IN ADDITION TO BEING A BRILLIANT WRITER, you want to be an author who makes smart decisions.
Your publishing career will be full of fairly constant decision-making, each decision leading to your next options and each with consequences. What is a good decision? It should be based on:
- knowing your goals, so your direction is clear
- full information about the choices in front of you
- perspective on the part of the process you are in at the moment, and what is next
- recommendations from knowledgeable peers and professionals
- understanding the consequences if you choose A or B
- seeing how the decision will impact a future opportunity or choice
If you’re writing your first book, some early decisions are:
- Is this being written for you or to be published for the public?
- How will writing this book affect your life (family, work, hobbies, play time?)
- Do you know enough about the craft of writing to do this well or should you take come classes and study the craft?
- How much are you willing and able to invest, time-wise and cost-wise?
- How much do you need to understand about publishing before you start down this path?
On a later book, with some publishing experience under your belt, your decisions shift to:
- Should you have an agent (or change agents)?
- Is it worth it to hire a marketing expert or publicist?
- What happens if you change publishers?
- Do you have to keep writing within the genre of your previous book(s)
- Will extra marketing investment translate to higher royalty earnings?
- Does it cost more to pursue licensing opportunities than you can make back?
Depending on how complex your decision is, a Decision Tree is helpful. Seeing how A affects B and B affects C will help you look down the road a bit before making your decision, sure that it will keep your career and writing going the right direction.
Picking Your Battles
There is a good reason to not “fight every fight” with your publisher as you try to make good decisions: Your publishing team will quickly tire of you, which will sabotage their efforts on your behalf. It is critical to pick your battles from the beginning. Figure out what is most important to you.
With all the editorial decisions to be made, you can’t disagree with everything your editor suggests though you should make a strong case for anything that offends the book or fundamentally alters it.
Title battles are infamous in publishing: You can pretty much bet that your publisher will suggest changing it (according to what Marketing and Sales believe is best at that time in the market), so do not get attached to it or weave the concept so thoroughly into the manuscript that it’s a disaster to change it. Be prepared going in with alternate titles.
When it comes to cover design, figure out early on what kind of covers you like and make color samples to show the designer right up front in the process. Don’t wait until the publisher, freelancer, or designer is locked onto something before you say “This is not what I had in mind.”
Ask questions ahead of time, get as much perspective and information from your publishing team as you can, then buy yourself time to research, call some peers, and THINK it through. Not weeks, just a few days.
The Fastest Way to Resolution of a Conflict
When you find yourselves at a stalemate–the publishing team wants X and your strongly want Y–ask this question: “What in this is most important to you? What are we trying to solve with this change?” Once you now this, you can almost always come up with an alternative that you can live with, which also solves their problem.
Go forth and DECIDE,