Sometimes I’ll have one of those days where I’m minding my own business, when I pick up the phone to discover the author on the other end of the line is irate. (No, this is not a rerun of an article from the 20th century. I do still have a land line for my office).
“Ohhh, Tamela! I know that Hell is indeed located on Earth and where is it? It’s at my publisher’s address! Here’s one of Satan’s minions now! I can feel the prongs of the pitchfork in my side! Flames are burning the bottom of my shoes! The smell of sulfur is so strong that no number of Yankee Candles can override it! Here comes another minion with a Molotov cocktail now! HEELLLP MEEEE!!!”
A half hour later, another incoming call:
“Tamela!!!!! My publisher is the world’s most awesome! Lookie! A unicorn! Stripey! And another one! With polka dots! Ohhh, they just sent a chocolate fountain! Do you hear the marching band? And I see a rainbow! Here comes the leprechaun with the map to the pot of gold now! WOWEEEEE!!!!”
As an author, you want to be with the second publisher, right?
Guess what? The two authors are talking about the same publisher. (Although I admit to a wee bit of dramatization.)
Both authors are telling the truth of their experience.
Your agent and other authors can tell you their experiences with each publishing house, but always know that your journey as an author will be different from anyone else’s. So it’s important not to envy the author who seems to be with a flawless publisher. And to partner with a great agent who can be with you whether you feel as though you’re on a luxury cruise or if you feel as though Jonah is by your side and the whale is in sight.
Are you where you want to be in your publishing journey?
When has your publishing house exceeded your expectations?
Have you heard disparate accounts about houses? Without revealing names, did you find this puzzling? Or not surprising?
How does this happen? Is it because you might work with a different editor than another author? Different genre? Or does that even matter?
I have so many questions, and I don’t want to head into uncharted territory without an agent. So my plan for now is continue to learn how to write a great story. Write. Get an agent and follow God’s leading.
Do you have any other suggestions?
Tamela Hancock Murray
Jackie, reading Richard Mabry’s comment below will help! And yes, the ideas you expressed — authors working with different editors, in different genres than you — can have an impact. Of course, your best friend can get along with Ms. Editor X, while you and Ms. Editor X clash from the get-go. That’s life.
Yes, the publishing house has bought your work so they do dictate the final product. BUT the editorial process is negotiable so that doesn’t mean you can’t have any say when you don’t agree with an edit. The best thing to do when in disagreement is to approach the edit calmly and put forth a rational and good reason to keep your writing as is. Writers feeling conflicted must choose when to fight and when to acquiesce. An agent can help with this if necessary.
My suggestions are to keep doing what you are doing. Work hard and be realistic. Since you are a regular reader of this blog, I can tell from your spirit that you and your books will be a blessing to CBA.
Thanks, Tamela. I appreciate the encouragement.
Tamela, dramatization aside, I suspect this can be said of every author’s relationship with every publisher. In the course of eight books (one non-fiction, seven novels) I’ve had books published by three different publishing houses. I believe I have a good relationship with each of them, but I can see how problems might arise–a marketing issue, an editorial difference of opinion, a change in ownership so the publisher has a different boss and/or different set of rules… It all comes down to individual differences between authors (who are never willful or opinionated) and the people at the publisher (who are…well, you get it). As my late friend, Dr. Hugh King, used to remind me, “When you work for the man, you have to do what the man says.” Maybe that’s why some authors are going to self-publication.
Thanks for sharing your experience. Your last line really hit me…”When you work for the man…”
I work with the public on a daily basis, so I work for many men in a way. I want people to leave my store feeling better, even if they’re sick. So I try to greet customers when they come back to the pharmacy, and I try to fill their prescriptions as quickly as possible and answer their questions. I try to treat everybody with respect and listen to their concerns.
You’ve encouraged me that to think if I get a book contract one day, I’ll be able to work with the publisher without a problem.
Tamela Hancock Murray
Well said, Richard! Thank you.
Tamela, I really appreciate the wisdom you and other agents (and authors) share with us on the internet. Although I’ve not had any publishing experience, I’m getting the feeling that it’s a lot like parenthood in that you need to learn when to let go and when to insist that your idea be followed through on.
I’m definitely going to continue praying for God’s direction and peace as I polish my MS (and throughout this writing journey).
Blessings ~ Wendy ❀
It is just these kinds of posts that excite me about the industry. As a new writer, my primary concern is getting my stories out of the attic that is my head and onto paper. Then I want to help them be the best they can be. I look at my stories as kids. Although I am not a parent yet, I am a teacher. I do what I can with my students to prepare them for the real world. Some people will love them, and some will not. As long as they are strongly and lovingly crafted, they should be ready to handle both audiences. When the time comes, though, I look forward to seeing my book children grow and get into the world in the same way — ready for all comers. Thank you for all the great insight you provide.
Perspective is everything isn’t it? It seems like part of having a successful publishing experience comes from how we approach those with whom we work at the publishing house. I imaging making sure communication is open and respectful should go a long ways in getting a book to the published stage.
I’m not surprised that different people perceive their experiences uniquely. We all filter life through our unique perspective. I’m not published yet, so this post helps me understand and prepare for that day when I do—or don’t—have a unicorn and chocolate fountain experience. 🙂
At this point in my writing journey, finding an agent to represent my projects would have to be so exciting that I could not possibly care what little issues the publisher had. I am currently excited about four short stories that are soon to be published in anthologies. My editors are super professional and friendly. Sometimes they need things from me quickly; but I don’t mind. It is all a part of the experience!
Tamela, this issue follows us everywhere in life, doesn’t it– our publisher, our spouse, our doctor, the cashier at the store when the register neglects to ring up the sale price…. When do we compromise? Perhaps we never ought to compromise on anything of integral importance to us…. But, can we know “on the spot” when an issue represents an absolute, vs. a nothing-much? I believe we CANNOT always- every single time- judge rightly between the two…. For example, two weeks ago, i was in an important PERSONAL meeting, and, right off, the other party said something outrageous, effectively sealing my spouse’s and my lips– A totally unpredictable situation as i’m 99.9% of the time a cool-headed effective negotiator & quick thinker. But, it happened, and 14 days later, i’m yet stewing over it. =(This tells me a NON-compromiseable event occurred, bec i’m fairly good at sloughing off trite issues.) Now what?…. I’m blessed in that this has happened only a couple times before in my life. When it does, though, it’s a big whallop. (I intend to pray about it, but that’s only because i haven’t yet surrendered fully to what i already know God wants me to do here, :o) ..,.) The question i raise into your subject, Tamela, is, how do we hold on to our integrity even in outrageously and unexpectedly tough “negotiations” when a person who is supposed to be “for” us, effectively slices thru us like a hot knife thru butter?…. There’s a perennially interesting old saying: “Begin as you mean to go on.” Perhaps we ought to begin, whether it’s in our careers or private lives by compromising VERY infrequently on things that really matter. Let’s face it, unfair people fixated on their own agendas (and not on the whole picture– picture toxic stockbrokers eyeing their own pocketbooks, and not their client’s– these types are in every sector of life) often employ the trick of compelling us to “give in, compromise, in order to get some x task-at-hand done”. That’s forced compromise, packaged prettily with a bow– Few of us can resist a promise of “getting the job done”, even if something nebulous-at-the-momemt troubles us…. Yes, there is a time and place for compromise, whether we’re dealing with a “rainbows&sunshine”– or a “fingernails on a blackboard”– business situation (aka publisher). I’m considering tightening up my position, and viewing compromise as the exception, rather than the rule, when anything vital is at stake.
In our careers as writers, or any business situation, personal expectations based on a solid healthy sense of self respect must be met. A situation with a publisher may be cosy one day, and reversed the next. It’s a business, money is involved. We’re all grownups. There are things we can put up with…. othertimes, we may be consider making a change. As writers, we work hard, we pour our creative life-force into our work. I’ve been both content with my business relationships, and have made a number of changes. This is a industry full of change, as uncomfortable as that may feel. I’ve always avoided making decisions based on feelings. God’s guidance is first. (Tamela, your posts are successful in compelling me to address the deeper issues, :o) )
Yea! I’m back to receiving the blog again! I love my editor with my publisher. Her suggestions are usually right on, and if I’m really adamant about something and have a good reason to keep it, she understands. A few others I know have questioned the suggestions of this same editor and think maybe she’s too hard. I love editing my work and revising it, so maybe that’s why I don’t mind her suggestions at all.
That said, I agree with Richard in how things can change at publishing house. It happened to me and several other authors at one publisher who changed direction and had to cancel a few contracts. Publishing is a business, and as such will do whatever it thinks necessary to keep a profit going for the company.
Right on. If we could remember that it isn’t just in this situation where each person sees the world through their own lens of past experiences, how they feel in the moment and individual personality, there would be less reactionary responses. Our everyday relationships would be more tolerant, less critical and less resentment. And don’t we all want that. And its a skill we can all develop.