Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Let's Communicate

Readers may think the hardest part of being an author is creating a novel, but although time-consuming, writing is the easiest part of the job.  The difficulty begins once you sign a contract.  Did you make a good decision?  Is the publisher savvy enough to stay in business and help promote your work? Are the lines of communication going to remain open so that you feel an integral part of the group?  So many things to consider, and many are risky decisions that must be made to get published.

I mention communication because it's such an important component of a contract. Number one for me!  All the written agreements in the world don't mean anything if there isn't a continuous exchange of information between author and publisher.  I've always done my best work for for someone who made me feel like I mattered, and the same applies for writing.  There's no worse feeling than being left in the dark, having decisions made without input, and wondering what's going on behind the scenes.  I actually signed with one publisher who took down the author's loop because she didn't want her "employees" sharing information with one another.  Isn't that how we all learn and grow as writers? If that house is still in business, color me shocked.  As a contracted author, I don't want to be treated like an employee, I want to be part of the team.  What happens with the house, happens to me, too.

I'm not intimating that as an author I have a right to know everything, but I am entitled by signing a contract to feel included in my future with a company.  A simple email from a publisher, alerting their authors to busy times, family distress, etc., can make a world of difference.  When posts go unanswered, imaginations run wild, and speculation begins.  It's no wonder that people jump ship when they fear a leak has sprung, and so much wasted time could be saved by just a few soothing words. 

I think problems begin when the houses have been around a while and take on more than they expected at the beginning.  There is nothing like the excitement and camaraderie of a new publisher.  The authors participate, share information, the publisher has time to join in, and everyone feels informed, jazzed and optimistic.  As time passes, more people sign on, the newness wears off and communications fail.  To me, this is the predictor of demise.  I've seen it happen too many times.

 If everyone helps by following instructions that are almost always ever present, taking time to read and stay informed, and most of all, taking off the lead boots that keep them from doing their own leg work to find answers to common questions, we can all help lighten the load on our publishers and make every day a more pleasant experience.  I cannot tell you how tight my jaw gets when I see the same people ask the same questions over and over because they're too lazy to use GOOGLE.  Why search when you can post an email, I suppose.  Me, I'd rather find the answer myself, if I can.  It's important for authors to realize that their aren't the only fish in the publishing pond.  As much as we'd like to maintain the "it's all about me" attitude, it really isn't.

In almost every job I've held in my adult life, communication is always key, and as an author, I find it to be even more crucial to stay informed and be included.  It might just be me, but I have a vested interest the moment I put my signature on that contract.  My expectations are no less important than those of the publisher, and I'm happy to say I'm signed with one house that truly treats their authors with the respect we all deserve and want. 

I gave a short presentation at the Muse On-Line Conference last year: The Pitfalls of Publishing.  Unfortunately, communication is the one area you can't gauge until you've been with the house for a while.  You can only sign on the dotted line and pray!  *lol*

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