When you’re writing just for yourself, you’re in control. Of everything. You control what your characters do, what they say and think and wear, what happens to them, where their story begins and ends. Every aspect of the story is completely in your hands. It’s your book. All yours.
When you work with a publisher, that changes.
All of a sudden, you’re not alone. You have a team. Other people are weighing in on decisions, if not outright making them for you. And the good news is, they’ve done this before and you haven’t, so their decisions are generally coming from the right place, based on knowledge and experience. The bad news is, you may not always agree with them, and when it comes down to it, you’re almost certainly going to lose control.
I don’t want to use my space here this month to make an argument about whether that’s good or bad, about whether an author’s loss of control is an argument for taking another route to publication. What I’d like to do, instead, is share my experience, and give you some tips for a) claiming the control that you can, and b) totally being okay with being out-of-control when it’s called for.
About a year before my debut novel The Kitchen Daughter came out, my agent raised a flag: the publisher was thinking about bringing the book out as a trade paperback original instead of hardcover. My first reaction, of course, was panic: What does that mean? Don’t they think the book’s strong enough to sell in hardcover? Is there any way in the world I could make back my advance if this happens? We’ve got to stop it!
My second reaction, somewhat more level-headed, was: I’ve got to find out more about what this means.
Step 1: Do your research. [Read more…]