Coping With Publishing Conflict

Here’s a big secret about book publishers: Human beings work there.

Even literary agencies have humans working for them. The myth circulating that asserts agents are ET beings using AI processes is greatly exaggerated.

So, for the time being, since humans are still involved in the publishing process, the best way to cope with conflict (author vs. editor, author vs. publisher, author vs. author, agent vs. everyone, etc.) is to identify best practices from centuries of conflict resolution and use them.

My qualifications to address this issue are:

  1. I’ve lived a long time to see many conflicts.
  2. I caused my share of them.
  3. I’ve tried to reconcile as many as I can.

Today’s world has become a public-grievance culture, and it seemingly infects all human interactions. For some reason unbeknownst to me (I was trying to find a way to use unbeknownst in a sentence), the solution to all human conflict is now to announce any problem to the world for all to see or hear. Social media is perfect for airing grievances in public.

Certainly, the person on the other side of a conflict will understand if you forego a simple one-on-one personal discussion to resolve something, instead escalating it to an apocalyptic event, going right for the metaphorical throat, which always works well to defuse any conflict.

Sure. Got it.

Ideally, conflict between publishing parties should never be played out in public. It is always best handled by the least number of people at the simplest level. Try to solve anything quickly and without escalation. Most problems can be solved this way.

Maybe, all problems could be solved this way. The longer you want to never appear wrong, the worse a problem gets.

And as an agent, I know we can often refuse to admit causing a problem, out of fear of losing a client. Never ends well. Admitting to a problem is the beginning to solving it. We are all humans with less-than-perfect tendencies.

To wrap this up, I propose a spiritual exercise.

Did you know the most-quoted section of Scripture at weddings (1 Corinthians 13) was not written for that purpose? In context, the passage was written following a lengthy section from the apostle Paul on unity and diversity in the body of Christ. It was written to explain how Christians should live together in all circumstances, not specifically marriage.

Here’s some homework for you:

Copy/paste 1 Corinthians 13 into a text document. Click here for the NIV text, or select another version you prefer. Rewrite it, maybe inserting your name or a personal pronoun in a couple places. Depending on your role in the publishing process, change the text to reflect it. Maybe love doesn’t envy someone else’s career path or income, and it doesn’t boast about your work and dishonor others’ work, etc.

Be creative!

Maybe this little exercise will allow you to handle publishing conflict, which will inevitably come along.

8 Responses to Coping With Publishing Conflict

  1. Len July 7, 2021 at 5:47 am #

    Dan Balow, you are the nicest, easy-goingest guy I know. You wrote this about me, didn’t you?

  2. Dan Balow July 7, 2021 at 5:48 am #

    Yes, yes I did.

  3. Linsey July 7, 2021 at 6:11 am #

    This is so good! Thank you.

  4. Rachel Suffern July 7, 2021 at 6:13 am #

    Such a good reminder for all areas of life. Thank you!

  5. Loretta Eidson July 7, 2021 at 6:33 am #

    It’s always best to settle conflicts between the original two people involved. Too many people air their complaints on social media in hopes of gathering supporters to join their side of the disagreement.

  6. Pearl Fredericksen July 7, 2021 at 11:10 am #

    Thank you. Somehow I always seem to fail at confict resolution in every aspect of my life. If I try being nice, I get used as a door mat. If I try to be assertive it backfires on me…
    Anyway, that’s a great reminder, to address issues directly person to person rather than going public.

  7. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D July 7, 2021 at 2:02 pm #

    Thanks, Dan. Scripture tells us in Matthew to confront privately in cases of sin, and conflict can be sinful. With my students, I try to rebuke privately and praise publically.

  8. Cathy Leyland July 8, 2021 at 7:55 am #

    Well said. True wisdom. Thank you.

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