in a book's success can provide readers with information to help them make those choices.
And there are dozens of other talented people at the publishing house: cover artists, formatters, and all the others who guide the story on its way and educate first-timers like me in the protocols of publishing. Not one of these people is getting rich from my work. We're a team with a common goal, to present to the public something worth reading. I suspect that for all of us the tangible rewards are secondary. It's the feeling that we've reached that group goal successfully that pays.