Sunday, June 4, 2017

Author/Publisher Etiquette

This past year I edited several books for authors and reviewed many more for a publisher.

While I hope I helped those authors with my comments and edits, I know for a fact, I learned a great deal about writing from them.

For anyone contemplating submitting work to a publisher or agent, there are many things to consider, and this information can be found on the internet.

The subject I find rarely addressed is the etiquette of dealing with an agent, publisher, or even your initial reader.

When a book is rejected out of hand, it does no good to write a letter back and argue about how you know better than the editor, or how good your book is. The agent or publisher is the one taking a financial risk with your work. If he or she does not like it, that is the end of it. Often the acquisitions editor will include a reason for rejection. There is no point disagreeing. You submitted your work to be evaluated and if it did not meet the standard or criteria for that publisher, there is no point in begging or arguing. Why? Because such behavior immediately sends up a red flag and that publisher will hesitate to look at anything else you send in the future, despite the fact it might actually be better than your original submission. The most you should do is thank them for taking the time to read your submission, and especially for what they intended as helpful advice.

It should go without saying, if they suggest that with certain revisions, they would be happy to look at it again, then make sure you respond if the suggestions make sense to you.

Once you are accepted, you will find each publisher has their own way of working. Follow their rules. They will be the ones paying you when all is said and done. The publisher is not your private printer, there to be at your beck and call. If you are unhappy about anything along the way, by all means say so, but keep in mind, the publisher has other authors, and time is precious. 

What else did I learn? Every writer needs a critique partner or group to help ensure continuity in their story. Every writer needs a proofreader before submitting a manuscript. Whether you are writing fiction or a memoir, you must develop a hook for the reader, and settings and characters that draw the reader into your story. There should always be a conflict or obstacle for your protagonist to overcome.

And finally, synopses are not teasers for the back of your book. When an editor wants to see a synopsis, he wants to know that you have developed your story through to the end, and he wants to see the ending. Do not end your synopsis with, “And then the biggest surprise came that changed her life.”

Veronica Helen Hart is an author, editor, and acquisitions editor for a traditional small press. She also recently started her own small publishing company: Uppity Woman Press. You can find her works at