Tag Archives: traditional publishing

Judith Tarr on Escaping Stockholm

Novelist and equine expert Judith Tarr has had quite enough of seeing writers pushed and manipulated by publishers.  The first segment of her series “Escaping Stockholm” is here.  At the end of that post is a link to Part Two, and Part Three should be available May 30.

I never broke into trade publishing with a novel (just a couple short stories), but first met and befriended published novelists over twenty years ago.  I’ve watched and listened to their experiences.  Some years ago, I decided I didn’t want to work under the constraints and conceits of traditional publishing because what such work would require wasn’t the sort of thing I wanted in my life.*  What Tarr is discussing–the treatment of authors on all levels of what should be a professional relationship–highlight many of the reasons I chose to self-publish.

And if you haven’t read Tarr’s work, you are missing some really cool stuff.  You can check out her offerings through Book View Café and Amazon.

 

*I consider it unreasonable to give an editor one, two, or more years of exclusivity to make a decision about my work.  I get that traditional publishing has many reasons for wanting both exclusivity and open-ended time to decide.  That doesn’t mean I find those reasons acceptable.  Some writers will call me arrogant for refusing a single person exclusive rights to hold what I’ve created–without given either a decision or compensation–for as long as that single person wishes.  Most non-writers would call me crazy for agreeing to such a thing.

 

 

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Interesting Timing

Today I followed a link provided by David Gaughran to a website run by Bowker (the exclusive provider of ISBN numbers in the U.S.).  The site purports to be informational for folks looking to self-publish.  The trouble is, their recommended service includes Author Solutions.  ETA: It used to be listed as the first option, but has oddly enough been moved down the list.

If you’re not sure why that’s a bad thing, check out the Writer Beware blog for years’ worth of background.

The rest of the site is also filled with misinformation that does, indeed, make self-publishing sound so immense, costly and daunting, it’s small wonder inexperienced writers, or writers who haven’t researched much, would see it as a relief to have companies like Bowker and Author Solutions on their side.

What’s interesting is that this news–this seeming support of self-publishing from Bowker–comes on the heels of big (yet oddly quiet) news from the distribution sector of the publishing world.  Book distribution company Baker & Taylor changed its policies, permitting self-published titles to appear alongside of, and be sold at the same terms as, titles published by the “Big Publishers.”

So why did this happen now?

I think it’s tempting to assume it’s because self-publishers and small presses are seeing greater possibilities for success than ever before.  But I’ve a cynical bent, you see.

I believe these two major shifts happened because, as is outlined here, the large publishers who work with Bowker and Baker & Taylor now have their own “self-publishing” divisions which are–what a coincidence!–mostly supported by Author Solutions.  While the main source of income for Author Solutions has been authors purchasing services rather than readers purchasing books, I’ve no doubt “Big Publishers” wanted a better chance of making money off bookselling as well.

That doesn’t mean small press and self-publishers can’t take advantage of the opportunities.

Warning All Writers Should Heed

David Gaughran outlines the on-going influence and growing reach of the Penguin-owned vanity publisher Author Solutions.

Follow the links he has provided.  You’ll find an extensive background on Author Solutions, as well as the current lawsuit against them.

Write down the names of publishers that have chosen to support Author Solutions by funneling their own imprints to them.

Write down the names of those publishers’ imprints.

Consider those lists when deciding which publishers you’ll submit your work to.  Expect to read your contract very, very closely, and have an IP attorney review it as well.  As Gaughran stated, “And it’s much harder to tell the scammers from the legitimate organizations when they are owned by the same people.”

After seeing the number of major publishers and writing-related businesses that have chosen to bind themselves to Author Solutions, this writer is far far far more concerned about steering new writers away from such exploitation than I am that Amazon will somehow subjugate over a 150,000 writers.  Alas, most of the business seems to be otherwise occupied.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

The Story of Self-Publishing

While the success of Hugh Howey–top-selling book sales, movie deal, major print-only contracts–has garnered increasing media attention, those who still wish to denigrate self-publishing are quick to say, “But he’s special!  He’s an outlier!  One success doesn’t mean anyone else can succeed!”*

Howey takes that on himself here, and it is a marvelous piece.

I didn’t step into self-publishing with the expectation of becoming the next multi-million dollar success.  I wanted people to read what I wrote.  I wanted to earn a little money from doing what I enjoy.  Self-publishing was the way to do it.  I don’t have to worry about whether my publisher will follow through on commitments, keep the work in print, contract with shell companies in order to reduce my royalties to pennies, or sell the right to publish my work to another company as part of a bankruptcy deal.

I’d rather everything be all my fault.  Fail or succeed–it’s all my fault.  Self-responsibility produces less anxiety than lack of control, and far less than learned helplessness.

 

*This is a variant of the snobbish, “Who do you think you are?” which is more often a finger-pointing way of saying, “Don’t you know who I am?”