Diva authors (Ahem! Slight rant alert …)

I’ve often been known as one of the original renegade writers. I always seemed to do things slightly wrong, yet still managed to get the job.

This doesn’t change the fact that I was still taught to be the best I possibly could – the best freelance so that editors would come to me time and time again because my work was so close to brief they didn’t have to do a single thing to it, other than just drop it into place.

I was still taught that as an author I should be bloody grateful if a publisher took me on, if a publisher was prepared to put time and effort into promoting me as a writer, if a publisher would pay me an advance and even a royalty.

I was still taught that my work should be polished until it shines before I even think of submitting it anywhere, and that I shouldn’t expect the hired help to knock it into shape.

I’ve been working this way since 1985, striving to do exactly what’s asked of me and trying to be very easy to work with.

I’ve been doing that for 30 years.

So, is it me? Is this the old-fashioned way of doing things? Do editors and publishers no longer respect you if you try your hardest to be the best damned writer they ever had?

As an editor and a proofreader I freelance for several publishers of both fiction and non-fiction, historical and contemporary. And, most of the time, in fact around 99% of the time, I have some wonderful people to work with. Even with my own private clients they’re usually very nice to work with and for.

But every so often I seem to get what I call the diva author, the author who thinks the historical relationship between publisher and author should be the other way around, the author who thinks publishers should be bloody damned grateful that they’ve sent in their work.

If an editor asks for 1,000 words, 25,000 words, 40,000 words, whatever, I don’t then send in 1,500 words, 30,000 words, 150,000 words (yes, really). And even if I did, I wouldn’t then argue till the cows come home that they need my 1,500 words, 30,000 words, 150,000 words. I’d apologise, take it back, and work with it until it was right (only it would have been more right in the first place had it been me …).

If a publisher says they want, say, 25 end-notes to fit in with the rest of the series, I don’t then send them 50 end-notes or 0 end-notes. And when a publisher says 0 end-notes, I don’t send in 40,000 words-worth of end-notes (yes, really …).

If a publisher uses their regular artist to design the jacket and their regular typesetter to design the inside, I don’t then start to tell said artist and said typesetter how to do their jobs, just like I don’t tell the publicist how to market my work or the editor how to edit my work.

And I certainly don’t ask them 20 questions when we’re already well into production, threatening to pull the work if their demands (yes, really!) aren’t met.

How dare they throw their toys out of their prams like that? How dare they be so rude and presumptuous? How dare they be so precious? What’s so bloody special about them? And when, otherwise, their work is, actually, quite good beneath it all. I just don’t understand the attitude.

If they’re going to do all of that, why not just have done with it and vanity- or self-publish? If they’re so cock-sure and clever and experienced, why don’t they do it themselves? If they’re so bloody good, how come they haven’t already been snapped up by some of the very big publishing houses?

So I ask again. Is it me?

Answers in the usual place. Thank you.

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