Monday: State of the (Publishing) Union…

Personal “State of the Union”:  My lovely agent (AKA “Rockstar”) has the first 50 pages and synopsis for the steampunk proposal I sent to her a couple of weeks ago.  Rockstar is back from a business trip to London so hopefully we’ll be able to get that submitted to publishers in the next few weeks.  I really, really, really want to be able to write the rest of this book so cross your fingers!

Fury 3, Black-Hearted Betrayal, is finally flowing exceptionally well.  I am behind where I wanted to be but making up for lost time very quickly.  It’s amazing how the pieces are coming together.  I’m always fascinated by how the writer subconscious mind juggles all these balls behind the scenes and manages to interweave them all by the end of the book.  Of course, you still have to smooth edges and segues in the revision stage(s), but still.  Pretty darned cool!

Industry “State of the Union”:  So, there’s another publishing kerfluffle floating around the interwebz (big shock, right?), which appears to be a “he said, she said” sort of dispute between a Big 6 Publisher (full disclosure: I think it’s MY Big 6 Publisher) and a post-contract but pre-published-with-that-publisher author.  While I don’t feel comfortable opining on who is “right” or “wrong” here vis-a-vis the contract–because we the general masses aren’t privy to the exact details of the specific contract–I do feel qualified to make a few general observations.

1.  It’s About What Your Contract Actually Says, Not What You Think It Does…Again, not commenting on the specific dispute, just throwing that out there for aspiring authors.  Make sure you understand each and every clause of each of your publishing contracts.  If you do not, or aren’t 100% sure of what you think you understand, immediately consult your literary agent.  If you do not have a literary agent, find an reliable, reputable attorney who is experienced in publishing law.  Not just an IP attorney or general attorney, it must be someone who understands the unique ins and outs of publishing law.  There are clauses in publishing law that might seem innocuous when viewed by a layperson or general attorney who doesn’t know the precise definitions as they apply to the publishing industry.

2. If/When Disputes With Your Publisher DO Come Up, LET YOUR AGENT BE THE INTERMEDIARY!…Yes, I all-capped that last bit because it is just that important.  Some unpublished writers have the mistaken impression that an agent’s primary–or only–function is to submit manuscripts to publishers who do not take unagented manuscripts; or to make that sale plus negotiate the initial contract.  Wrong!  Agents serve many more equally valuable purposes, not the least of which is being the “bad guy” when disputes come up between their clients and publishers.  It’s all-too-easy for the author and editor–who are, after all, only human–to get caught up in the emotions of a dispute and see things as all black or all white.  Involve your agent:  let your agent be the one stepping between you and your editor/publisher so you can retain as positive a working relationship as possible.

3.  Remember That This IS a Business Relationship…See that part about it being a “working relationship”?  Publishing is, for better or worse, a business.  Your editor, your agent, and you–yes, you!–are professionals.  This means you are governed by not only the terms of your contract (which you should understand explicitly before you sign any other publishing contracts or attempt to self-publish), but also by a certain understood code of professional conduct.  Remember where I said it’s easy to get caught up in the emotions of a dispute?  DON’T!  Take a step back, let yourself cool off, and look at things in a pragmatic sense.  Professionals in creative endeavors such as art or writing shouldn’t just take to the Interwebz to post impassioned rants against their publishers.  While you may get a whole bunch of “traditional publishing sucks and all Big 6 Publishers are EVILE” types singing your praises and telling you you’re completely in the right, chances are you’re likely coming off as exceedingly unprofessional to a whole lot of other people.

At the end of the day, I personally believe that writers have to decide what is best for their careers–whether that be “Big 6″ publishing, small publishing, e-publishing, or self-publishing; or, as is becoming more common, some combination of the above.  I also firmly believe that those of us who choose to make this a career must look at it as a career, and conduct ourselves accordingly.  Act professionally and courteously.  This doesn’t mean acting as a doormat, or letting a Big 6 Publisher “walk all over you” when you feel that you’re absolutely in the right.  It does mean involving your agent, and if necessary, an attorney, on your behalf and handling things in as professional a manner as possible.  If, when the dust settles, you still feel that you were “done wrong” and/or got railroaded:  by all means, feel free to post your version of events:  after you have cooled down and in as calm and professional a manner as possible.

Or, you know, fly off the handle and get all the extra Interweb publicity you could ever hope for.  I suppose that works, too!

Note:  These are just my own personal thoughts and feelings based upon years of observing the industry and reading posts like the one linked to above.  If you don’t agree?  Perfectly valid.  But please tell me why–professionally–rather than rudely or shrilly.

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