Are you difficult?

I just got off the phone with an editor friend of mine who wanted to vent. She has a difficult author. Oboy. Seems the author calls my friend twice a day and emails her six times a day, asking questions and voicing concerns. Mind you, the manuscript is still being written, so I was unsure what would take up so much of my friend’s time.

“Oh…” sez my friend in dramatic undertones, ” she calls to tell me she hates the cover. She calls to discuss adding some different content to the original idea. She emails to ask about promotion and marketing. She emails about movie rights. Have the damn beagle send me a Care package of margaritas, willya?”

I can hear the frustration in my friend’s voice all too easily because I’ve been there as well. We all have because we’ve all experienced the various flavors of The Difficult Author.

First-Timer Freak Out

Many writers are debut authors and have no idea what goes into publishing a book. There’s finishing the proposed manuscript, editing, cover design, page layout/ interior design, marketing/promotion…and on it goes. It’s a bit of a head spin for the debut author. And you know what? We’re good with that because we understand.

Many of us have Author Packages that we send out to our new authors the minute the ink dries on the contract. It helps us help you, the author, understand what to expect and when and how we do our magic. It also cuts down on the “holy conjugated verbs, Batman, what’s next?” emails. In a word, first timer freak out is expected. But that’s not what I’m talking about here.

The Worry Wart

The difficult I’m talking about are those who worry.

Cover design: “Ew! I hate, hate, hate it!” Yes, yes, that’s nice, but this is what the sales folks think works well. Most editors will do all they can to reach a happy medium on cover design because a happy, proud author is one who loves to show off their book at events. We genuinely want you to like your cover art.

And this is where experience and knowledge trump wishies and pretty colors. Certain colors print up horribly, and certain fonts can set the wrong emotive tone [for instance, you’ll never see a horror novel with a script font]. You may want a purple dragon with detailed artwork, but that intricate detail invariably gets lost on a book cover and blends into a mish mash. We know that, but you don’t.

You may want a lovely script font for your romance, but they’re achingly hard to read. Last thing you want is a buyer squinting to read the title of your book because chances are they’ll give up and move on.  We know that, but you don’t.

We all have stories where buyers hate a book cover so much they don’t put it out on the shelves. If our sales folks say a cover looks great, then we’re going to listen to them. Not you.

Editing: This is the biggest reason my grocery budget is sky high. I buy lots of Maalox, Twinkies, and tequila with the sole purpose of editing a book. Most editing is wonderful and  comes together like a greased zipper. Others are tough because the author questions every decision I make.

If I feel a manuscript is filled with miles of fluff and backstory, then the author needs to trust me and edit it out. Arguing with me solves little because I do have ultimate say on how a manuscript is edited. I paid for those rights. I love the books we publish, but don’t have the blind emotional tethers. I’m looking at it in terms of  “will this puppy sell?” The worry wart is thinking, “How dare you kill my darlings?” Well, pretty damned easy, as it turns out.

The author who emails me five times a day, questioning every single editing crit that I have is the one who’s ruining my liver. I don’t mind discussion – no editor minds this. But being challenged at every turn is exhausting.

The Cranky Pants

There is room for only one cranky pants in the author/editor relationship, and I’m it. And truly, I’m not at all cranky because I want what’s best for everyone. Most editors think this way. We don’t awaken from our crypts wondering whose life we can ruin this fine day. But believe me, if an author gets cranky, this shoves the relationship into perilous territory.

No one gets paid enough to shoulder someone else’s crappy mood. I’ve been told, “It’s because I’m so artistic.” Uh huh. I don’t care if you’re Hemingway, there is no defense or excuse for cranky behavior.

Are you the type who upsets easily or takes offense at every turn and fires off an email telling your editor [or agent] they’re a pile of petrified fish twaddle because you don’t like their edits? Are you the type who needs constant contact with your agent or editor to ask them a gajillion questions? Do you send emails that demand final say on cover design and editing changes? Umm…better check that ol’ contract before hitting the Send button.

Do you send emails telling your editor that she’s always hated you and you’re being unfairly treated?

Any of these things create a situation where the editor says, “This cannot go to printing fast enough!” Or…they may decide they’ve had enough of you and dump you.

A certain amount of hand-holding is expected in any publishing situation, and we’re more than happy to perform this function. You’ve trusted us with your book, so it’s perfectly natural to cast a careful eye over every aspect of production. But if you’re difficult, word will get around. Editors do call each other and ask questions. Take stock of your behavior. Are they calling to discuss you?

9 Responses to Are you difficult?

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    I hereby promise to do my best never to be that kind of author.

    Of course, I might want my editor to share the margaritas. Especially if there’s a launch party in the offing….eeep for stage fright!

  2. Chris says:

    Daaaang! Talk about laying down the LAW! I better stay on your good side. 🙂

  3. Melissa J Cunningham says:

    This was a great post! I loved reading it! I’m going through the editing process for the first time myself. Luckily, I’m none of those people! =) At least I don’t think so. It has been a great experience so far and I love my editor. She’s very smart and her ideas are great. I think we make a great team.

    I’m going to keep reading your blog, so thanks! Very entertaining . . . and educational.

  4. cat says:

    I would be much too frightened to argue with you – or the beagle!

  5. Ah, Cat, ask any of our authors – I’m really quite nice. I just hate to blow my cover!

  6. There were a couple of changes I wanted made to the cover of my book, so I discussed them with my editor. One wouldn’t have worked, but the other did, and I was pleased with that compromise and the change. And hopefully I didn’t come across as difficult!

  7. Marian, I wouldn’t worry at all. Discussions regarding cover art and editorial changes are all a part of the process, and no one minds that at all. It’s the other stuff I talked about that can tax the sanity of any editor.

  8. kim says:

    Worry wart here! But it’s mostly generated toward genuine concerns about others — the stray dog I saw and wished I’d picked up the other day, the one carrying an empty Micky Dee’s cup alongside the road … and the latest; oh noes :weeps: we broke the ocean etc.

    Cover Art. It’s a marketing science and I know book experts know best. They’re visualizing the ‘reach factor’ in a bookstore, mags, library… And the gender, age of all potential readers and etcetera etcetera.

    Holy Batman not another email? The internet is your friend; other writers are your friends. I try my best to self educate first and find the answer, before interrupting busy agent and editors … unless I’m passing on good news or Google is just being a bear with answers and I’ve hit a brick wall.

    Edits – and the last pucker-up lick of the salt of the sweet strawberry margarita. The publisher and the author strive for and have one goal. Success. =)

  9. Poppet says:

    This is simply a fabulous post (which I’m going to share on FB) – *nods with purpose* – people need to read this, then read it again.

    Thanks 😉

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