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, April 17, 2017

The Crazy Book Publishing Business

Today I'm one of three publishers featured on the Insecure Writers Support Group. We answer a few questions about the business of submitting and publishing one's book. I really appreciate being included in the post, as I never get tired of talking about this fascinating business, and about WiDo's mission to publish books that are:
  • Readable but not formulaic.
  • Entertaining without being fluff.
  • Uplifting without being preachy.
  • Literary but not obtuse.
  • Realistic and thought-provoking
  • without being graphic.
  • Above all, books that tell a darn good story!

Ten years ago WiDo was born, July 2007, with the publication of  Farm Girl. And as wonderful as the experience has been, a company that's in business for that long will upset a few people. This usually happens when someone feels disappointed in book sales, and they'll blame the publisher for not doing enough. I can understand the frustration. One's book is near and dear to the heart, like a child, and authors can get extremely protective about what happens or doesn't happen with their written offspring.

Recently, there was an unsettling situation with a new editor I'd signed on. She had emailed me, seemed personable, eager, and proficient. However, against my usual practice, I didn't ask for a resume or research her at all. I sent her a sample manuscript to edit and, liking her work, followed it with a contract, which she promptly signed and returned.

Then things got weird. Constant emails containing requests for more money. Questions about why she wasn't getting more money. Comparisons with how WiDo pays compared to the indie authors she had edited for. Asking for the work to be sent in a different format than what we'd agreed on.

It felt like I was being stalked! But I answered her emails as thoroughly as I could. Then came one saying unless we paid her more, she'd request the contract be cancelled. I said, Sorry, this is the agreed on price, and she replied saying this was her resignation and please cancel her contract.

I was happy to do so, since her unprofessional conduct had escalated since she turned in her contract. Mistakenly, I figured that would be the end of it. Two or three emails a day started coming in, asking for a second chance. She was wrong, she'd listened to indie authors who had influenced her, she wanted to try again.

I ignored the emails for about four days, until finally I decided okay, I'll answer and maybe that will end the stalking. I wrote and told her we will let things stand, sorry it didn't work out and good luck with your future career.

Her response stunned me: I was selfish, cold-hearted, cruel, and nothing good ever deserved to happen to me. Because everyone deserved a second chance and how could I be so mean. Oh, and by the way, she wrote, don't respond to this or write me again because I will delete your emails without reading them.

Anyone who deals with the public for any length of time will make a few enemies, upset a few people. But still, there's a stunned sensation that lingers long after the last vitriolic email comes into the inbox. Did that really just happen?

Have you ever had to deal with an unhinged individual in your personal or professional life? How did you handle it?


17 comments:

  1. I'm sorry you had this experience. But I don't think you should feel bad. You are dealing with a manipulator. I don't think they are unhinged. You were lucky they wanted out of their contract.

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  2. The next generation thinks the world should be handed to them as they want it - and no one ever loses. Sorry you had to deal with her. She's in for a rude awakening though.

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  3. LOL! OMG, what a nut ball. You win, I haven't had anyone quite that crazy yet. One very difficult and demanding author and one rejection that emailed back with a one line reply of "Just read the f###ing manuscript," but no one that crazy. What is wrong with people? What happened to respect and being professional?

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    1. Diane, And amazingly it was a so-called editor, not a writer.

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  4. I'm so sorry. It's sounds like you handled it professional, and sadly in business there are no second chances—it's too risky.

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  5. Wow! That person doesn't sound eager so much as waaayyy too aggressive. I doubt she'll get very far with an attitude and behavior like that. You did the right thing though: you stood your ground and didn't back down.
    There have been a few instances where I was taken aback by people I worked with. I remember that one student started screaming at me because I gave that person something other than an A and the student unsuccessfully tried to bully me into raising the grade. It got so bad that male instructors had to intervene because they were worried that the student's behavior would escalate even further.

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  6. Unhinged is right. I wish I could say it was an atypical situation but it's disturbingly too common.

    You were way kinder than I would've been.

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  7. I used to work in Child Protection, so got very used to working with people who were very troubled. I also understood that their behaviour was rarely about me, but about their past and the situation they found themselves in. Yes, is was tough at times.

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  8. Hi Karen - oh gosh this sounds so unnecessary ... and yes I'm dealing with a situation now and have been for 10 months - just plain unfair ... as none of it is my doing. There we go - I live on and will fight my corner as fair as fairness is concerned.

    Cheers and good luck - I hope she's gone for good now - all the best and cheers Hilary

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  9. So sorry this happened. People come in all varieties, and you have gotten a taste of unprofessional emotionality there.
    Yes, I've dealt with this also, though not in this business.
    You are hard working and so decent that maybe this is why it hadn't happened for the first ten years... Here's to calm waters for ten more.

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  10. Oh my goodness, YES! It's beyond ridiculous, right? I edited for a woman who was like that, but worse. So much worse. She totally dominated my life and made it a living you know what for a good couple weeks until my husband had to tell her to go away, refunded her, and blocked her from all my social media accounts. Yes, this stuff happens.

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  11. That is a scary story. The person sounded really disturbed so you're well rid of her. We all run into people like that in any business. Some people can't be happy let alone professional.

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  12. "Send more money" always gives me chills. Whether it was my son at college or a heartless conniving person as this, it gives me chills.

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  13. This is a scary story Karen. Thank God that I haven't had to deal with an unhinged person both personally or professionally. You are better off without such lousy people!

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  14. We have to remember that about 10% of the population has some type of Borderline Personality Disorder. They seem totally normal and functional at first, but when you have to actually interact with them, things usually go south in a hurry. It sounds to me like you handled this lady perfectly. Now I'm off to the IWSG. Take care Karen!

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  15. I'm sorry that you went through this whole ordeal, and I hope that this woman has stopped harassing you.

    Sounds like you handled the situation well.

    Julie

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  16. Gosh, Karen, what a nasty piece of work she is and good riddance to her. I cannot for the life of me understand her brazen cheek asking for a second chance. It seems you gave her a very good first chance and she blew it. I have met several individuals like this during my self employed days. There is no pleasing them and they seem to foul everything they touch. As the American Southerners say, "Lawdie bless my sanity!"

    I think you dealt with the situation very well. I think I would have told her to B _ _ _ off much sooner.

    Notwithstanding, I found the story very funny and loved reading the comments, which made mew laugh. I liked Diane's very apt description of her, "A Nut Ball!" . . . lol

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