Your Book: Impacting the Final Product

I recently had a conversation with an editor at a medium-sized publishing house. She shared a few horror stories of difficult authors she has worked with over the years. Authors with giant egos and immoveable demands. Authors who argued and insisted they knew what was best.

I was quite stunned to hear this. Then I got sad and then a little mad. Isn’t it presumptuous to think that an author knows more than an entire team of experts at a publishing house?

There will always be times when an author must take control of some of the details of their own books and career. But authors of faith ought to consider a bit more of consistent humility during the publishing process. Here are a few reasons why:

1. The publisher is taking a risk, spending a great deal of money, and they want the book to succeed as much as you. I read one agent’s stats. Of the 2,000 proposals he looked at, he selected 20. Of those 20 selected I’m guessing a publisher bought 10. Publishers pour thousands of dollars into your book, usually more than $20,000 when it’s all said and done. They assign teams to consider titles, covers, fonts, layout, book length, back cover copy, catalogue copy, marketing and ad copy, etc. Your book endures several types of edits. Those of you who are published know it takes at least a solid year to edit, design, print, market and distribute a book, and the publisher is betting on you with the realization that only 10 to 20 percent of books earn back their advance.

2. Editors understand how important your book is. I recently read these comments from an editor:

When an author submits a text to an editor, the author has handed over a sacred object, one that has been countless hours in the construction, and into which the author has poured immeasurable amounts of his or her mind, body, and spirit. The author and everything he or she has put into a text becomes vulnerable to the suggestions, revisions, and deletions of the astute and discriminating editor. The author must trust the editor to do his or her job forthrightly, honestly, and in full awareness of personal biases and areas of intellectual and creative weakness.…. Manuscript in hand, the editor holds an object as precious as a newborn baby, and the posture he or she assumes is that of midwife, responsible for the nurture and health of the ideas to which an author has given birth.

3.  Editors are eager to change the culture together with you. They are for you, not against you. David Zimmerman, editor for InterVarsity Press, shares, 

On a good day I’m a midwife, holding authors’ hands and breathing anxious breaths alongside them, helping them through the arduous and emotionally wrenching work of bringing their gift to publication. I get to be a witness to the evolution of great ideas, to be the sounding board of audacious thoughts, to be the student of great undiscovered teachers. I get to celebrate countless milestones with authors, from the news of their book’s acceptance for publication to the signing of their contract to the registration of their book with the Library of Congress and the Copyright Office, to the book’s first printing, first sale, first review, first reprint. I even get to dole out money to authors, demonstrating the real material value of the thoughts in their heads.

4. God loathes pride. If you are a good writer, and I’m guessing you are if you’ve caught the eye of agents and editors, your gift comes from God. God crafted you with the ability to put words side by side in a way that causes people to think, cry, and laugh. Your gift impacts the world. The only response to that gift is gratitude.

Praying for your agent, editors, design team, publishing house, and readers is a much more productive way to control the outcome of your book. Trust that they want the same result as you.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

(James 4:10)

How has God asked you to demonstrate humility during the publishing process?


27 Replies to “Your Book: Impacting the Final Product”

  1. Lucille, well put. We should have a thankful heart in all we do. I find it interesting that both you, myself, and Mary Demuth have blogged about pride this week. I believe God is sending out a reminder that pride goes before destruction, and that destruction is to ourselves when we become prideful. Wonderful advice and reminder that we are all in this as a team and God is our leader.

    1. Melissa, first of all what are you doing up this late? Thanks for letting me know about Mary’s post. I’m going to check it out.

    2. I totally agree, Melissa, and thank you for this reminder, Lucille. May my knees (and face if necessary!) always be hitting the ground HARD regarding the gift and desire to use words to glorify Him!!!!!!

  2. Wonderfully put Lucille. As the author of 7 (soon to be 8) books, I have learned to swallow my pride and recognize that the people who publish books for a living know more than I do about how to sell and market them. It is not always easy, but I wholeheartedly trust my editor(s) and the marketing team at my publisher. They are good people and truly have my best interests at heart.

    1. Rick, I’m always so impressed by the variety and number of books you’re written. I still have one on my “to be read” pile. Thank you for offering your seasoned advice.

  3. Amen, Lucille! Agents can also be very helpful in “managing author’s expectations”and helping gracefully champion a writer’s point of view to the publisher in situations when it really calls for an S.O.S. (For example, a loathsome book cover.) But I always tell authors to never forget how blessed they are to be doing what thousands of writers dream of doing. A grateful spirit and a good work ethic (turning your manuscript in on time when possible, etc) will yield good will in this business. A high maintenance author with unrealistic demands will also earn themselves a reputation of being difficult, resulting in fewer and fewer publishers willing to work with them. This is a small world, and it pays to be grateful no matter how long you’ve been in the business or how many books you sell. Humility is a beautiful thing. And you, Lucille, are such a joy to work with that both your editor and your agent can’t help but notice and speak glowing words about you. Betty White’s longevity and joy in the entertainment business is mostly due to her undying gratitude to “get to be in this great biz” and her work ethic. I loved her memoir, because you could see how her thankful attitude opened decades of fun doors for her. The same is true in the world of writing!

    1. Blush. Thank you Becky.

      I adore Betty White but I didn’t know that about her being so thankful about working in the industry.

      All of life seems to be impacted by the frame we put around it.

  4. Editing is a hard career to get into. Editors who work at publishing companies have had much experience and know what they’re doing 98% of the time. Only naive authors think different of this. Editing is the crucial stage of writing a book–authors need to realise they don’t know better than the professionals.

    1. Rebecca, you live in Australia? And you edit? I agree, editing is the crucial stage. I’ve been so amazed at the ways my editors tidy up my manuscript.

      1. Yeah, I’m in Australia. When I edit someone else’s manuscript, it’s funny how much I learn myself. It reminds me to always trust the editor.

  5. Adopting an attitude of humility eases the discomfort of accepting edits. It is a reward in and of itself.

    1. Janalyn, I do think you are right. I was very nervous about the editing process. Now I am only grateful.

  6. This is a great article and it reminds me to thank God for my literary agent! He’s my go-between with the publisher and he helps cast the image to them that I’m actually easy to work with (HA!).

  7. Well said! Even though I’m new to the writing journey, I’ve partnered with many people on creative ventures in the workplace. I think no matter what the project is, a teachable heart makes or breaks you, and affects the success of the final product.

    God reminds me often, “I gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason.” I can’t learn if I don’t quit spouting my opinions.

    Absolutely great post. Thank you for a gentle rebuke in love. I always need this reminder.

    1. Hi Anita, thank you for chiming in here. I love how you worded that: A touchable heart.

  8. Nicely said, Lucille. Praying for everyone involved in the process of caring for your book assures the best possible outcome for both the project and the people surrounding it.

    1. Patti,

      You summarized my smashing point. If we say we believe in God we will pray for every aspect of our book’s creation.

  9. Great post, Lucille!

    Something tells me that trusting hearts have an easier time being humble. Unfortunately, trust doesn’t come easy to too many people, including me. Funny, as soon as you master trusting God in one area, He stretches you to trust Him in another; it never ends ’til heaven.

    If we can trust God to give us the right books to write, we can trust Him to give us the right publishers, editors and agents, right?

    In getting my first book published, I had to stumble a few times in order to learn to trust God’s Sovereignty in the details. I’m thankful He was always there to pick me up so I could get down on my knees on my own and say, “thank you for hand-picking everything and everyone especially for me! It’s because you’ve shown me that You’re always all-knowing that I can truly, humbly thank you!”

    1. I agree. God always stretches us….and what a journey this road to publishing has been. Blessings Cheryl.

  10. Such an insightful post, Lucille! As an editor, I’ve worked with authors at all stages of their careers from debut to multi-published. It’s the author who maintains a humble heart and allows an editor to “clean up the baby” after its birth who lasts in this business. May all of our WordServe clients know the presence of God at every stage of the publishing process.

    1. As an editor and agent — someone who knows firsthand — Barbara I’m thankful for your comments.

  11. The whole process of writing is a humbling one. It’s funny you used the baby images, because that’s exactly how if feels to me to give over my manuscript to my critique partners. They work my “baby” hard, but the child is stronger for it. So glad the editors understand this as well. I’ve discovered writing is not just words on a page, but a crafting of ideas, pictures and even rhythm. Yes, it’s humbling trying to put it all together and needing help to do so … and I haven’t even gotten to the publishing piece yet.

    1. Yes, so much of the writing process is like giving birth. We need our doctors and nurses to guide us!

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