Real Life—My Experience Choosing an Editor, Publisher, and Agent
Navigating the labyrinth of getting works of writing out to the public can be a frustrating experience. Today, there are several venues to use but my experience was through the traditional method, which I did not find helpful. I will not list any names, but rather fictional initials to refer to the traditional people encountered. Here’s hoping this helps!
The editor we had, “K”, read some of the writing I wished to publish to see if she wanted to take it on. She was referred by another client of hers that we knew and trusted. “K” thought the writing would require minimal editing and agreed to work on our manuscript. This process started seven (7) years prior to the memoir coming out to the public. With emails being abundant between her and us to add, delete, approve, etc., along with time being taken for the editor’s other projects and personal things to be attended to, “K” just happened to have a friend who could help publish the work as the editing, she felt, was almost done.
“K” knew a small publisher as both friend and business associate and who agreed to work with her to publish the book. The publisher, “R”, required a deposit of $5,000.00 to go forward. He was quite amenable to promoting and getting the book published but continually wanted changes and more money, which we did not have access to, to go forward. The publisher worked hand in hand with “K” from right after the seven year stint began. Monies were needed for a professionally written synopsis of the book for promotion purposes. A professional was hired to write a short paragraph for $250.00. A short paragraph. ( by short—5-6 sentences) This took place roughly around year two or three of the process. (The professional paragraph was never used.) “K” was now editing as the publisher/friend had bigger ideas to promote.
Conference calls between the publisher, the editor, and myself ensued, about every six months as time moved on. Because it was becoming more and more complicated, and publication delayed again and again, we always had someone on our end of the conference calls to help us navigate and ask questions. We also recorded every conference call to review later if need be. Visions of a top-seller were offered. All we wanted was the memoir to be published so that the MESSAGE was made public. Unable to deliver on promises, now two YEARS into the project, the publisher found us an agent and another conference call ensued that also involved her. She shall be known as “Z”. A contract was signed with her, the publisher very nearly disappeared, and “Z” and “K” communicated with changes to be made to the manuscript, again, and two traditional publishers were given copies of our work by agent “Z”. She forwarded comments made by the recipients of the manuscript and nothing else. Once the contract was signed, two publishing companies contacted, that was it. “Z” did nothing, including communicate with us, the authors, after that. It seemed all she wanted was the contract and her 15% if the manuscript was published. After a year and a half, we terminated “Z” from our employ. “K” again did revisions, as per the feedback from the publishers the work was submitted to by “Z”, and she turned once more to “R” who was now willing to work again.
Video interviews were made at “R”’s request. Questions with written answers were needed, as per “R”, and never used. “R” wanted to make our work into a documentary through “contacts” he knew. Nothing ever came about. No contacts were named or results of any contacts reported. The publisher had to merge with another small publisher and everything stalled, again. Numerous promises but nothing ever concrete and time rolled on. In fact, “R” wanted to promote our manuscript though he admittedly had never read it in its entirety. No-name contacts, no progress, only more promises and pep talks. In the meantime, frustration to the point of physical problems we suffered due to being strung along.
Finally, after a friend, who was a professional in management and who had devised many business projects successfully for large companies both in the U.S. and abroad, offered to help, we gladly accepted. She outlined for the publisher and editor what needed to be done, with a timeline, and set a date for all to be accomplished. She was in on conference calls, stating the time already elapsed and asking why and pertinent questions. Our friend did her research with notes from past phone conferences, and what would be considered reasonable expectations. Through her, we found out this was not the norm, nor was it acceptable, and businesses cannot be run this way for clients. We had to make a decision but “K” readily worked toward the finality of all, had trial readers of the manuscript, and secured a foreword for the book by a renowned professional and best-selling writer. Things were temporarily looking more favorable. This was all offered to the publisher. Nothing happened. Only bigger and better ideas of a movie, documentary, and adulation for the work done. But no action. “R” still had not read the entire manuscript. We voiced dissatisfaction, diplomatically, and pushed for a culmination of what we had finally realized was professional gas-lighting—in our personal opinion. We kept stating we just wanted the memoir published—nothing more at this point!
Finally, seven years after the submission and commitments to see the book published and in the public eye, we abandoned the professional publisher and editor, and published through Amazon. Both “K” and “R” felt we were unfair and regretted time working with us. They felt we had blind-sided them and all their efforts to help. No mention was ever made of where the $5000 dollars were spent or on what. Seven years is a long time waiting to see your writing published. The close friendship between the editor and publisher proved to be detrimental to the whole process. “K” pointed out “R”s struggles, limitations, etc., and was afraid we had hurt their relationship professionally. After seven long years of nothing being done, we felt little compassion for the status of their relationship—business or otherwise.
So what was learned? BE CAREFUL when trying to navigate the maze of professionals. Promises, with money expended, can be deflating and discouraging. Insofar as editing—be sure it does not wind up with your writing voice edited right out of your manuscript/submission. The finished product was not truly ours at the end of all of it. Others who knew us, had read previous writings of ours, felt that the memoir was flat, lacking in feeling, simply a report of facts with no passion or feeling. We, too, felt our voice was lost and many things that would have profound meaning for readers was deleted without our consent. Frustration in dealing with people who are dealing with each other unbeknownst to you and only giving you limited information can be even more frustrating and drive you crazy as you see little happening and more and more of your work being manipulated and violated. The Editor and Publisher were communicating, but not with we, the authors. Instead, we were accused of blind-siding these people by feeling seven years and $5000 was enough time and money spent with no end in sight. Suddenly we were supposed to feel guilty for being assertive enough to want to see the end of it? Not very professional.
Also, BE CAREFUL of who knows who and what the actual goal is. I do not think these people intentionally dragged this out over the years. But I also feel that if they are in the business of marketing your writing, they too, should be business like. Your hard work should not depend on the editor and publisher being good buddies and not hurting their feelings. Writing is a business. Writing should not be left to haphazard actions, promises, time delays. Submit on your own. A rejection slip does not take years to receive. Once received, another submission can be made. IF you can go traditionally to be published, that is wonderful. But see the red flags if things drag on, excuses are continually made, your patience and understanding required repeatedly— take another route. It is not worth it to be in constant emotional and mental turmoil from “professionals” that cannot do their jobs.
(To emphasize the way we were suckered—they needed more money for a cover for the book in order to publish it. We could not afford it. We submitted a painting we had done. They loved it and wanted to use it. But even having all that, they could not publish.)
Again, our experience was horrid. Yours may not be. But be aware and don’t repeat our mistakes.
Here’s hoping you can learn from our experience. Keep writing and submitting.