Robin shared some of her problems with procrastination back in Part 2 of Write or Wrong. I asked her if she’d be willing to write another post from a publisher’s perspective, so here we are. Oh, and you can find more selfies of Robin on Part 2 as well. But for now… Enjoy!
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When I started Rocking Horse Publishing, I thought I was equipped to handle just about anything. And I did. Handle just about anything, I mean. The whole thing kind of snowballed—I went from “what if no one submits anything” straight to “oh my gosh, how can I possibly do all of this—make it stop!”
I had a few clues, but not nearly enough. So I hereby apologize for all my screw-ups. There aren’t nearly as many, now.
But here’s the thing: what I consider a screw-up as a publisher can be completely different from what an author considers a disaster. It’s a lot like parenting; you explain, you teach, you listen, you hold hands, you occasionally discipline. Okay, that last is not exactly like a parent does a child, but it’s close. Sometimes you have to lay down the law.
And sometimes I roll my eyes and sigh, “Authors . . .” Yes, I am one, but as a publisher, I’ve noticed a few things, generally speaking:
First-time authors want everything done immediately; they expect utter perfection. This can also apply to those who are young. Since I’m 50 (ack!), that means anyone in their 20s and 30s. Just for some perspective.
Authors also seem to think that everything I do is pretty simple—if it’s broke, fix it! Well, there are expenses with everything, dollars and time, and I’m just not going to spend either unless it’s pretty major. That’s a simple business decision. For example, an error rate of .00004 in a published book is totally not worth the $75 charge and 30 minutes or so it will take to make the changes.
And even if changes are made, I have zero control over when those changes appear on third-party websites. Amazon, for example, is notoriously slow. S.L.O.W. It usually takes days for changes to appear, and sometimes weeks. I have two books that are still goobered up after two months.
I have no problem fixing what I’ve messed up (like page numbers; keep reading), but when a book is finally finished, and the author says, “Oh, by the way, I want to change a character’s name,” that’s when I see red. Literally. Well, almost. Close. Or when an author insists that his book has been edited so I don’t need to bother—and that book has clearly NOT been edited by anyone who graduated from high school.
I’ve been told that I give authors a lot of leeway. It partly depends on my mood. If you ask nicely, probably. If you keep bugging me about every little comma, less likely.
And does anyone remember when businesses had this thing called “hours?” I know, communication is different now, but if I don’t respond to a message or email that you send at 10:00 p.m., don’t be surprised. And don’t keep messaging. Holidays, ditto. I actually have other things to do besides this, you know—don’t you? Or do you work 24/7?
Don’t argue with me. You can point out something you might be particularly partial to, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to change it. Or leave it alone. And please, if I say no, that’s it.
After all that, there’s a final read-through and the book is sent to the author to double-check. Sometimes, corrections still need to be made. Sometimes, some of them are still missed. Don’t sweat it. It truly doesn’t matter nearly as much as you think it does. Now repeat that to yourself 17 times.
The biggest technical issue with readying a book for publication is—you really are NOT going to believe this—page numbers. Yep. Seems simple, but Word has a mind of its own. A devious, schizophrenic mind. Everything can be done, finished, complete, see your thesaurus for additional words, and everything has been triple-checked. I’ll save, convert to .pdf, and upload. Three days later, I get a proof.
And the page numbers are messed up.
Happens more often than you’d think. Something about saving a Word doc tells my computer to not only SAVE the damn thing, but make a few special changes. Fortunately, I can email my rep and she usually fast-tracks the book. Usually. It’s starting to be a running joke, that’s how often it happens.
By far, the biggest issue is with submissions, as in potential authors can’t seem to follow directions. When our website says “no headers or footers,” that’s exactly what it means. When we say “manuscript format,” don’t call and ask for a tutorial. Figure it out. Don’t send an attached MS with no cover letter, nothing in the body of the email, zip, zero, nada. Tell me something!
And finally, don’t send an email with NO MS, but ask me to look at your work at this or that link and see if I’m interested. I’m already not, because you couldn’t bother to check our website and follow directions. Same goes for submitting when we’re closed to said submissions. Depending on my mood—yes, publishers have those, quite a lot—I’ll either delete it or maybe save it for when we ARE open. Maybe.
You canNOT micromanage your readers. Won’t happen. Can’t happen, because there are a lot of readers and they’re all different people with different expectations, different imaginations. Let’s say you describe your main character, in detail. You’re painting a picture, with words. In an actual picture, people can see, oh, colors, styles, and so forth. In a word picture, people will all imagine different things.
Maybe you mean bright green eyes; a reader will “see” hazel. Maybe you mean bleached blonde hair; a reader will see honey gold. EVEN IF your descriptions are very, very detailed. Perhaps you say “tall” and, since you’re only 5-foot-3, you think that 5-foot-8 IS tall—but a 6-foot reader will not.
Let’s say you daydream about your book being optioned for a movie; you’d have ideas about which actress best fit your “picture,” right? Now ask a few friends who’ve read the book who THEY would put in the role. Might be different.
Same thing with emphasis. If you’re a good writer, you don’t NEED to emphasize certain words—see what I did there? This is a blog post. Different from a novel. Remember when teachers would ask “what does this author mean?” You know the old joke, right? The author meant blue, and not any other damn thing.
Pictures or paintings and book covers are also different. The first two are purely works of art; book covers are works of art that must also convey the concept of the book and make readers choose to pick it up.
My point is that you shouldn’t try. You cannot make a reader see, feel, or think everything you want him to, although, as a good writer, you are going to come very close. But here’s the catch—99% of the time, you’ll never know . . .