I took a look at another “small press” publisher yesterday. Actually, they weren’t so small. They have about twenty imprints, a handful of permanent staff, they use a lot of freelancers, and have about 100 titles. They’re small in the sense that they aren’t one of the Big Six. They admit to concentrating mainly on mid-list, and as with many indies, all the staff work from home. For some strange reason, many people distrust a lack of office. Pause for thought there: my husband, senior systems architect for IBM, currently working for General Motors and in daily contact with the US and India, works form the smallest bedroom in our house. If IBM can do it, why not publishers?
My husband’s main gripe is that he spends so much time on the phone in meetings, he can’t actually get the work done. Thank goodness for the time difference. It gives him a clear run in the morning.
Writers and publishers are also busy people. I’ve only supplied a contact telephone number on my publishers’ site because there was the suggestion again that a publisher without a landline phone number and an address is not a real publisher. I don’t particularly like the phone. I find it difficult to speak on the phone and when it rings it interrupts my train of thought. In an email I can give a more measured response. But even email can be disruptive. I actually only go through it once a day in detail, though I will have it on, and will answer any urgent matter quickly. I also tend to let the phone go to voicemail and process all of my calls in one go.
However, an author’s perception of what is urgent and a publisher’s may be different. We find it urgent if a writer has not returned proofs or supplied a bio within the time-frame requested. Writers find it urgent if they have not heard form the publisher in a while. This worries me slightly. I am also a writer and between my writing, publishing and teaching activities, I rarely notice the time going by. With my own publishers I assume no news is good news. That has always been the case.
The small press publisher I looked at yesterday does not even respond to email. In fact they don’t even give an email address. All contact is through a contact form. However, once you are an author and your book is out, you have access to a database that shows how and where your book is selling and that helps you to assess where and when you can give an extra push to sales yourself. Not a bad idea. I’ve managed to contact some of the authors they publish, who are all also published elsewhere, and they all seem happy. Worth considering?
But when should you contact your publisher? Obviously, when you can’t meet a deadline or something happens in your life that is going to hold back publication. Certainly, if you haven’t heard from them within the timeframe that they originally suggested or if you suspect something has gone astray via email or snailmail. And you should be business-like and to the point. Even your discussion of editorial and marketing issues should be calm and collected. Do remember yours is not the only book they’re dealing with.
Publishers are on the side of writers – without them there would be nothing to publish. They want the best possible book and they want it to sell well. We’re all in this together. Allow your publishers to spend their time on what matters most: making great books and getting them out there.