f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: The Fight: From the Publisher Side

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Fight: From the Publisher Side

The odd, and somewhat unexpected, thing I’ve realized anew in editorial position is how often the writer/publisher relationship becomes adversarial.

The funny part is that I shouldn’t be surprised because as an author I went through deeply adversarial stretches…with my own co-workers. It was fun. You should try it some time.
Not that much of the frustration was blatant. Much of it was grumbling under my breath and a fevered desire to test the tensile strength of my office’s sheetrock. But as a publisher we go through blips and hiccups with nearly every writer.

It’s how those hiccups are handled that really speaks volumes about the relationship between a writer, his/her work, and his/her relationship with their publisher.

There are writers who refuse to hear criticism of any kind. They hold the truths of their manuscript to be self-evident and chafe at any interference. This may sound extreme, but it isn’t too far off the mark. Publishing a book with such a writer always comes from the adversarial position. Whatever benefit they bring is always weighed against the emotional cost of interacting with them. Don’t be one of these people.

A second type are the writers who go along pretending as though everything is peachy and then, finally, explode when the inevitable dromedary-crippling straw hits their back. It could be a marketing thing. An editorial thing. A bad cover. Frankly, these relationships are scarier than the first, because you can never predict them and often the fallout is disastrous. Trust is lost, poof, and writers often seem to think its easier to escape to a new publisher—one who hasn’t betrayed them.

Finally, there are the most common group of writers. The ones who can see things from perspectives outside their own. The ones who are intentional in what they do, understand the meaning of compromise, but also understand the importance of fighting for things in which they truly believe. We’re blessed here at Bethany House with many of these writers. We may argue and bicker and debate back-and-forth, but the relationship isn’t adversarial. It’s not, "I win, they lose." It’s, "Our goal is the same: great book to the most readers."

No matter what anyone tells you—any bitter writer, any frustrated agent—publishing houses aren’t out to screw you, aren’t out to warp your idea to their own twisted means, aren’t out to ruin your career. We’re here to do what we do every night…to take over the world, Pinky!...ummm, I mean, to find great books and get them to the most readers. I’m not a sociopath. I’m not writing this blog just to lure innocent writers to my lair where I can stab them repeatedly with my red editing pen. (Although, any one who wants to run with that as a mystery/suspense, go for it.) I’m here because I think you’ve probably got a terrific story that I’ll love and love helping you get out. Okay? Good.

Now step into this dark corner. I’ve got a surprise waiting for you.