Having a good relationship with an editor is important for writers, but before you can get to that personal interaction you, as a professional author, must first choose the right publishing house. Your publisher is the entity that will actually produce and negotiate your writer’s contract and also birth your book into the world.

Your publisher is the body of reference for your universe for as long as your book is alive. Before choosing the right publisher, you must first have a good feeling about your publisher.

If your gut instinct goes against what a publishing house is telling you about your writing then you, and that publisher, will only be miserable together over the arc of your book and you risk having a great book becoming ordinary in a process that will reek of drudgery instead of shining with joy.

Writing books is hard work but getting them published is even harder. Everyone in your publication chain must forging the same intention: Doing the right thing for the book. You are the writing, but the book becomes all of you.

Take care of yourself and your book’s well-being by being choosy in selecting a publisher. Get to know all the publishers who may be considering purchasing your book or proposal. Are you treated with respect or are you only viewed as day labor? Does the feedback you receive on your pitch or proposal make sense to you or does it turn your stomach? Do you feel your publisher understands you and your work or is the publisher just trying to get a deal signed to meet an agenda that has nothing to do with you?

Those are all important questions you must answer before deciding on a publishing house and sometimes the better path is to beg off an offer to publish even if another publisher isn’t around to be found. Some may advise you to take the money and run. I advise you to not be a whore for the money; be a slave to your work and serve your master well.

I have seen too many first time authors get blown up by the process of publishing a first book and they are never the same again creatively or financially. You must feel comfortable with your publisher because, I guarantee you, if your publishing house isn’t comfortable with you they will not end up doing a deal or they will kill the book mid-stream. That stream must run both ways. No deal is done until the contract is signed.

You are not indebted to any publisher merely because of their interest in your work or their track record in a business that has yet to include you. There are times when you are offered less money and a smaller royalty than other publishers.

I urge you to forget about the money and purchased fame and instead focus on the viability of your relationship with the publisher. If the right publisher for you isn’t making you the best offer, that’s okay! The key, as you begin and foster a writing career — and not just a writing moment — is to be comfortable and understood. If the price you pay for that feeling of ease is a smaller advance and a tinier royalty, that’s fine because it won’t matter in the long run. Your ultimate goal in finding a good publishing house is to hone a sustained and profitable relationship.

You may not get great advance money on your first few books, but that doesn’t mean the next book won’t earn you a better deal. You must look beyond what is visible today. Delight and faith between you and your publisher breeds success and untold riches — not just cash — and together you will flow like butterscotch down mounds of ice cream as you blend on a human level instead of a merely financial one.

Editors come and go but publishing houses and their aesthetic intent and philosophy of doing business usually stick around longer than individuals. Getting the right publisher that respects you as much as you respect them is the inside secret to building a long, happy, and great career in publishing as a writer of multiple moments.

10 Comments

  1. Hi Carla!
    This post was inspired by our email conversation over the weekend and I thank you for igniting the idea.
    Many writers think their Editor is the secret to happiness when I believe the secret to success is in picking the right publisher.
    The problem happens when only one publisher bites and the author is left to sink in — few are capable of digging out — even if the relationship feels doomed and off from the start.
    Just getting a publisher to say “yes” isn’t the end of the process — it is just the beginning…

  2. You ask an excellent question, Carla!
    I address the need for an Agent in this post:
    Do You Need an Agent?
    In the specific context of today’s post, I would say the Agent’s job is to make sure the deal happens in the best interest of both author and publisher.
    An Agent isn’t really a go-between — an Agent is more like a stuck-in-between because first loyalty is to the author but the long term loyalty must be to the publisher only because an agent could place 10 books at a publisher in one year while one author would be lucky to be able to write three books in a year. Authors come and go while publishers generally stay around for a long time.
    However, any good Agent will shy you away from a bad deal. The trouble happens when the writer wants a deal just to get a deal for self-validation instead of serving the best interests of the book.
    Publishers know authors are desperate for publication and they use that tension to forge boilerplate deals and an Agent will always refuse to sign a boilerplate contract. Authors must never sign a boilerplate contract even if you’re told it’s “boilerplate” or “standard practice” or “everybody signs it” or “we aren’t changing it.” Boilerplate is generic and completely written to the advantage of the publisher. All contracts are unique and individual and, by default, must never be boilerplate. If a publisher instructs you to sign the boilerplate or there’s no deal — you walk away without a deal.

  3. You ask an excellent question, Carla!
    I address the need for an Agent in this post:
    Do You Need an Agent?
    In the specific context of today’s post, I would say the Agent’s job is to make sure the deal happens in the best interest of both author and publisher.
    An Agent isn’t really a go-between — an Agent is more like a stuck-in-between because first loyalty is to the author but the long term loyalty must be to the publisher only because an agent could place 10 books at a publisher in one year while one author would be lucky to be able to write three books in a year. Authors come and go while publishers generally stay around for a long time.
    However, any good Agent will shy you away from a bad deal. The trouble happens when the writer wants a deal just to get a deal for self-validation instead of serving the best interests of the book.
    Publishers know authors are desperate for publication and they use that tension to forge boilerplate deals and an Agent will always refuse to sign a boilerplate contract. Authors must never sign a boilerplate contract even if you’re told it’s “boilerplate” or “standard practice” or “everybody signs it” or “we aren’t changing it.” Boilerplate is generic and completely written to the advantage of the publisher. All contracts are unique and individual and, by default, must never be boilerplate. If a publisher instructs you to sign the boilerplate or there’s no deal — you walk away without a deal.

  4. Upstate New York is terrible during the Winter! It would certainly be fun to do a project — and this is precisely how things get done, as you know — I know this guy and he’s looking for… I have a friend who needs… my cousin and you… :mrgreen: