Thursday, March 13, 2014

Publishing decisions, and why they're none of anyone else's business

I don't blog a whole lot (heh, you might have noticed that) but I just can't keep my mouth shut any longer about this. Excuse my language, but it's the kind of post that needs lashings of cursing to be cathartic. And I totally need catharsis, folks. Ready for a rant?

Good. Here goes:

I am so over those best-selling authors who assume every author in the world lives in the same special little ivory-tower universe that they do.

Things like Hugh Howey's Amazon data scraping exercise, which basically proved nothing other than if you're already selling a zillion copies, you'll make more money at 70% royalty than you will at 25%. Duh.

Posts like this one, where one author is talking candidly about her reasons for her publishing decisions, and a certain bestselling author comes along and writes a lengthy comment that, despite its sort-of-helpful intent and its effort to provide useful info, which I do appreciate, basically boils down to if you think traditional publishing has any benefits for anyone ever, you're a fucking idiot.

Well, let the record show that I am not a fucking idiot. Most authors are not idiots. They're business people with decisions to make. And they make those decisions based on their situation. Not some random bestselling author's, or anyone else's. Theirs.

Anyone who thinks that just because this or that happened for some zillion-copy-selling author, it will doubtless happen that way for them too, because hey, they're indie and INDIES ROCK! You can do it! Group hug! – well, perhaps they should think about it some more.

Can we all stop insisting that because XYZ happened to us when we published and we made a squillion dollars, that means our way is the only way? Just because subright X or publicity plan Y is (or isn't) important to us doesn't mean it's the same for everyone else. Just because an offer is bad for one author or book doesn't mean it's bad for everyone else too.

Can we all stop listening to those authors who, because they turned down an offer from a print publisher, apparently think they know everything about what's happening in New York, for every other author at every stage of his or her career?

And can we please stop throwing around 'know what your rights are worth' as if it always and forever means 'traditional publishing sucks'?

Because I do know what my rights are worth, thanks very much, and for some books, I still choose traditional publishing.

I don't pretend to know much about what's really going on for anyone else. Everything I have is anecdotal, and the plural of 'anecdote', etc.. But let tell you about me.

I'm not a bestseller. I've done a few books in New York, a few with digital-first imprints of big houses and a few self-published. My self-pubs haven't set the world on fire, but I'm learning, and I do my research – I can see what the very successful authors are doing, even if as yet I haven't been able to emulate it. I've had glowing reviews, and shockingly bad ones. I've had starred reviews in Publisher's Weekly and 'this is the worst, sickest book ever written' reviews from Kirkus. Some readers love my work. Some hate it. Basically, my books are no better and no worse than anyone else's. I'm just an author.

I am a relatively new author, true, but I fancy I have at least a little bit of a handle on what all those aspects of the publishing industry are doing, thanks. Just because I haven't yet turned down a million-dollar offer doesn't mean I'm clueless. Just because you have doesn’t make you an expert. Piss off.

Got that? Good. Let's move on.

So. My last two trad-pubbed series were discontinued by the publisher. (I got all my advances, by the way. Where this shit is coming from about people not getting paid their advances on delivered books is a mystery to me.) What's more, the fan following I do have is in paranormal romance. I don't write twenty-book short contemporary romance series, new adult anything, BDSM billionaires or rock star romance. I don't even really write erotic romance at the moment. Suffice it to say: my books are not exactly hot property in New York this week.

But I can tell you that the advances I am being offered – and no, I won't tell you what they are, or from whom, because unlike some authors, I still harbour lingering respect for business confidentiality – the advances I'm being offered are more than I could reasonably expect to earn in the same period if I self-published the same book.

Let me say that again. I've self-published a couple of books now, and I have no expectations of being an overnight word-of-mouth bestseller – it's something to aim for, but I don't expect it. I expect to have to build my career slowly – and no, it isn't because I've been trained to think that by evil traditional publishers. It's just reality, for most authors. I don't write the kind of thing that sells like that, and I don't have the drive towards promotion that it requires. But I do have a good idea of what I can reasonably expect my earnings on a new book to be in the next little while.

The advances I'm being offered are more than I foresee I would earn self-pubbing, over the period during which the advance would be paid.

So don't come at me with your 'know what your rights are worth' as if it means 'indie is the only way, suckah!' IT IS OKAY TO CONSIDER TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING. IT IS OKAY TO DECIDE TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING IS BEST FOR YOUR BOOK. Just because some other author's rights are worth more than mine doesn't give them cause to tell me I'm an idiot (however nicely they put it) for so choosing.

In short: I do know what my rights are worth. You, on the other hand, don't have the first clue what my rights are worth. Piss off.

I am not afraid of e-publishing. I could care less about Goodreads or Amazon reviews or author 'bullying'. Bring it on. I would self-publish my next novel in a heartbeat - if I thought it would sell more copies and/or make more money. I am not yet at a stage of my career where I believe it will.

Oh, and while I'm at it? Enough with 'print is dead'. I still buy print and enjoy bookstores. My friends still buy print and enjoy bookstores. Excuse us for being relics of the Enlightenment. Piss off.

What's more, I've done trad-pubbed books before. I know what to expect in terms of marketing, publicity, branding and editorial, no matter what stories I'm told by well-meaning company staff. I have an agent, whom I consider to be worth every penny of her 15% and then some, to advise me, and I also do my own research.

So don't come at me with 'but traditional publishers don't do branding/publicity/marketing! They lie! They suck! They tell sucky lies! Indie is the only way!' Just don't. Okay? Of course it's not all book tours and front-of-store placement and national media. We know that. Publishing is a sales business. Caveat emptor. You have to do due diligence. Inform your decisions. You don't automatically believe everything you're told.

And that includes what you're told by authors who live in that bestseller's ivory tower, where it makes total sense to decline a big traditional offer, because they're already doing better on their own.

I understand that decision. I really do, and good luck to them. I wish them every success.

But I'm not them. I'm me. 

We now resume our normal programming, ie. utter blog silence. Thanks for listening.