If it’s my hubby uttering those words, I get all silly goofy like. When I hear it from an author, my hands shake, and I break into a cold sweat.
Years ago, I heard those words from one of our authors, and every now and then I have flashbacks that leave me sucking my thumb and begging the beagle to mainline me with an entire pitcher of margaritas.
We had a two book deal with this author. Things were going fine and dandy until he turned in his manuscript. I opened my email and saw that his manuscript had twins. I emailed him back.
Me: Um, why do I have two separate manuscripts?
Author: Oh, that was my surprise! I couldn’t say everything I wanted to say in one book, so I turned it into two. You’ll love it. The first one is a real cliff-hanger that’ll have readers clamoring for the second one.
Right off the bat, he said two of my least favorite words – two books and cliff-hanger. It’s true that I had a two-book deal, but we were working on his branding, and I was expecting to do this with two separate stories (he was a surgeon). Suddenly, I only had one story split in two, and this wreaked havoc with all the hours we’d put into planning his promotion.
Me: Dude, I can’t use a cliff-hanger…these are achingly hard to sell because you’re not an established author. If readers know they won’t get instant gratification (Like we’d friggin’ discussed), they won’t buy the first book. So all your plans for the second book are mudville because we’ll have no buyers for the first one. Argghh. What possessed you to do this?
Author: Well, the word count was getting high, and you told me you wanted me to keep it below 100k words. By the time I wrote 180k words, I decided to split it rather than edit stuff out.
Me: But your second book was going to focus on a completely different storyline. We discussed this! Why didn’t you come to me?
Author: Not to worry – this is a fabulous story. Besides, I didn’t think you’d freak out over this.
Me (praying to the Cosmic Muffin for strength): Beagle, get me a drink. STAT.
The Blowback From a Surprise
See, the thing is, my doc author was clueless about the headaches he was placing on me because he didn’t know anything about the industry. And his “Hey, no biggie deal” attitude infuriated me because he was in no position to know whether it was a “biggie deal” or not.
He never took into consideration that instead of reading one manuscript, I would have to read two in order to determine if we could make them stand-alone books.
Because I had to read two books, we had to alter our release date for the first one. My author was very unhappy when I explained the situation. He refused to consider any changes, and he left me with no choice but to dissolve the relationship. After all these years, he remains unpublished, which is tragic.
To Surprise or Not to Surprise
Here’s the thing: NEVER EVER EVER SURPRISE YOUR EDITOR. Unless you plan on sending her flowers, candy, or a trip to Hawaii, there is no surprise that will prevent her from tearing her hair out and offering truck drivers good money to run her over.
We are your editors, and this means that we MUST be involved in every decision that impacts your book.
Authors have no idea what goes on in the background, so what may seem no big deal to them is a very big deal to us because we’ve spent long hours with our marketing teams, distributor, genre buyers, blah, blah, blah. If an author decides to change the game plan, s/he is upsetting a very large applecart.
So when in doubt…talk to your editor FIRST because I can guaran-damn-tee you that this is a surprise she will not love. At. All.