Writing and Publishing: The Way I See It
This definitely one of those keeping my own counsel situations …
But I’m not keeping it this time.
I’ll be the first to say that publishing is a business and should always be treated as such. And it’s not an easy business. It can be monumentally frustrating. But people still strive to be published. And quite frankly I’m a bit tired of the naysayers. So now I’m going to have my say. Actually I’m going to speak about a few subjects concerning the industry. Realize this is just my opinion.
It all started a couple of days ago.
Two articles were posted on Facebook.
This is not the first time I’ve seen articles like them. In fact there seems to be a lot of ranting and raving against the publishing industry for the past few years. It started when e-books finally became a popular medium – well at least that’s where I came into the picture.
The first article by Mr. Hauser speaks about the evil cesspool that is publishing. I read it twice to make certain I didn’t miss anything. But it did raise a lot of question in my author’s mind. By the way, it’s not my intent to pick on anyone and I apologize if it seems that way. I’m merely using this article as one of many examples.
First is this paragraph: “Many clauses that are imposed on authors throughout the industry today bear no relationship to any economic reality other than the best interests of the publisher. Yet these clauses flourish because virtually every major publisher insists on them and the average author has no recourse.”
They do? All of them? How did you get this information? Can we see a copy of these contracts? I mean it would help if we know who was doing such things so at least we can make an effort to avoid them.
“The author must submit his next book in completed manuscript form to the publisher before it is considered by any other publisher.”
Please correct me if I’m wrong but I’m fairly certain that this falls under, Right of First Refusal. I can’t say if that was what the author was referring to, but it means that if a publisher accepts your first book, they’re asking for the right to have a first look at a sequel. I don’t know why this is a problem because if a publisher wants my first book and it does well which proves somebody is doing their job right, I’m sure as hell not going to send the second book somewhere else. But that’s just me.
And it’s only for a certain number of days, I’ve seen 90 days as the norm. Then the author can say, well, sorry it didn’t work out and go elsewhere.
“The first publisher need not consider the manuscript before publication of the work currently under contract…”
I’m not sure I understand this, so forgive me. Is this supposed to mean that even after the contract is signed that the publisher doesn’t have to publish it?
“In sum, just getting published is an adventure in contract law for most authors.”
It’s pretty much always been that way, at least it has been for the thirty plus years I’ve played this game. Which is why we’re told before you sign anything read it – and if you don’t understand it, get a literary lawyer to look at it. Better yet, get an agent if you can. They can take care of all the legalese. It’s their job after all, and any good agent is going to try their damn best to get as much money as possible because that’s their bread and butter as well.
“There's nothing improper about an author being held liable if he has violated someone's rights. But most mainstream publishers now insist upon a warranty and indemnification clause that holds an author liable for damages and attorney’s fees regardless of fault.”
Of course not. Any author who violates someone’s rights and I’m assuming the author means copyright infringement, he doesn’t specify, should be made to handle it themselves. Last I checked stealing is wrong. Why should a plagiarist be bailed out?
“Publishing today is characterized by powerful corporate entities acting in concert to the detriment of essentially powerless authors. Something must be done to remedy the situation because it's driving a lot of good writers out of publishing. They simply can't make a living writing books anymore.”
First off, it’s always been that way. The author is right that publishers are there to make money but I don’t consider myself powerless. And as for making a living writing? Yes, it’s possible and there’s many instances of it however no author should expect that to happen. Yes, work towards it but believe it or not, some of us have nine to five’s to support ourselves. Does Mr. Hauser really know the statistics of how many writers actually make a living from their work?
The author also states, something needs to be done and I agree. So how about some suggestions? Is it possible that articles like this only convince aspiring authors they don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell and why bother? I know the writers of these articles have every right to voice their opinions, but so do I. It’s hard enough to do this without basically telling authors, “Try it and you’ll only be bitch slapped.”
The second article talks about how authors who depend on their work are being paid less. I’ll admit it’s a damn shame, but then again, what were they doing before they were published? Did they have a job? Did they plan for this? As previously stated, people have made a living simply by writing, but others have to have a job. I feel fortunate that I have one I like and I’m free to write when I have time off. Authors interviewed for the article have stated that they’re only making amounts such as 18,000 extra a year (11,000 pounds sterling).
Add that to what I make a year at my nine to five and I can afford that trip to Japan and buy up all the yaoi in the country.
But I suppose I can’t truly say anything about the situation as I don’t know what is going on in the lives of said author(s). All I know is, before you jump into that big writing pond, you have to make certain you prepare for all eventualities.
I would suggest reading the following articles which name common misconceptions to being a published author:
Then there are the articles that say self-publishing is the answer. For some it is. I’ve seen many instances of self-published authors becoming moderately successful. And I give major props to those that go that route. But it’s not always the case for everyone, and the authors who say, “Don’t even bother with traditional publishing, because with self-publishing, you’ll make millions of dollars.” Are painting an unrealistic picture to those who are desperate to get published.
We see authors like JA Konrath (and again no offense intended) who often comment about the millions of copies sold self-publishing e-books and I believe print books and the piles of money they have brought them, without telling people, your experience may vary. And yes I have been to his site numerous times and unless he put up a disclaimer recently, I’ve never seen it. And to be honest, we only have his word for it. Maybe he could supply some proof of his hundreds of thousands? Like a large charitable donation? Or at least telling us he paid off his mortgage?
Wait, you say, that’s really nobody’s business. Actually, he made it everybody’s business by revealing that he was making all that money. If he says he’s done so, then I believe I have the right to say, “Prove it.” Not to mention he was published in mainstream first and already had a fan base. The rest of us have to start from scratch. He himself says in his FAQ that his contracts were “amicably terminated”, so it doesn’t appear he had a great epic battle with them.
I’ve done my research and can find no real indication of this but if anyone has proof, please point me in the right direction.
But more on self-publishing. I’ve looked on Amazon and seem some damn nice looking self-published books. And they are good. I mean damn good. So good in fact I wonder why mainstream publishers or agents didn’t accept them. Or maybe they decided right out of the gate to go for self-publishing.
But self-publishing costs money.
But wait, you say again. What about self-publishing companies that are free like Smashwords or Amazon KDP? I have stories on Smashwords myself. The most you have to do is get a nice cover and advertise or at least that’s the way it was for me. But I haven’t had any noticeable sales and everything else I’ve listed for free. I had one story on KDP but very little came of it.
And recall, there’s no guarantee you’ll do well. Of course there’s no guarantee you won’t either. Some are successful, some aren’t if you’re willing to go that way, then bravo.
All right, so what about the big self-publishing companies. The one where they published all those good books you mentioned?
OK, let’s have a look.
A few of the companies I looked up won’t give you prices unless you open an account or order a catalog.
Amazon’s CreateSpace IDP, Trade paperback:
Custom: $399 Custom Premier: $599
Simple Interior: $199 Custom Interior: $349 Moderate Custom: $579
CS – Professional Services:
Copy Editing: $160 Line Editing: $210
Editing Package: $300 Editing Package Plus: $470
That’s just a sample. Feel free to look up the rest but for Layout and Design it runs from $149 to $579 for interior options and for cover editing $99 to $599. Kindle conversion, $79 to $470. Marketing Copy Essentials, $249 and Kirkus Review $425 and $575. So say I want the basics for self-publishing:
Custom Cover: $399
Simple Interior: $199
Copy Editing: $160 (and you will NED THIS)
Interior Options: $149
Kindle Conversion: $79
Market Copy: $249
I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money to me. And this is for the bare bones service but me, I want the book that has my name on it to look excellent. I looked around a bit more and found similar amounts.
So for me, self-publishing with a service isn’t an option. As it isn’t for many of us. So what choice do we have? Risk everything on one of the free services or learn to deal with the big bad publishers.
Now onto another subject, I love the fact that I’m published with many fine small presses. Where’s the love for them? Come on, show them some love. If you don’t want to do mainstream and can’t afford or don’t want to self-publish check them out. The companies I work with are run by absolutely marvelous people that I enjoy working with.
Fantasy Faction has a great article Small Press vs. Self-Publishing by Ashley Barnard. Yes, the author states there are drawbacks to small press publishing, however the article does state something very true and reads:
“Another important advantage that small presses carry over self-publishing is the free package that comes with it. By this I mean the cover design, editing, formatting and distribution. All of these are incredibly important components your book needs regardless of your route. If you can’t afford a decent cover design, or know someone (including yourself) who’ll do it cheap, you might as well kiss self-publishing goodbye. No matter how many times you’ve heard, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” it’s simply not true. If you have a crappy cover, no one is going to give your book a chance.”
The last line is painfully true, I know that for a fact. I spoke before about what it may take to self-publish. Some of the books I’ve seen have those great covers? Well usually the author does the cover themselves. I wish I could draw that way! Or they have a friend who does the cover. Whether or not they pay them depends. I have a wonderful artist friend in Robin Brantley but I would want to pay him for his work and I simply can’t afford to. And he like any other professional deserves to be paid.
So again it comes back to what choice do some of us have?
Well for me…
My lifelong dream is to be published in mainstream. That’s what I’ve been shooting for all these years, like many authors who have published e-books and are proud of them, we want to make that jump into mainstream eventually. I want to feel that book in my hands, look at that cover, marvel at the design and open it up and see the words I wrote. See my name on it – my real name.
What’s my point? Hopefully I am offering a solution. Find the choice that’s right for YOU and no one else. Look at things realistically. Take what you hear with a grain of salt, including what I’m saying here. Do your research. Learn how to deal with the industry. No one has to tell me how rough it is. I have some STORIES. You are NOT helpless. There are ways to protect yourself. No one says you have to blindly accept things the way they are. And by all that’s good and decent, don’t do anything out of desperation! I’m guilty of doing this and have been royally screwed. This business takes the patience of Gandhi and Job put together.
There are authors out there, you see them every day who aren’t making millions of dollars. Yet they continue to write and publish stand-alone and series of books and make what they believe is a reasonably nice sum at it. And they are HAPPY with it. Search for their blogs and sites. Looks at their photos. They always have huge grins on their faces that would be hard to fake. Some have nine to five jobs, families to take care of, bills to pay and houses to keep. And they still do it.
Communicate with them. Ask them questions. Most are happy to interact with their readers. Read the interviews and the blog posts from as many people who are savvy about publishing as you can. Listen to what they have to say but again, don’t jump recklessly into anything.
If you go in hoping to make millions of dollars you’re likely to be disappointed. That’s the honest truth. And you shouldn’t be writing for those reasons anyway. But if you’re writing for yourself first and the love of writing, then for your readers, and you’re looking to tell a damn fine story and obtain reasonably good reading base to keep your career going then you have more than a fighting chance.
So keep fighting the good fight.