The publishing experience is rarely done in isolation. This means working with other people. And if their performance or effort does not meet your expectations, conflict can occur.
Over the years I’ve seen more conflict than you can imagine…or all types and variety. But the majority of issues boil down to four areas:
- Production (cover design)
- Marketing and Publicity
- Getting Paid
The issues can range from an editor changing the name of your main character to horrific cover designs to absent support for a book launch to delayed income.
When (not if) something like this happens it is critical to know how to respond. This is where a good agent can be of great help. Your tendency is to become anger and vent…on your publisher. (Please read my previous post “Never Burn a Bridge.”) While the anger may get results it can also destroy any relationship you may have developed.
Questions to Ask When Upset with Your Publisher
1) Is this normal?
This happens a lot. What you may think is egregious is actually standard procedure. Especially with getting paid. Each publisher has different payment procedures and policies. Your agent should be familiar with the differences. Some houses won’t pay any money on acceptance until after all editing is done and the book is sent to typesetting. Others may pay faster.
With editorial conflict it can be that particular editor is known for certain things they like or don’t like. We can help you put that conflict in context. Some editors have a light hand, some have a much heavier hand in their approach. Neither is right or wrong…they are simply different.
2) Can this be fixed? And how fast?
Sometimes an error is such that it cannot be fixed. For example, a printed book is missing pages…which is a printer error not a publisher error…but you can’t recall all the books already shipped and sold. Usually something like that is an isolated error.
Or what if there are typos in your published book? Recently this happened to a client with an enormous number of errors discovered. The ebook was fixed within days…the printed book had already shipped but everyone in customer service was alert to any complaints. The second printing takes care of the errors.
3) Should this be fixed?
With cover design disagreements it may come down to personal taste and nothing more. You simply may despise the color orange because that was the color of your walls in high school and you don’t want to be reminded of high school. Unfortunately that can be a weak reason to force a change when everyone at the publishing company is enthusiastic over the cover design. This type of disagreement can be handled, if handled right. And that goes back to the anger I mentioned in the above paragraph. If you have a relationship then the speed bumps can be handled with little distress.
4) How Can I Express My Displeasure?
My advice is rather simplistic. Don’t press the “Send” button on your angry e-mail for at least 24 hours. If you must shout and scream do so with your agent only. Not your author friends, not your editor, not your local critique partners, but only with your agent. That agent is your “safe place.” Your agent will likely move you to the next question below…to give perspective.
5) How Bad is it Really?
Sometimes it it pretty bad. I’ve seen some absolutely awful covers. I’ve seen editorial notes that are head-scratching at best, scream-worthy at worst. I’ve seen publishers do some bonehead things with a book launch (but to be fair, they get it right most of the time depending on their budget restrictions), and I constantly play Collections Agent instead of Literary Agent.
Fortunately the situation is not as earth shattering as it may appear at first. Most issues can be handled with a quality communication. Remember there are real people on the other side of the equation. I’ve seen editors brought to tears by the vitriol of an author. In my days as an editor I had one author question whether or not I was a Christian because he didn’t like the design of his book cover. I know of a couple cases where authors tried to get an editor fired because of their disagreement over the work done by that editor.
I wish I had the space to give a half dozen examples of how things of an egregious nature were handle with aplomb by the author in concert with their agent. Things can be worked out. Maybe not to a 100% satisfaction, but at least to a point of acceptance.