Monday, May 09, 2016

What NOT to Say to a Publisher

The IWSG is now on Twitter!

There are a lot of wrong things to say or do to a publisher. And it’s not always writers who are the culprits.

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….
Sir/Madam:
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?

56 comments:

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Wow!

I can't even imagine the patience it would take to go through those. It's hard to believe anyone who cares about his project would approach a publisher like this!

Mason Canyon said...

Don't these writers stop and think? Sounds like their common sense went out the window. I agree with Elizabeth, I can't even image a publisher's patience dealing with these type issues.

Natalie Aguirre said...

I can imagine how some of these people are in real life. They sound so unprofessional and full of themselves. Hopefully you don't get too many of these authors.

nashvillecats2 said...

What a great post to read, how anyone who takes the time to write any sort of book could behave in an inprofessional manner is hard to imagine.
Yvonne.

Sarah Foster said...

Wow, some of those examples were a bit frightening (but funny...) to read! I'd like to imagine I wouldn't be difficult with a publisher, but I do have this fear that they'll want to over edit my book so much that the voice disappears, at which point I'd probably have to protest a bit. I hope I'm just being irrational...

Karen Walker said...

oh my god. You really must have the patience of a saint.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Some people haven't a clue. They think it's all about them. Surprise.
Great samples. You must have a lot of patience. Have a good week.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I always read information like this with initial anxiety, and then relief that I don't make those errors.

A long time ago I won a book in a writing competition called Notes From an Editor's Desk, which had all the same info and lots of anecdotes. I read it cover to cover several times. It was my bible, and helped me to feel confident about my side of things.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Diane - gosh .. what a load of rubbish by inconsiderate, selfish potential authors .. I doubt they'll get anywhere - yet take it out on everyone they encounter in the industry...

Essential to be polite and understand ... and thank everyone for their time .. cheers Hilary

H.R. Sinclair, Southpaw said...

Wow! I mean WOW! I'm stunned--especially with that last one.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Sarah, the good ones won't want to edit out the voice.

Annalisa, I bet that was a great book.

Yes everyone, it does take patience. And a good sense of humor.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

You're right, Diane, that last example IS the prize winner. Not exactly the prize that write was hoping for though, I'm sure. He got a jerk award.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

That last one and the 'most wanted' made me laugh. I'm sure there are some query letters that make rejection easy.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Wow, I can't imagine doing any of that.

Mary Montague Sikes said...

Hopefully, none of us would do those things, but this is certainly informative and interesting. Would a criminal really want to be on the FBI's Most Wanted list? That's amazing to me. Thanks for the great post.

Mary Montague Sikes
Notes Along the Way
The Artful Way

cleemckenzie said...

Ah the joys of dealing with the public. It's great to find a good writer who is also a person you can work well with in the different parts of this publishing business. That was generous of you to help that query letter writer. They just didn't get that. New to the field, I imagine.

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow!!! Hard to believe people are that arrogant!

Karen Lange said...

Thank you for the tips, Diane. As for the stories - oh my. If only people took the time to read and follow directions, and to be respectful and classy. I cannot say that I haven't ever made a mistake when submitting, but I do aim to follow guidelines and treat people kindly. Have a great week!

Jo said...

So many people seem to be self publishing these days, not always a good idea because there are so many typos or grammatical errors. However, these tips are very useful if you are considering going through the publisher route.

Tyrean Martinson said...

Ouch!

I winced when I read those examples.

That last one just leaves me aghast. Why write anything like that in a professional e-mail correspondence?

Sandra Cox said...


Life as seen through the eyes of a publisher. Sounds like you need a strong sense of humor to survive.
Some of those examples were snort worthy:)

Lynda R Young said...

tears... of laughter and sadness. My goodness some people are super great at shooting themselves in the foot. I know we get awfully attached to our babies, but still!

Denise Covey said...

Pretty heavy stuff! I'd be so over the moon if a publisher accepted my ms (well, it helps to submit first) that I would fall over myself to do everything I was asked to do. :-)

J E Oneil said...

It always baffles me that people have to keep repeating basic instructions like including all the requested material or a mass query letter. Some people never learn!

Sheena-kay Graham said...

Every job has horror stories. Thank goodness there are not the only kinds. Most people want to learn and work well with others. Shame on the ones who cause these kinds of negative conflicts and stories.

Sandra Cox said...

On the other end of the spectrum. grin. I got a negative response from an agent on a manuscript, then a year later she contacted me again and asked if she'd looked at the manuscript yet.....That one I didn't bother to respond to.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Mary, that one is really mind blowing.

Lee, and with that attitude, he'll never make it.

Tyrean, I have no idea.

Sherry Ellis said...

I am sure it is no easy job being a publisher and dealing with half-witted, rude people! Thanks for the tips on what not to do. They seem common-sense, but are certainly good reminders to authors on how not to behave.

Michelle Wallace said...

I'm shocked that people can be so rude!
On the flip side, you're never short of entertainment.

It's great that IWSG is now on twitter.
Looking at my April Twitter analytics, I just realised how beneficial Twitter can be.
Writer In Transit

Romance Book Haven said...

Oh my! I'm flabbergasted! There is so much information online about the right way to write query letters...would just take a few minutes scrolling around and people get all the information required. Yet still all these?

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, man, I don't envy you. I get noobie mistakes, but the people who are just rude baffle me. And noobie mistakes DO deserve to not be taken seriously--there is a learning curve we all need to traverse.

Medeia Sharif said...

I can imagine all the crazy mail people in publishing get. There are some rude, delusional, arrogant, impatient people out there.

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

You mean authors/writers sometimes don't respond at all when asked for the whole MS? WOW! Just WOW. That is plain stupid and pompous.

Crystal Collier said...

People are crazy. That's all I have to say. It's amazing how people read things too--when they see submission guidelines, entry guidelines, etc. I appreciate why agents and editors simply dismiss so many queries.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Sadly, the world is full of nasty people. Luckily, the nice ones outnumber them. Great post, Diane! Should be a study guide for all writers.

Sandra Cox said...

Good luck on that HAS to be my cover art:)

emaginette said...

There are days when I wonder if some people know how the affect others. *sigh*

Anna from elements of emaginette

Nick Wilford said...

Wow, I guess you see all sorts. Of both people and letters. Heading up your query with your criminal credentials is a totally new one on me. I wonder what the motivation was?

Christine Rains said...

Oh my! There are some crazy folks out there.

Arlee Bird said...

I have to wonder what goes through some peoples minds. A person who wants to pursue a career should maintain a professional attitude when going about it.

Arlee Bird
A to Z Challenge Co-host
Tossing It Out

Elsie Amata said...

Wow! That last one was terrible and just plain rude. I had no idea that authors don't have full say over the cover. Learned lots today, thank you!

Sandra Cox said...

The Dear Sir letter is sad.
Enjoy your weekend.

Lexa Cain said...

Yikes! It's awful when people think they're too good to follow instructions or make zero effort to study craft. We've had plenty of people join our critique group but object to getting critiques. They got defensive, huffy, and left. None are doing well in publishing... I wonder why? LOL!

Tara Tyler R said...

some writers have way to much personality on paper and don't really know how to take no for an answer... it shows their inexperience! or lack of research that this industry is based on carrying on despite tons of rejections that should be expected.

thanks for the informative and humorous post!

Nas said...

I can't think how aw a normal person would write like that! Don't they realize the harm they are doing to their career?

Sandra Cox said...

Referring to Karen's comment, so many authors go into publishing for the first time thinking that the publishing company is going to handle all the marketing, but advertising is definitely a two-way street with a large amount of the responsibility resting on the author.
Have a great week, Diane.

Shannon Lawrence said...

A local agent recently posted that she received a query letter that began, "Things go very badly for those who reject me." Or something similar. She posted portions of the letter. If I didn't know her, I'd probably doubt this was a real letter!

Connie Arnold said...

Wow, some people are amazing! Thank you for the helpful tips. Hope you have a wonderful week!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Michelle, some of them are quite entertaining.

Robyn, I just had someone who didn't respond to a request several months ago email me this week and ask if she could still send it. I told her no.

Nick, I guess he thought that was his strongest selling point. LOL

Lexa, I wonder why indeed.

Nas, maybe they're used to being pushy to get their way?

Shannon, I'm sure it was real.

Sandra Cox said...

The website owner that wanted compensation....that's just plain weird.

Cherie Reich said...

Oh, wow. Some of those... It makes you wonder what the author was thinking. When I worked as an editor with a publisher, we had one author who refused to do any edits I'd given him. The senior editor liked the changes I suggested. With his refusal to do edits and complaints about the cover art, they eventually dropped him. It's a two-way relationship. Both parties can make mistakes, but the author-publisher relationship works best when people respect each other or at least be civil.

M Pax said...

Dealing with the public is always an interesting experience. Fodder for stories. :)

Rhonda Albom said...

Good information. The publisher is a very important part of the process and should never be slighted.

Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar! said...

Hi human, Diane,

Arf and finally, I've arrived at your thoroughly thoughtful blog site. Oh my, well stated and of course, what NOT to say to a "Pawblisher."

I shall, as paw usual, take the liberty of sharing your pawst, my kind human friend.

Pawsitive wishes,

Penny!

Gossip_Grl said...

I don't have any time to post for ISWG but have tried to catch up on some reads. I'm sorry but I had to laugh at the last letter about Googling and the crime data. :) Hilarious!!! I am sure that happens though.

Chemist Ken said...

There's nothing more painful than having to explain why something isn't working to someone who just doesn't understand the concept. Especially if you fell like you're hurting their feelings.