The Controller

We’ve all met him or her. From start to finish, they must have absolute control of every single part of whatever project they’re working on. All it takes is one little item going out of their control and they’re ranting all over the place, claiming you personally are out to get them. Nowhere but in the publishing world have I seen so many people suffering from “Control Syndrome” as I have in the publishing world.

Perhaps this problem initiates from the ability of anyone to self-publish a book. Ten, twenty, or thirty years ago, the publishing industry was controlled by a few big houses, who decided which book would be published, what new author would receive their first contract, and how that would happen. Tales still exist regarding expensive luncheons at the publisher’s expense, huge advances that would get the new author out of debt and allow them to live the life of F. Scott Fitzgerald, and carefully orchestrated nationwide book tours where their adoring fans heaped praise upon them.

As the saying goes, that was then and this is now.

Now is a publisher world where the Big 5 publishers are struggling as hard as a new self-published author attempting to get their novel noticed. And it is a struggle, one we all deal with every single day. Today’s author competes not only to get their novel noticed they also must struggle with a publishing related world to understand how much things have changed. This can be anything from the new ways of dealing with publishers working from virtual offices to the bookstores that won’t allow you to do a signing in their storefront until you are as well-known as Lisa Gardner, Patricia Cornwell, or Steven King.

Now is having some input into how your cover art looks, but ultimately that is under the control of the publisher. Yes, the cover is the first hook you have for a potential buyer, but don’t over think what you want on your cover. Go for simple rather than cluttered. Use a background imaged related to your story rather than the “perfect” models in the “right” action scene. Understand that the cover artist doesn’t need you virtually leaning over their shoulder every second, to be sure they “get” what you want.

Now is a publishing company having a small staff, without a media team to promote your work. More than likely, the e-publishers most authors deal with these days have extremely small staffs, sometimes nothing more than the company’s owner and a few assistants. They literally don’t have the time in one day to deal with one individual who believes they, for whatever reason, needs everyone’s attention twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. And if you think it’s difficult having your book published exactly as you want it, try doing all the things you’re demanding of this small publisher all by yourself.

So, instead of being “The Controller” and making unreasonable demands, listen to your publisher. Many not only take the time to offer suggestions on what has worked for them in selling their work, they are also authors themselves, trying to pound out that next novel. Don’t depend on a small publisher to do all of your promotion work and provide you with a massive advance because you have written the next hot novel while you sit back and pen your next book. Especially, don’t throw temper tantrums because you don’t get your way.

Or do throw that temper tantrum. Do demand what you want. Do act as if you’re the only person important enough to get their attention. You will pay a price you never saw coming.


G. B. Miller said…
This is so very true. For those of us who are unable to precisely articulate what we want for a cover, etc. sometimes we can inadvertently come off as a micro-manager.

Of course we want the best product possible, but ultimately we must have faith in the people that are working with us.

Father Nature's Corner
C, Ley said…
As an editor,I've had to deal with controllers. As an author, I make darned sure that anything I submit is going to give MY editor a good read and otherwise very little to do!;-)

The best advice I can give to the controller types is to please lighten up. It's not fair to people down the line (aka your publisher and their staff) a hard time because you didn't take the time to micromanage your own manuscript prior to submitting it. Your publisher's job is not to correct it. Their job is to fine tune it--they saw something good in it that they think will appeal to others. Trust that. And remember that courtesy and respect can go a long way too. -C. Ley
KC Sprayberry said…
Exactly, it's about being able to let our baby go into the world and survive.