"Random thoughts on publishing correspondence: a bit of a digression" by Laurie Faria Stolarz

The topic for this month is correspondence in the publishing world. My agent aside - (she is a lovely human who cheers me on and answers all my emails, weekends included) - this is a tough one for me. In part because I’m an insecure writer most of the time. I spend far too much time thinking that what I produce isn’t good enough, strong enough, important enough, sellable enough. Past “success” doesn’t seem to matter so much if the money from one’s last book (and/or backlist) isn’t flowing in at whiplash speed. It doesn’t seem to matter if one has sold numerous books, for example; or engaged in bidding wars; or had the film, entertainment, dramatic, foreign, and audio rights exercised; nor does it matter if one’s print run has run out multiple times, that one has paid through an advance, or sold a million books. 

Personally speaking, I still feel insecure, for the most part, about projects, and I still feel so grateful for an email response, a read, a sense of hope, or a bone thrown my way. Why is this?  Perhaps the issue is all in my head. Or maybe it’s because this industry seems so heavily weighted on book sales – at least in my experience. Money seems to matter more than book awards or loyalty or hard work or how seasoned one is. Having said all this, I realize, of course, that publishers face their own stresses: the pressure to make a decent profit in an industry where pirating is out of control, where it’s much easier to buy books online for a fraction of the retail price, and where self-publishing has exploded making competition for readership and sales all the more fierce. 

I also realize that a lot of the people working in publishing find it hard to make ends meet, despite long hours and lofty demands. They, too, face the pressure of signing “rockstar”-of-the-moment writers with “worthy” advances to beat out the competition. And then, when that six-figure advance isn’t met, who - or what - suffers the consequences? The writer? The editor? The sales team? Future authors? Quality? Quantity? Wages? Teammates?

Bottom line, this is a tough business, but it’s one many of us stay in because we simply can’t stray away. I love what I do, and I'm not nearly ready to hang up my publishing hat, so to speak. My advice for correspondence. Be professional – always, always, always. Know who it is you’re corresponding with – who they are, where they work, what their backlist is, what their agenda might be… Do your research – first and foremost, then ask insightful, well-informed questions. Answer every email in a timely fashion, and always be kind and gracious, regardless of where you are in your career.




Post a Comment