If there’s one thing I’ve noticed being in the publishing industry, it’s how a deadline will wear people down.
As an author, you’ve been with this piece of work day in, and day out. Not only did it take you countless hours to write, now you’ve gone through the process of editing. But before that, the waiting.
Writing is all about the “hurry up and wait.” You wait to hear if your piece was accepted, wait to hear when your editor will be assigned, wait to get the edits back, and then continue to wait once they’ve finished their work.
Frustrations begin to mount and it becomes an angry volcano, rumbling and growling, the lava sloshing around until it cannot be contained any longer. This is the boiling point. As a publisher, I can tell you there is no good reason to hold onto your piece, which is not making money, without a good reason. The entire point of acquiring your manuscript is to sell it.
So, let us start there. What are some reasons a publisher won’t immediately release a book? While my reasons are only my experience, and I am talking from an independent publisher point of view, I can assure you my reasons aren’t too far off from others: Timing is everything.
The first thing we do,when your piece is edited, is to think about marketing and formatting. Every book, like its author, has its own personality. We want the marketing, and the look of the book, to go with the story and the cover. (By the way, your cover should be done with enough time to market it. You, as the author, should be sharing and talking about your book-not the release date-and engaging your audience. More about that to come.) Once we put the book in line for formatting, the work begins on that. Next, we must look at our calendar year for the best time to release it.
What’s the best time? There are more factors going on than when you feel it’s the best time to have your book released. Generally, like with movies and music, there is an accepted release day. However, being independent gives us the freedom to break free of that tradition. Is it to our benefit, though? Some of the variables are: the timing of other releases, the timing of the competition, the timing of marketing team availability, the timing of budget. The whole point is to trust your publisher, or if you are self-publishing, do your research.
The hardest concept I had to get across to my authors was budgeting. If I don’t have the money in the budget to market your book, it’s all for naught. This is the first trap I fell into, myself. When I started Stitched Smile Publications, I was new to everything. As strong as I am in my decision making, I allowed authors to pressure me. I allowed mistakes to muck up the path. I had no idea how many people were looking for what I had to offer with my pub house, and very quickly it got overwhelming for me. I had an incredible staff, we had incredible authors. It was just too big, too fast. I thought I could release every other month. And, had I been able to afford to pay 5 editors a full time pay? That would’ve been possible. It just would’ve been stupid.
I didn’t have the capital to run a huge pub house. I didn’t have a loan to start the company, and work out of an office with a full time staff. I was one person, with a small team, who were doing it voluntarily, at first. I was lucky enough to find interns who traded work for real life experience. English majors who wanted to go into the publishing world, came from a few colleges to get their feet wet. I can honestly tell you, many of them went in other directions when the reality hit them: difficult authors who fought them on their work and expertise, time crunch, deadlines, etc..
The hardest pressure to avoid was the authors themselves. They expect a lot from you. And if they’re accustomed to working with other publishers who put things out lightning fast? They will let you know all about it.
I could write an entire book on this-and maybe someday I will. Right now, however, it’s the basis of this post.
Since 2015, I have lived in this world day and night. It is the first thing I think about in the morning, and the last thing on my mind before I go to sleep. I took a break right when COVID hit. I can tell you without any hesitation, it was one of the good things to come from the pandemic.
I decided not only to take a break for my mental health, but I was seeing a trend. This trend was already infiltrating those around me, but now? It was infiltrating my world with the speed of the Corona virus: the words, “good enough.”
I cringe even thinking about it.
Publishers, who had good intentions, started releasing material at an alarming rate. And, they were lowering the cost (even gave things out for free!) in the hopes that, those who were now stuck at home, had something to read. The problem with this act of kindness is (I’ll leave this here because we all know people with ulterior motives. I don’t have to go into it for you guys), rather than putting out material that was good? They put out material that was, “good enough.”
An author, a publisher, an artist … Hell, I’ll put it this way: No one should ever be satisfied with the words, “good enough.” And never should those words be present inside your brain when you are asking someone to pay for it.
This is your legacy. Immortalized words, written by your hand, poured out from your heart and soul. Why would you ever think, “it’s good enough” is good at all?
If you are in a rush, there will be mistakes.
Read those words again. I’ll even put them down one more time: If you are in a rush, there will be mistakes.
I don’t care how good you, or the editor, are. You cannot rush through a project, and expect it to be flawless. This is where my own folly took its first breath. I allowed the pressure of the deadline, and the pressure from my over-anxious authors, to push me. I didn’t trust my gut.
Mistakes are-and should be-lessons. The lesson I should’ve learned was better time management and expectations for when a book could be completed. The lesson I ended up learning was that now, because I didn’t stand my ground, everyone was a victim to the mistakes. Authors were angry, editors were angry, readers were angry … and I was angry.
Slow down. Why put so much effort into this creation, and not expect your handlers (publisher, editors, artists) to lovingly comb through it to make it as perfect as they can? How could you allow anything less? This is your name. This is their name. Readers are paying you for a finished product.
Imagine going to the store. You take your hard-earned money, you put it in the hands of the cashier for a brand new whatever. You get home, you open the box, and the first thing you see is something wrong with it. First, you go through the anger and disappointment. You bought this whatever brand new, you paid money for it. You have expectations for the product. Right?
In what way are you above those expectations when you put your work out there? What kind of audacity do you have to think it’s OK to present it to the reader like that?
Deadlines and release dates can be moved. Yes, the readers and fans may be a little disappointed. Trust me, they get over it. They are just like kids waiting on Christmas. The excitement for your work is a good thing. Keep them going by engaging them and explaining to them why it’s so important for the pushback of the release: You want to give them the best of you. They will respect you much more.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. I know it is a hot topic and I may ruffle some feathers by talking about it. It’s ok. I’ve been in this industry long enough to have earned my scars and thick skin. Honesty and perspective is what I respect, even if you disagree with me.
I think this post ties in perfectly with a previous post of mine: What kind of writer are you? because, if you know who you are when you start, you should never be swayed by outside influences. Stay true to your ideals and morals. Always listen to your mentor. Make your choices based on what your goals are. Every year, I revisit my goals and apply my growth. At the core? I’ve put boundaries in place. These are my “do not cross” self-laws. What are some of yours?