Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Five Pieces of Advice to Avoid Becoming "That" Author

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.


Chris Bauerle said...

Thanks for posting this, Paul. As the sales and marketing executive, it is a constant challenge to keep my team motivated to sell or promote "that author." Recently, the publisher had a conversation with the author that yielded a few sales ideas. I asked one of our sales people to follow up with the author and the response was "Do I have to? I have tried to reach out to her before and she is so rude every time I talk to her."

Your note about an average of 60 active books at any given time is absolutely true. The easiest way to go to the bottom of the priority list is to carry an attitude that your book is the most important or the only title being promoted.

Finally - yes, email, email, email. Authors have honestly rendered my office phone unusable. I can't pick it up because, with 60 titles, 18 sales professionals, 3 marketing professionals, and 7 national accounts of my own, I cannot take the chance that it will be an author who only needs 5 minutes of my time. This happens very often and the calls are never 5 minutes. Send an email. If emails are being misunderstood or you feel your subject is so complicated that it can't be handled in email, send an email requesting a meeting on the phone.

Our authors are our most valuable business partners, and we don't want to treat them any other way. However, wise stewardship dictates that we have to keep our plates spinning by controlling the way that we communicate.

Thanks again for great advice on becoming a "favorite author, and we have some great ones!

Anonymous said...

paul said:
> Personally,
> I thrive on affirmation.
> I can't get enough of it.

well, at least you are
man enough to admit it. :+)


Mary said...

Paul: What a terrific, informative, and timely post. While I'm at it, this whole blog is the best thing since sliced pizza. Oh, and have I mentioned your hair looks particularly nice today? (How's that for affirmation?) :)

Paul Mikos said...

This is a tough subject, Chris. Many of the "guidelines" we develop (i.e., use email instead of the phone) grow out of problems, not the norm. It is a balancing act between being a good business partner and managing our time effectively. Thing is, we have a lot of partners so we have to take steps to best manage our time and our relationships. It will always be a challenge.

I'm glad you're still reading.

You deserve a raise.

Chris Bauerle said...

I agree, Paul.

If there is anything I can tell current or potential author is that though the squeaky wheel may get the oil, that author doesn't get the time and attention that the many of our beloved and professional authors get.

My office sits right in the middle of our team's space, and I hear it every week - either "Guess who I heard from today?" (said with enthusiasm) OR "ugh...I wish I hadn't answered THAT call." Perhaps its unprofessional to share this - that we should pretend that every author is a joy to deal with. I am assuming that if you're an author reading this, you want to do everything you can to make your book a success. One of the best things that you can do is to respect the time and communication styles of those charged with selling or promoting your book.

If you're competing for their affection and time, use your head, you can win it.