When Pride Gets in the Way

I’m now feeling the fallout of having a book with low sales. Everybody has an opinion on what the next book needs to make it a winner.

I just hung up from a long conversation with my editor about her suggestions on the proposal for my new book. The conversation left me a bit depressed so I quickly made a follow-up call to my sister friend, Jacquelin Thomas. After complaining about all the changes my editor wanted, I asked Jacqui if I had legitimate concerns or if my pride was getting in the way. The too-honest Jacqui said it was my pride. And she was right.

One thing that I’ve always “prided” myself on in this business is that my stories were, in fact, my stories. I’ve never done a “book by committee.” In the past, I’ve dug my heels in so deep that I’ve delayed getting a book done by a year because I didn’t appreciate all the suggestions. At one point I said to an outside editor, “Why don’t you write the book and I’ll edit it?” Well, that relationship ended fairly quickly. I was glad.

As I talked to Jacqui today it became clear that I have a case of pride in wanting my work to be mine. In addition, I have a control issue. There is so much that we as writers don’t control in this business. I’ve always clung to the notion that I do control what I write. And when I feel like “they” want to take that away, my spine stiffens.

So what am I to do? In the past, I’ve pulled the book, paid back the advance money and moved on to another publisher. Or I’ve just dug in my heels and waited for the “idea person” to go away. Those moves made me feel I’d won the battle, but I’m beginning to wonder if I lost the war in the process.

This time I’m going to take a deep breath and give the ideas from my editor and agent some serious consideration, remembering that they are on my side and want the best for me and this book. My challenge is to give my editor a book that she can sell that’s also a book that I can call my own. I’m up for the challenge. I have to be. Given the way my Lord works, if I don’t get it now, I’ll be facing this same situation for the rest of my career.

NOTE: I need to distinguish here between what I consider normal edits that make the book stronger and suggestions that significantly change the story. I appreciate editorial letters that provide guidance on how to make the book stronger. My problem is with suggestions that I feel change the heart of the book. I never want to look at one of my books and see more of someone else in it than I see of myself.

7 thoughts on “When Pride Gets in the Way

  1. Well, you know I’ve loved every one of your books, each more than the last. But that doesn’t mean they can’t get even better. So use this next book as an experiment if you will. Open yourself up to the process, and see where it takes you. Trust that you’ll know when to push back. But, as you alluded, don’t let this become your “40 yr wilderness” experience. The Promised Land is just down the way!

  2. You know I am a super-newbie in this game, but I have to say that each time I got my feathers up about a change, I made it and the story was better. The one time, I held fast to not making a drastic change was actually in my first novel and I still see that mistake everytime I pick the book up. I should have listened. Does that mean your committee is right? No, it just means you have to pray and be open to the shift in the business. Let’s see how it works out. You can still make it “You” Angela, so go to it. Love ya!

  3. Angela,

    Thank you for sharing this. I believe we all needed to read this. Because we have to know when PRIDE is taking over when we should be listening.

    I’ve heard what you said from many writers and they have walked away for a minute to calm down then looked at the suggestion again and realized that their editors had a good point.

    I’m learning that the editor is there to make your book the best book it can be. They don’t want to make it into something they can’t sell.

    It is always your choice to make the changes, but ask yourself will it make it better or hurt it. Most times it will improve it.

    P.S. I enjoy your stories and I feel they get better and better with each book.

  4. Angela,
    This is a great blog and though writing is somewhat a lonely journey..there is always room for improvement. I so can relate with your expression of.. spine stiffening. I had the pleasure of an editor, ..whom I know consider me hard to deal with, but all I wanted was my story told in my voice.. and at my pace!..Surely your editor will not lead you in the wrong direction…so take it slow and go with it..I’m struggling now to find a new publisher and editor..at my own discretion ..I do want the right fit, so I’m moving forward. Best wishes to you and yours!

  5. Thanks for the kind words, ladies. I’ll be working on a new synopsis for January. It’s just a bit intense when you have a contract already but you don’t have an agreed upon book. I’ll make it through though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *