Since the beginning of the new year, I have observed some pretty unprofessional behavior in our business and it troubles me. With all of the back and forth about publishing being in real economic trouble, I would think that, more than ever, we would want to work together, publishers, authors and agents to help it survive and thrive.
I have noted this lack of good publishing etiquette in both my clients (one behaved in an especially unprofessional way when his project didn’t achieve the attention and advance offer he believed it deserved) but most especially I have witnessed it on the publishing side.
Just the other week, I had sent out a proposal I have very solid hopes for to an editor who had not only requested it but who had insisted, when her assistant editor had requested it before her, that I send it to her instead. A few days later when I called to follow up she proceeded to turn the project down saying that the people who had read it (she quite obviously hadn’t) didn’t think it was the kind of book she envisioned. I was stunned. Here she demands that I send the material to her rather than someone else on her staff who had asked for it and then she doesn’t even read it? What is going on?
Authors work very, very hard on their proposals. It is true that some proposals are better than others, but I personally know that each and every one of our clients puts a great deal of time and thought into what s/he sends out into the market place; the least an editor can do is read and thoughtfully consider it.
Then there are those editors who request proposals and then never, ever respond. We call, we send e-mails and yet it is just like throwing the material in the trash bin. This kind of thoughtless behavior seems to be increasing as well.
A couple of weeks ago, I had lunch with one of the old timers in our business: a retired editor, who had discovered some of the best books and writers of the last 45 to 50 years. She wondered where all of the camaraderie between publishers and authors of her day had gone. I had to agree with her that much of it seems to have gone the way of manual typewriters.
I fear that if this kind of behavior isn’t reversed, out business really will be in trouble. This is something that can be fixed, with attention and better communication. It is my sincere hope that both authors and most especially editors and publishers will sit up and pay attention to a problem that is relatively easy to solve…before it is too late.
Your thoughts, of course, are always welcome.