Despite the recent surge in self-publishing, traditional publishers and small to mid-size publishing houses are still going to be around. Not every business owner can self-publish, nor does every one choose to. Therefore, traditional publishing is still a much-needed route to publishing.
So how do you work with a traditional publisher in this ever-changing publishing environment? Here are several practical tips, which come directly from my own experience as a publisher, and as an author. Some of these may sound obvious–but if you don’t get the basics right, don’t be surprised when your publisher doesn’t renew or go forward with your contract.
As in any relationship, remember that publishers and authors are people like you.
1) Be honest with your publisher about submissions and conflicts of interests. In this day and age where the publishing industry is experiencing tremendous growth and change, publishers and their authors must be diligent about checking to see if there is a conflict, which can give rise to potential legal issues. There have been cases where even the largest publishers have published books unknowingly by their authors which have violated copyrights, have published their books elsewhere before, or was submitted to and published by different, separate publishers.
2) Promote as much as you can. A publisher can only do so much promotion for a book. Nowadays, authors are expected to do more.
3) Do not complain about your publisher. Believe it or not, publishers and editors eventually find out.
4) Be willing to make changes and go with edits that will make your book better.
5) Remember that a publisher’s time is important. The publisher is not there to teach you how to write or structure a book… you should already have that down. They will make certain edits, but don’t manipulate the time of a publisher. They won’t be happy if they consistently have to spend more time with you than they spend with other authors.
6) Be an enthusiastic marketer.
7) Be professional in all conduct:
a. Treat private conversations and emails as private. Especially now when anyone can open an account and create a blog.
b. Do not violate contractual obligations and talk private terms with other authors or other publishers. Not only will you breach a contract, but you will be liable for repaying your advance and many other costs.
c. Do not talk prices of books with other publishers or authors. If you do, even in small talk, you can be liable for price collusion and anti-trust violations. These are very sensitive and significant issues right now in the publishing industry, and authors must be aware of how they can get themselves and their publishers in trouble just by talking about these terms. For authors who are published by different publishing houses and for those literary agents who work with different publishing houses, it is important to keep in mind confidences between the publishing houses.
8) Remember simple pleasantries. Wish your publisher a happy birthday. Ask about his or her family from time to time. Show interest in your publisher’s other projects. Always treat your publisher with respect.
9) Stay disciplined–finish your deadlines on time or earlier. Earlier is always appreciated.
10) Show loyalty. Your publisher is investing a lot into your book. Not all books will be best sellers (or even good sellers), so your publisher is taking a big risk by accepting your manuscript. Stay loyal and show patience throughout this process.
It’s extremely important for every author to maintain a great relationship with his or her publisher. Publishers are like everyone else. Treat them with respect, and they will do their best to help you. Even publishers and editors at smaller or independent publishing houses have the potential to influence an author’s careers.
Publishers and editors at the smaller houses move as they progress in their career and can eventually become head of a multi-million-dollar publishing house. As a business owner, you know how to charm your customers. Now put that same effort into your relationship with your publisher. Trust me, it will pay enormous dividends!