Monday, March 16, 2009

It's not a's politics.

Okay, Kimber this is an open invitation for you to school me -- but here goes.

My take on the reality of the publisher/author relationship -- it's not business. Not at all. Despite a contract with very clear terms regarding deadlines and timelines and the ramifications of meeting or failing to meet those deadlines - this is not a business arrangement.

Oh, don't get me wrong - the author better meet those deadlines - in fact without plenty of advance warning that the deadline won't be met - woe! upon the author who does not meet those deadlines.

But the publisher might not get back to us on proposals within three months. Or maybe they will. You just don't know. And sure, you can nudge and email and passively aggressively inquire as to what the hell is going on, but there is a line you - the author - just can't cross. Not without pissing off the editor.

And seriously -- this is the politics part - don't piss off the editor. Don't do it. It's like your editor is the Mayor and you are trying to get some funding, some face time, some serious work done. The mayor wants to help you get that work done, in fact the better you do, the better the mayor looks. But there are twenty of us wanting the same thing - or sixty - or hundreds - we want time and money and attention. Let's say, I'm education and another writer is the police force (yes, The Wire rears it's head yet again) if I do what I can to totally serve the mayor, working my tail off and not cause any problems - I might get what I want. But I'm almost assured to get what I want if the police force is acting like a jerk. Or demanding more than can be given. Or not holding up it's end of a contract.

Part of my job is to eat a little crap from the Mayor. Missed meetings, missed deadlines etc... you get my point. I'm not saying just roll over. Or, obviously do things you're not comfortable with -- but realize getting ahead in this business depends A LOT on your editor fighting for you in various meetings. Your editor has to like and respect you and that is something that is earned. Editors are human after all. You want to like and respect your editor right? And once the shine of being published wears off - you realize it's something they have to earn, too.

On various loops as soon as an author starts wondering why we don't stick up for ourselves - reminding everyone on the loop that it's a business not a friendship and if we as authors are required to do our parts, shouldn't the editors? And why the hell can't we just call the editor and ask why it's taking so long? Well, all I can think is that The Mayor is going to be getting behind education even more in the years to come.

It's also why you need an agent - no matter what.


Anonymous said...

Hi Molly,

Yup. There are always things out of your control. It doesn't matter what kind of job you have, there's typically someone ahead of you calling the shots, and you have no idea what's happening. All you can do is control your own work, in this case, writing the best you can.


Sinead M said...

Really great post. And something that no one ever thinks about. Editors have a ton of authors, honestly I'm not sure how many, but I'm guessing in the thirties, especially if you consider how many Supers are published a year.
Authors usually only have one editor. Sometimes two.

There has to be mutual respect, but also an understanding that the editor is spreading their time between too many people.

They are going to love the authors that make their lives easier by writing a great book with a minimum of fuss.

Love the politics analogy. And you're right, that's why writers need agents to step in and be the bad guy on rare occasions.

Kimber Chin said...

Okay, here goes... LOL

Politics is business, just that the currency isn't as clear cut as dollars and cents (though usually in business, it isn't either).

The way I see it, the publisher is my customer and the editor is working on behalf of that customer. I can refuse to satisfy my customer but that ups the odds that the customer will simply walk away.

I can also hire representation (a lawyer or, in this case, agent) to better communicate how my wishes will help the customer achieve their goals.

Of course, one of the best ways to ensure that my customer (the publisher) is happy is to ensure that HER customer (the reader) is happy.

Maureen McGowan said...

I think what it boils down to... is in the end, everything is politics. And writers need to find that middle ground between being doormats and pissing off the people who hold their careers in their hands.

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