February 5, 2015
Posted by: Gina Gagliano
Categories: Behind the Scenes


(Cory Doctorow talks to the LA Times Hero Complex about his graphic novel with Jen Wang, In Real Life)

So now you’re a published author!  And the marketing/publicity person at your publisher e-mails to say that there’s a publication who wants to do an interview by e-mail with you; here are some questions.  Could you answer them and send them back?

(That’s great!  Yay!  It’s always exciting when people want to talk to you about your book.)

So you write your answers and send them back to your marketing/publicity person.  Mission: accomplished!

But: now that you’ve sent your answer back, you start to worry.  Is your marketing/publicity person going to take what you said and rewrite it?  Is it going to be published in a form that bears to resemblance to the answers you initially wrote?  What should you do?

The first thing to do is, don’t worry!  All the people who you work with at your publisher love words and books and writing and understand the importance of the written word.  No one’s going to completely rewrite your interview and not tell you, not in the least because it’s a lot of work — and your publisher is working with you, publishing your writing, because they believe you can write well.

If this is something you’re worried about, the easiest thing to do is ask: no one’s going to be upset if you send your questions back with a, ‘If you see anything that should be changed when you look this over, please let me know!’  That way your marketing/publicity person knows you want to see any edits they make.

What are some situations when a marketing/publicity person might make a change?

If you say something inaccurate: ‘My book comes out in June!’  But it actually comes out in July.  ‘Pi is a delicious pastry!’  Not that pi.

If you say something that could be taken as offensive, a publicity/marketing person may do an edit, on the premise that it’s better not to offend people.  Typically this will be followed up with a note to the author saying, ‘this answer seemed problematic in the following way; did you want to edit it yourself?’  But if the author comes back and says, ‘no, I actually meant for that to be a death threat,’ your publisher may say, ‘I’m sorry, we don’t support death threats here’ and not send that part of the interview.   (Situations like these tend not to be a huge problem because no one we work with is really out to horribly offend people; if there’s an error of this kind in an interview, it’s generally an easily fixable mistake that a publisher and author can quickly work together to rewrite.)

If the Q&A needs to be turned in by a deadline.  So you submit your Q&A at 4:56 on the day when it needs to go to the media outlet by 5pm.  Just enough time for your publicity/marketing person to look it over and notice . . . something is inaccurate, or could be construed as offensive, or is a problem in some other way!  But now it’s 4:59 and the media outlet is on the phone saying that they need this right now, and there’s no time to check back with the author before sending it.  In this case, a publicity/media person might do a ‘better safe than sorry’ quick edit before sending the Q&A off . . . followed by a note to the author to say, ‘I was confused by your answer to question #7, so I took that out — if you want to edit it, I can send it back to Media Outlet X and see if they can still get it in.’

And: maybe you want your marketing/publicity person to make some changes.  Are you absolutely sure you spelled everything correctly and made no grammatical mistakes?  Did all those sentences that made sense in your head make sense once they came out on paper?  Did you really want to be offend someone when you said that?  Sometimes it’s really nice to have another set of eyes look everything over to make sure you didn’t type too fast and mix up ‘their’ and ‘there.’

But still: depending on which media outlet you’re working with, they may rearrange or cut your piece!  So you may see a final article that looks very different than what you submitted . . . even if the publisher doesn’t change a word.

So yes, your publisher may edit your media interviews — sometimes in ways you may want, sometimes in ways you may not.  But if this is something you’re concerned about, it’s easy to prevent it from happening — just tell your marketing/publicity person about your preferences and they can adjust their working practices going forwards.

Your Comments are Welcome!