The first meeting with an author, somewhere between the cup of coffee and the languorous descriptions of how and why they became a writer, is absolutely essential. By this point, sitting behind your desk, you already have a pretty decent idea of how the relationship will pan out. Here are some scenarios and types you’ll invariably encounter:
1/ The Turtleneck Writer
This guy never lets go of his manuscript. Throughout your meeting, his sweaty fingers with remain clasped at the edges of his life’s work, which you begin to suppose he doesn’t actually want to give you. He hesitates, swivels uncomfortably in his chair, throws a cursory glance across your messy desk and starts to insist that you give him back the manuscript in case of rejection. Somehow, you can’t picture yourself having a friendly lunch with this guy. You feel watched and judged, because nothing you ever do will be enough for his baby and the immensity of his talent. What? The New York Review of Books hasn’t reviewed his masterpiece? You must have really done a bad marketing job!
2/ The Cigar Writer
This guy kicks things off by telling you that every publishing house in London and New York is clamouring to get its hands on his masterpiece, but that he, for obscure sentimental reasons, wants it published in Lebanon. And you’re the lucky chosen one! He will never look you in the eye, instead letting his eyes wander around your cramped office. As he’s leaving, he’ll say: “Be careful I won’t let you change a single comma. It will be published as is, and that’s non negotiable.” Now you know you’re dealing with someone unsure of his talent, and who overcompensates with ego. If you refuse to publish, he’ll tell you it’s just as well because your publishing house wasn’t good enough anyway.
3/ The Double Chin Writer
[txt]He’s almost apologetic about writing, and keeps saying he only does it as a hobby. He says that if he’s not published, it’s not really that big a deal. That he would really understand. He just came to the meeting because he was in the area and because his 1000 friends and his entire family forced him into trying to get his book published, lest humanity be deprived of it. He acquiesced, but expects nothing from his novel. It’s just for fun. He will keep smiling nervously, but don’t believe the false modesty, it obscures fantasies of success. He actually knows his value and talent, and will deftly make you realize how lucky you are that he turned up on your doorstep.[/txt]
4/ The Tissue Writer
He sits facing you, bothered and neurotic. He knows that the second he hands you the work of an entire lifetime, he won’t sleep at night. He will have to exercise immense self-control to avoid calling you day and night to ask what you think of it, and he’ll lie awake imagining all sorts of reactions. He’ll beg you to not make him wait too long, tell you all his hopes and dreams now rest in your hands and that he’d like to dedicate the book to his father, who’s very ill, and that it’s the only way this can help his mental health. He may tear up a couple of times, offer you a limp hand to shake and leave your office with a knot in his stomach. Beware, expect to be harassed in a way that will make your existence a living hell. If you don’t publish, you will feel guilty and if you do, you can expect an author in hysterics, who will always require an ear to bend and answers to his 345 weekly questions.
5/ The Writer Writer
Thankfully this guy makes up for all the others. True talent. This guy only needs his manuscript to convince you. He knows the numbers of the publishing business. He doesn’t expect a Booker prize for his first novel. He knows he won’t become a millionaire. He’s happy for you to do your job as editor and publisher, he’s happy to revisit a whole section of his work if that’s what you think needs to be done, he’s happy to accept the direction you’ve chosen for the cover, and won’t try to wedge in his graphic designer cousin, he’s happy to call once a year to follow up on how sales are going. He’ll be happy to show up to book signings, and remain humble and will, quite simply, say thank you.