To many outsiders, the book publishing industry is cloaked in an aura of mystery. And the industry seems to like it that way.
But maintaining that veil between the public and the machinery behind Publishing, Inc., has its costs. A book’s sales can be affected if an author hasn’t been involved as a partner in the process. If an author feels left out and in the dark, they are less likely to be effective in promoting their book.
If an author can’t trust their publisher to communicate with them fully, they may not have confidence that their book is being given its best chance at success. Communication between a publisher and an author is often hampered by the publisher’s unwillingness to let people see the “man behind the curtain”—to help them understand how their manuscript becomes a published book.
For example, it’s a commonplace that first-time authors will have no input on their book covers from traditional (trade) publishers. In my experience some publishers do in fact solicit input from authors and in some cases give authors veto power over the cover design. That doesn’t necessarily mean, however, that the authors are given enough information to participate effectively in the cover design process.
Author involvement is probably more common at small presses than large publishing houses; authors are more likely to have influence in niche publishing, whether an academic or special interest field, than in the general trade. But even if authors are allowed to participate in the publishing process, they need more than just the opportunity to answer a marketing questionnaire. Authors deserve a full explanation in advance of how the publishing process works and how they can contribute to give their book the best chance at success.
Yet it seems that some publishing professionals are reluctant to explain the difference, for example, between copyediting and proofreading, or what an author should look for when reviewing page proofs. It doesn’t take much time or work to lay out the pieces of the process and explain them to a newcomer. It’s only a matter of patience and a philosophy that emphasizes collaboration rather than obfuscation.