Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant
Location: Books & Such Main Office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
Since most of us will be out grilling, watching parades, and oohing and ahhing over fireworks on our grand Independence Day, this blog post will remain up through Tuesday. Just so no one misses out, you know.
I’ve been thinking about an author’s relationship with his or her publisher recently, and it occurred to me that some of my clients have learned how to successfully maintain that relationship the hard way. So, to save some of you from those faux paus, lean in and listen (er, read) carefully.
Once a writer signs a publishing contract, everyone involved is dizzy with happiness. The editor, the marketing people, the sales reps, the author, and the agent are all like teenagers who have just met the dreamiest person–who is going on a date with them! The future looks positively, giddily full of promise.
Because the writer feels (rightly so) affirmed in his or her writing ability and in the marketability of the project, everyone at the publishing house is like a new best friend to dream about the future with.
That perception is right…almost.
The folks at the publishing house are not your new best friends…they’re your new best colleagues.
So what does that mean? Here are six ways authors can show themselves presumptuous in the relationship:
- Do not assume that what you say to one person stays with that person. (This is not Las Vegas.) Everyone at the publisher’s works daily with everyone else. Okay, that seems obvious, but think about the repercussions of, say, complaining to your editor that the person who wrote your back cover copy is lame-brained. Why, that might be the individual the editor has lunch with almost every day. Hmm, your comment might not go over well.
- Do not deride any other books your publisher has chosen to produce. Okay, so you think some very-famous-but-can’t-write-his-way-out-of-a-paper-bag author shouldn’t have been given the chance to show off his lack of skills–let alone have a mega marketing budget. Here’s the thing: That author might well be providing just the infusion of cash the publisher needs to be able to produce your book, and to pay for employee’s salaries.
- Do not confess that you don’t read any books in the genre you’re writing in. You have just proclaimed that you’re writing with blinders on. That you don’t even particularly like your genre. Especially if you admit this to your editor, red flags will start snapping in the wind for her. Oh, oh, you don’t know the “rules” for your genre; how can you produce the best manuscript? Just how much work will she have to do to pull you from the brink of disaster?
- Do not assume your publishing house will understand that you missed your deadline because you received a bigger advance for another project after signing a contract with this house. This is not a “family affair”; you have acted unprofessionally.
- Do not divulge that your wild weekend left you debilitated on Monday and unable to work. Sure, you think the person you’re talking to on the phone or writing an email to might have experienced a similar weekend. But you don’t know. And just because they did doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to have gone and done likewise. That individual might be offended–and that surely can’t do your image any good. Unless, of course, your book is about what a bad boy or girl you are. (Now, that’s an unlikely scenario.)
By the way, my clients haven’t fallen off of all of these cliffs, but I have seen other authors do so. Even if some of these scenarios seem far-fetched, I assure you they are not.
Ultimately, remember this: You have entered into a professional relationship. And while writing is a highly personal experience and many people at the publishing house will learn lots about you as they work with you, every one of them will always protect the publishing house over you. Always.
What errors have you seen other writers commit in relationships with publishing staff?