The IWSG is now on Twitter!
Publishing is a business. Correspondence and communication going both directions should be professional and polite.
Sometimes it’s just due to a lack of knowledge or understanding how the industry works.
While the list is endless, I’ve compiled a few key items that can garner a negative reaction or destroy a potential working relationship:
1 - The mass query letter. Nothing screams lazy like a mass query letter. And it’s very obvious. Always research the publisher and personalize the whole letter to fit their requirements.
2 - “These are all of my accomplishments and past books and success and...” - while leaving out half of the requested items in the query letter. Impress me with your current manuscript and how well you can follow our submission guidelines first.
3 - No response after a request to read the manuscript. If you’ve received other representation, tell us. Otherwise, that reaction says you either weren’t serious or your work isn’t ready. No response comes off as impolite and discourteous, and there’s a good chance you’ll be blacklisted.
4 - “This HAS to be my cover art - I don’t want anything else.” Most publishers have their own in-house illustrators and have years of experience with producing marketable covers. Often the author has little to no say in the process. Smaller publishers are more open to working with an author on the cover, but always discuss this issue ahead of time and keep an open mind. The final decision still rests with the publisher.
5 - “I don’t want to make these editorial changes!” No matter who you are or how good you are with writing - your publisher WILL request edits to the manuscript. It’s all to make the manuscript the best it can possibly be and fighting it only makes a writer look selfish and immature. There will be instances where you’ll want to stand by your work, but a refusal to make most of the suggested edits is not how you want to kick off the relationship with your publisher.
6 - “Can we change that...?” Constant requests to change the cover art, change the synopsis, change the genre, change the release date, etc. No publisher wants to work with a difficult or demanding author. There should be respect on both sides and mutual understanding that it’s all in the interest of producing a successful book. Besides, authors do not hire publishers to produce their book - the publisher “hires” the author to produce a marketable manuscript, and they are the ones in control.
7 - “Can I get a review copy mailed to me?” - of a book that came out several years ago. Reviews are important, especially when a book is released. And many publishers will honor requests that come in after a book’s release, especially if the reviewer is genuine and an ebook can be sent. But with older titles, it’s just not economical to send out print books.
There are many, many more of course. Some cross over to other areas of the book industry. Top PR consultant Paul Krupin from Direct Contact PR supplied a few things he’s heard over the years:
“I’m not willing to do interviews with media.”
“I don’t have talking points and don’t think I need them.”
“I don’t have any interest in doing social media.”
“Everyone will be interested in my book.”
Finally, I’d like to end with some real-life examples:
The one that sticks out in my mind is the writer who was great in editing but once his book came out he was the opposite. He turned into a complete jerk, saying things to our marketing manager like, "What are you doing to sell my book?" No matter what suggestions she gave him or what she had done it was always the same thing, "so what are you doing to sell my book?"
Karen Gowen - WiDo Publishing
The owner of a website who had featured one of our authors but grew irate when he wasn’t compensated. We stepped in with a polite email and were told “I really was the first one to publish the book cover and the trailer,” which wasn’t true. The next email began with “Do you know who I am?” and went off on a rant. With less than 650 followers (and only 1000 Twitter followers) we do know who he is - someone with an over-inflated ego that we won’t ever deal with again.
Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Some of the saddest are the illiterate ones, especially when we can’t tell whether they’re wanting assistance with self publishing or it’s a royalty submission. Here’s an example; the gentleman sent us multiple similar emails on a daily basis until we succeeded in begging him to stop:
Dear sir Just a few minutes back I sent a manuscript for approval . I am sending 2 more letters I recieved from others. Try to reply about the amount I have to pay quickly. . Do non not worry for 2 or 3 do;;ars. My advertisement matter is important and not so much editorial work.And here’s the beginning of a recent, lengthy submission that definitely fell on its own sword. The combination of dripping hubris and the fact that he didn’t view our guidelines to see what we’re looking for nixed him quickly from consideration. And of course we’d love to open ourselves to working with an obvious felon….
My name is ______ and if you take the time to Google me, you'll see that I'm infamous with respect to my alleged criminal activities. The origins of the charges against me date back to _____ and are related to my formation and participation in _____. Interestingly enough I never merited so much as an honorable mention on the FBI's most wanted list until late 2012, and now for some unexplained reason I've shot all the way up to number three.Cynthia at Cypress House, Lost Coast Press, QED Press
Actually the worst author (as far as relations with editors) I worked with was a professional! While I was at NASA (where I supervised contractor publishing staff), a “science writer-journalist” was hired to work with several NASA scientists (who had been the primary scientists for the Pioneer Missions to Venus) to do a “wrap up” of 20 years of work on the Pioneer-Venus project. (The primary scientists were about to retire.) The author was just short of openly hostile to the editors. It was quite frustrating...
Pete Masterson, former publishing consultant and owner of Aeonix Publishing Group
And finally, the grand prize winner -
A manuscript was rejected based on the fact it didn’t fall into our genres and the query letter was very poor. A polite rejection email was sent, along with suggestions on how to improve the query letter, including links to query letter sites, so the individual might have better luck in the future. His one line response: “Just read the f___ing story!”
Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Know someone who is guilty of any of those things or have you heard of authors saying and doing much worse?