Strategic Relationship Management, Part 2

The Ideal Publisher

In my last post, I outlined the concept of Strategic Relationship Management. In this post, I want to begin to apply these principles. Since professionally, I am a publisher, I will start with publishers.


What would the ideal, high-profit, low-maintenance publisher look like from the agent’s perspective? Here are fifteen characteristics:

Profile of the Ideal Publisher
High ProfitLow Profit
1. Demonstrates a win-win financial paradigm.1. Demonstrates a win-lose financial paradigm.
2. Offers competitive advances and royalty rates.2. Does not offer competitive advances or royalty rates.
3. Makes advance and royalty payments on a timely basis.3. Takes forever to pay advances or is slow in paying royalties.
4. Maximizes product sales through every market channel.4. Focuses on only two or three market channels.
5. Proactively manages client’s backlist and, as a result, maximizes royalty income.5. Allows backlist titles to languish or slip out of print, costing the author royalty income.
6. Refers prospective author clients to us (i.e., the agent).6. Wouldn’t think of referring a prospective author client to us, let alone do it.
Low MaintenanceHigh Maintenance
7. Sees the agent as a partner (i.e., a customer), welcomes his involvement, and reinforces his role with the author.7. Sees the agent as an adversary (i.e., “the enemy”), resents his involvement, and tries to undermine his role with the author.
8. Has a standard contract for the agency so that contracts can be negotiated quickly.8. Everything must be negotiated from scratch every time, adding cost and frustration.
9. Distributes easy-to-understand royalty statements.9. Distributes confusing royalty statements.
10. Responds promptly to inquiries, proposals, and completed manuscripts.10. Is slow or negligent in responding to inquires, proposals, and completed manuscripts.
11. Takes the initiative to prepare a written marketing plan and follows up on it.11. Only prepares a marketing plan when the agent demands it and then, once created, hopes the agent and the author forget about it.
12. Proactively provides information—including sales information—to the agent on a regular basis.12. Reactively provides information to the agent—if at all.
13. Under-promises and over-delivers, thereby making the agent look good with his or her clients.13. Over-promises and under-delivers, thereby making the agent look bad with his or her clients.
14. Includes the agent in all communication with the author.14. Circumvents the agent either intentionally or unintentionally.
15. Responds quickly to rights reversions requests.15. Drags feet in responding to rights reversion requests.

As I read back through this list, I realized that there are probably some areas we need to shore up. Like Jesus said, “Before you try to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye, take the log out of your own” (Matthew 7:3-5).

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