Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Business and the Art: Or the Love/Hate Relationship Between Writers and Publishers

(Disclaimer: This post isn't to focus on any particular publisher and/or author. It's just how things often play out when creative types and business types work closely together.)

Writers want to have their manuscripts accepted for publication. Yesterday would be fine. Publishers are too busy to acknowledge an email submission, or to answer queries, or to make a decision anytime before next year.

Writers want to get the book out as soon as possible. Publishers want to make sure the timing is right, the editing is done, the cover works, the promotion plan makes sense.

Writers want creative control to realize their vision. Publishers know what sells.

Writers like to name characters according to their own personal reasons. Publishers don't want too many names beginning with the same letter or sounding alike. Publishers will change character names with a heartless stroke of the find and replace key. Writers will have heart failure when they see their beloved Anna turned into Justine.

Writers get attached to the particular name they gave their baby manuscript. Publishers say, "No, that title doesn't work. We are changing it."

Writers tend to fall in love with their own words. Publishers are more than happy to kill their darlings.

Writers know this book will be a bestseller, if only the publisher will get off his butt and promote. Publishers know this book will be a bestseller, if only the writer will get off his butt and promote.

Writers need publishers to edit, design, print and promote, while financing the entire process. Publishers need writers to create, rewrite, revise some more, refine, keep revising, and promote, while worrying that their investment in this project may never be recovered.

Publishers want to release something that people will pay money to read, then tell others about it so they can pay money to read it, too. Writers want to write something that people will pay money to read, then tell others about it so they can pay money to read it, too.

The artist head and the business head simply tend to approach goals from different directions. A bit of tolerance and understanding go a long way to create a positive, productive working relationship. And remember, when things get stressed and don't seem to be working out-- communication is the best policy. Communication with the party involved, that is, not with the rest of the world.

44 comments:

  1. Amen. Excellent post!

    That said, I still hope I'll get to keep my title. I don't know if I could get used to thinking of my "firtborn" as anything other than IN A FIX. ;)

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  2. Brilliant, made me smile. Just what I needed, thanks!

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  3. If only publishers would read faster! I think that's my main complaint. I hate waiting. WE ALL hate waiting. Doing the work is hard, but a necessary evil and we know it. It's the waiting for the work to be worked on that slays us.

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  4. Is it weird that I look at your post and think to myself "I think like a publisher?"

    While I don't have the experience or specialised knowledge to know what will necessarily work best for a book, when I'm writing or editing, my number one concern is "will this work?" One of my favourite parts of the creative process is discussing ways to change things to make the book better and more accessible to readers.

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  5. Paul, Good news for your publisher who is lucky to have you :)

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  6. Well I figure I spent long enough writing things that never got to see the light of day. If I want to tell the best stories I can, I have to push and re-train myself. It's like an athlete learning new training techniques, or a dancer learning new moves to put into a performance.

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  7. I think by the time most writers find a publisher, they're ready to compromise a little. But, I don't think it's healthy for a writer to succumb immediately to every request. Think it over, and if it's for the best, give it a go. And of course, realize that a publisher, or editor, has more experience in these matters and is only looking out for what is best. All advice is good advice, if taken with an open mind.

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  8. Amy, Right on with that. The best editors will listen to the writer and be willing to compromise as well. It's not a boss/employee situation or dictatorship on either side. It's a give and take, working relationship that requires respect, trust and communication.

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  9. in my case i am both writer and publisher. i have arguments with myself a lot.

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  10. I think after awhile some writers even get like this. Instead of writing what they love they write what they know the editor would like. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. But you're right, for every aspect of publishing communication is the key and sometimes you have to let the editor change your book baby for the better.

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  11. Well said, Karen! The two come at it from different views, but they both want the same thing, really: readers!

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  12. You nailed it! :) And I must be behind somewhere....I knew my book title wasn't safe, but my character names, too??? *sigh* Still, I'll do what it takes to make that dream happen.

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  13. This is so true, Karen. Excellent post.
    Karen

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  14. Awww lovely KarenG!! Loved this post!! A great relationship between Publisher and Writer can so happen if there is mutual communication and respect and compromise from both!! Yay! Take care
    x

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  15. I think my right brain and left brain have worked out some of their differences. This all makes sense to me. :)

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  16. Great points there! hope you're not writing b/c of any specific incidents!

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  17. A very eye-opening post. I've heard of publishers changing the titles of novels, but I didn't realize that the characters' names could be changed too. It would definitely be hard to let go of my characters' names, because I've spent this whole time identifying them and thinking of them in that way. But I suppose if I did get published and I was in that situation, I'd trust the publisher. Unless they change the characters' names to any of the Kardashian sisters' names.

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  18. Neurotic Workaholic, LOL, you always make me smile :)

    Tamara, I always write from personal experience! In publishing I have both the right and left brain working, like L.G. Smith mentions, so I have the advantage of coming at it from both ends. Hopefully that makes me more tolerant of each viewpoint.

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  19. That's why I need a publisher, to save me from myself!

    Speaking of names, my newest WIP has all 3 friends ending their names in the same consonant. I wonder if that will be allowed to stay.

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  20. I'd imagine so long as their names don't start with the same letter or sound similar you might be okay. Nathan, Vivian and Cameron are all fairly distinct names, for example.

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  21. A lovely juxtaposition of two very different world views.

    It seems that the twain never shall meet. (or rarely at best)

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  22. Very well put. As both a writer, and a marketer for a publishing company, I smile at the promotion paragraph.

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  23. What a wonderful post, Karen. Thank you ma'am.

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  24. Haha, way to make me feel guilty for my impatience! lol

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  25. I agree...for the most part. The only thing that I might disagree with my publisher or agent on are when I feel they don't know my genre or target audience. Writers should know their target audience. They should read the genre they write. They should know what sells their genre. I agree with the title and cover and names thing. Writers should understand this.

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  26. Very accurate description of both and how the both differ. However, you know that neither can exist without the other! I think it's about collaborating, without losing too much integrity from either side. However, we don't really live in that perfect world...

    Sara

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  27. That's an excellent post and an important point made that the relationship works best when both sides talk about what they want. Well said.

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  28. Great post. It's easy to see how this relationship could go badly wrong - but also how it could flourish if both sides approach it correctly.

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  29. Simon and Chris, Well said. Like a marriage of sorts, rather than a dictatorship or a boss/employee relationship. Altho the one who holds the purse strings most likely has the final say (in publishing, hopefully not in marriage!)

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  30. Man, this is so true... I think the best products are created in tandem, but writers get to impatient or full of ego to go the course, and publishers skip some very interesting good stuff because it is 'risky' or won't fit in that 'sure thing box'

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  31. I applaud your words, Karen. Communication and patience is the key.

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  32. I really enjoyed this post. It completely shows both sides point of view - two different approaches that have the same goal in sight.

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  33. A bit of tolerance and understanding go a long way to create a positive, productive working relationship.

    You hit the nail on the head! A lot can be accomplished by thinking about what the road feels like in the other person's shoes.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  34. Haha, I love this post. I laughed out loud at the promotion paragraph. So true.

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  35. Great post. Something we all need to remember when dealing with publishers. Thanks!

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  36. Great post! You're so right about everything, and I hear ya on the waiting and revising! It's torture!

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  37. Hi folks, here I am signed in with my other blog's url because Blogger won't let me sign out of that one, or sign into this one. But I want to say thanks for all your comments, and I will unfortunately be able to post anything further here until Blogger comes back to its senses.

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  38. So true. Great post Karen. =)

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  39. I don't have experience in either but I can say this in an excellent post Karen, well done.

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