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How author kits can be the number one tool for building a cooperative publisher-author relationship

Filed under: Tech Forum

Photo of Chelene Knight by Katherine Holland.

Chelene Knight is the author of the poetry collection Braided Skin and the memoir Dear Current Occupant, winner of the 2018 Vancouver Book Award, and long-listed for the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature. Her essays have appeared in multiple Canadian and American literary journals, plus The Globe and Mail, The Walrus, and the Toronto Star. Her work is anthologized in Making Room, Love Me True, Sustenance, The Summer Book, and Black Writers Matter.

The Toronto Star called Knight, “one of the storytellers we need most right now.” Knight was the previous managing editor at Room (2016-June 2019), and programming director for the Growing Room Festival (2018, 2019), and now founder and CEO of #LearnWritingEssentials and Breathing Space Creative. She often gives talks about home, belonging and belief, inclusivity, and community building through authentic storytelling.

Knight is currently working on Junie, a novel set in Vancouver’s Hogan’s Alley, forthcoming in 2020. She was selected as a 2019 Writers’ Trust Rising Star by David Chariandy.

Chelene Knight will join us at Tech Forum 2020 for two sessions on March 25: The power and necessity of author care in today’s publishing climate and Creating caring spaces: A panel about sustainable community care in publishing.

Photo of Chelene Knight by Katherine Holland.

When you onboard your authors, it’s important to welcome them with care, while offering up the necessary tools and resources about editing, production, and the publishing industry. This is your big opportunity to share a little bit about who you are, what the expectations are, and what will happen during editing. This kit can set the tone for the publisher-author relationship from the get-go.

If you’re a publisher, here are five questions you can ask yourself before putting together your author kits.

  • What does the first communication look like when I accept a manuscript?

  • What information should I share about:
    • our organization;

    • next steps;

    • the production process; and

    • what communication will look like?

  • Will I set up an “orientation” meeting?

  • Can I make sure the author will have an opportunity to have a phone call with the editor before structural edits are done?

  • Can I accurately explain the editing process with flexible and firm deadlines?

When auditing your existing author kits, ask yourself:

  • Is my language clear? Am I creating more questions than I’m answering?

  • Am I explaining why, how, and when I need information from authors?

  • Am I clear on deliverables, deadlines, and other publisher-author expectations?

  • Am I transparent and clear about everyone’s role within the publishing house, and who is in the publishing house?

  • Do I ask questions about festivals, travel experience, and preferred panel/event topics? This will really help later when you are pitching your authors for festivals. Having this information at your fingertips will not only cater your pitches, but make it a whole lot easier for you!

  • Do I include a questionnaire to gauge the author’s publishing knowledge?

    • Who will manage these questionnaires? Should I outsource this?

    • How will we act on the needs derived from the questionnaire?

    • Am I ready and willing to provide support once I receive the answers?

    • Do I relay communication expectations? Do I offer multiple ways to get in touch?

    • Do I offer transparency about the production and promotion process?

    • Do I INVITE curiosity? Have I let them know it’s okay to ask questions?

    • Am I open and honest about the size of our publishing house, our capabilities, and boundaries?

    • Do I check in about the author’s publishing AND non-publishing contacts? How can their current contacts help to promote their book?

    • Do I offer a “how to” on grants?

    • Do I talk about how to apply for Access Copyright and Public Lending Rights?

    • Do I offer other support, resources, and tools?

    • Do I offer a chance to meet in person (or online using a virtual meeting room such as Zoom)?

      • This should be offered at least once.

    • Am I offering realistic scenarios around book sales and the current state of the industry?

    • Am I transparent about what touring is like and how to plan?

    • Am I transparent about the marketing/planning work our authors will need to assist with?

Author kits are indeed an invaluable tool for all authors. Taking the time to thoughtfully and mindfully put them together will bring you one step closer to helping authors create long-term careers in the arts while strengthening your bond with them and their work.

Join us at Tech Forum on March 25, 2020 in Toronto to hear more from Chelene Knight on the topics of author and community care. You can find more details about the conference here, or sign up for the mailing list to get all of the conference updates.