by Nomsa Chirisa
Successfully publishing a book involves two main parties – the author and the publisher. The author is the creator of the work while the publisher processes the content into a coherent form.
After signing a publishing contract for both parties to work together, the two enter into an agreement. However, for this agreement to be fruitful, the relationship needs to be managed.
It is the same as the parent-child relationship, or any other relationship. For instance, a month ago, my 12-year-old niece had an altercation with her father. I sat her down and boldly told her to know what her parents want and do not want, as a way of managing her relationship with them, including everyone else.
Likewise, once the author-publisher relationship is officially established through signing the publishing contract, both parties need to know how to deal with each other.
Let us look at what the author-publisher relationship is and how to manage it for the success of your book project.
What is the author-publisher relationship?
The author-publisher relationship is an ongoing connection created and established between the author and the publisher throughout the journey of publishing the author’s book. Its nature is mutual and should be beneficial to the interests of both parties and for the success of publishing a book. To land the book into the hands of the reader, the two cannot do so without each other. Despite the publishing route you take – independent publisher or traditional publisher, this relationship should be fruitful.
How to manage my author-publisher relationship
Managing relationships requires different approaches and the following guide can help maintain an author’s relationship with their publisher.
Being professional is a prerequisite in the business circles. If you are to make the best from your relationship with your publisher, you should both be professional. This includes knowing the business etiquettes – the dos and don’ts, like I mentioned earlier.
During my first years at work, my superior once called for an editorial meeting. Throughout the entire meeting, he grumbled about an author who phoned him in the wee hours, demanding her royalties which were due at the end of the month. That is a clear example of an unprofessional approach, and that goes without saying.
Before you take any kind of action, first ask yourself if what you are about to do or say is acceptable or not. Check yourself for any signs of unprofessional behaviour. Your contract with the publisher may clearly spell out the behaviour you are both expected to abide by. After all, it’s your go-to reference document.
Then again, we all have the human instinct, hunch or consciousness to raise red flags and warn us. Some say they work, some say otherwise. I believe they are our natural guards. While it is highly impossible to guarantee that your book will be a bestseller, being professional with your publisher is a sure guarantee of a fruitful relationship.
Demarcating the roles
As an author, your duties, roles and responsibilities are written in your contract and so are your publisher’s. The key is knowing what you are supposed to do, when and how. Generally, it’s almost impossible to mix up roles because your responsibilities, and your publisher’s, are different. However, there is one task which usually confused me as to who is responsible for it – it’s seeking or clearing permissions, until one day I was educated that it is the role of the author, unless otherwise agreed with the publisher. The bottom line is knowing who is responsible for what. This ensures accountability and leads to progress.
Communication is key in cultivating a healthy relationship with your publisher. At any point in the journey to publishing your book, you are partners with your publisher. Remember we said that it is an agreement and no one is imposing anything. But in as much as the publisher will constantly give you updates on the progress of the book, you should also communicate on anything regarding the book project.
Talk of delays in deadlines, disgruntlements, opinions, suggestions, and any other fundamental concerns there is to know. Create and establish a two-way communication path. This will eliminate any misunderstandings and set clear goals for your book project.
Do your part
Publishing a book is making a commitment. Well done! You will probably realise that for a certain period, you will spend much of your time on the laptop, researching, writing your manuscript, revising, rewriting, or going through the suggested changes from your publisher. This will perhaps rob you some bit of ‘me-time.’ But in the end, it’s worth it.
The rewards of writing and getting published are enormous. Do your part, and give it your all. You may have recognised the amount of comments and edits which your editor inserts onto your copy. They are frustrating, right? But they would have done their part and you are compelled to do yours, just as your contract states. After completing a manuscript, attending to the editor’s comments is not at all a demanding task. So, do your part and get that book published.
It takes joint effort to successfully publish a book. It’s team work, and the best part is the end result. Some author-publisher relationships go further than just publishing a specific book. They bring in new opportunities, and create lasting friendships. Developing an effective author-publisher relationship is an investment, just as is writing and publishing your book. And remember that, what is worth writing, is worth publishing. So, let’s make this relationship a smooth one for the benefits which it has on publishing your book. Even way beyond that, it might count in your favour.
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