|COMPARISON OF TRADITIONAL VS SELF PUBLISHING
|Ebook Rights and RoyaltiesReporting and payments
Smaller advance/print runs
Limited time/shelf space
In part one we tackled the supposed “pros” of support and distribution that I thought were advantages three years ago. Not so much anymore.
Now let’s look at a few others.
This is a no brainer. There are many excellent free-lance developmental editors out there… some are former agents and/or editors at the Big Six. There are even more copy editors. I consider developmental more important—they can tell you if your writing is credible, authentic and consistent, and I wouldn’t publish a book without someone like that evaluating mine.
But copy editors are important too. They’re the ones who studied grammar in school and know the difference between its and it’s. (Do you? It’s one of my pet peeves and I’d wager two out of three people don’t). Ah, you can ask, but is that important? Yes… if you’re a detail-oriented person.
But I digress.
A word of caution. A lot of people call themselves editors or book doctors, and charge a lot. Check their references and CV carefully to see exactly what their background is before hiring.
There is a special relationship between publishing companies and bookstores. Not because one romances the other. The relationship is built on co-op and credit. Publishers pay bookstores to place their books in prominent positions. In their hey-day the chains were getting over $20,000 a week PER title for best-seller placement.
In addition, publishers encourage bookstores to order twice as many books as they think they can sell (which, of course, inflated print runs quite a bit in the past). The catch is that bookstores are allowed to return books they don’t sell for credit. Kind of a professional form of check kiting. In fact, it’s almost possible to imagine a bookstore surviving on credit alone.
The disruption caused by digital books is changing all that. Not because POD books aren’t returnable—actually most POD books are, contrary to what bookstores will tell you—but because they revealed the holes in the system. What other industries (besides credit card debt and mortgages and Ponzi schemes) survive on credit?
Bottom line, though, when the industry fell upon hard times, and bookstores couldn’t sell even 25% of the books they ordered, publishers demanded their money, and chains like Borders went out of business, and Barnes and Noble and indie bookstores faltered.
Still, and this is the biggest irony, the practice persists.
There are many literary awards that specifically exclude self-published titles. But there are emerging awards specifically FOR self-published novels, if you’re into that kind of thing. Plus the International Thriller Writers, the most progressive of the crime fiction associations, recognizes self published books along with traditionally published ones. I wonder what MWA is waiting for.
The process of garnering reviews is undergoing a sea change. More and more, readers get recommendations from Amazon and Goodreads rather than traditional review sources, if those even exist anymore. I’ve found most readers to be quite generous in doling out 4 and 5 star reviews (thank you readers), but even the less than spectacular 3 and 2 star reviews can give a reader valuable information.
Sure, there are trolls and sock puppets and just mean-spirited people out there, but over the long term, I don’t think they’ll have as much of an effect as we fear. If you read a review closely, you can tell whether it’s sincere or not. And when even best-selling authors get a few sour lemons on occasion, it tends to lessen my anxiety when I get one.
The growth of “customer reviews” is important in another way. It means people are READING. And commenting on their reads. If you total up the reviews available on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, and Shelfari, I wager you will find more reviews than ever before. Book clubs are thriving, too. Bottom line, the activity of reading is going through a renaissance, and that is a good thing. No, it’s a great thing.
Believe it or not, the “profession” of being an agent is relatively new. They began to appear in the 1940’s. Seventy-five years later, many are reinventing themselves. I’ve had four agents. Which might tell you a little about my ambivalent feelings about agents. Some were terrific. Some not so much.
I get that they know the publishing industry better than me. Or did. But that knowledge of the industry tends to put them in a weird position. Because they depend on the Big Six for their cut, they won’t push a book they know the Big Six won’t buy. Which have persuaded some that agents actually work for the publisher rather than their clients.
Their knowledge of contracts, born from years of negotiating with the Big Six, also make them less willing to fight clauses on which they know publishers won’t budge. I understand that. But then, why do I need an agent in the first place? And should they take 15% of my income for “going along to get along?” Particularly when authors have other options, namely a contract or intellectual property lawyer.
Don’t get me wrong. I have a lovely relationship now with an agent I highly respect. In fact she was an informal advisor to me when I had issues with previous agents, (and she usually defended the agent.) But she is only representing me in tasks I can’t do for myself, chiefly foreign rights, which she is actively seeking.
But that relationship has to be one of mutual trust. For example, a foreign publisher came to me with a proposal which I promptly turned over to her. I could have made a few more dollars NOT giving it to her, but she’s doing work on my behalf, so I am showing her how much I value that work. At the same time I see that relationship more as a partnership than a traditional agent/author agreement.
However, there is another side to the issue. I’ve touched on it in Part One: agents who are now “helping” their clients get self-published and taking 15% of the revenues. I don’t see that an agent can add anything that a motivated self-published author can’t do for him/herself.
Another thorny issue involves agents who tie the author to them in perpetuity. Should an agent get lifelong royalties on a relationship that ended years ago? It’s a fair question. And yet agents need to survive too. They see what’s going on in publishing, and some have even shuttered their business. It’s a tumultuous time. That’s why I put them on both sides of the ledger.
OK. That’s enough for now. Our chart now looks like this.
|COMPARISON OF TRADITIONAL VS SELF PUBLISHING
|Ebook Rights and RoyaltiesReporting and paymentsSmaller advance/print runsLimited time/shelf spaceHinky contractsPossible BankruptyAccounting irregularitiesAgents
Next week I’ll finish up this opus and focus on self-publishing.