When Publishing Dreams Become a Nightmare

Most of my clients have had terrific publishing experiences. They enjoy working with their editors (even when the revisions are very challenging), they like the titles their publisher comes up with, and they love their book covers.

Then there’s Allison.

Allison’s journey hasn’t been so rosy. I’m not even using her real name here because I don’t want to cause any further problems for her.

The trouble started when the publisher suggested a new title for her book, which was fairly plain and generic-sounding but more importantly, didn’t capture what her book is about. In fact the publisher’s title led the reader to think it was going to be a completely different book than what it actually is. We knocked ourselves out coming up with more suitable alternatives that were not only catchy and marketable, they accurately represented the book. We gave lots of rationale for why the suggested title wasn’t appropriate.

After a lot of emails back and forth, we received the declaration from the publisher: The title we have chosen is the one we will use, and we can’t discuss it any further.

Allison was devastated and felt so strongly about it that she considered canceling the contract and paying back her advance. After much thought and prayer, she decided not to do that.

Then we received a cover comp. Oh, my. I’ve rarely seen a worse cover design—unattractive, and so dated you would think the book came out in 1978. Allison was beside herself.

Another few rounds of emails, lots of suggestions and a full month later, we received two more cover comps. One was perhaps even worse than the first. The other was salvageable if they made some changes. So we decided to push for that one and try to get them to make the changes so that the cover at least represents the book. The last we heard, they might make those final changes but they’re past their deadline and over budget so we’ll see.

We’re left with a so-so cover and a title the author still hates. Then after all this—after all the times we tried to explain why their titles and covers weren’t right for the book, and after they’ve declared the cover and title final—the editor emailed to say she’s about to start reading the manuscript (which had been delivered a few months before). It was a little hard for us to accept that they’d been pushing for their title and cover designs without fully understanding the book because nobody there had read it. I shudder to think what the editorial process is going to be like—perhaps they’ll try to edit the book to match the new title?

Allison is doing her best to laugh at the whole situation and keep a positive attitude. She wrote me today:

“There’s a HUGE learning curve with a first book, isn’t there? Lesson #423 : Next contract includes author approval of all cover art, LONG before the deadline.”

Unfortunately I had to give her the news that this is unlikely to happen.

It’s not uncommon for some publishers to be chronically up against their deadlines, never allowing enough time for the author to have input on their covers. By the time they send us comps, they have a deadline about 5 minutes away. In fact, I had that happen twice during this past holiday week—publishers expecting a 24-hour turnaround time during the holidays when many people aren’t even available. (In all fairness, we also work with many publishers who are always on the ball, willing to consult with the author, and allowing adequate time for the process.)

Not only that, but publishers don’t typically grant author approval on covers or titles in the contract, unless that author has proven themselves valuable and the author has more leverage.

I typically try to add a clause to the contract that states the publisher will “consult with author” on title and cover, and that they will send cover comps not less than 45 days before the cover must be finalized. To some publishers, this is almost laughable—45 days, ha ha ha! However, some publishers agree to this.

In Allison’s case, I had asked the publisher to add a clause to her contract stating that they would consult with her on title and cover, and allow plenty of time for revisions. Their response to was that they reserve the right to title/cover decisions, and though they would consult with the author, they wouldn’t include it in the contract.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, regarding Publishing Lesson #423… good luck with that! There are just so many things in publishing that agents and authors can’t control.

Allison is pretty much hating her publishing experience so far, but we’re hoping the release of the book will make it all worth it. I keep telling her that her journey is not the norm, that most of my clients are having positive experiences, and that things should be different with her next book.

But this dream isn’t turning out like Allison expected.

What kinds of publishing hopes and expectations do you have? How will you handle it if things don’t go as you would like them to?

© 2011 Rachelle Gardner, Literary Agent

Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


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  4. Liesl on January 18, 2011 at 7:59 PM

    >Seriously, this is one of my worst nightmares.

    So my only big hope is that I'm able to get an agent and an editor I completely click with and trust. But I guess it can always go back to "beggars can't be choosers."

  5. Brandi on January 16, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    >Firstly, I'm so sorry, Allison, and I hope things go better next time around!

    Secondly, I try to dream big so in my mind everything will go better than expected (haha) but if things go wrong… I don't know. My book is my baby (as all authors say) so it'd be tough watching things happpen to it that I don't like. I'd need to tattoo "persevere" somewhere and cry on my hubby's shoulder a lot.

  6. annebingham on January 14, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    >{I skimmed the comments and didn't see this brought up before; apologies if I missed it} If the editor hadn't yet read the ms while all this was going on, s/he wasn't the one to acquire it and isn't invested in it the way an acquiring editor would be. I wonder if this is part of the problem.

    I can't tell from the post if "publisher" means the house as a whole, the person who holds the title of publisher, or is shorthand for "everybody we had to deal with," but in any event, the arrogant manner in which this was handled at the publisher's end makes me wonder if your main contact is new and unsure of him/herself. I suspect that person will not be around long unless there is a nepotism factor at work, because if s/he treats authors that way, colleagues will get the same treatment.

  7. Elizabeth West on January 12, 2011 at 11:57 AM

    >Wow, that stinks. I feel for both Allison and Rachelle. That's a hard row to hoe for a first-time author. I'm not yet published, seeking an agent myself. I know not everything is within my control, but it still would be hard to see this happen.

    Thanks to Rachelle for sharing this. Not everything about the process is easy. There's a lot for us to learn. Us newbies should remember there is a lot more to being published than just seeing your book on the shelf. (I had that dream one night, and yes, it was AWESOME. And then I woke up. Rats!)

    I think Rachelle is handling it in a professional manner and I agree with the other commenters who say perhaps the published book will do better than expected. Allison is lucky to have an agent who obviously cares a great deal about her work, enough to be this concerned about her client. As to the editor who didn't read it, get busy! Good grief!

  8. Anonymous on January 11, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    >I'm posting anonymously since I'm going to say something critical about one of my publishers, but I am a published author. My heart goes out to Allison. I know that feeling of betrayal, when you feel your work is being destroyed or sabotaged by someone else's carelessness. I have had many wonderful covers but I had one bad one which grossly misrepresented the book, and it did result in significantly lower sales for that book. With that said, I do have some control over my fate…after that experience, I simply decided to no longer publish with that particular house.

    The important things–ALWAYS–is to just keep writing good books and presenting them in their best possible form to the marketplace. The reading public will do the rest via word of mouth.

    I am sorry for this author's experience, but this was just one book. Hopefully many more will come from her pen and her next experience will be a better one.

    And for those who were saying, Just walk away, back out of your contract, this is the agent's problem, etc, I can only assume you are not a publishing author. It is not as easy, never as cut and dried as that. Publishing is a collaborative process, and nothing is ever completely under the author's (or agent's) control unless they are self publishing.

  9. bhenley on January 11, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    >Awful experiences as you just described make me wish we could just out the publisher for being an unethical, inefficient and clueless prat and move on to greener pastures.

    I realize this is neither practical or possible, but I feel for the author big time.

    Hopefully the end result will justify the means … hang in there Allison!

  10. Kristen on January 10, 2011 at 11:22 AM

    >Wow, I'm surprised at how many people didn't know that authors have so little input on the title/cover.

    Think of it this way:
    1) Publishing is a business
    2) The Publisher's job is to SELL the book.
    3) Title and cover art are part of the SELLING.

    The thing that scares me here is that the agent, who shares in the responsibility of selling the book, was also worried about the title/cover art.

  11. Anonymous on January 10, 2011 at 9:46 AM

    >Yikes!! I think I would have canceled the contract, paid back the advance, and gone looking for another publisher. I have a question about covers: what if the author is also the illustrator? You don't see this much in adult novels, but I had to ask, as I am thinking of doing plates for my book.

  12. Anonymous on January 10, 2011 at 4:45 AM

    >MMBennets: So what happened? Did you ever get the deal you wanted?
    Maybe you can try a US publisher? Best of luck!

  13. M.M.Bennetts on January 9, 2011 at 6:44 AM

    >Rachelle, you must be a 'prince' among agents, because Allison's experience is almost entirely what I've endured in my few relationships with agents in the UK. Well, and publishers too.

    My first book, they wanted to cut by half, remove all the history, and thus the wartime context of the assassination of the Prime Minister in 1812. I, er, said 'Thank you, but no,' and left that discussion.

    Subsequently, for my second novel which explores wartorn Europe in the wake of Napoleon's invasion of Russia in 1812–all hung together with a story of spies–they wanted to scrub the importance of several characters and their individual plotlines, scrub all the descriptive passages about the occupied parts of Poland and Germany, change the title from "Of Honest Fame" (which is from a quotation by Byron and thus of the era–oh, and transpose the whole into a Sharpe-like series with one character turned into an historical James Bond with a hot girl in every subsequent novel–which missed the whole point of the novel. Again, I politely said no, this time walking out on a big contract with good money and a high profile.

    The money would have been a great pleasure…but perhaps I wouldn't have enjoyed it so much from the confines of the padded cell into which such a deal would undoubtedly have sent me.

    I hope Allison's experience improves from here on out. Truly I do. Best–MMBennetts

  14. Anonymous on January 7, 2011 at 12:44 PM

    >Ok look, I was one of the 'walk away types', but making this the agent's fault is jumping the shark a bit.

    I agree with the feeling that eating a crap sandwich just because you are hungry is a bit stupid. If the book is good enough to be picked up by these guys surely someone else will show interest.

    At no point does that become the agent's fault for pairing the writer w/ the pubber.

    Now, that said, writers need a wake up call here.It is YOUR book. YOUR career. Take some responsibility. You hire an agent to advise you – not make your decisions for you. If your agent is making decision for you, you need a new attitude. Not their job. Their job is to walk you through what is going on to give you the info you need to make an informed decision. Period.

    An agent is no more 'in charge than a lawyer is in charge of the sale of your house just because they handle the closing. You still put it up for sale and entertain offers. He/she is just there to explain the legalese. Get off the idea that the agent is there to 'take care of you'. This is business. Treat it like one.

    If you have an agent and you feel he/she is not doing right by you, fire him/her. That simple. No different than firing a contractor that isn't building your deck the way you want it.

    But don't blame the hired help if you sat in the bleachers as a spectator through the process and then bitched about the outcome.

    I will still kill the deal. Getting published is not enough to erase the feeling of being treated like I don't matter. I am already only getting 7.5% of the money my work is going to earn. I think I've taken enough crap in the arraignment.

  15. Crystal Jigsaw on January 7, 2011 at 9:34 AM

    >Oh my, I really feel for Allison right now. Only yesterday I had a conversation on Skype with my editor who suggested I think about a new book title for my paranormal romance. I'd come up with "Breaking Ice" but she feels it doesn't fit in with the book at all. So, back to the drawing board with that. Not a problem as I am open to suggestions and publisher's demands on changing the title.

    As for the cover, I have a few ideas in mind. I feel my book cover should depict either an old derelict house, a derelict church or a graveyard. All these scenes would match the book in my opinion. However, I understand I may have to compromise on this, too.

    After all, I'm only the author, not the publisher!!

    CJ xx

  16. Madeleine on January 6, 2011 at 10:42 PM

    >I'm trying not to have high expectations. I only hope for a few things: 1) That my editor and I will get along well and be able to work together, even when we disagree, 2) That my story won't be butchered to the point that it's unrecognizable. The foundation needs to be the same, and 3) That I'll find a bright-side even if it's terrible.

  17. Anonymous on January 6, 2011 at 9:53 PM

    >One would hope that such a publisher would be stricken from the list that the agent pitches to.

    I agree with former posters: if possible, refund the advance and ditch the publisher — and the agent.

  18. Anonymous on January 6, 2011 at 9:45 PM

    >Anonymous at 6:48 pm, let's just hypothetically say that this whole situation was the agent's fault. It wasn't, but let's just say it was.

    Does that automatically translate into "bad agent" as you say in your post?

    This kind of generalizing is ridiculous and reveals that you have a thing against agents.

    An agent, like anyone else, could make a mistake and they could handle one transaction less than perfectly, and it still wouldn't make them a "bad agent."

    Just sayin.'

  19. Anonymous on January 6, 2011 at 9:38 PM

    >Anonymous, you're giving anonymous a bad name.

    To pull a book that has been contracted by a publisher and put through production that there is a cover would probably be a disaster for the author. It would be considered highly unprofessional, no matter what the reasons. If word of this got out, and it probably would, how would future editors feel about going out on a limb to acquire this author?

    This agent behaved responsibly. Publishing is not a perfect world.

  20. Donna Perugini on January 6, 2011 at 8:15 PM

    >I've had good experiences with a publisher and the in-house illustrator. I also had no agent.

    I had a difference of opinion in how one illustration of a character I'd created should not look so scarey. The illustrator said it was common to look that way on kids cartoons, so why not in the illustration?

    My comment was 'just because it's common from the world's perspective, it didn't mean it was common for this Christian children's book'. She was gracious and took my thoughts to heart, changing the illustration to be less intense.

    I don't know what this publisher is like today as it's changed hands and new people run the company. It was a great group of people when I was with them from 1983-87.

    During the time I was one of their authors, there was another author who was extremely upset with a book cover that was chosen for their book. The publisher opted to change the cover for them.

    Rachelle has the right idea regarding working with the publisher, asking questions and sitting down to let them know how it was 'at the author's end'. Given time this author can come out on top if she doesn't panic and listens to Rachelle's advice.

    If Rachelle was my agent, I'd be glad she was on my side!

  21. Catherine on January 6, 2011 at 7:25 PM

    >I don't really have any preconcieved notions of what it will be like to publish my first novel. I knew already that cover choices were something the writer rarely gets input on – but titles? I was very surprised and a little sickened to hear that. I know some authors have no ear for a good title, but the title of my work is important to me. It's sort of like having someone re-name your first born child and proclaiming their birthname "silly," and expecting you to laugh it off. I guess I'll cross that bridge when it comes.

    I do find myself observing and taking note about which publishers consistently have good covers. Honestly, if my agent wrote me an email and said that it was a bidding war between the publisher that produces awesome covers that was offering less money and a publisher that didn't put so much creative energy into covers and editing, etc, but was offering more money, I think I'd take the former option hands-down.


  22. Anonymous on January 6, 2011 at 6:48 PM

    >This actually speaks more about the literary agent than anyone else.

    Sorry, but, the agent represents the author.

    This whole debacle is the agent's fault.

    Bad agent, bad experiences.

  23. Emily Ryan on January 6, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    >I had an extremely less frustrating, but somewhat similar experience with my first book. I did not even know that the publisher was coming up with a new title until I got an email with my "final" book cover. The thing that made me panic was that the new title they had chosen was exactly the same title as a book that was already published – with the same subject matter and targeting the same audience! (Another reason it pays to know your "competition" when submitting manuscripts). I do not have an agent, so I typed out a very professional, very polite response back to them that posed not just the problem, but also presented more title suggestions for them to consider instead. It was not an easy fix, but in the end we came up with a compromise that we were both happy with, and I believe it mainly happened because both parties handled the matter professionally and courteously. You're right Rachelle – integrity DOES matter a lot. And even though my journey faced this small bump, we still ended up with a wonderful author/publisher relationship!

  24. PoeticHeart on January 6, 2011 at 2:22 PM

    >This is such an incredibly fabulous article, with so much to learn from. I feel bad for the author, because as a writer myself (mainly poetry but just did a "self-published" a novel) there is so much involved in all of it, even for those self-publishing. I've discovered DTP/PDF etc. etc. 🙂 ~ I decided to do everything pretty myself, even the cover art. It may not be perfect, but life isn't either, but I'll learn something from it too. It's a first novel. Maybe the next I can get some help. Hopefully not in the manner poor "Allison" has though….YIPES! Thank you for such a wonderful article. ~April

  25. Rivka on January 6, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    >I never said it REFLECTS integrity and class. I'm saying the individuals involved should *maintain* their integrity and class. I guess this goes back to the previous post–being too "negative," which I think often translates into being "whiny" (vs airing your complaints calmly and logically).
    Both the publisher and the author want the same thing: they want the book to sell well.

  26. Martin Rose on January 6, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    >Rachelle, I think we got our lines crossed, I should have been clearer — I disagree with Rivka's previous viewpoint that publishing, despite grevious differences, reflects integrity and class. Maybe in some cases, perhaps — I fear not in this one.

  27. kim on January 6, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    >So sad, but I'm aware it happens more than others might think. And I have a feeling tears have been shed and energy wasted because of this publisher.

    Allison's book should and deserves to shine at every turn. Cover art is such an important marketing tool there is simply no margin for mistake in a world where a book a minute is published …

  28. Kathryn Magendie on January 6, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    >I've learned to let a lot of stuff just "go" – With my covers, I've had readers contact me telling me they LOVED the cover(s) and in the same inbox readers saying they don't like or even hate the cover(s). Same with titles.

    Same with what's in between the covers and beyond the title – my words can be loved and my words can be not so loved.

    It's all just part of the business and that's just how it is.

    But, I do feel bad for the author hating her title and her cover . . . maybe it'll grow on her . . . I'm curious what reactions will be from her readers – you never know -they may love it! Just as we writers aren't always good judges of what words of ours will sell and be loved, maybe we aren't good judges of what our titles/covers "should" be?

  29. LaShaunda on January 5, 2011 at 11:49 PM

    >This is the first lesson in romance writing. They might not like your title or you might not like the cover. Live with it.

    I wouldn't have walked either. It was a tough decision, but you take chances everytime you send your book out there. You pray they treat it well and not like the stepchild.

    Please share with us what the results are. I know you can't tell us a name so we can support, but we all would like to see if the publisher was right in their decisions.

    A good lesson for us all. This is why you need a good agent, so you don't make emotional decisions and be back in the slush pile again.

  30. Dee Bright on January 5, 2011 at 11:45 PM


    This makes me incredibly grateful for the wonderful experience I had with Revell. Their team read my manuscript, had long conversations about it, and knew how to package it in a way that was consistent with the content. Plus, they were friendly, genuinely helpful, gave me lots of time for my edits, and delivered on all their promised dates.

    Is this more the norm, or was I incredibly fortunate?

  31. Lucy on January 5, 2011 at 11:30 PM


    Rachelle, I'm not sure why you're surprised by some of the sharp reactions. It's true we don't have the whole story, but: the things you did share left at least several of us with the impression that staying with this publisher would amount to a possibly career-wrecking business decision–no good prospect for a first-time author.

    Maybe I'd feel differently if I knew the whole story, but taking only what your post contained today, I still have to say I wouldn't touch this publisher with a ten-foot pole. That's my unemotional (and I hope reasonably humble) opinion.

    L.C. Blackwell

  32. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 11:00 PM

    >"So what? It sells, it has an audience, there's a formula to the cover."

    That perspective on publishing is my point. Thanks.

  33. Rachelle on January 5, 2011 at 10:25 PM

    >Anon 8:27: It's true we feel the author hasn't been respected, but the conclusions you've drawn don't necessarily follow. This publisher has a long history, many happy authors and successful books. Part of the process has gone wrong; that doesn't mean they're "deadbeat" and it certainly doesn't mean they'll be less than honest in reporting sales.

  34. Rachelle on January 5, 2011 at 10:21 PM

    >Martin Rose: I said integrity demands we take the decision very seriously. I never said that integrity demands an author stay and "take it."

    Anon 7:39: Not sure what kind of point you're trying to make. We all know that Amish fiction sells well in the Christian market, and most Amish novels feature a picture of an Amish girl on the cover. Nothing new here.

    For 30 years we've all seen "Fabio" covers on mainstream romance novels. So what? It sells, it has an audience, there's a formula to the cover. You don't have to like it. You don't have to buy it or even recognize its existence. Not sure what you're hoping to prove.

  35. Rivka on January 5, 2011 at 8:58 PM

    >My goodness, the first time I de-lurk and leave a comment I get slammed. Wow.
    I have a feeling this WILL work out in the end. The editor will read it, and come back with a better understanding of what the title and cover should reflect. Please keep us posted, Rachelle!

  36. Gary J. Borgstede on January 5, 2011 at 8:47 PM

    >I'm so thankful for having the opportunity to work with a great publishing team to co-publish my two books. The books acquisition editor, the editor, and the marketing cover design team are tremendous professionals and a sincere pleasure to work with through the entire process. I'm grateful and blessed!

  37. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 8:27 PM

    >Rivka, you're defending a publisher who treats writers with disrespect and disdain? Despite what you think, most writers do not want to sell their souls or swallow their pride just to be published. That first book can make or break your career.

    If they're that difficult now, how will she ever get a straight answer re: sales and royalties? They may not bother to report her sales or distribute her books. This is a bad sign overall and may be the start of more nightmares to come. Rivka, why don't YOU submit to that deadbeat publisher and report back about your joyous experience? Speaking of trolls…

  38. Marla Taviano on January 5, 2011 at 8:18 PM

    >That makes me sad for her. 🙁 I was unhappy with my covers for my 1st and 3rd books. Both times I had conference calls with the publisher, and both times I got outvoted. I still don't like those 2 covers and both books went out out of print. 🙁 Looking at the bright side–my other 2 books have beautiful covers that I love.

  39. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 7:39 PM

    >Does this reflect Christian fiction:


    Woman. Bonnet. Field.

  40. Kristin Laughtin on January 5, 2011 at 7:23 PM

    >That sounds awful!

    I'm curious as to what sort of publisher this is. A large one you're likely to work with all the time? A small one you thought would be best suited for her work? If it's the latter, would you consider not pitching to them anymore, or at least giving them less priority?

  41. Carol Riggs on January 5, 2011 at 5:39 PM

    >Oh wow, a publishing nightmare indeed. I hope I'm never in "Allison's" shoes.

    A cover and title are the 2 most important things that make a reader pick up a book in a bookstore (at least that's how I pick one up). Gah! I'm not sure how I would handle it…

  42. Martin Rose on January 5, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    >That is, she should walk away because the deal will do more damage to her career than simply to be published at all. Of course, anyone in that situation must weigh the circumstance according to what they feel is best for them based on various factors — but walking away is always an option. And suggesting that she should take it because it reflects integrity is a half-truth; we all want to conduct ourselves responsibly, but not at the cost of our self-worth, our self-respect.

    Just sayin'.

  43. Lindsay on January 5, 2011 at 4:43 PM

    >Poor Allison! How sad for any author to have this kind of experience–especially on a first novel. Also seems like a Catch 22 for her because pulling out of the deal could get her labeled a "difficult" author (I would think). How would you explain that to another publisher without running the risk of them thinking Allison might be the problem? I've always told myself that when my first book is published, I'll grin and bear it regardless of what happens, because once you've got your name on the shelf, you're "in." However, I realize this is not quite true. What if the cover art and bad title decrease her sales? Again, she would be the one to suffer.

  44. Rivka on January 5, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    >To those who think Allison should just "walk away": to what purpose?
    She will then have to look for a new publisher, only now she has the added baggage of being an author who had a contract and walked away. Others may not care why she walked away or under what circumstances; all they'll worry about is whether she is a good author to work with. Showing you have class and integrity will take you far in ANY industry, including publishing. (Something a few trolls need to learn.)

  45. Rosslyn Elliott on January 5, 2011 at 4:15 PM

    >Anon 3:53

    You shouldn't attack people online at all, but especially not when a)you don't know much about the business you're discussing; and b)you're not willing to sign your name to what you say. Not being willing to reveal your identity is a sure sign that maybe what you're saying isn't something of which you should be proud.

    I can testify that Rachelle is an excellent agent, and your claims about what she "should" be doing are false. Bad stuff happens in all businesses, and agents can't prevent all unfortunate events. I hope she removes your post on the grounds of trollhood.

  46. B.E.T. on January 5, 2011 at 4:07 PM

    >I can understand the cover situation, that's supposed to normally be a hassle, right? But the title…eek, I sincerely hope that the publisher doesn't make the process of going through the insides of the book that bad. Here's wishing 'Allison' a better process and hoping the final product is worth it.

  47. Tiffany Stuart on January 5, 2011 at 4:05 PM

    >This kind of story wears on the courage of one who is still considering writing her first book. Yes, I work at a turtle pace.

    Maybe I should think e-book with an editor. 🙂 After all, I continue to hear it's super hard to make it without a HUGE platform. I'm small. Ha.

    Thanks for being real about the joys and trials of both author and agent.

    Thinking of you today.
    Happy 2011.

  48. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 3:53 PM

    >"It's easy to get carried away by emotions and pride – and THAT's a good reason to have an agent."

    You frequently treat writers as if they were children who should rely on wiser and cooler heads than their own.

    Let's look at that wise and cool head. It is your job to sign your client with a publisher who will treat her with respect. That is your job. It is your job to make sure that the publisher reads the book prior to making any offer, much less decisions about cover and title. Perhaps you advised your client to take the offer and sign a contract too quickly. Perhaps you were carried by your emotions.

    You have accountability here. This is your job. Your client should not have to deal with this type of situation. Your job is to make sure she doesn't.

  49. Beth on January 5, 2011 at 3:36 PM

    >Personally, I've been at the other end of the deadline problems. That is, I was the freelancer waiting to get the text plugged into the interior design, the author about five weeks behind schedule and the editor telling him/her it's okay because someone (me plus others) will make it up on the production end. Then when the book is set and ready for the correction stage, it looks like a colossal rewrite instead of a few changes, and it's all needed yesterday.

    I don't mind this, actually, because it's so much better than the design world in general where you're always operating under the gun. I enjoy setting books, and I love being able to save the deadlines when it seems like all hope is gone.

    From a writer's standpoint, however, I can't help thinking how fortunate it is that Allison's story is an unusual one, and I'm sorry she's had such a tough experience.

  50. Rachelle on January 5, 2011 at 3:22 PM

    >Anon 12:16: Why didn't I "fix this"? Actually, I've been "fixing it" all along, advising each and every step, and each piece of correspondence with the publisher. Advising about long-term pros & cons of staying with the publisher vs. walking away. Talking the author through the situation, which, while difficult, isn't the end of the world. Although we didn't win on the title, we got the publisher to re-do the cover and that's a pretty big win.

    There are numerous circumstances about this particular book deal that I haven't written about, which affect my ability to "fix it." The author herself also stands to benefit more from getting this book out than she does from walking away.

    Once we sign a contract, it's a big deal to break it. Integrity demands we take these decisions very seriously. Many commenters today have said "I'd just walk away" but a good agent wouldn't let their client make a major business decision based on emotion and pride. We talk it through and calmly figure out the best course to take.

    I'm surprised how many commenters today are reacting so harshly, i.e. "just walk away" or "why didn't you fix it?" It's easy to get carried away by emotions and pride – and THAT's a good reason to have an agent.

  51. Michelle DeRusha on January 5, 2011 at 3:17 PM

    >Poor Allison — that's a rough road indeed! The fact that they haven't even read her manuscript yet is a particularly harsh slap in the face.

    So…my publishing hopes are pretty basic: to get published.

    And even though I am "Triple Type A" (as my husband says), I expect that if my dream does come true, I will be able to keep a roll-with-it perspective and remember how frustrating it was to be unpublished. Because as bad as the publishing process might be at times, I still think it's harder to be unpublished and without a clear goal in sight!

  52. Amber Argyle on January 5, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    >Poor girl. That's so hard.
    It really makes me appreciate my publisher though. They've been so good to work with.

  53. Rebecca Stroud on January 5, 2011 at 2:55 PM

    >This example is exactly why I turned to self-publishing. There is no way on God's green earth that I am going to allow such arbitrary "control" over my work, especially after hearing that the manuscript hadn't even been read yet! And to think that poor Allison has most likely been waiting years for this "golden opportunity." No thanks.

  54. Melissa Jagears on January 5, 2011 at 2:18 PM

    >I feel for Allison, to dream a long time and then to have it in your grasp and find it a nightmare. Hope she can find the courage to laugh even when dissappointed and to be rewarded with a good turnout.

    I'll have to say a weird title might not get me, but dated covers would. I know exactly the kind of cover that typically catches my eye and tells me I want to read it. I write the stories I want to read and if my publisher handed me a cover that didn't look at all like those kind of books, but those from the 70s, oh, I think my heart would be crushed. That's one reason why I would never self-publish, I've yet to see a cover that could rival the cover art expertise team at a big publishing house.

    Though you seem to be having difficulty knowing what exactly you want to do w/ this publisher in the future yourself, this is why I want an agent, to keep me from fury and burning my bridges if I felt they were hurting my book, or to talk me off that ledge and say, "I don't like this either, but lets calm down and view this logically," to have that voice of experience that says my expectations are too high, or yes, this is terrible, let's work through it and do the best we can.


  55. Rivka on January 5, 2011 at 2:03 PM

    >Wow. Insisting on changing the title is one thing; insisting on changing the title *before the editor has read the book* is another. That's pure arrogance right there. Don't publishers have to worry about their reputations, too? I say, good luck, and when the book is on the shelves promote it strongly.
    (An aside: the way the comments moved from Allison's dilemma to putting down Amish book covers was really quite shocking. And funny.)

  56. Lucy on January 5, 2011 at 1:29 PM

    >… ARE still not someone I would ever want to work with…

    (darn typo)

  57. Lucy on January 5, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    >I hate to say this, but I would also return the advance and cancel the contract. This sounds pretty close to being the Publisher from Hell–if not, they still not someone I would ever want to work with–certainly wouldn't give them a second book.

    Wow. Allison, tough decisions, hon. Best of luck, whatever you do.

    I'm posting my name to this because I have no idea who the publisher is, and all I can say is if you guys read my comments, please reject any of my future manuscripts. We are not an appropriate match (and I do not wish to work with you).

    L.C. Blackwell

  58. A.C. Townsend on January 5, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    >Allison, my prayers are with you.

    "What kinds of publishing hopes and expectations do you have?"

    My hope – as unrealistic as it appears to be – is to be treated like I actually know something about the content and value of the book I conceived, created, and produced. I've tried to resist the temptation to form expectations, simply because for everything I know about the publishing business, there is so much more that I don't know. (This is why I am seeking representation by an agent.)

    "How will you handle it if things don't go as you would like them to?"

    With much prayer, consultation, and honest evaluation of the situation. Titles are extremely important to me, because my first book is the only stand-alone novel I have written. My second effort produced a trilogy. The novel I am currently writing is the first in a planned series of six books, and the titles tie them together. Were the titles changed, that continuity would be broken.

    I don't even want to think about the horror Allison is experiencing with the cover art ordeal.

    This is a terrible situation for both of you, but thank you so much for sharing it with your readers. So many blogs focus on what writers can do to improve our craft, our marketing skills, our business acumen, and so forth. I'd like to see more posts like this one, that share "what's next" after the contract is signed.

    Have a blessed and beautiful day!

    ~ Angela

  59. Erin Cole on January 5, 2011 at 1:19 PM

    >One week after I signed a self-publishing contract, I was accepted by a small press publisher – my first bittersweet lesson.

    I also did not have the cover or the price listed that I wanted to have, but I realized from the beginning, or at least tried to warn myself, that not everything will go as I hope.

    But isn't that life? We just have to try our best to work around situations, without burning bridges, and ultimately – move on.

    I wish Allison better luck next time.

  60. karenranney on January 5, 2011 at 1:15 PM

    >Unfortunately, sometimes these things happen.

    I've had a variety of "interesting" covers. I've used them as trivia questions and to just simply make fun of them. (After a few years.)

    I wish authors had more say on titles (we don't).

  61. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 12:52 PM

    >Wow, today's post seems to be brimming with . . .

    In a word: Negativity.

    Might I suggest you be careful lest "your bitterness will eat you alive from the inside out . . ."

    Perhaps yesterday's post might be of help.

  62. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 12:19 PM

    >I too would turn down that publisher and try to cancel the contract. Why stay in any abusive situation? It's like accepting the first crummy marriage proposal that comes along just to be married. Not for me!
    After all, if it's good enough for that publisher, it may sell like hotcakes with a diff pub who treats the book and author with respect.

    Rachelle, I can see you're in a difficult dilemma but this is business and I'd have that conversation NOW before it's too late. Maybe the editor is the problem? I've had editors hack at my words while others left everything just as written. I say: RUN AWAY ASAP. Good luck!

  63. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 12:16 PM

    >What exactly is an agent for? Why didn't you fix this, Rachelle?

  64. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 12:09 PM

    >Sorry to say, I'd be walking away from this mess.

    They didn't read it yet? Really? If they are this unprofessional from the onset, does anyone really have any faith that they will be more so down the road?

    The bottom line is that if 'Allison; doesn't want to kill the deal, that;s her call, but I'd be tossing the advance back their way and running like I was on fire.

    To the publisher it's one book. For Allison it is hopefully the launch of a career. Better to launch it with someone you can at least negotiate with.

    IMO at least…

  65. Britt Mitchell on January 5, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    >I expect a publisher to have the final word but to at least be realistic. We authors are always being told to have realistic expectations, but so should the publishers.

    Poor Allison. Poor, poor, long-suffering Allison! I'm proud of her and I don't know her!

    I'll buy her book.

  66. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    >I hope Allison feels better when her book is out and the focus is again on the words in the book, not the marketing. I've published nearly forty books, and some have had catchy titles I loved (but readers didn't) while other have had generic, forgettable titles that ended up selling better than expected. I think most readers take a look at back cover copy or heed word of mouth and are willing to forgive a mediocre cover.

  67. Alex Greenwood on January 5, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    >Oh my. Perhaps my getting rejected all those years was a blessing in disguise?

  68. Susan Wilkinson on January 5, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    >I'm really puzzled about what the pay off is for publishers who do this. I understand wanting to sell books through a good title, but in the end, if a title doesn't represent the book, is the buyer going to be happy? I've bought books like this before and felt ripped off by both author and publisher (unfair as that may be).

    I think authors have to respect the business that is publishing and respect the publisher as the expert in that business, but as the author I am the expert and the steward of my work. If a title represents my book, but I don't like it, then I appeal. If that doesn't change anything then I accept it and submit to their expertise. But if a title actually misrepresents my book then that's different. That would bother me on an ethical level; it would feel like lying to my readers when I'm trying to establish trust as a writer.

    I feel great compassion for Allison. This isn't the first time I've heard a story like this. I hope her book sells well despite her present disappointment. Good for her having a positive attitude and it's times like this that a caring agent is so important. I'm glad she has you.

  69. Laura Campbell on January 5, 2011 at 11:27 AM

    >Well, I must say I'm more apprehensive after hearing of Allison's ordeal. I would hope the publisher was interested in marketing the book to sell. How can they do that if they haven't read the book? I might be a bit naive, but it sounds like bad business practice to me. I would be outraged if the publisher fought me and didn't base their judgement on anything other than their publishing know-how.

    I am not sure what I would do in that situation. Right now, as an unpublished writer, my idealism tells me I would end the contract and return the advance. Then, try to find a publisher more fitting to my book and my needs as a first-time published author. Again, I currently don't have anything to lose like Allison. I do hope everything works out well for her.

  70. Amy Boucher Pye on January 5, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    >I've worked for a couple commercial publishers as an acquisitions editor. As such, I would be the advocate for the book, and while I was present at the title/cover meetings, I didn't have the final say over these – that was 'owned' by the marketing department. I would have read the book but I may have been the only one who had. And juggling deadlines and meetings and prospective authors etc etc etc is taxing and tough. So although the situation with Allison is lamentable, I can see why she might have slipped through the cracks with a publisher – first-time author, maybe her original editor was away on some kind of leave (maternity leave?), maybe she is a 'C' ranking author and the publishing house is focusing their efforts on 'A' authors. I'm not saying this is making it right for Allison, but acknowledging that sometimes authors slip through the cracks. Hooray that Rachelle is the agent and is doing all she can to remedy the situation. I hope the book succeeds, and that Allison can someday love the cover and title – I've heard of authors who so hated the new title and cover that they didn't want to promote the book. Clearly a win-win is what all parties should long for.

  71. Erin MacPherson on January 5, 2011 at 11:12 AM

    >What a nightmare for Allison. I hope things work out better on her next books (or that she finds another publisher for her next books). My expectations have been exceeded in my experience… my editor has asked for my input again and again, they've always given me plenty of time for revisions/approvals, they designed a cover I loved, they kept my title (after consulting me and several editors for alternatives) and I've been SO happy. I hope Allison's next experience is like that.

  72. Sean on January 5, 2011 at 11:08 AM

    >Thanks for the informative post! Not for nothing, but sounds like a good problem to have…

    I have already come up with a nice title and know exactly what I want my cover to look like, but I also realize they will merely be suggestions to the publisher. And that's fine with me. It's my first book. However, for my second book I would like my contract to give me some more room to move. And I also want a bowl of M&Ms – with the brown ones removed – at all of my book signings.

  73. A.M Hudson on January 5, 2011 at 11:06 AM

    >Well. Thanks for that. I think I will self-publish.

  74. Cynthia Leitich Smith on January 5, 2011 at 11:05 AM

    >I'm just writing to send hugs and solidarity to Allison (and you too).

    I'm also feeling so appreciative of my editor: "It's your book. We want you to love it."

  75. Rachelle on January 5, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    >Clearly the publisher may be right – the book could sell like gangbusters because of a great combination of the author's and publisher's efforts. This is the main reason we haven't walked away. The publisher needs to be given credit for knowing their business.

    However, this blog post is about AUTHOR dreams and expectations, which in this case have been dashed left and right. My post is purposely one-sided to explore the dilemma of writer expectatations being unfulfilled.

    Yet when Allison's book is published, it may turn out all right. Her hopes may yet be met in the fact that the book reaches its intended audience.

    Some commenters have asked, "Why not walk away?" Well for one, we signed a contract. Two, the end result could still turn out to be positive. The publisher could be right. That doesn't solve the problem of the author's expectations having been trampled on – she hasn't been treated with respect, from our perspective. But we believe we're doing the right thing.

    After the editing is complete, I will probably have a frank conversation with the publisher about how this experience played out for the author, seeking their perspective and trying to understand it from their point of view. I'll be frank with them if our conversation leaves me unwilling to work with them again, but it's too soon for me to make that decision.

  76. Timothy Fish on January 5, 2011 at 10:37 AM

    It wasn’t my intention to criticize, merely to make the observation.

    But if I might make another observation, we’re only hearing one side of this story. We’re led to believe that you and Allison are right and the publisher is wrong because you have told us that you are right and the publisher is wrong. That begs the question. Having been on the other side of the table in a similar situation, I’m sure the publisher believes you are wrong and won’t see reason.

    In a situation like this, it may be wise to follow the golden rule—he who holds the gold makes the rules. When two parties disagree, someone has to have the final say. As the owner of the gold, that falls to the publisher, but for all I know, the publisher may be right anyway.

  77. Kristen on January 5, 2011 at 10:35 AM

    >I'd request to have a long talk with my agent about which is worse for the author's career:
    1) Having a first book flop due to poor title choice and cover design
    2) Breaking contract and dealing with the legal and social repercussions

    I'd personally want to turn back time and either go with a different publisher, even if it meant waiting till I had another polished novel ready for them.

    Like others have mentioned, this is the beginning of her writing career, and if it does horribly, it's likely also the END of her writing career. Unless she's got some great referrals from other well-known authors, there won't be much drawing readers to her novel!

    Of course, you can't turn back time, but you can consider breaking contract to preserve your career. However, I've never seen any discussion on what would happen in this event. Could it also end her writing career?

  78. Susan on January 5, 2011 at 10:31 AM

    >Congratulations Allison! You were able to get your foot in the door and you will soon become published!

    Sure, it would have been great to have an ideal situation where your input might have been considered but to me, my single most important goal is to get my foot in the door and get published!

    Does anyone remember the scene in the movie "Julia and Julie" where Julia (Meryl Streep) meets with the publishing representative whose company decides to take on the cookbook that she's spent eight years fine tuning? Julia wasn't sitting there insisting that her title remain as she first wrote it; she was open to the publishing representative's professional knowledge in the area of title.

    She was grateful and ecstatic that her cookbook was going to be published.

    That's how I look at this process. If I am asked for input, I would consider that gravy and unlike Julia, I'm not writing a cookbook!

    I feel my book title on fiction captivates the essence of my book but if the publishers want to change it, so be it.

    I imagine that the more successful an author becomes, the more consideration they will be afforded.

  79. Alexis Grant on January 5, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    >Hey Rachelle,

    Follow-up question to one you already answered, about how this is your first time working with this publisher. Is it safe to assume you'd avoid selling any more books to them? And is this a publisher you'd expect more from? Have they published other books that impressed you?

    What a sad story! Your client is lucky to have you as an advocate.

  80. Gina Burgess on January 5, 2011 at 10:27 AM

    >I cannot fathom why a publisher who is in it for the money or wouldn't be publishing, would buy a book without reading it.

    That tells me the proposal was a slam-dunk winner, but didn't reflect a completely accurate picture of the book if the title didn't match content. What else could the publisher's title be based on?

    I also thought acquisition editors were the ones who pitched to the publishers, so how could the editor pitch without reading the book? I have 30 years experience in sales and sales management, and there is no way a person can sell something without knowing what it is. I have to agree with Anon 9:58 on that.

  81. Nicole on January 5, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    >I'm sorry, but coming from a PR and marketing background, the way this publisher acted is just unprofessional.

    The best brands are developed by knowing about the product or service you're trying to sell. It seems like a very poor decision to finalize the title and cover before reading the MS.

    And not reacting to client/author feedback? Setting aside all authorly frustrations for a moment, that's just a bad business decision. Allison decided not to "walk away," but other authors in the future might do differently.

    I truly wish Allison all the best and to keep faith through this mess. I'll keep my fingers crossed that the publisher incorporates your final cover changes. I hope things turn around for her once the book comes out!

  82. Jaime on January 5, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    >I've already determined that if I ever have the privilege of a contract, I will incorporate high quanities of coffee and prayer into my daily diet and be able to spell the word "flexible" backwards and forwards. That being said, I think my biggest expectations would be cover art. Therein could be huge disappointment. But again, that's what my coffee IV drip is for. 😉

  83. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 9:58 AM

    >I can't concoct an acceptable scenario where a publisher should title or cover a book without being initimate with the content. No excuse for it–plain and simple.

    Easy to say what we'd do if we were in that situation, but I believe I'd return the advance. At that point, I'd know they won't market the product properly–their heart isn't behind it, nor their brain for that matter.

    The more troubling part is it goes against all we're taught about the publishing industry, where our novels are disected and evaluated by an entire board before being accepted.

  84. Lynne Connolly on January 5, 2011 at 9:54 AM

    >Awful thing to happen to your first book.
    Mine was nearly as bad. When I got the first edits back, the editor had rewritten my book! Being my first experience, I didn't know if this was normal or not.
    I wrote to the editor in chief who said, "We bought your book, not hers," and edited it herself. I was so relieved!
    Allison and you have done the right thing in making your objections known in a courteous manner. I hope it all turns out well for her and for you. Does she blog?
    It's a hard world, and if you don't speak up, you get trampled on.

  85. Jane Steen on January 5, 2011 at 9:47 AM

    >For me, this story just reinforces the need for an author to have an agent. Imagine going through that alone, without a knowledgeable person at your side! Even though, obviously, even your persistence and expertise were no match for this publisher.

    How does that make you feel about a publisher, Rachelle? Are you less likely to want to take future projects to them, or do you write off the experience as due to a particular combination of circumstances, and try again?

    You ask about publishing expectations: I'm unpublished so I don't really have any except that I hope all parties will conduct their business in a timely and professional manner. And I expect to be disappointed occasionally, because business is like that. And none of it, in the long run, will really matter.

  86. Ben on January 5, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    >OK, let's say, worse case scenario, the book flops horribly and the publisher turns its back on Allison. What happens with her next novel? Will she have to convince everybody again through the query process? You included?

    I'm a bit paranoid of this kind of experience happening to me.

  87. Wendy Paine Miller on January 5, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    >So many points of release in this process.

    I feel for Allison. I relate with Allison laughing about it and keeping a positive perspective. Motherhood teaches much about this. I respect how the two of you have communicated and talked through the situation.

    If it were me, I'd pray and release (pretty much what I end up doing with all life scenarios that turn out like this one).

    And I'd learn from it.
    ~ Wendy

  88. Rachelle on January 5, 2011 at 9:29 AM

    >Timothy and others: This conversation doesn't have anything to do with Amish fiction.

    I'm not sure what good it does to criticize the fact that Amish stories feature photos of Amish-looking women on the front.

    In any case, we're not discussing Amish stories right now.

  89. Timothy Fish on January 5, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    >“Anon 2:53: While I'm telling a story of a bad situation, your characterization (stick a bonnet on and call it a day) doesn't in ANY way reflect Christian publishing.”
    I’ve been looking at quite a few covers lately for a project I’m working on and while what Anon 2:53 said may not reflect Christian publishing, I’m hard-pressed to find an example of an Amish novel that isn’t just that, an attractive woman with a bonnet who is either standing in or is overlaid on a field. I’m not sure such a novel needs to have a different cover than that—it gets the point across—but there is much consistency in how those covers are done.

  90. Kelly Combs on January 5, 2011 at 9:15 AM

    >Best wishes to Allison on her book. I hope in the end, she will be thrilled because SHE GOT PUBLISHED!! YAY!

  91. Heather Sunseri on January 5, 2011 at 9:06 AM

    >I must admit, I'm more than a little disappointed that they fought so hard for a title before they had actually read the book. My heart goes out to "Allison." I think it would be difficult to put your heart into marketing a title that doesn't really give the reader an idea of what the book is about.

    What would I do? I guess this would be one of those situations where I would look at the things I can control (with my agent's help) and hand the ones I can't over to God. But it wouldn't be easy. I'm definitely sad for yours and "Allison's" experience.

  92. Rachelle on January 5, 2011 at 8:40 AM

    >Why would a publisher title a book before the editor has read and fully understands it? Because the title is about marketing, and all they really need to know is whether they think the title will sell the book – not whether the title accurately reflects the book.

    T. Anne: This is my first time working with this publisher.

    Anon 2:53: While I'm telling a story of a bad situation, your characterization (stick a bonnet on and call it a day) doesn't in ANY way reflect Christian publishing.

    Anon 3:48: As far as I can tell, other authors have had good experiences with this publisher and are happy, so this may be an anomaly. I sure hope so.

    Anita Mae: I appreciate your wise perspective.

  93. Rachelle on January 5, 2011 at 8:32 AM

    >Please note, I didn't say the publisher was "Christian" nor did I say whether the book was fiction or non-fiction, so don't make assumptions!

  94. RobynBradley on January 5, 2011 at 8:08 AM

    >Poor Allison! That truly stinks. Sending positive virtual vibes her way.

  95. Timothy Fish on January 5, 2011 at 7:41 AM

    >And to think that I would consider walking away if the publisher is too lazy to restart page numbering at the beginning of the first chapter. This situation is the thing that scares me the most about traditional publishing. As an author, I would have a hard time promoting the book if the cover and title were terrible. The fear would always be in the back of my mind that people were laughing at my efforts. He can’t be a good author, just look at how crummy that cover is. But as it is, I think my book has the best cover and title I’ve had so far. Even if someone were to say something bad about them, I wouldn’t believe them because I know I like them.

  96. Lisa Jordan on January 5, 2011 at 7:39 AM

    >Wow! What an eye-opening experience for Allison. I hope this doesn't make her jaded, but more aware of the industry. Hopefully her book will do well to help heal her wounded heart. Blessings to both of you.

  97. Jessica Nelson on January 5, 2011 at 7:26 AM

    >Poor Allison! I hope she's able to keep a great attitude and that her book sells awesomely!

  98. Martin Rose on January 5, 2011 at 7:25 AM

    >I think, to find out the publisher didn't bother to read the manuscript, is the moment you pay back the advance and kiss off.

    A house that doesn't understand the marketing aspects of good cover design and title is destined to fail.

  99. Anita Mae Draper on January 5, 2011 at 7:06 AM

    >Even though I'd love to know the names of publishers who treat authors this way, experience has shown me that anything can go wrong in any situation. I have a hard time trusting anyone – especially in a business concerned with making money. But in the end, it's not my voice that counts.

    So far, it looks like all of Allison's wishes have been cast aside… but what if God needs that book to look that way? What if He knows there is someone out there who will only pick up Allison's book and read it if it looks the way the publisher envisions it? As a Christian author, Allison is the vehicle chosen to bring the Light into a dark world. She may not like it, and she may never know who that book will touch, but because she followed God's prodding, she wrote it and her job is done.

    The question of whether the editor read the book before or after the cover was designed is numbing, but Allison will go nuts if she dwells on it.

    The point is that Allison must have faith that the end result is in God's hands, not hers.


  100. Catherine West on January 5, 2011 at 6:56 AM

    >A couple of comments here made reference to 'Christian' fiction, and I'd like to know how this got to be about Christian fiction? Read the post again – I don't believe the publisher in question was touted as being a "Christian" publisher – so in fairness, you have no idea whether they are or not. I am currently working with a Christian publisher, and my experience since being signed in November has been extremely positive, in fact more than I could have hoped. It IS horrible when stories like this occur, because let's face it, that first book is a dream come true. We want it to be excellent. Ideally, your publisher should be just as excited about your work as your agent is. They are partnering with you in something you have poured your life into, and the end result should be celebration, not heartache. I hope you'll tell us the name of the book when it comes out so we can all go out and buy it – and I hope the publisher will redeem themselves in the future. I can't see you'd be super excited to pitch anything to them again.

  101. Kim hanks on January 5, 2011 at 6:28 AM

    >Rachelle thanks for this post!!!

    its not good to hear that it happened to someone *most especially on first book* but Allison and the rest of us should know that in most of author and publisher wars. The Publishers always emerges the winner,considering the prevailing situation.

  102. Josin L. McQuein on January 5, 2011 at 6:06 AM

    >Yipes. What a horrible feeling to be an observer while so much happens that effects your own career.

    Maybe, by the time Allison's book is on shelves, the 1978-styled cover will be considered more retro than dated and readers will think it's great.

  103. Katie Ganshert on January 5, 2011 at 6:06 AM

    >Whoa. That would not be fun. Sorry "Allison"!

    I'm very excited for the day I get to see a professionally designed cover for one of my books (I think most authors are), so I can imagine the disappointment if the cover art is bad.

    I'm not sure how I'd deal with it. Hopefully, like Allison, I'd try to laugh it off. Look for the positive. And look for a different publisher for book 2. You might also get an odd phone call in which you only hear moaning and sniffling.

  104. Rosemary Gemmell on January 5, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    >What a shame that this experience is clouding the joy of publication for Allison.

    My first novel is coming out in May with a good, independant Canadian publisher. No advance (just royalties), but they have some of the best cover artists I've seen.

    Now I'm even more grateful that they allow author suggestions, although the final decision lies with the artist/publisher.

  105. Dan Holloway on January 5, 2011 at 4:04 AM

    What seems to matter little to the publisher (though it ought to) but matters greatly to the author, is that whatever the quality of the next ms she produces, this book is going to be her massive great calling card for it, the one real go-to that anyone considering her next project will see. And yes the will know cover and title are down to the publisher, but still, it's about impressions.

    When I started eight cuts gallery press last year one of the absolute givens was that authors had absolute final say on cover design and title.

  106. Aimee L Salter on January 5, 2011 at 3:49 AM

    >I'm with Keli Glyn.

    I'm glad to hear these things BEFORE I get the contract though – expectations mold every experience. Knowing things like this can happen help me hold onto realistic ones.

    Thanks Rachelle – and lots of prayers to "Allison".

  107. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 3:48 AM

    >Wish you could give us the name of the publisher so we can all steer clear. Makes me glad I don't write Christian fiction…Don't they realize how important that first book is to an author and their career? What happened to respect and courtesy? I hope you think twice before dealing with that publisher again. Thanks for sharing!

  108. Michelle on January 5, 2011 at 3:15 AM

    >oh now! how horrible … I just couldn't imagine how she is sleeping right now. xx

  109. Anonymous on January 5, 2011 at 2:53 AM

    >Thanks for this post. I'd like to see more insight like this about the process.

    Makes me more certain than ever that the cuss words in my novels won't get a chance to defile the shelves in the Sonshine-esque bookstores.

    What do they do Rachelle – just say hey, let's stick a bonnet on a woman in a field and call it day?

  110. T. Anne on January 5, 2011 at 2:18 AM

    >I'm really sorry for Allison, although if it makes her feel better I'd still trade shoes with her. I hope her book does exceptionally well regardless of cover and title flaws.

    And just out of curiosity, have you had other negative experiences with this publishing house or was this an anomaly all the way around?

  111. Keli Gwyn on January 5, 2011 at 2:15 AM

    >I understand that the publisher has final say on the title and cover, but it would be nice if this house had shown "Allison" more consideration. My heart goes out to her. I'm thankful she has such a great advocate in you–another reason why having an agent is so important.

  112. Sarah on January 5, 2011 at 2:04 AM

    >I, too, was aware that publishers usually hold all the power when it comes to cover art, but I didn't know about titles. That seems downright strange to me that someone who hadn't even read the book dared to insist that the title they came up with was the perfect one. That takes an awful lot of nerve! If she's reading this, I hope "Allison" knows that our sympathies are with her.

  113. Susanna Hartigan on January 5, 2011 at 1:52 AM

    >To think that the publisher never even read the ms before making these suggestions shows pure laziness and disregard for the writer's hard work.
    This is exactly why I chose to self publish! I have a very creative mind and when I put my work out there, I want full control of it. That included my cover design and title written exactly as it was because it had purpose.

  114. Casey on January 5, 2011 at 1:16 AM

    >I hope I never encounter a similar publishing nightmare, what a shame!

  115. Kate Larkindale on January 5, 2011 at 1:15 AM

    >In a way, it's almost a relief to know the title I come up with may not stick. I always have the hardest time coming up with good titles and usually end up with really average ones, or something so out there it barely describes the book.

    Pressure off on that one then! But the rest of it sounds very stressful and not at all like the dream getting published really ought to be. I hope everything turns out for Allison and she doesn't get put off writing and publishing more books.

  116. Smol Dusaran on January 5, 2011 at 1:15 AM

    >That's such a pity!

  117. Dawn Embers on January 5, 2011 at 1:02 AM

    >Wow. That does sound like a nightmare. I'll admit: I always knew about the cover situation and never planned to have a say in that but it wasn't until recently that I found out publishers decided titles too.

    I think it would be disappointing if after the hard work it has taken to get titles that felt right and the long time spent working on the novels to have it changed to something I didn't like at all. And my biggest concern is that I'll be asked to change a character's gender and/or sexual orientation because that would be a real deal breaker for me.