On a long plane flight yesterday I was writing notes for an author panel I'll be facilitating at the Golden Crown conference tomorrow. I suggested a panel from an author's point of view on working with your publishing team, that is, how to work well with all the different people who put their fingerprints on your book, so to speak, before it gets to the marketplace.
And I was thinking how the team for getting a book to market is so much different than any kind of team you've ever been on before.
For me, I always felt part of the companies and organizations I worked for, and it was very clear we were all on the team together. To simplify, we shared a mission statement, and we all performed our roles in the service of that. So when I became an author and got my first publishing contract, I thought I was on a new team.
"Oh contrare," as I once saw it spelled. I realized that everybody's goal is a bit different, and everybody is actually playing for different stakes. And certainly as nobody's goals are exactly the same as yours, nobody's job is remotely the same as yours. In fact, you're more like a solo acrobat than a power forward.
Your agent and agency represent you and work for you in some ways, but they have their own bottom line.
Same with your publisher. Sure, everybody wants to put out great books that sell well. But those folks work together every day at the same place, they have their own group dynamics, their own pecking order, egos, etcetera, and you are not really part of that. Moreover, unless you're a big shot (meaning an author to whom they've just paid a huge advance), they don't particularly have an incentive to make you happy, because you're not their customer, either. Book merchants are their customers: bookstores, online retailers, etc.
You are a supplier to your publisher. You sell them raw material, and they run it through their machinery so that they, in turn, can sell a finished product. Actually, I suppose, it's more like they license material from you, because then they pay you a percentage of sales. (Royalties.)
So it's a vastly different business dynamic than many of us are used to, whether we come from the world of business, or academe, or even public service.
To make it all work to your advantage, you simply must try to understand where every single person on that team is coming from, and figure out ways to help them. Then they're more likely to want to help you. A backbone of steel is a plus, too.
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[Photo of solo acrobat by ES]