Three years ago, Seth Godin published his book Linchpin. Since I follow Seth’s books and blog as a personal and professional challenge, I read it and was inspired by it’s concepts.
In it, Godin speaks about some of the new realities in business relationships. There used to be management and those who were managed. But now, he says, there is a third group…linchpins. These are people who make unique contributions to an organization, solve problems and make the organization better.
To be clear, a linchpin is not someone who knows all the computer passwords and won’t tell anyone else, or the only one who knows where to find the key to the petty cash drawer. In fact, a person who bases their “indispensability” on a lot of little things is actually just the opposite…even potentially dangerous.
If you are already published or want to be published, you should think about what sort of relationship you want to have with the publisher.
How would you become a “linchpin author” who inspires the best work from a publisher? Other than the obvious of writing a bestseller and making them and you a lot of money, here are some ideas:
- Know something about the publisher. Read about their history and know who is important and what motivates them. If you were interviewing for a job, you would learn something about the company, right?
- Follow through on commitments. Hit deadlines. If you can’t, tell the publisher well in advance. Communicate even if the publisher doesn’t.
- Make relationship deposits. At some point you will need to make withdrawals and there needs to be something in the account.
- Minister to the publisher. If you are a marriage counselor, offer a free marriage seminar to the publisher staff. If you consult ministries, offer it. Look for a unique thing you can freely give from yourself without strings attached.
- Be cost-conscious. Publishers are, you should be too. Let the publisher decide to spend $300 on dinner.
- Contact the head of sales and marketing and ask if there anything you can do to help. And mean it.
- Find a book from the publisher that you really like (not one of yours) and promote it with no strings attached. You are a team player.
- Pray for your publisher without telling them.
If you haven’t been published yet, it is never too early to devise a relationship strategy that makes you a linchpin author. You spend time developing your marketing platform…would make sense to find ways to keep a publisher working hard for you.
Finally, in the end, your book needs to sell well in order for a publisher to continue working with you. But publishers make decisions based on money along with relationship. If sales are borderline, the relationship might be the deciding factor.
What ideas do you have to make yourself a linchpin author?
I love this concept of the linchpin. I could be a linchpin author by submitting clean manuscripts to my editor. This could make their job easier.
As a sanguine, being a linchpin author is a given. For me at least. I was nodding as I read your list. How refreshing to read that the publisher/author relationship is, well, becoming just that. More of a relationship. I’ve heard so much that authors are just ‘the bottom line’ (which they are in a way) that it was making me heavy sigh more. I’m not saying that they pub/author relations needs to be a party. There are some writers who can offer more to a house than just a story.
Dan, I have a question. You mentioned about an author developing a relationship strategy. Do you mean in general? Or with certain pub houses?
As writers we can do research on what publishers our book would fit well in, but in actuality we have no idea who will pick up the story. Is this an area where we writers should go the extra mile with before submissions to acquisitions begin?
What I meant by a “relationship strategy” is that you set forth a series of behaviors that will guide you regardless of who publishes your book. Without deciding those, you will be blown about by the winds of the business relationship. Nice author on good days, not-so-nice on bad days. In a way, it is like the fruit of the spirit…which are present regardless of your circumstances.
Regardless of publisher… got it!
Thank you, Dan, for the advice. It’s very helpful, which is one of the reasons why I enjoy this agency so much.
I will put this in my ‘things to think about’ file as I continue to prepare:)
Very helpful post! I’d thumbed through this book quickly, when it first came out…but never thought to apply the insights to the author-publisher relationship. Smart. Maybe I should check it out again…
On a similar note, are you familiar with Jeff Goins (GoinsWriter.com)? He really harps on the importance of being generous–the over-and-above art of being perenially helpful. He says it’s a foolproof way to build influence. That just seems to synch up so naturally with your tips.
At a risk of looking like a dumb blond. I have to ask some questions, Dan. Isn’t the agent the man in the middle? Does the author build a relationship with the publisher? Maybe, I’m naive but I thought the agent dealt with the publisher. I don’t mind building a relationship with the publisher, but I would never want to “get out of my lane” so to speak.
The agent is the business manager for the author and publisher, but the majority of interaction will be between the author and publisher directly. When contractual or financial issues are involved, the agent is the go-to person. The agent’s primary job is like that of a realtor. If after you purchase a house, a guest spills wine on the new carpet, that’s an issue for a carpet cleaning service, not the realtor.
Thanks for passing along this advice, Dan. Great food for thought.
I find relationship is key in all aspects of life! Thank you for this analogy of being a ‘linchpin’ author. The points you make are valid and benefit everyone involved. Thanks Dan!
Nancy B. Kennedy
My strategy is to provide my publisher with chocolate! My series is titled “Miracles & Moments of Grace,” which abbreviated is M&MG. When I order books or correspond with my publisher, I send bags of M&Ms for the office candy jar. You can’t go wrong with chocolate!