Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Archive for August 29th, 2011

What to do when a Publishing Relationship Ends

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Why is it that most writers plan for the beginning of a publishing relationship, but never plan for the end?

I know, I know.  The end of any relationship, in or out of publishing, is not what most people prefer to dwell upon because it’s depressing.  The end of any relationship means the end of any current possibilities, and that’s sad and extremely difficult for most human beings to contemplate.

That being said, in the current world we live in, we need to plan how to deal with failure graciously.  (Not that every end to every publishing relationship means you’ve failed, mind you; just that it’s going to feel like failure, especially when you know you’ve tried everything in your power to make a publishing enterprise work.)  We need to learn how to come to terms with setbacks, be they minor or major, and learn to deal with them as graciously as possible.

See, I look at the publishing business as a long-term thing that, in its own way, is a microcosm of life.  We’re going to have good days and bad.  The good days are usually easy to handle; it’s the tough ones we must learn from as best we can.

What I do when a publishing relationship has ended is to acknowledge it, make some sort of announcement to those who need to know about it, and am otherwise as polite as humanly possible.  My thoughts, which are greatly influenced by those of my late husband Michael in this regard, are these: who knows if I’ll be working with this person/these people in the future?  So why be obnoxious now when there’s really no need for it?

Yes, we need to acknowledge when we’re upset or frustrated.  I’ve never advocated “sitting on” any emotion, as in my experience that tends to fester and make things worse later on.  But we don’t need to go out of our way burning bridges this way and that, either . . . in fact, if we can avoid burning bridges, that’s probably the best way to handle things.

All that being said, it’s sad when anything you’ve spent a great deal of time and effort on goes for naught; I’ve had this happen a few times this past year, and the only thing that can be done is this: chalk it up to experience, be as polite as possible, and move on.

This is very hard to do, granted.  But if you can do it, others will notice and appreciate the professionalism of your attitude, which may lead you to further and better work in the future.

So, to sum up, here’s the three things you need to do when a publishing relationship of any sort ends:

1) Come to terms with it and write a brief, polite, professional note saying you’re sorry things have come to this pass (whatever it is), and that you’ve appreciated working with whomever.  Also, if you can bring yourself to it, wish the person (or people) well in the future as this costs you nothing.

2) Acknowledge it to those who need to know in a brief, polite and professional note.  (Keep your feelings about it, as much as possible, to yourself.)

3) Allow yourself to grieve the loss, because it is a loss — give yourself an hour, or even half a day if you must, to be upset over it.  Then, do your best to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on.

Most importantly, do your best not to bear a grudge.  Remember that we’re all human, we’re all fallible, and there’s no need to spread nastiness.  You don’t need to put up with bad treatment, mind you; far from it.  Just try to rise above it if you can while knowing that it’s possible that someday you might work with this person (or these people) again.  And if that opportunity arises, you want to be able to work with whomever without undue rancor if at all possible.

You need to think long-term at a time when your inner self is screaming, “No!” at the top of its lungs.  This isn’t easy, but if you can do it, it’ll help you in the long run.**

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** Michael’s name for this was the “better in sorrow than in anger” method.  Try it.  It works.

Written by Barb Caffrey

August 29, 2011 at 4:33 pm