Monday, April 11, 2016

A Snippet from a Publisher's Life

     Publishers (and sometimes literary agents) deal with a variety of "writers." My comments will reveal a only three of many examples of what my company has faced dealing with people who have contracts with us and expect us to do their bidding even if we don't know what they expect, who should cause publishers, editors, and agents to run screaming for safety far, far away.

     Don't misunderstand, we have some marvelous authors who want to cooperate and who do not cause trouble. Those people make the job worthwhile. However, some cause my blood pressure and heart rate go as crazy as they seem to try to make my mental condition worse than it already is.

     Let's take the "case" of Miss Sweet 'n Dizzy first.  Editors complained that they would give suggestions for changes needed for clarity and to meet the company policy. She would refuse by returning a revised manuscript with few changes. The editor would email her, stating why she needed to make changes. She would reply that "others" liked how she wrote. Editors quit. Finally an editor stuck to the job and let her do whatever she wanted. The result? Pathetic, unacceptable for publication. The artist doing the cover asked her for the description of a certain thing in the story to be used on the cover. She sent scanned pictures from books. The artist created a lovely cover. The author first said she loved the cover, but a week later said it wasn't what she wanted at all. The artist asked for a description again and received the same non-reply, but another cover was created. I personally edited the manuscript and tried to correct most of the problems. During my edit, I discovered an exact description of the object -- exactly what the artist wanted and needed. Yet, this dizzy-headed author couldn't or wouldn't give the information to the artist.

     The concept of the book would create an interesting book. The way the author wrote created a mediocre book at best. Several of us worked on improving the problems. A designer formatted the manuscript and sent a proof to the author, the imprint editor, the lead editor, and me. We all listed any problems we found -- all except the author. After four proofs, she approved the last one. We printed the book. She complained because of errors she found. I asked her why she hadn't sent those corrections when she edited the proof. She hadn't even read the proof.  Finally, she paid for the redo of the interior of the book, still whining about being treated unfairly. 

     This past weekend, I discovered that another publisher had dropped her because of her sweet and helpless ways and her refusal to do her part of the contract. I wish I had known before I began working with that person.

     Another case concerns someone who also went through editors like fire through an ice cube. Yes, the writing was that bad. An editor took the project and worked for months to make this project better. When the designer sends a proof, at least in this company, a message goes with it stating that this is not the time for major changes, just to find minor problems overlooked before. The designer even stated how hard making charts in the manuscript had been to do, but she had managed to make them usable. The author sent back completely different charts to be used in place of the ones in the proof. I work very hard to try to smooth the ruffled feathers and the ripples in the water, but this time, the attack on a staff member caused me to see lightning flashes. Authors with us do NOT pay for editing, art work, formatting, or anything like that. We are a traditional publishing press, even if small. Therefore, people who believe they can treat staff like personal servants angers me. 

     A third example concerns an author who wanted to micro-manage the illustrator. IF an author pays an illustrator, he may have the right to be demanding, but most publishers who pay the piper gets to choose the music. Most publishers won't even let the author see anything at all until the cover is finished, until a proof goes out. This author did nothing but whine about the illustrations not what she saw in her head. *shakes head* For other problems we had, I don't know what she had in her mind.

     My message to writers is to avoid being one of those described above. My message to other publishers, agents, or editors, try to research authors before you offer them a contract, try to discover problems they may have caused others. You might want to run or at least add a clause or two to any contract.

     The  examples above make me appreciate the authors who bend over backwards to cooperate with editors, who want their book to be the best it can be. God bless each and every one of the "good" ones.


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