The Author-Publisher Relationship

by Reagan Rothe

Expectation and Improvement

Black Rose Writing has over 500 authors currently under contract, so it goes without saying that in any business or personal relationship of that magnitude, issues will arise. If we, as a small press or Indie publisher, could achieve a 100% satisfactory rating with each author, we’d be at the pinnacle of the author-publisher relationship with nowhere else to go. Simply perfection.

However, no matter the family atmosphere we try to instill with our authors, no matter the hard work and efforts we know we’ve put forth, no matter how personable or professional we handle each author and situation, perfection is and always will be a fantasy. Each author is different, and each author has a different perspective of expectation and results. Some authors are never going to be happy, regardless of promotional budget spent, regardless of marketing efforts, and regardless of book sales. And some authors are happy just knowing they have their publisher’s support, and every little boost is a positive, and something to help them build their author platform.

It seems that during our best of days, running some key promotions or big sales for a particular book, it can be partially spoiled by an inappropriate email or post from a disgruntled author. Publishers want feedback. I always welcome feedback to better serve our authors. However, this can be accomplished via appropriate channels of communication; email, voicemail, or conversation. Below are some examples of inappropriate behavior, in any relationship, whether it’s dealing with your publisher or any workplace situation for that matter.

Wrong Communication Channel: Social Media

Black Rose Writing moderates a private author group on Facebook, for our authors. It is a forum built on a family-like positive atmosphere, where our authors collaborate, share marketing tips and ideas, news about festivals or events, exciting book reviews, etc. It’s also a good place for an author to ask a question to fellow authors to which he or she may not know the answer. It is NOT a good venue for ranting and posting accusatory information with no factual data against your publisher or any fellow author.

Thankfully, this doesn’t happen very often at Black Rose Writing, and our author feedback is extremely positive, but when it does, it’s very discouraging. Being a fellow author has helped me become thick-skinned, but when one of our authors is posting blatant lies to fellow authors or complaining about an issue Black Rose Writing didn’t know was an issue, that’s just poor behavior. Your first message of communication should be to email your publisher respectfully and appropriately, explaining your problem or asking what we can do to resolve an issue.

Email Do’s and Don’ts

·         Do – check your publisher “Press Kit” or informative documents you might have received during the publishing process for answers to your questions. If you still can’t find an answer on something you feel should be better, or you just need more information on a topic, please send an appropriate email to your publisher. Don’t – wait until the opportunity has already passed, be disappointed that your publisher didn’t do what you expected or wanted, remain silent, then send a passive-aggressive email full of anger that stemmed from an issue your publisher wasn’t aware of. Not speaking up on something you want, or think should be improved isn’t helpful to either party.

·         Do – try to take a professional approach and keep your choice of words constructive. Think about how you would speak to a co-worker, your boss, an employee, or even a respected family member. Don’t – send an email full of unsupported accusations, name-calling, sarcasm, and basic hate mail. If you are looking to sell more books or get more marketing from your publisher, I assure you, this isn’t the smartest route to take.

·         Do – research industry standards and procedure amongst similar publishing houses compared to your own publisher before making complaints. Black Rose Writing takes pride in timely communication with our authors, and we are always trying to stay innovative and flexible to changes in the publishing world, passing those ideas and industry changes along to our authors. Don’t – compare your publisher to a publisher that is not comparable. For instance, if you published with a hybrid small press that publishes 10 titles per year, it is hard to criticize your publishing house if it isn’t matching up perfectly with one of the Big Five publishers. Same goes for authors, you shouldn’t compare your book’s pricing and setup to a bestselling author right out of the gate.

Outrageous Examples

-          We had an author call our Marketing & Social Media Expert a “spiteful d*ck” amongst other inappropriate terms in an email and expected that behavior to be acceptable. Resorting to derogatory words or phrases is never going to help your author-publisher relationship or help you achieve your writing goals.

-          After an author and Black Rose Writing parted ways, the author sent mailed phony lawsuits to us for personal damages. An email was also sent that basically stated, “I see you are coming to Vegas for a book festival soon, I’ll meet you in Vegas big boy, let my fists do the talking.” Again, cyberbullying tactics and threats are not recommended, nor do we acknowledge or respond to this behavior.

-          An author posted in our private author forum that Black Rose Writing, amongst other inappropriate terms, was holding him/her back from being a bestselling author. For their first novel, they “self-published and sold 20,000 copies of their book (print and digital).” I researched this novel, and based on the fact it had less than five Amazon reviews, it is hard for me to believe those numbers. And now, with Black Rose Writing and their newest novel, he/she can’t sell any copies. We are just holding the author back. My response is, “if you are telling the truth, why can’t you do what you did the first time around while with Black Rose Writing?” I’d truly love to know what we have installed in our business model that isn’t allowing the author to sell 20,000 copies easily again, I’d be happy to help make this happen.

-          We had an author complain vehemently about their inaccurate royalty statement (and amount of the royalty check). After conducting an intense audit at our own cost just to make sure we weren’t missing anything, we told the author that the statement was correct. The author then sent our Sales Team pictures of people holding copies of the book, showing us that we missed some sales. I don’t believe this is an accurate method of calculating copies sold, but it was a bit bizarre to receive photos of various people holding the author’s book. Of course, we don’t know if it was the same copy or different copies, so we asked the author to send any purchase receipts or proof of purchase from the people in the photos—never heard another word.


In summary, we care very much about our authors and authors should always realize, we want their books to be successful. We want to sell copies. After all, that’s how we’ve been able to pay our authors’ royalties accurately and on time for the past 12 years. It’s hurtful when an author thinks Black Rose Writing isn’t working on their behalf because we know the dedication we have for our family of authors. And this is only compounded when an author expresses their frustration in a negative manner or through inappropriate channels. So please, authors, respect and treat your publisher professionally. And if an issue arises or you aren’t satisfied with your publishing experience, tell your publisher sooner rather than later, and relay the message constructively. We aren’t here to hold any author back or put them in an unhappy situation, we want our authors to learn, gain followers, flourish, and become bestsellers.

Reagan Rothe (Headshot).jpg

Reagan Rothe is the creator of Black Rose Writing, an Indie Press located in Texas, and a fellow published author. He currently serves on Ingram’s Publisher Advisory Board and is a Social Media Certified Professional. Rothe has contributed to IBPA's Independent, NetGalley Insights, and other reputable literary channels. He lives with his beautiful wife, Minna, and has two children, Lena and Walter Lee.