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  • Writer's pictureKristina Elyse Butke

Thoughts on Kyla Zhao's Publishing Report

Stack of notebooks marked with post-its; Thoughts on Kyla Zhao's Publishing Report
Photo by Bernd Klutsch via Unsplash

Author Kyla Zhao did an amazing thing for authors and people who work in publishing. In March, she conducted a survey asking publishing professionals what authors could do to help ease the work they have to do. She just released the results of the 68 professionals who participated in the survey.

I learned about this survey through Twitter a few days ago and just finished reading the 23-page report. I made sure to save a copy and plan to keep it with me for a long time, as I am someone who is trying to get traditionally published, and I thought the report was very revealing in terms of the publishing process and expectations publishing professionals have of authors.

Overall, I sympathized with a lot of the people who responded. It very much seemed like an opportunity for professionals to vent about the unfair practices and expectations placed on publishing staff. That being said, there's a reason why Kyla put in a disclaimer in her report. It reads,

Authors are not responsible for the systemic issues within the publishing industry. Only executives and management can enforce lasting change and they should be the ones driving it.

As I read the responses to this report, I couldn't help but feel in some circumstances that publishing professionals are asking a lot from authors, and there were quite a few calls for advocacy that I wasn't sure was even within the author's power, as authors can be marginalized and just as overworked and underpaid as staff. Then again, I'm coming at this from someone who hasn't even queried her current manuscript yet, and have yet to be traditionally published. So I could be getting this completely wrong.

I know that when I get into traditional publishing, I do want to implement a lot of what these professionals are asking for, and I think it is absolutely within my power to speak up for those who helped bring the novel to life, and give credit where credit is due. I will have no problem complimenting the hard work of the people assigned to my book, and I will try to make it so people enjoy working with me. And this report gave a lot of tips on how to do this!

I think probably the most helpful thing for me was this comment, as it clued me in a little more to the process:

Only ONE full complete round of copyediting and proofreading happens per book. After them, only revised content is reviewed in correction rounds. PLEASE do not rewrite your entire text after copyediting, or worse, after proofreading. There is no time or budget to have another CE/PR done, and the later you rewrite, the easier it becomes for errors to fall through the cracks.

I'm taking this to heart because I'm someone who has made major changes to manuscripts before and I also have a tendency to want to over-edit/ I think it was important for me to read this to see the window in which we have to make tweaks. Again, I'm not someone who has been traditionally published yet, so I've never run into the issue of changing the manuscript at a bad time, but considering I'm on my fifth revision of Son of the Siren, I figure this note is something I need to pay attention to.

As positively as I've reacted to this report, it's also made me realize authors are asked to do so much. "Advocate for yourself, but don't overstep" seems to be a common refrain, plus frequent reminders that the publishing team wants you to succeed but they have their hands tied on a lot of stuff, and that you shouldn't blame them for that, but at the same time you need to be proactive and do lots of things on your own (like marketing and publicity.) Well, I've known for a while now that certain things are being pushed on authors and the budgets for them keep drying up, but reading this report has me even more nervous about it.

And honestly, sometimes the report made me strongly want to reconsider self-publishing. Truth be told, there are many things I'm continuing to learn about traditional publishing that give me pause and make me think self-publishing is better, but as I cannot afford to self-publish, I pretty much feel stuck going traditional. And this report has me quite intimidated as someone trying to break into the business.

Other authors and professionals had some criticisms that I think are valid. I'm sharing the first tweets of each person, but you should really read the whole threads because they're solid.

Author Sami Ellis writes about the report,

and editor Shelly Romero adds,

The common theme seems to be, once again, that publishing professionals sure are asking a lot from authors!

How are we expected to do all of this? It stresses me out just thinking about it.

Again, I'm super grateful to Kyla for compiling this report and for all of the publishing professionals who completed the survey. It really offers us a window into the publishing world, and it certainly has helped me, despite the additional fears it's kicked up in me, too.

If you want to read more on this, author Sami Ellis, with permission from Kyla, compiled a streamlined version of the report, which you can download here. In one of the Twitter threads reacting to the report, author Anna Vaught supplied a link to a relevant article she wrote called "Under Pressure: The Authors' Perspective" that touches upon similar themes from Kyla's report, but, as the title suggests, from the POV of authors.

I highly recommend reading the original report, the streamlined report, and Vaught's article to get a bigger picture of what's going on in publishing, and how you as an author can make your team's lives easier. But always remember, it is not the author's responsibility to fix publishing. Change must come from the upper levels in the industry.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you check out the reports and find them useful!


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