Are You a Minion or an Overlord?

Originally sent to the Listener Insider Mailing List on September 1, 2016.
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I’ve interviewed over 70 authors for the WROTE podcast. I’ve self-published. AND… I’m a production editor for a small, non-fiction press… plus I’m connected to a larger publisher. This places me in a unique position to answer any questions you may have about the business of being an author. I reached out to a group of professional writers, asking what areas confused them at the start of their careers, and received some GREAT starting questions. Here’s the next:

Answers for Authors

King-servantVance, I feel like I’m the lowest rung on the publishing ladder. Am I? Is that really how publishers see authors?

Whew, ouch. The short answer: No – not every publisher sees you that way.

But I won’t blow smoke up yer bum either… some publishers are far more focused on keeping their doors open than they are on massaging bruised author egos. I hate that aspect of the business, but I assure you it’s not unique to publishing.

So what can you do?

Take a good look at the business relationship you have with your publisher. Are the business aspects being taken care of on both sides?  If so, and they’re being handled well, then you’re doing well and can take a deep breath. But if not, it’s time to weigh the pros and cons of some of the following actions:

  1. Deepen the relationship. Don’t reach out to your editor on this one, reach out to your publisher’s marketing department and ask what you can do to help. Ideally, you want to be involved and at the top of their minds, but you will only reach that point by helping solve their problems. (And remember, they’re relying on your platform and name to help build an audience.)
  2. Pitch to a new publisher. You have at least one book under your belt. If you have a second nearing completion – and don’t have a contractual obligation to pitch to your first publisher – consider pitching to a new publisher. Think of it like a second opinion. You may find that your first publisher has a style that matches your own, or you may find the second one is more appropriate. You know you need a like-minded business partner, so too do publishers.
  3. Have a heart-to-heart with your agent. If you have a legitimate reason to believe you’re being treated more poorly than other authors, and you have representation, have the tough talk. Usually your agent has some sort of connection with the publisher, find out what they know.

Anecdote Time

Just like the person asking this question, I’ve recently also felt like the lowest rung on an awful lot of ladders. Compounded with some serious in-family health issues, I’ve been surrounded by a lot of “successful” and “achieving” family members of late. After family, the only person who can make you feel worse about your career is you. And I’d been doing a number on myself.

Specifically, I’d been avoiding all manner of “what’s new with you” questions like the plague.

A close family member finally called me out on it:  “You’re the only one who’s written a book, let alone multiple books. That’s huge!”

And he was right.

So I say to you… You, who has written a book (or many books). You. Are. A. Boss!

You translated the world into story. You inserted your own supernatural mythology. You followed all the “rules” of writing that mattered. You re-ordered the cosmos.

You are not a low rung minion. You are the first length of rope that went into the Gordian Knot that is publishing, marketing, and selling a book that will live on in the human archive of achievements.

From now on, every time you feel like your publisher doesn’t value you – take a real solid look at your book’s front cover.

Whose name is larger? Your publishers? Or yours?  😉



If YOU have a question you want answered from inside the biz, send it my way and I’ll pose it to the professionals!