The Effect of Clear, Respectful, and Honest Communication in the Publishing Industry
At first glance, the publishing industry and The UCWbL seem very similar, as they both work with writers on writing. However, the publishing industry is selective, focused on creating finished works that are sellable, not the overall progress of writers. They’re more interested in creating better texts and less interested in the relationship between fostering both better texts and better writers, something we strive to do at The UCWbL. As someone who would like to work in publishing, I wanted to see how this key difference affected The UCWbL’s core practice of communicating clearly, respectfully, and honestly.
Communication begins before editing does, starting with contract negotiations. Before researching, I never really considered this seemingly more banal business aspect of publishing. As such, I was surprised when several articles described authors complaining about publishing contracts, taking the view that publishers often end up with more than their fair share of money. In his book Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know about what Editors Do, Gerald Gross provides a few tips for avoiding this animosity: “(1) in a negotiation, either party has the right to ask for anything—just be aware that the other party has just as much of a right to say no; and (2) don’t presume anything—if it hasn’t been discussed and it’s not written down, it’s open to totally different interpretations by either side” (Gross 111). By being clear about wants and respecting differing opinions, a comprehensive and mutually beneficial contract can be drawn up, lowering the chances of disagreement later on. Similarly, agendas should be negotiated together. The final product should be clear so writers have a say in the appointment and don’t expect to focus on grammar, for example, when you are planning to work on more global concerns.
A study of publishers and authors at an unnamed publishing house found that authors and publishers had different ideas of what the role of the publishers was. In addition, publishers were more likely to believe that expectations were being met than authors. They concluded, “Publishers/editors need to be aware of the authors’ perception of the characteristics of the relationship, whilst in turn authors need to be made aware of how publishers view the relationship” (Philips et al 14). Again, clear communication is intrinsic to positive publisher-author relationships. As peer tutors, we must also be transparent about our roles in order to manage writers’ expectations. We are not their professors, so we cannot guarantee a certain grade, nor can we write a paper for them.
In a book chapter entitled “Editors and Publishers,” Wendy Bishop and David Starkey also discuss the usefulness of being clear: “Good communication is essential: the more clearly all expectations are initially articulated, the less frustration there will be later on in a project” (Bishop and Starkey 83). Overall, communicating clearly lends itself to positive and productive collaboration.
These three sources all pay special attention to clarity and hint that respect will follow. Addressing the honesty component of the core practice, Elizabeth Caffin noted how she and an author had an established etiquette of respect, saying, “That called forth from us both, I think, a courtesy that allowed almost every aspect of the publishing process to be discussed and discussed vigorously” (Caffin 2). Together, clear and respectful communication leads to honest communication, where publishers and authors and tutors and writers can all be open with their opinions without offending one another.
Just as at the UCWbL, effective publishing demands clear, respectful, and honest communication. It is only by upholding this core practice that people can form working relationships that are simultaneously pleasant and constructive.
Gross, Gerald. Editors on Editing: What Writers Need to Know about what Editors Do. 3rd ed., Grove Press, 1993.
Philips, Angus, et al. “The Nature of the Relationship between Authors and Publishers.” Publishing Research Quarterly, Vol. 21, Issue 2, summer 2005, pp. 3-15. EBSCOhost, web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.depaul.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=8&sid=f1f7ffcf-e256-47fc-8396-1cab36bf22cf%40sessionmgr103&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZSZzY29wZT1zaXRl#AN=18518250&db=ufh
Caffin, Elizabeth. “Publishing Curnow.” Journal of New Zealand Literature: JNZL, no. 18/19, 2000, pp. 1–13. JSTOR,jstor.org/stable/20112321.
Bishop, Wendy, and David Starkey. “Editors and Publishers.” Keywords in Creative Writing, University Press of Colorado, 2006, pp. 76–84. JSTOR, jstor.org/stable/j.ctt4cgr61.20.