Secrets of success in dealing with Publishers (Episode 2)

October 16, 2009


MAC OFFICEGetting signed on one book is a great start, but it is still just the start. Career authors I value most tend to give me no option of backing them because of their professional approach. In this post, I want to focus on few of the qualities that make authors easy to work with and highly valued to a Publishing House.

1. Timely submission and response

Publishing Houses work to tight schedules with low tolerances to delay. Publishing staff, if they’re anything like me at Macmillan, need breathing space between when a manuscript comes from a signed author and when it goes “into production”. Once so (“into production”) response times need to approximate the timing between a flash of lightening and a clap of thunder. A Publisher carrying the pressure of a list of books that must sell by the print quota needs authors to be time-givers rather than time-takers. To hit a home run, submit your manuscript a week early with all the pre-submission developmental corrections taken in.

2. Maintain a respectful distance

I’ve had a few close-talkers and touchy-feely folk invade my personal space recently. Moving around to the Publisher’s side of the desk, placing your hand on their knee or sharing a bit of garlic breath are all objectionable, yet these three happened in the space of just a week to me.

3. Be low maintenance

Publishers are not all like Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada but its not a bad benchmark to set yourself in terms of how much care to take with them. Publishers are generally very observant and acutely analytical. If you are nervous, try your best to avoid laughing hysterically at everything a Publisher says that approximates humor. Don’t probe into their private worlds or be excessively complimentary. Be your best low maintenance you.

4. Express your true DNA

Apart from writing in their unique voice, career authors engage in DNA-defining activities that extend their appeal. This means building up a unique value proposition without resorting to a generic or volume-based platform categories. “Social media expert” for example is now as original a platform as pressed ham in a can. By contrast, expressing your unique DNA means letting your spirit talk loudly. Tim Winton, for example, who is Australia’s most popular literary author makes JD Salinger look like a media addict with his approach to platform-building, yet his excursions into media are powerful. His campaign for the protection of Ningaloo Reef was a natural extension of his lifelong work – books that breathe with the Australian landscape, and a true expression of his DNA. Since the campaign, his novel Breath, about the very same coastline, has been one of his biggest hits.

That’s the inside scoop for now. Comments on your own experience getting into or out of this space are welcome.

Photo by Ben


One Response to “Secrets of success in dealing with Publishers (Episode 2)”

  1. CK Webb Says:

    Fantastic tips! Thank you for the heads up.

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