The idea to write this post came from a conversation this past week with a client who turned their manuscript in to the publisher a week early. The editor was thrilled! Thus began a short exchange on what every writer should endeavor to do in their career. This may seem simple but is important to reiterate.
Do your best work. Always.
No shortcuts. No “mailing it in.” No “sending junk and let them fix it.”
It is called work. Not vacation.
Meet Your Deadlines
We know that “life happens” and often it is more than okay to ask for a deadline extension. But try not to make it a habit. A habit becomes a reputation. A reputation becomes a reason for the publisher to say “no” to your next project.
I’m not talking about the request for an extra week or even an extra month. I’m talking about multiple extension requests on the same book. And on subsequent books.
I heard of one publisher who offered more advance money to the writer if they met their deadline. The chronic delays on past books caused too many in-house problems for the publisher so they offered a cash incentive! It didn’t work.
Be Polite and Professional
In the words of one author “No drama!”
It can be easy, with email, to forget there is a real person on the other end of your keyboard “send.” A 4,000 word missive on how your editor is an idiot and everyone else in the office deserves to be fired will not endear you to your publishing team. (I’m not making that one up. A real person was reduced to tears by an author’s vitriolic email.)
A polite discussion on your frustration with the cover…with delays in marketing…with slower than expected edits…with request for 24 hour turnaround for edits or marketing copy… All these things can be aggravating. But kindness and politeness can work wonders.
If you need a “Darth Vader” when all else fails…that is something an agent can provide, when (and only when) it is appropriate.
Before you hit “send” consider showing your angry letter to your agent who will likely suggest a different line of inquiry.
Make Your Publisher’s Job Easier
That may sound goofy to some. “The publisher works for me, not the other way around,” was said by one author.
So let’s put it in another context. If your day job has you in an office with other people, would you treat those people with such disdain? If you are the boss, do you wonder why staff quit so often?
If you get a task with a difficult turnaround time deadline, try your best. If it is unreasonable it’s okay to say “That’s an awfully tight deadline and since I’m in the ER right now with my child I may not be able to do this today. But I will try, even it’s not my best non-distracted work.”
Versus, “No way. I can’t, I won’t do that today.”
Having been an editor and an agent I can see both sides of the equation. Landing on the side of kindness, self-control (and other fruit of the spirit) is the right thing to do.
If the “job” becomes onerous then a conversation with those issues as the topic is needed. I’ve seen those conversations reap wonderful results and increase professional friendship and cooperation.
On the other hand, I’ve seen the nasty conversations destroy professional relationships.
Remember to Say Thank You
Need I elaborate? It is part of the advice to be polite, but needs a special reminder.
A marketing person at a publisher is likely working on 10 or more urgent projects at once. Sort of like rush hour traffic. One blown tire and the congestion brings the freeway to a halt. The marketing person didn’t put the nail in the road. But it messed up the best laid plans for that week’s to-do list.
Editors are not sitting with their feet on their desk with a favorite beverage doing the daily crossword puzzle. When I worked as an editor, I could have 20 different projects in various stages queued up. One editor who worked for me had a practice of closing the door and turning off the overhead lights…then flicked on a single lamp over the work space. The editor said, “If I let my concentration move into the shadows I can no longer focus on the task in front of me.”
The point is, we can all claim to be busy and be truthful. Recognizing and acknowledging the work that has been done well is a good thing to do.
By the way, I do think editors and marketers should, on occasion, say thank you to the authors too, but that is another post for another day.
Any other tidbits of advice you can lend to the discussion?