metteharrison (metteharrison) wrote,

Confessions of a Doormat Author

Once upon a time, I was the perfect author for all my editors. When they sent me letters, I dealt with every query. I didn’t always fix things the way the editor suggested, but I satisfied my editors questions about projects. I made sure that my book was something my editor felt they were part of and that they were proud to sell. I wanted to be the kind of author that editors wanted to work with. I wanted to make sure I was never thought of as a “diva” or as someone who needed special attention.

On once memorable occasion, my (junior) editor got back to me just weeks before my book was supposed to go to printing, after I had finished copyedits and looked through what were to be final galleys. She wanted me to change something because the sales crew at the publisher had decided there was a problem with my book. Specifically, they wanted me to make up some names for the use of magic in my book that weren’t ordinary English. Because that was what most other YA fantasy books were doing.

I was annoyed. I really dislike making up words when we have perfectly good English words already. It’s partly my linguistic training and partly my sense of uniqueness as a writer. I didn’t add froo-froo in any part of my life. I didn’t think my book needed this change. More to the point, this was the last book in a series and none of the other books had special words for magic, so it would make this book an outlier.

But I talked myself into make this change anyway because of sales and blah blah blah. I wanted to be a good author. I wanted to keep working with this house and with this editor. I had a short phone conversation with the editor, assuring her I wasn’t upset about the change (when I was). I even sent her a box of chocolates to prove to her everything was good between us.

Long story short, the book sold terribly. Numerous readers of the series noted the sudden change and called me on it. The editor I’d been working with threw me under the bus and I had my next contract with the publisher cancelled. The editor left the company, as well. While I will never know what would have happened if I had stuck to my guns in terms of books sales, it was one of the best learning experiences of my life as an author.

Most recently, a junior editor sent me some queries about my latest book. She told me that the main character wouldn’t do certain things in the book and asked me to change them. I smiled a little to myself, reminded myself I know the main character of this series better than anyone, and let her do the things I knew she would do. I said “no” to an editor.

And guess what? The world didn’t collapse. No one told me they never wanted to work with me again. I didn’t lose my contract with the publisher. And I felt good about myself. Honestly, truly, good about my work. I stood up for myself and my vision for my book and I am confident that this time, reviewers will feel the authenticity. I’m not going to expect any kind of book sales (because that’s just a clear ticket to insanity), but it doesn’t matter because I know that this book is my best work. It’s me to my deepest soul, and there’s nothing that can compensate for not doing that when you should have.

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