Tag Archives: trade publishing

What a Writer Deserves

From Joe Ponepinto at The Saturday Morning Post:

“Literary writing teachers are fond of telling students they should write for the love of writing itself. But I wonder what they would tell their charges if the university wasn’t sponsoring that philosophy; if they had to work eight hours in a cubicle or on an assembly line.

That attitude also conditions writers to believe they don’t deserve to make money from their writing, and helps make it easier for publishing companies to keep straight faces while offering today’s Draconian contract terms.”

It’s nice to see that sentiment spreading.  Writers have been offered little or no pay only because so many writers are willing to accept little or no pay–not because there is no money to be made from writing.  Even as novel advances fall and royalty rates remain low, and writers are given the impression funds are scarce, major publishers are posting incredible financial gains.  When a publisher can afford to give all its employees a $5000 bonus, you know things are good.

But the writer is told to never expect to make a living from such work–usually by the folks who make a living processing and packaging the work of writers.

In contrast to Ponepinto’s reasoned piece is this in Salon.  It is, sadly, a view inside the mind of a writer who jumped into self-publishing without researching the business, and who is now angry and resentful that the world hasn’t responded as he wishes.  Had he invested perhaps a month or two investigating what are fast becoming Professional Practices in self-publishing, he would have known that 1) self-publishing isn’t synonymous with ebook only, and hasn’t been for quite some time; 2) sending mass emails to reviewers is the fast-track to being ignored; 3) self-publishing sales tend to happen over a period of months and years rather than weeks.  Lastly, he’d know there is a community of writers who are making good sales and are willing to help other writers do the same.

Every published writer deserves to see their publisher act with competence, diligence and professionalism.  When a writer is self-published, the writer should expect the same of herself.

Alas, given the tone of his piece, I suspect he’s a person who will have a hard time putting down his anger long enough to learn what will actually help him.  Too often, writers who’ve been trade-published expect self-publishing to work the same way and, when it doesn’t, call it a failure.  And that sense of failure will persist until a shift of thought is made.

Is the self-publishing market different for literary works than it is for genre?  Of course.  But “different” isn’t insurmountable.  It’s merely challenging.



A Disappointing Turn Indeed

I was twenty years old when an established author first explained to me how the process of publishing fiction worked.


Okay, I’ve just written and deleted seven paragraphs–all running in different directions–that could logically follow that first sentence.  Those paragraphs are for another time.

The paragraph for this time:
In the two decades since, I’ve had the opportunity to hear from, read about, and befriend writers, as well as chat at length with editors and agents.  The one constant between all professionals was the claim that real publishers weren’t like the scam publishers.  Scam publishers charged huge up-front fees for substandard work.  Scam publishers offered egregious contracts and preyed upon ignorant writers who either didn’t know better, and wanted their books out too badly to care.  Scam publishers belonged in the literary slums, scorned and mocked by Real publishers.

If you haven’t already seen it, go check out John Scalzi‘s take on the contract terms for Alibi, an imprint of Random House.  Yes, Random House.

Then take a look at the report from blogger April Hamilton who received a letter from Simon & Schuster asking her to help them out with marketing.  S&S partnered with Author Services back in November, and now they want “affiliates” to refer new writers to their overpriced “self-publishing” services.  And what do the affiliates get?  A “bounty” of $100 per signed author.  Can you imagine being asked–by a “respectable” major publishing house–to make money off fellow writers who don’t know any better?

I should probably be angry about all that.  In truth, I’m just saddened.  Disappointed.  But, oddly enough, not surprised.

The question now is how the lines between real and scam shall be defined.  Me, I can’t see how real and scam can be sibling imprints in the same publisher.

I am all for successful business models.  But an industry shouldn’t stake a claim to prestige with one hand, then participate in practices they’ve derided in the past with the other.  They certainly can make the claim, but it’ll only stick if everyone agrees to ignore what that other hand is doing.

ETA: Here’s the link to the Writer Beware take on the Random House response about Hydra/Alibi contracts.   Victoria Strauss mentions, in contrast to John Scalzi, that life-of-copyright contracts are the industry standard.  Yep.  One of the points so many people found absolutely unbelievable when Hydra does it is reportedly done by everyone!  That’s one of the many, many reasons I like retaining control over my work.