What Did You Learn?

April 16, 2010

Getting Published: The Industry Dynamic

Filed under: Getting Published — Tags: , — ax20 @ 12:27 am

The publishing industry is somewhat unique because the line between who is offering services and who is the client is blurred. It’s not like in, say plumbing, where somebody hires a plumber to do the work and then pays the plumber. In that case it’s clear who is working for who. In publishing things are trickier.

Authors submit their work to an agent. If the worked is accepted, the agent then submits the work to a publisher. Once accepted by a publisher, the publisher works to turn the text into a book and then sends it to a printer…Ultimately, the publisher, agent, and author gets money (or at least the vast majority of their money) based on the final project and how it sells.

I like to think of publishing as more of a partnership than everyone else. All three parties are responsible for different things but all jobs are essential for the final result to be successful. All three parties have made a commitment to each other.

As the author, it is your job to respond to questions, send information and corrections in a timely manner. As the agent you are responsible for submitting the book to publishers in a reasonable amount of time and keep the author informed on the status of the work. As the publisher, you need to make sure that everything is ready for the book to get to the printers, to the distributors, and promoted. If any one pf these people don’t do their job, the book won’t happen and all parties lose.

An important thing to realize is that your relationship is very important. Watch what you say and how you say it. (Of course this holds true for every business but it is especially important when everyone holds the fate of everyone else in their hands.) Don’t place blame. There is a big difference between saying “have you had a chance to write that synopsis, I need it by tomorrow” and “you didn’t write that synopsis, I need it tomorrow.” As an agent or publisher, if you’re obnoxious or neglectful, it could cost you a good writer (who wants to be know as the one who lost the next “Harry Potter” deal?). As an author, rudeness could cost you the chance to get your book picked up as well as make your editors less inclined to work hard to make your book the best it can be.

You also have to be realistic. Courtney is key. When emailed, you should acknowledge the email, give a reasonable time frame for which you can deliver what is requested. And don’t nag! Nothing is worse than an author who calls every hour to talk about their book–they are taking up the time that the agent or editor could actually be working on their book! That’s not to say never check in, but be reasonable and give them time to get back to you.

But editors and agents need to understand that for authors, their books are their babies. While agents and editors work with hundreds of books over their career, it may be an author’s only book and their life’s ambition. It will likely be very personal and close to their hearts. They are very anxious and excited. Keeping them in the loop will save you time because they won’t be calling a lot and it will save both of you stress. The author will be more accommodating if they have an idea of what you are doing and can see tangible results.

As an author, by understanding your role in this complex dynamic, you will find that agents and publishers are more willing to work with you and are more determined to make your work a success.

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