Monday, September 24, 2007

because I've already been at work for two hours

I feel like it's fair to take this little break to rant.

For the record (and I'm not in any way modest about this): my authors love me. All of them. Just call ANY of my authors and ask them. GRILL them. I have 100% faith they will absolutely gun for me all the way. This is because I'm conscientious, courteous, timely, enthusiastic, and extremely diligent. (Perhaps I'll get more jaded as I get older and more battle-weary, but for now, I'm still all those things.)

I've even had some major setbacks--just ask any editor who's been in a similar position (which is most editors). When you start new at a company, the list you inherit undoubtedly contains all the "dogs" that none of the other editors want to deal with for whatever reason. Often the "dog" authors USED to be nice and normal people but after their book got passed over, sat unpublished, or wasn't scheduled/edited to their liking, they became bitter, angry people who were nonetheless stuck under contract and who begin to lash out at their publishing company with every communication. I inherited quite a few dogs. But through a careful combination of blame deflecting, shameless flattery, teflon enthusiasm, and affectionate nagging, I have managed to bring all these authors round to my side...and also get them finally published in the process. That's why they love me as much as the authors I wooed myself do.

Naturally, there's one exception.

One of the major dogs I inherited when I got here has come up a couple of times in this blog already (since I've been sweating blood over it since I arrived--three rounds of edits, etc). You may remember it as The Manuscript from Hell (or alternatively The Manuscript of Doom) if you've been reading for awhile. It's a journalist war memoir slash contemporary history of a particular area of the world (it's amazing we have it on our list... we really don't don't do much in either of those areas). It sat on our list for awhile before I started here, and had been in the hands of a total of five editors. But I WAS GOING TO MAKE IT WORK!!

Suffice it to say that perhaps the back burner wasn't the place for my various predecessors to have left the manuscript, because there's really a lot of crud stuck to the bottom of the pan at this point. The manuscript was in extremely rough shape, and because the author has already lived with it so long he was extremely intractable about making any changes--even when stuff didn't make any sense. The author has been largely unresponsive to my editorial direction and has been basically inaccessible unless he wants to be. The only times he wants to be accessible are when he is unhappy with some direction the book has taken--then he calls and shouts at me. On two occasions, he had his agent call and shout at me, too, and there was one occasion on which there was a particularly harsh email that accused me of being "unprofessional" (hurtful words indeed). I really don't like shouting; I'm a quintessential author advocate and fight for changes in packaging/titling/cover imaging when my author expresses discomfort. Shouting is really, really unnecessary and makes me tear up--just a natural reaction. I know he can't see me over the phone, but I dread when I hear his voice on the other end because I never know what's coming. Also, these changes are usually made far above my head for reasons that have had a lot of expert opinion behind them--perhaps the buyer at Barnes and Noble suggested a cover image change, for example. This isn't something we can treat haphazardly, and all of the author's ranting and railing doesn't help sell the book in better. In the end, we both have the same goal (don't we?): to sell as many books as possible. Can't he trust all the years of industry experience we have to offer on our end? And even if he can't, does he need to shout?

I have three huge projects to work on today, and the other two are books I'm so excited to have on my list and authors who have been absolutely spectacular to work with. And so a day that should be filled with fun work is instead blighted--I had to come in at 7 am to get the last batch of manuscript prep done on the beast, and of course many further unforeseen problems have popped out of the woodwork in this latest round of edits. Boo. Boo.

Ok, I better go back now. I just wanted to express some frustration.

5 comments:

Ello said...

In all my years of experience I have found that some men like to scream and rant and rave when they don't get their way and then accuse others of being unprofessional. He sounds like an *&^hole and you shouldn't let him blight your day. Forget about him. He is a miserable person who is seeking to lash out on you. Having had years of training with these screaming types, I have found the most effective attitude is the one where I politely inform them that I will be hanging up the phone as I refuse to be screamed at and that I am happy to take their call again once they have calmed down. It usually pisses them off more, but eventually they get the message. Good luck!

Ello said...

Oh and by the way - if you email me I will be happy to tell you what my WWII novel is about. I'm extremely curious about yours too since I have yet to meet another writer working on the Pacific theater!

Kaytie M. Lee said...

Yes, a person who will scream and shout and accuse others of unprofessional behavior is likely the kind of person who'd have done that if you were the original acquiring editor.

I can understand his frustration, but not his foul temper.

The Writers' Group said...

Yes, what Ello said. I like her.

Perhaps in a future post you could list all of the ways in which an author could become a dream author, someone an editor delights in working with on a project.

As for tears, brush them away. Never, ever let them fall. Never ever allow anyone to yell at you. Ever.

Amy

moonrat said...

yeah, that's what my dad says.