Wednesday, March 15, 2006

PTC #7

7. Author Abuse: What exactly constitutes Bad/Poor treatment from a publisher (excluding poor sales, thin to no marketing, or normal business-related problems)?

Writers generally don't talk openly about this (which is why you asked, I imagine.) Our income depends on publisher good will, and we have absolutely zero job security, so we're not in any position to be whistle-blowers. Most of us do privately share information with other pros whom we trust, so abusive publishers don't get away with much. I don't blame any writer who remains silent, though; you do what you have to in order to protect your income.

Bad matches between editors and writers are what I think creates the ideal environment for bad/poor treatment. An editor who doesn't like you can make your writing life hell, trash your books, ruin potential contract sales and, in extreme cases, may cost you your career. It goes both ways, though; writers who dislike their editors can create almost as much trouble for them.

Other common problems that constitute bad/poor treatment of a writer: not getting paid properly, broken promises, being passed around from editor to editor like you're a canape, having reasonable requests/phone messages/e-mails ignored, and not being given support and/or the data you need for self-promotion projects.

Most pros have a list of things we will not tolerate. Mine's rather short:

1. Lying to me. If you can't tell me the truth, then don't tell me anything.
2. Not paying me. My agent and accountant are very keen on me getting my money. So am I.
3. Violating our contract terms. See my attorney, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
4. Verbal or physical abuse, or sexual harassment. Very rare, but it does happen.
5. Racism, ageism or any other prejudice in the workplace. I won't work with bigots.

I have a few friends who are editors and who share their problems with me (which are always in confidence and therefore I can't share with you.) The common denominator is that writers tend to blame publishers for too many things that are completely beyond their control. If a book doesn't do well, the publisher, editor, marketing, and anyone else connected to the production of the book is to blame, not the writer. A writer can't write a bad book, of course. We're perfect.

Now, would you like to buy a bridge, or go hunt some snipe with me?

Related Links:

Katherine Sutcliffe's article Write Byte, or Pray You Don't Get the "Editor From Hell" Cuz If You Do You Can
Slam Dunk Your Career in the Toilet. . . & Flush

Northwest Independent Editors Guild's article What Writers Want from Editors.

William L. Collins and Susan M.J. Lester's .pdf format article Writer-Editor Interactions: What Works?

The Village Voice has an old but interesting article about what editors and writers in journalism wanted from each other here.

Laura Wright's article Positive Rejections?.


  1. Anonymous12:56 PM

    I can't get the Writer-Editor Interactions link to open!y

  2. Anonymous1:21 PM

    Here's an html link to the .pdf article on Writer-Editor Interactions.

  3. Anonymous10:18 PM

    Thank you, PBW.


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