Blogger: Mary Keeley
Publisher mistakes happen. Oversights occur. Disagreements with your publishing team take place. Delays cause negative ripple effects. Any one of these can have a detrimental, sometimes devastating, effect on your book during the production process. Not if, but when any one of these happens, it’s best for the sake of your career to be diligent and let your agent do the talking.
Authors, be diligent.
Staff changes and publishing house acquisitions cause upheaval, not to mention staff reductions, which pile more work onto those who remain. It’s a prescription for trouble. That’s why it’s increasingly important for authors to be enthusiastic, cooperative, gracious, prompt with your due dates…and quietly diligent.
An author’s diligence is key because once the contract is signed, the communication shifts to the publishing house interacting with the author directly. Your agent, who can’t be everywhere at all times for every client, relies on you to notify him or her at the first hint of trouble.
Following is one extreme example to illustrate the kinds of things that can go wrong. A multi-published author I know focused attention on extensive marketing activity once the publisher approved the full manuscript, which, by the way, the author had turned in on time. When the publisher made a decision on the cover, the acquisitions editor sent a copy to the author. Often, publishers forget to send a copy to the agent too. Fortunately, the author was wise to forward the cover file to the agent and ask the agent to intervene because there were obvious problems.
Let your agent do the talking.
Author issues over covers can be sticky situations. Covers are within the publisher’s realm of responsibility. However, a good agent will negotiate wording in the contract, providing a client the right to give input on the design. Designers occasionally are resistant to perceived criticism of their work and to the extra time and work a redo will mean to their schedules. Agents are experienced at negotiating these situations delicately toward a win-win solution, allowing you, the author, to retain your positive, warm and friendly relationships with your publishing team, which is of prime importance.
I wish I could say that was the end of the author’s problems with this highly reputable publisher, but it wasn’t. The author knew the galleys would be late since a freelance editor hired by the publisher had steered the book in a wrong direction early in the editorial process. She was finally replaced when the author asked the agent to intervene. Again, the right move by the author.
The author then went back to focusing on the aggressive marketing campaign. It didn’t dawn on the author that the publisher never did send galleys to review, but the realization hit hard when the author received the author copies of the printed book. Leafing through, the author quickly noticed several typos and formatting errors and contacted the agent right away. That was the right thing to do but sadly, after the fact. Staff reductions had occurred in the middle of the production schedule, and the editorial process for the author’s book had been neglected.
The agent notified the new acquisitions editor to request corrections in the next printing of the book. The one remaining, now-overloaded acquisitions editor promised to look into it and sent a copy of the book to the editorial department to determine if additional errors existed. Bottom line: the worst-case scenario that could happen happened. The editors found so many errors that the publisher decided their only recourse was to recall the entire first printing from all the distribution channels and shred the books. Of course, by that time some of the books already were in readers’ hands. In the time it took for the publisher to correct and print new books, marketing momentum had been lost, and was later reflected in poor sales.
The agent stepped in again to press the publisher to find a way to overcome the debacle. That chapter still is being written.
True story. I shudder just thinking about it. I want to emphasize this is an extreme example but one I think highlights the necessity for all authors—debut to published veterans—to adopt this motto: Be diligent and let your agent do the talking before a small problem becomes a big problem.
Do you have a publishing experience to share in which you had to enlist your agent to intervene? How does this example influence the way you will approach your future publishing experience?
Authors, be diligent and let your agent do the talking when a problem arises with your publisher. Click to Tweet.
Authors need to be enthusiastic, cooperative, and diligent throughout your book’s production process. Click to Tweet.