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Article 6: Publishing

You and Your Publisher
Ten Tips for Developing a Working Relationship

By Patricia Fry

Congratulations! You've landed a publisher. But don't relax, yet. Now, you need to figure out how to work with him or her. Follow this guide and you should enjoy a good working relationship with your publisher for the life of your contract.

1: Respect his or her time and space. Respond with just the information requested and send just the material required. Do not, for example, inundate the publisher with frequent phone calls. Don't send several video tapes showing you speaking before the local Rotary Club, the correspondence between yourself and your editor for the last several months or the first eight drafts of your manuscript unless he/she asks for it.

2: Be prompt with proofs and rewrites. Always ask if there is a deadline. If not, project one for yourself and share it with the publisher. Say, for example, "I can have this to you by the end of the month, is that okay?" Once a deadline is established, do your absolute best to meet it.

3: Keep yourself in the loop. You deserve respect, too, and respect for an author means being included in the project. I do not suggest calling the publisher every few days to see what's up. Rather, try to keep an open line of communication with him or her. Ask the publisher to share his/her calendar with regard to your project. If he says that the galleys won't be ready until the end of November, don't call him in September asking if they're ready. If an unreasonable amount of time goes by without word from the publisher, email him or her and request an update. It is usually okay to call a publisher if there is a valid reason. Obviously, some publishers are more organized and better communicators than others. If certain personality types drive you crazy, you might want to consider who you're dealing with before making a commitment to a publishing contract.

4: Be up front with your publisher. If you have a deadline, but you're having trouble reaching someone who is key to your last chapter, for example, let the publisher know there is a problem and how you plan to rectify it.

5: Give the publisher your best effort. A new writer wrote to me recently and asked if she should tell the publisher that she plans to hire an editor after he looks at her manuscript. Of course, I told her that she needs to hire that editor before sending her work to the publisher.

6: Be prepared to hand over control. Once the contract is signed, the publisher takes control. You'll like some of his/her decisions and others may upset you. Be prepared to see the title of your book changed, for example, and some of the content. I once had a publisher who used my advance to hire an artist for my book. I kept asking to see examples of the artist's work, but was never given that opportunity. Eventually, the company changed hands and scrapped my book. They returned my manuscript along with the drawings (which I had bought). They were awful! The point is, however, that the publisher is the one with the experience, he/she is putting up the money to publish the book and they have the final word.

7: Expect to rewrite your manuscript. Just when you thought your book was finished and you're anxious to start the next one, your publisher may ask for a rewrite. Make sure that you have a contract at this point. Sometimes a publisher will ask you to revise your sample chapters before committing to publishing your book. Be careful how much work you are willing to do before the project is accepted. I once got involved with rewriting several chapters of a book for a publisher. In fact, he asked me to refocus my entire manuscript. They sent me back to the drawing board three times without so much as a promise of a contract. I finally realized that the book they wanted me to write was nothing like the one I wanted to write. And with no contract forthcoming, I decided to withdraw my manuscript.

8: Request guidance in marketing your book. Once the book is published, ask about the company's promotional plans. Ask for any suggestions they might have for marketing your book.

9: Keep your publisher informed as to your marketing efforts. Once a month or so, send an email or post a note reporting on your promotional progress. Say, for example, "I sent press releases to newspapers in the northeast region. I sent review copies to 30 magazines and newsletters. I have two book signings scheduled. And last week I spoke before the local branch of the National Association of Business Women and sold twelve books."

10: Share the good news. Anytime your book receives a review or an award, an article relating to the book is published or you are quoted, for example, send copies to your publisher.

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