5. Have a differentiated rewards program: Other than a miniscule royalty, there are no carrots out there for writers. Publishers need to look beyond the limited world of royalty and signing fee. Publishers could look at invitations to special events, subscription to magazines, membership to author clubs, nomination to a writing workshop, media coverage opportunities, mentoring opportunities, delivery of their book copies to celebrities.

4. Have a ‘tiered’ author program: Any publisher, at any given time, has a kitty of writers attached to them. Some are brilliant, some are good, some are yet to tap into their potential. Publishers need to have a differentiated approach in treating them. They need to consider a post such as ‘Author Relations’ : a person who manages authors keeping the differentiation in mind, and with sensitivity. Currently, the number of people from a publisher’s who pick the phone / pen an email to the writer are many. That leads to conflicts, miscommunication, and ensuing heartburn. They need to ask themselves this tough questions :

Are we doing anything different for the authors who are getting us more?

3. Build world-class processes: It is ironical that the same publishers who have extensive, detailed guidelines on their websites on how they’d evaluate a manuscript, do not share any other details of processes around how they’d go about editing it, the roles and responsibilities that will own the journey of the manuscript from acceptance to bookstores, the hand offs between editing and proof-reading, the arbitration guidelines in the case of editor-author conflict, to name a few.

2. Crowd-source editing : The traditional editing process prescribes that one or two editors, usually, senior and experienced people in the industry look at the work and suggest improvements. On the ground, however, things unfold in various ways: sometimes the editors have pre-conceived notions about what a manuscript should look like, what language is acceptable, what parts of the plot he or she finds unacceptable and so on. This leads to author-editor conflict.

I have also been through experiences in which the editor does not do a thorough job of editing. The worst experience has been when an editor did not revert on the manuscript for months, and when finally she did, it was evident that she had looked at only the first three chapters. Then, there is the problem of proof-readers turning into editors : when the manuscript has been edited, and the changes incorporated by the author, the proof-reader suddenly recommends ‘value-additions’.

Where does the editor’s role end?

Where does the proof-reader’s role begin?

What are the boundaries for each role?

Publishers need to address these, and other such issues proactively.
I worked on a ‘crowd-sourcing’ model for editing for my last book: I asked ten folks: all smart, avid readers, but not related to the world of publishing to review my work. What was interesting was that some of them do not know me at all (I approached incognito through friends). Some of the best inputs I received were through these folks!

1.Turn a new leaf : Those publishers who realise that they need to strategize, innovate and build a brand that no longer has lopsided power equations between publishers and writers are the ones who will go a long way. Publish sales numbers, have online trackers, be forthright and fair, have professional relationships with all stakeholders, and build powerful networks!

What worked in the ninetees and early 2000s will not work anymore.