{Between the Lines}

The Agents of Books & Such Literary Management Muse About Books, Publishing, and Life

Do You Communicate Too Often with Your Publisher?

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

Finding the right balance between communicating too often or not often enough with your publisher is a tightrope authors walk all the time. With varying degrees of success.

Over-Communicating

I’m in the middle of straightening out a publisher-author fracas because the publisher is just plain weary of hearing from the author. Every day, apparently, the author fires off new questions to ask marketing/publicity, when the next contract might be offered, how the last manuscript turned in was received, etc.

The publisher, weary of being barraged with emails, came to me and said, “We give up. We’ve tried to be responsive, but really, we can’t devote this amount of time to answering one author’s questions.”

Let Your Agent Be Your Guide

One of the great aspects of having an agent is that the publisher depends on the agent at such relationally-defining moments  to step in and sort through the mess. Because, trust me, the publisher and the author had very different views of how the communication misfired in this situation.

The sad truth is that some agents won’t try to sort through the tangle. He or she believes the agent’s job ends when the contract is signed. At our agency, we believe the agent’s job is never done. We want to oversee the author’s career, and that includes taking care of relational snafus.

What Can You Learn from My Client’s Mistake?

The publisher does not appreciate hearing from authors too often.

If an author sends a nonstop stream of e-mails, even if they’re to different people at the publishing house, that author soon becomes thought of as a problem.

The author is seen either as way too insecure (and needing too much reassurance) or way too pushy (and hoping that being pushy will result in more marketing/publicity or editorial feedback). But the publisher will hold an author at arm’s length in such instances. Neither party benefits from an arms’ length relationship.

Don’t be afraid to ask.

If you think you’re over-communicating, consult with your agent, or ask your editor if the in-house folks think they’re hearing too often from you. Let it be known that you want to be sensitive to how much communication should take place.

Manage the number of emails or phone calls.

If you have lots of issues to clarify, collect them over several days, put them in categories (marketing, publicity, editorial issues) and then send emails targeted to the best person for each category. Resist the impulse to fire off an email each time a question occurs to you.

Consult with your agent about ways to self-monitor the number of communications. Sometimes agent will suggest they be copied on all communications. If your agent thinks you’re over-the-top in how much you’re communicating or the urgent tone most of your missives convey, pull back.

Inadequate Communication

I have clients who err in the opposite direction. Out of fear of being “that” kind of author, they comply with everything the publishing staff propose: edits that are extreme; a title that doesn’t work; a cover that looks so much like your previous cover that even you can’t tell them apart, etc.

In that case, confess your timidity to your agent. Let her speak on your behalf. Your publisher isn’t trying to railroad you into complying with their opinions. They expect you to let them know when you have concerns. It is a partnership, after all.

Can you think of a time someone has over-communicated with you? (Like maybe your toddler…) How did you respond? What would have made the relationship work better at that point? How might that apply to an author’s relationship with her or his publisher?

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