Mending Fences with Your Publisher

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Recently I’ve concentrated on writing about an author’s relationship with his publishing house. We’ve examined a few of the ways the publisher-author relationship can go askew. It’s not that anyone intended that to occur; it’s just that life looks very different from inside the publishing house and outside the publishing house.

As someone who has worked within publishing houses for more than a decade, I understand the dynamics of what happens when an author: oversteps boundaries (read more here); doesn’t believe in boundaries; or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, believes being silent despite disappointment makes the relationship work (not!) (read more here).

What should you do if you find you’ve not realized where the boundaries were?

Mending Fences: Own Up to Your Part

First, being honest with everyone involved should go a long way toward clearing the air. Once a relationship develops problems, it’s weird how everyone offended closes up (or discusses the problem among themselves but not with the offender). So giving people permission to admit you’ve been driving them crazy is a good first step.

Of course, you have to be ready not to be defensive when they agree that, yes, you have been a pain to deal with.

Mending Fences: Explain What Went Wrong for You

Second, talk about how the relationship went wrong for you. There really are two sides to this story (at least two sides; lots of people are involved in publishing your book). It’s good for staff at the publishing house to think about how the inciting incident(s) looked from your side of the fence.

Mending Fences: Make a Plan

Third, come up with a plan to resolve the problem. Just acknowledging that all did not go well is not the same as finding a solution. That solution needs to be dreamed up with the publishing personnel, the author, and the agent. Once the plan is agreed to, then the agent can oversee its implementation and that the plan is followed up on.

In many ways, your relationship with your publisher is like any other relationship. Apply good relational principles, and you’re likely to come out looking better than ever to your publisher.

Have you or someone you know had communication problems with his or her publisher? How were they resolved? Or were they swept under the carpet? What ultimately happened?

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