Yeah. That attitude has gotten us really far in education, too.
Or: is it possible that publishers get let off the hook because we’re afraid to say otherwise? The truth is: it’s a small world, the writing and publishing one. Sure, we all joke about not being able to swing a dead cat without hitting a writer (poor kitty), but the truth is: for those actively writing and publishing, it’s a very small world. And it doesn’t take much to get branded out here, let me tell you. But I like to believe that there is still some merit in honesty. There is still some value in expecting excellence and saying (out loud) when those expectations aren’t met.
I have a friend who recently published a book with a small press. She was ecstatic when she received her acceptance letter (who wouldn’t be?). What followed, however, was a virtual nightmare. The publisher/editor refused to assist in marketing the book (I can’t for the life of me figure that one out) and, when asked for any assistance at all, sent degrading and flat-out rude emails to his author. You know, the kind with lots of CAPS and !!!!!? I know this for a fact. I read the emails. And I was horrified. Of course, my friend says nothing publicly. Make no mistake, the word is spreading – but it’s spreading behind closed doors and most certainly not in print.
Is that how things are done? Is that how they should be done? Maybe. I’m willing to consider the possibility that bad presses/editors will eventually fail all on their own through good old word-of-mouth. But are we in the business of putting small presses out of business? Wouldn’t it be more effective, for all parties involved, to simply say: “Hey! This is unacceptable. And I’m saying so you’ll know and correct the issue. I’m saying because someone needs to say it. Otherwise, things might not go so well for you in the future.”
Maybe. Maybe not.
I’d like to write in a world where all small presses are encouraged to strive for excellence, to be like so many small presses who have held their standard and weathered the long haul. There are a plethora of excellent examples out there: Tupelo Press, Graywolf Press, Sarabande Books, Alice James Books, CavanKerry Press, and a whole host of others. Publishers are constantly telling writers to develop a thick skin – rejection galore awaits the writer. Shouldn’t that advice go both ways?
You tell me. Are publishers off limits?