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8 Ways to Develop the Best Relationship With Your Publisher

For writers who go the traditional publishing route, navigating a relationship with a publisher can be tricky.

More often than not, authors get frustrated with a publisher over misaligned expectations–specifically when it comes to marketing.

Knowing what to expect and how to communicate with a publisher is key. Below are 8 ways to develop the best possible relationship with your publisher.

1- Set goals–together–at the very beginning. Goals serve as your roadmap forward and determine what success looks like. Talking with your publisher, early, about goals for book sales and platform growth means you’re all rowing in the same direction and have shared priorities. Involve all people who are a key part of the book, from editorial to marketing to sales. (For examples of goals and more on why they’re important, check out this post.)

2- Talk about expectations for who does what, marketing-wise. Too often, the author expects the publisher to do all the marketing of the book–and then ends up frustrated and disappointed. Have honest conversations about who will do what so that each party has accurate expectations of the others’ involvement.

3- Discuss budget early. Nothing causes conflict like money does, so talk about it. The publisher has a specific and limited marketing budget allocated for each book it publishes. While they might not tell you the exact dollar number for your book, they should be able to help you understand what they can pay for and what they can’t.

4- Go in with the understanding that you’ll have to carry a lot of the weight post-launch. Publishers pump out lots of books, and so they have a very focused, limited amount of time to create and release each one. After the initial couple weeks of launch, you’ll be on your own to carry marketing initiatives forward.

5- Be open-handed/open-minded with messaging and design ideas. You might come into the publishing process with a super specific idea of how you want design or title to be, but I encourage you to stay flexible. The publisher has deep industry, audience, and trends knowledge that they’ll apply to their suggestions for your cover, messaging, etc. Consider it!

6- Have an “equal investment” attitude. When it comes to marketing your book, know that you’ll have to put in lots of time, energy, and resources–probably equal to, if not more than, what your publisher puts in. One of the most successful authors I know comes in with this “equal investment” mindset every time. “If you want a team, bring a team,” she always said. It’s a great philosophy.

When working with a publisher, an “equal investment” attitude will go a long way. Click To Tweet

7- Ask good questions. Rather than assume or accuse, simply ask! Authors and publishers often butt heads simply because of poor communication. Soak up all the information you can in order to set accurate expectations. Examples include: “Who is my main point of contact here?” “How often can I expect to communicate with you all?” “For how long after release will you promote my book?” “Will I be working with an in-house publicist?” “What can I do to partner really well with everyone?”

8- Say “thank you.” As simple as it sounds, gratitude goes a really long way with a publisher. For many in-house marketing folks, their role feels like a thankless job. A great many authors come in with a sense of entitlement about what they should “get” from the publisher, instead of viewing it as a partnership. Thank the folks you work with. It will go a long way.

Working with a publisher comes with immense benefits for an author, and it can be a very smooth process when navigated well. Communicate early and often in order to set accurate expectations for both parties. Doing so will mean a pleasant publishing experience, and perhaps more book projects with that publisher in the future.

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