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:~: Tuesday, November 27, 2007 :~:

Guest Blogger: Charlotte Cook, Komenar Publishing


Yikes! I understand the frustrations of this industry. I'm a writer, editor, teacher, and publisher ... along with being the spouse of an independent book seller and friend to many others in and across this industry. And I don't know why anyone would want to rage at people who might help a writer achieve his/her ambitions and achieve them successfully.

Authors Raging at Booksellers

Story One: An author with a published book in hand stands at the cashier station in a bookstore shouting at the lone bookseller there. "Why won't you carry my book?" the author asks and repeats while a customer stands nearby, hesitant to approach to make a purchase.

Story Two: An author writes an "anonymous" letter to a bookseller criticizing the bookseller for taking a call from a customer, then putting the author on "hold" to take an order from the customer on the telephone rather than discuss taking the author's book.

Story Three: An author follows around an events coordinator at a bookstore where the author is to have an event. The author repeats, "You haven't enough books on hand. Thirty won't do it. This is a great book. Everyone who comes will want to buy the book." The bookseller says that they rarely get turnouts above thirty people. The author counters with: "You don't know that. You can't tell the future. And my book is special."

Writers Raging at Publishers

Story One: A writer emails a publisher that the publisher's guidelines are "stupid" and the publisher is "just on a power trip." Writer and publisher have had no previous contact.

Story Two: A writer calls, then emails, a publisher: "My book will make you a million dollars. Why aren't you smart enough to see that?"

Story Three: A writer is asked to do a bit of rewriting. The writer responds with: "Clearly you have never read any Faulkner," refuses to do any rewriting, and closes with "you don't know literature."

An unfortunate story all around:
A writer confronts a publisher at a trade show: "You rejected my book but I got it published anyway. HAH!" The publisher points out that the book was rejected because the publisher doesn't take books in that genre. The writer turns very red, mutters something and stomps away.

I just found out that there are websites with stories about writers behaving badly. I'd think that no one would want to find a posting about their behavior there. But a writer on another site emails: "We have every right to behave as we do. You publishers and editors and agents just don't get it."

Well, yes, we do "get it." We are the recipients of the behavior and we do understand the catalyst for the behavior. But, if your emotions can't be managed in the earliest stages of relationship building, why should it be our problem? No behavior that is anti-social, unprofessional and/or intense can be rationalized away here in this industry. And why should it be? None of these people would be allowed such behavior elsewhere, in other industries, with other professionals. No behavior of that kind makes any of us want to work with such a person long term. And that's what this business is ... long term.

From submission to second printing, especially in the mid-size and smaller houses ... and with any bookseller ... bad behavior just can't be tolerated. We have no time, no staff, no added resources, no money and often insufficient resilience to cope with behavior that demoralizes or offends. I have actually witnessed writers exploding with expletives at receptionists, editors, booksellers, designers, and others. And I know people who have changed jobs and companies as a result. Good talent going away. Everyone loses.

So, just to avoid to catalyzing any raging emails to me, let me give you some ideas about how to become deeply appreciated in this world:

1. Make friends of everyone. You never know who is within earshot or who knows whom. (The woman behind you at the airlines counter is a producer for Oprah. The quiet customer waiting to buy book had been holding one by you.)

2. Take advice. If an agent says do this or that, if an editor says do this or that, if a publisher says do this or that ... do it with great energy and attitude.

3. Or, ask for clarification. But ...

4. Don't argue. Never argue.

5. Negotiate or question but never with attitude, or ...

6. Say thanks and walk away. Work to get along or to get away.

7. Always say please, thank you, and you're welcome. (Don't say "no problem.")

8. Remember that nothing happens in this industry quickly. If you want an update on your submission, the status of production ...

9. Send polite emails, or ...

10. Call, asking first if the speaker has time to talk, then be brief and polite.

11. Consider that sales are essential to success. Publishers and booksellers have to sell books to buy more books. And stocking large quantities creates costly returns, not more sales.

12. Learn about the challenges each and everyone has in this industry.

13. Be agreeable and articulate.

14. Make friends of everyone.

15. Make friends.

I have had the best fortune in making friends in this industry. Most everyone I deal with is a friend in one manner or another. I am always grateful for their time and commitment. Many have helped us in very particular and important ways. I remind myself all the time that making a successful book is a team effort and I am always on a learning curve.

So, what more can I write? All I want you to know is that to succeed you make friends. Make friends of some really wonderful people. And I hope that's what you do.



Blogger Joan Swan said...

Hi Charlotte! Thanks so much for visiting with us.

It sounds like there are quite a few writers head-tripping out there. :-)

#12 resonated with me: 12. Learn about the challenges each and everyone has in this industry.

A marketing professor and friend of mine from a nearby university told me a story once.

Short version (no, really, it is the *short* version): A bookseller goes to bookstores trying to sell his authors. Bookstore owners say no, already have too many. Bookseller lies awake at night trying to think of new ways to sell. He's very stressed--money, bills, career, etc. Then it occurs to him that everyone must worry. He wonders what bookstore owners lie in bed at night worrying about. He asks them what troubles and challenges they have. Bookseller then goes out and gathers information on those industry-related problems, offering the bookstore owner solutions, or even just a sounding board, an ear to turn. When that bookstore owner is ready to buy books, who do you think he's going to buy from--the guy who took the time to listen and help out.

The professor showed me the value in turning things around--identify your audience (target, buyer, reader, whoever), uncover what they want/need, and find a way to give it to them while also selling yourself.

I now incorporate that outlook in just about everything I do. And I've made a lot of friends that way, too.

2:33 PM  
Blogger B.E. Sanderson said...

Excellent post, Charlotte. Thanks for giving some insight on the horror stories. I'm constantly amazed people do these things, but I probably shouldn't be. Courtesy is one of those things lacking these days. In any contact with any other human being, the watchword for me has always been courtesy. Not everyone can be everyone else's friend, but we can all be courteous to each other.

Everyone gets frustrated from time to time. Vent in private, get it out of your system, and then you'll be able to present a nice face in public. =o)

4:49 PM  
Blogger Linda Winfree said...

Hello, Charlotte! So glad you're here. :-)

Great post. It seems that simply being courteous would be common sense, but after seeing a lot of bad author behavior . . . I can see it's not.

Courtesy is key, though. And it's simply good business -- it's all about building a reputation as someone people want to work with.

5:03 PM  
Blogger Jana Oliver said...

Excellent post. Besides being a courteous person, if that rare moment comes where you just have to raise your voice and let folks know you're unhappy, then that moment will get noticed. Drama kings/queens are a dime a dozen. Of course, you save that moment for the really big issues, not the small ones. Most of the dinky issues will resolve themselves anyway.

5:52 PM  
Blogger Elisabeth Naughton said...

Wonderful post, Charlotte! Thanks so much for stopping by. Your stories amazed me, but unfortunately I've run into authors like you mentioned, so they aren't a total surprise. Your advice about making friends is one a lot of authors should hear.

6:09 PM  
Blogger Paty Jager said...

Every writer should read this! Unfortunately our profession has the same insensitive people in our midsts as all professions. And it seems like the world is getting filled with more and more of them!

Thank you for all this insight!

7:42 AM  
Blogger Alice Sharpe said...

I enjoyed reading this blog.

I've been startled more than once by the indiscriminate ranting of fellow authors within ear shot of their editor's ears. Or rumblings about their publishers at events hosted by ... yep, their publishers. It seems very short sighted to me to complain about the hand that feeds you while you are being fed and I am always mindful of the fact that I don't know what every editor in the company looks like, she might be sitting one seat over from the grumbler and I know her instincts to share this kind of news with her cohorts is as strong as mine would be.

Writers need to be careful to whom they complain. People tend to pass along juicy comments!

Interesting blog.

8:42 AM  

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