Thursday, November 24, 2011

Giving Thanks--It Ain't As Hard As You Think

Let's see--what am I thankful for this year?

I could go through the whole usual litany of "things Celina is grateful for in 2011" but I'm sure you'd be bored.  The list is short and...well, quite frankly, you guys don't read my blog to see what I'm being nice about.  You want to see what's pissing me off.  So let's head to the top of the list, shall we?

I hate divas.

Now, I realize that's strange coming from a girl who worked in theater AND in drag shows for a long time, but it's the God-honest truth.  You know all the awards show speeches that thank the "little people?"  Well, who are the "little people" in publishing?

The cover artist. The content editor. The line editor. The proofreader. The book designer. The marketing people. The bookkeeper. The review coordinator.  The list goes on and on and on.  A whole lot of people go into creating a book.  Sure--the writer is responsible for the lion's share of it; after all, they WROTE the book.  But the steps of the publication process mean that a lot of different people touch that manuscript before it becomes a BOOK and makes it to readers.  

There is a growing trend I've noticed lately, one that I find more than a little disturbing: authors who feel they have the right--and the power--to treat the crew that works on their book disrespectfully.  Authors who talk out of their asses, criticizing...say, a cover artist, for example, for creating a cover based on the author's OWN DESCRIPTION of the theme and plot instead of reading the book and pulling an image directly from the author's brain and regurgitating it onto the page. Last year, as a matter of fact, an editor who is a dear friend of mine was told by an author that he would SUE HER for copyright violations if she "dumbed down" his manuscript by correcting his very (very,very) horrific use of the English language.

At least I assume it was English. It might have been Tagalog for all I know.

In fact, earlier this year PM (pre-Musa) I retracted a contract offer to a writer who took it upon himself to correct the CONTRACT (one that I did not write and didn't have anything to do with) and then expressed concern over the level of editing he would receive if the contract was any indication of the company's standards.  But what made THAT encounter resonate even more strongly (and heads up!  herein lies the lesson) happened a couple of months later, when the same author submitted the same manuscript to the same editor at a different company. 

Guess who didn't get a contract offer from Musa?

And you know what?--it's a damn shame.  The book was well-written, funny, timely--and with a good, strong editor and the proper platform could have done very well.  But that book lingers with the author as far as I know, and probably will for some time.

You see, all those "little people?" They are working on multiple books from numerous authors at varying levels of proficiency.  That artist is making five or six more covers this week.  The content editor has her next two books already lined up.  The proofreader just got done working with the best-known author in the house, who treated her with kindness and respect.  And THAT'S why the best-seller is loved by the staff--because courtesy and professionalism go a long way to greasing the gears of the process. 

So my Thanksgiving post this year isn't about turkey or family or Pilgrims. My Thanksgiving post is about the actual giving of thanks to the people who work with you on your book.  Be courteous. Be professional. Speak to these publishing pros like equals. You don't automatically assume god status when you sign a publishing contract. 

Don't demand. Ask.

There are enough divas in the world as it is.  In the publishing industry, we don't really have divas.  Instead, we have asshats--and that's the last title you want dangling from your name.  Because usually right behind it, there's another tag that's even worse.