Standing Up for Yourself in the Publishing Process
by Jake Poinier
A friend of mine, call her Beth, recently had a frustrating experience with a so-called traditional publisher. She’d gone through a stretch of long weeks to get her manuscript completed – which was a relief, of course. That euphoria didn’t last long, however; when she received the draft covers, they were absolutely terrible. She was crushed.
After we talked it through a bit, I advised Beth that she needed to stand up for herself. Just because they’re the publishing experts doesn’t mean they’re right. Just because they sent these four drafts doesn’t mean you have to accept any of them. She had an honest discussion with them about her dissatisfaction, and after several more rounds of revisions, the publisher got it right.
Obviously, the same is true on the manuscript side. I’m mentoring an editor who is relatively new to book publishing. I took a look at her revision of an author’s first chapter, and it was clear that she had decided to rewrite it, rather than just edit it. “That’s not the point of editing,” I said. “You need to preserve the author’s voice and intent, and make it as good as possible within those parameters. It might not be the book that you’d write on this topic, but you have to put that aside.”
If, as an author, I’d received my book rewritten, rather than edited, I’d be upset. (To say the least.) So, I like to think I saved my “mentee” from an unpleasant conversation, in which the author would have had to stand up for himself!
Standing Up…as a Professional
It’s easy to believe that an experienced editor, graphic designer, or publishing company will get it right every time. That’s not the case. There’s no need to be confrontational about it, but if you believe something isn’t quite right, you need to express your feelings, objectively and professionally.
Beth was getting paid either way, but she would have been sick to her stomach every time she looked at the book on her shelf or when it was sitting in front of her at an author’s event. And the truth is, a lousy cover would hurt sales, just as a poorly edited book would. Don’t let that happen to you – you need to think of publishing as a partnership.
A freelance corporate copywriter and editor since 1999, Jake “Dr. Freelance” Poinier is the author of several books, including The Science, Art and Voodoo of Freelance Pricing and Getting Paid. His publishing company, More Cowbell Books, recently published Juggling on a High Wire: The Art of Work-Life Balance When You’re Self-Employed, by Laura Poole.
Great advice! But hard to follow it, when you’re a novice in the business.
Thanks for the comment, Mary Ellen. Just think of it as part of your growth! Even if you’re a novice, you may have applicable life experience or insights that are every bit as valid as a veteran’s opinions. And there’s no harm in asking someone to explain why something is being done the way it is.