Friday, November 16, 2018

Misadventures in Publishing Part 2—More Flags, More Red

But I've never been wrong before!

Last time, I talked about the red flags that went up when I was accepted far too quickly (within hours) and didn’t have an attorney vet the contract (dumb, dumb-dumb-dumb!). The next flag went up when Maya asked me to change Del’s name.

It wasn’t much of a change, but it was strange. The reasoning behind it was even stranger. Tears of Heaven had released in 2013, so it had been out for three years prior to WildChild Publishing’s demise. Between GoodReads and Amazon, the book had 70+ positive reviews and a few hundred copies had been sold.

No one had commented on Del’s name.

That doesn’t mean someone didn’t shake their head at it, but I’d received no reports along these lines.  I’d been accused of all manner of other things, but no one had a problem with Del’s name.

Her full name appears a grand total of five times.

I counted.  Twice.
The Rob will abide.

Now, to be fair, I haven’t always been the paragon of Dudeness that you see before you today. When I finally did have the chance to work with an editor, I almost blew it. Out of naivete, inexperience, and a misplaced sense of ego—No! UR FACE is an inappropriate point of view shift—I sometimes went off the rails. Fortunately, my first editor was great, incredibly talented, and ginormously endowed with the patience of a host of saints. By the time WildChild Publishing closed, I had mostly lost my ego when it came to editing. Mostly. According to every editor I’ve been assigned since then, I’m “easy to work with”.

Their words!

Initially, the discussion about Del’s name lasted through about three email exchanges. As with most of my character names, Del's name was specifically chosen. It even had explanatory paragraphs in one of the original drafts. That was boring, didn’t feed plot or character, and so I cut it. 

I used terms like “Afro-Asiatic/Assyrian proto-language.”

Fun, huh?

I thought the matter was dropped. Re-reading the emails today, it all seemed reasonable.

I still love this cover!
So, it was strange about week later, as we were reviewing cover art concepts—which became its own fiasco—Maya accused me of being a “difficult” author. Additional requested edits contained the same frustrated and accusatory rhetoric. This is when the next red flag went up. Understanding that tone and nuance can be lost in email and chat exchanges, I requested a phone call to discuss issues and concerns. Maya balked. If setting up and managing phone discussions wasn’t something I’d done over the past twenty years of my career, I probably would have given up.

Maya offered an endless stream of reasons why she couldn’t speak with me on the phone. She insisted that her schedule was too packed. She refused to name a time when she could spare fifteen minutes. Any times I offered were flatly rejected.

Eventually, we did have a phone conversation, and it seemed to go well. The conversation covered her concerns, my concerns, and what we were both trying to accomplish.  It seemed that the bumpy road had been smoothed.

It wasn't, but we'll pause here with the takeaway for this set of red flags:

1 – There are rocks to die on, and this isn’t one. The issue with Del’s name wasn’t a major one. It shouldn’t have been a big issue for either a publisher or an author. I had reasons, but they weren’t explained in the story. Maya had reasons, but they didn’t make sense given the publishing history of the book. Small issues shouldn’t be the rock on which a working relationship dies. If battle lines are being drawn on little things, then there are bigger, more fundamental concerns at play.

2 – Communication, communication, communication. The ability to discuss, listen, understand, and come to a reasonable conclusion with a co-worker is a must.  If your publisher isn’t willing or able to communicate with you, that’s a big problem. One of the first things my new publisher and I did was have a phone conversation. It was only supposed to be ten or fifteen minutes—it ended up being an hour. My confidence with her is amazingly high because I know that even if we disagree, she’s not afraid to talk to me.

By itself, the name change was a minor nit-pick. Coupled with the other red flags that were already waving the in breeze the picture was becoming clear. Maya’s accusation that I was “difficult” should have been a sign that we weren’t compatible as publisher and author. The inability to get a quick phone call was another. There were some other signs along that way that I’ll mention in my next post. That’s when I should have pulled the plug, given Maya my regrets, and backed out of the contract with as much grace as could be mustered.

Alas, it seemed that the damage to the publisher-author relationship had been done. This was driven home very clearly by the drama that surrounded the cover art which will be the focus of my next post.

5 comments:

  1. Why did she want the name changed? Man, that's just insane. Thanks for sharing these though, they're fantastic!

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    1. It was a strange thing to do to a character and book that had already been out for about two years. She seemed to get hung up on little things.

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  2. The name change made no sense. I only suggest a name change to an author if A.) The name has been used in another (famously well known work) and readers could become confused. B.) If there are other names starting the same and again, reader confusion. Carrie, Cathy, Connie . . .nope time to change some names.

    Wanting a name changed so you can flex your "literary" IQ of past obscure works, or obscure historical knowledge is asinine and nothing but a power trip.

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    1. Concur. The argument was pretty silly, and not a good thing to pick to sour a working relationship!

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  3. I like what you're doing here, Rob. And how you're doing it. And for another thing, it's a good story. With evil cliff-hangers.

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