Who really loves you in the publishing world?


SO HERE’S THE SITUATION. Since the beginning of time, or at least since the invention of the written word, or at least since the invention of the Guttenberg Printing Press, the big boys in New York have flexed their muscles and controlled the publishing industry.

Agents had a hand in it.

Agents liked to be power brokers.

Agents went out and found the next great book, although too many deals for mediocre books purported to be great books have too often been made and consummated in the middle of New York cocktail parties.

Authors today bang their heads against the door trying to wake up agents.

Agents today bang their heads against the door trying to wake up publishing houses.

A Publisher bangs his head against an accountant’s door, trying to figure out how to keep from losing money when his company produces three hundred titles a year and knows all but seven will be losers.

The trouble is, he doesn’t know which seven will be the winners.

Books stores are eight and nine months behind on paying their royalties to publishers, which means publishers are ten to twelve months behind paying royalties to authors.

Those actually responsible for creating the product, for stringing together eighty to a hundred thousand well-chosen words into a tightly drawn novel, are left out in the cold, scrambling for crumbs and not really for sure when the next crumbs will be scattered their way.

Even in today’s chaotic and digital world, when its all said and done, every author, down deep within his or her psyche and ego, would like to be working with a well-known agent who has sold a book to a well-known publisher, who has placed that book in well-known chain of bookstores.

That’s the dream.

Well, maybe it’s time that we looked on the other side of the fence.

As a whole, the big time authors with big-time agents and big-time publishers aren’t happy either.

A major survey of 323 authors, all of whom have been published by the big boys for years, has discovered serious levels of dissatisfaction with traditional publishers.

The survey was conducted by The Writers’ Workshop, an editorial consultancy, with assistance from the Society of Authors, the Crime Writers Association, and the Romantic Novelists Association.

He is what they discovered.

  • One-third of the authors said they were not consulted about marketing plans.
  • Almost forty percent of the authors asked, “What marketing plans?”
  • Almost half of the authors said their publishers had never asked for their feedback on a project.
  • About two-thirds of the authors said they would prefer to leave their old publisher and move to a new one, although new ones don’t want them and the old publishers may be cutting them loose.

Harry Bingham, head of the The Writers’ Workshop, said, “These results don’t surprise me, but they are sad. Authors want to love their publishers, but there are key respects in which publishers are making that hard. Authors are underwhelmed by marketing that is too often ineffective. And standards of communication are miserable right across the industry. The problem with marketing is perhaps that publishers have not yet successfully migrated their marketing efforts to an increasingly digital world.”

Authors did like the way their books were proofread and edited.

And, for the most part, they liked their cover designs.

But where’s the money?

The days of the big contracts have faded with the last sunset. As a rule, authors had seldom received advances in excess of five thousand dollars. They were the lucky ones. More of them had advances of $1,500. Authors are so desperate to be published by the big boys that many simply took promissory notes.

And here is the kicker.

This is what all independent authors should remember.

The authors in the survey had agents and major publishing houses. But almost seventy-five percent of them reported that they are considering cutting out their publisher altogether in favor of ePublishing.

You want to go into the big time publishing world where they are. And they want to come into the independent publishing world where you are.

The gap that used to be so wide becomes narrower every day.

Be careful what you wish for.

You may not be happy if you get it.

I was quite happy to let a small publisher handle my novels.


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