In a post last week I talked a bit about the dangers of oversharing about your business relationship with your publisher. I want to return to that point and perhaps provide some additional nuance.
It is never my intent to introduce more uncertainty or mystery into the author-publisher relationship. There is far too much of that already, and it’s not good for anyone. I don’t point out potential pitfalls on the publication path with the hope that authors will stop moving along it. I don’t ever want to scare authors out of their enthusiasm for their work. Author enthusiasm is an irreplaceable asset in publishing.
To return to the example I made in the original post, there are areas of publishing where broadcasting news of a just-completed book deal is the norm (much of trade publishing is this way) and there are areas where it is absolutely not the norm (school and library, for example). And there are situations in between. The goal is not so much that authors automatically know where they are along this or any other spectrum of the book biz, but that they know to ask first and to act thoughtfully.
The suggestion I would like to make is this: Once you’ve got a book deal of any kind (assuming you’re excited about it), call or email or text or whatever whomever you need to, be they parents or critique partners or your elementary school teachers. By all means celebrate. (I certainly do.) Once that’s done, though, everything else that happens in public concerning your book needs to be viewed through the filter of a business relationship. No, that doesn’t mean you clear every Tweet or status update with your editor (sweet mercy, please not that). It does mean that you ask yourself what the consequences of a public act might be, and if you’re not sure, you either don’t act or you ask first. A quick email or phone call is probably all it takes to get an answer. If you’re afraid you’re bothering your publisher with a question, remember to apply the business relationship filter. Can for frame your question in a way that focuses on the business of selling your book? A publisher shouldn’t feel bothered by business-focused questions from a business partner—and an author is certainly that. We don’t get irritated when, for example, a printer calls with a question or proposal that might help our business. The same goes for author. If your filter is telling you that this is something that’s entirely personal, then try to keep that to a personal scale of communication so you can leave your publisher out of it.
This line of thinking feels right to me at the moment, but I’d appreciate any other perspectives.