Monday, February 7, 2011

Question of the Day featuring Michael Phillips

Angel Harp: A Novel
Enjoy question 5 of my 25 days with Michael Phillips!

What is something you wish you would have known about the publishing business?

It would really have helped me to know more about how the process works. For some reason, publishers don’t really tell you very much. Maybe other authors don’t care. They just turn in a manuscript and that is that. Then one day they open a box and there are the books. But for someone like me who wants to be involved in the process so that the final book will be one I will be proud of on my shelf as a complete entity, it is frustrating not knowing what is going on, what is expected of you, what is protocol, what are the no-no’s, and whether your input on that “whole book” package is going to be treated with respect.

I wish I had known more back in the 1970s when I was just beginning…I still wish I knew more!

I’ve done over a hundred books. Believe it or not, I still don’t know the difference between a line editor and a copy editor. Actually…I think there may be five distinct editorial levels. I’m not really sure. An author just isn’t told very much. The unfortunate realization I have come to many times is that you don’t have a seat at the table, so to speak, as your book is being produced. You hand in the manuscript and the impression is that you are expected to pretty much bow out at that point. Your input and ideas and priorities are no longer required. In many cases, I’ve had no contact whatever with the editors working on my books. I don’t even know who they are. One publisher told me that this separation between author and editor is intentional—so that the author won’t interfere. I came away from that discussion more perplexed than ever, wondering whose book it was.

Perhaps all this is normal. I would just like to have been kept better informed about that aspect of the author-publisher partnership. I would have gone into the process aware of that expectation. I think it would be incredibly helpful if publishers gave their authors a written “Author Procedures” booklet or something. It’s very frustrating to be kept in the dark. So you ask questions, then discover you’ve offended someone or committed a breach of etiquette. I am still struggling to figure things out.

In the production of Angel Harp I caused a minor brouhaha for asking a question about the publication process that I didn’t know was out of bounds. We worked through it, of course, and the book turned out great and I love what FaithWords has done with it—just a first class job. But it would have been nice not to have crossed a line that I didn’t know was there.

And every publisher is different. Some are great about author involvement at every stage of the process. They want an author’s input, knowing that he knows the book more intimately than anyone in the publishing house. With others, that involvement is minimal and they really don’t want that input. I have worked with some of the best editors and publishers in this business and in many cases the process is an absolute joy.

Anyway…I am still learning! It’s a complex business.
What's been Michael's best author experience so far?  Find out tomorrow...

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