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?