Today I got an email from an author with effusive praise for a job well done. I passed it along to the people really deserving the credit and got back this reply from one of my teammates: "Holy crap a positive word from an author... the thud you heard was my jaw hitting the floor :)"
Obviously, this was a tongue-in-cheek response (as noted by the :)), but it illustrates a point. It is so important for an author to protect how he or she is received and perceived inside the publishing house. At any given time, the publishing team at CHP is working on twenty books that just released last cycle, twenty books releasing now in this cycle, and twenty books about to release next cycle, each with their own demands and expectations. This is an emotional business with a high degree of personal investment. Often times, we don't hear from authors until something has gone wrong. So I offer you some advice for navigating the sometimes tricky relationships with your publishing team.
1. Find a champion and treat them like gold. Be it your publisher, editor, publicist, a sales person, customer service, whomever--find one person you "connect" with and develop a genuine relationship with them.
2. Use email, not the phone, to ask questions and share ideas. It allows you to say exactly what you mean and it allows the person you are emailing some space to get the answer rather than feeling put on the spot. It also provides an easy way to follow up and keep record of it.
3. Limit emails. Make sure that every contact is important and positive. Don't email so often that it becomes a topic of discussion in the office. The last thing you want is to provoke the thought, "Not her again."
4. Email the right person for the issue in question. Consider whether the issue is editorial, marketing, sales, financial, or new book idea, and email the appropriate contact. Think about what it is you hope to accomplish and ask yourself if you think your email will get what you are after before you push "send."
5. Give thanks and praise. Personally, I thrive on affirmation. I can't get enough of it. I've told my wife that I'd prefer she tell me, "I believe in you," more than, "I love you." But keep it real. The goodwill a kind word will buy you is priceless and will take you exponentially further than any browbeating or tongue lashing.