Don't Let Publishing Intimidate You

Image - iStockphoto: JHaviv
Image – iStockphoto: JHaviv

Messing With The Mystique

You have the right to ask questions.

You have the right to get answers.

You have the right not to like the answers.

To see your own publisher’s jaw drop? Phil Sexton recommends you ask him or her to let you review your book’s metadata.

Then, with smelling salts ready for your book’s sales people, tell them you’d like to know which BISAC codes are being used to categorize your title at retail and distribution points — both brick-and-mortar and online.

Many publishers are terrific. Some are so terrific they’d be delighted to find their authors adept at asking serious, smart questions about how their work is going into the marketplace.

Many other publishers might be less happy to have informed, intelligent inquiries coming at them from their authors.

Phil Sexton
Phil Sexton

No one is proud of this, but particularly over decades of corporate ownership of large publishing houses, a somewhat paternal publisher-author relationship has become the norm in some — not all — instances. Many writers feel that they’re to be seen only, picking up or turning in edits, and not heard asking difficult questions:

How much space is my book getting in your catalog this season? Full page? One-half page? One-quarter page?

May I see the catalog copy you’re using to sell my book?

May I see your marketing bullets for my book?

Is co-op — the money publishers pay to get certain titles into privileged positions in bookstores — being allocated to my book?

The pitter-patter you hear out in the hallway right now as those questions are asked is the sound of the more paranoid publishers and a couple of entire sales departments running away just as fast as they can. Good hearts, yes. Love of literature, no doubt. But you can believe that there also are people in the industry! the industry! who would rather Sexton didn’t deliver his writing-conference session called “Dirty Little Secrets: Learn How Publishing Really Works To Become A More Successful Author.”

And those made uncomfortable by this presentation are the likeliest to subscribe to the author-relations mode of Don’t worry your pretty little head about such sordid details as front-table bookstore placement, darling, you just go back home and write us the next big thing, call us when it’s ready.

Of course there are no such publishers. Of course not. Of course not.

Funny how this session’s audience is always so big — and so attentive — every time Sexton gives it.

Publishers “Are Not Evil or Stupid. They Are Overworked, Sleep Deprived”

Listen carefully, and you’ll hear Phil Sexton saying things that sound as if they might have come from self-publishing advocate Hugh Howey. For example, Sexton tells conferees:

Don’t antagonize your publishers, but don’t let them turn what should be a business partnership into a work-for-hire arrangement.

It’s significant that at a time when there’s so much debate around issues of the digitally enabled self-publishing movement, Sexton should be commanding big crowds and getting rapid-fire, clever questions from attendees in a program designed for traditionally published writers.

It’s also significant that Sexton is a publisher, himself.

Phil Sexton

Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son | @Porter_Anderson

Writing on the Ether: Don’t Let Publishing Intimidate You: “You Are Your Own Best Advocate”

Originally published by Thought Catalog at




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