Friday, March 19, 2010

In control

by Lauren

Yesterday, Michael offered some really sound advice on how to deal with potentially difficult situations that arise in the publishing process, and I wanted to follow that up with a link to something of a companion piece over at Pimp My Novel. Eric outlines what you can’t control as the sales force tries to make magic happen for your book and then finishes with a sobering but important fact: “Everything from having your partial MS passed on to the agent by his/her assistant to the final sales call to winning all kinds of fancy literary awards will inherently contain an element of randomness or luck, and it's up to you to make the best of it, regardless of the circumstance.” That last part is key to a satisfying publishing experience. Some things will be affected by chance, but that doesn’t mean you should just passively leave your entire career in the hands of fate! For everything that lines up perfectly, capitalize on opportunity and don’t bank on chance. Lucky enough to have some author signings in an era where that’s less and less the case, don’t forget to tweet about it, make a Facebook invite, and email your address book. When things seem to be going wrong—and inevitably something will—do what you can to fix them and do everything you can in other areas to minimize their impact. Pretend you’re in AA and memorize the serenity prayer—and talk to your agent when you need help with the “wisdom to know the difference” part.

And if you’re still wondering how to make the best of it, run don’t walk to the previous post Eric links to in his entry: What You Can Do: Twelve Easy Steps. His hypothetical timeline may well be much shorter than what you’ll experience—except in the parts where the work is on your desk and you’ll be praying to every god anyone has ever believed in for more hours in the day—but it outlines clearly just how proactive you can and should be. You can’t force luck to go your way, so make sure you don’t forget to do all the things within your power.


  1. Teaching authors when they can control something and when they can't is probably a huge part of your job!

    I wanted to ask a related question. I've heard authors say that they try to be aggressive in their reversion of rights clause so that if their books go "out of print" they can get copies themselves to sell on Amazon or they can put it back into print on iUniverse. Could you talk about this? Also all the related issues, such as: Is the cover art usually just licensed or is it usually bought outright? What other things does the author not "own" of the original printing?

    I guess I'm asking how an author can prepare him- or herself for this eventuality?

  2. There are too many variables for us to give general advice on that since what’s best for one author might be bad advice for another and publishers’ contracts vary widely, except to say that this is one of the many reasons that authors need agents--both to be well prepared contractually and to figure out the next step after a book goes out of print. The answer, as with so many things, is to talk to your agent!


  3. Thank you!