Monday 17 September 2018

What Annoys A Publisher?

By Paul Collins

I speak from both being an author of around 150 books and a publisher of a similar number. There are a great many things that can annoy publishers. Phone calls or emails asking why the author hasn’t heard back and they’ve only recently submitted their MS; authors who query every page of a contract — nothing wrong with questioning agreements, but mostly they’re “wasting time questions” obviously given to the author (usually an unpublished author — established authors know better) by an agent (paid to look as though they’re working for their fee), a well-meaning friend who once studied law, the ASA, the Fellowship of (whoever) Writers Association. (I made that mistake with my first contract from Penguin. It came back from the FAW so full of queries and penned-out clauses I tossed it in the bin and signed the original contract. The sky didn’t fall in. I wasn’t ripped off by Penguin. Everything was well in the world and I didn’t have to annoy anyone.)

What annoys me as a publisher is authors who argue the toss with editors (if it’s a good editor, take their advice); authors who won’t promote their books (I realise some are introverted — I was too, so did something about it and went to Toastmasters for two years to get over it) and lastly, authors who demand things from a small press because their major press did for them. Always bear in mind a small press is usually one person who simply isn’t making money.

Submitting books to every award in the country is really, really expensive and very time-consuming; sending out review books to a hundred reviewers is also expensive and not very productive (at the end of the day as only a handful of reviews will appear) and asking your publisher to go into the interstate warehouse (impossible!) and put a sticker on every book there because it’s become a Notable Book, or been short-listed for a little-known award. No one at a warehouse is going to open dozens of boxes and put stickers on books. And I very much doubt a busy warehouse with ten thousand boxes is going to let a publisher do it, either (you need to wait for a reprint). Yet these are just some of the things authors and illustrators have asked me to do.

Paul Collins is publisher of Ford Street Publishing and a highly successful children’s and YA author.