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 http://brennaaubrey.net/2014/03/09/the-road-not-taken/, 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.

37 comments:

  1. Well said, as usual. Go, E. <3 :-)

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  2. Well said, indeed. Horses for courses, as they say.

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    1. That's the thing, isn't it? Everyone can choose their own path.

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  3. I love this post so much I want to marry it. Well said.

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    1. Well, it's single. You might have a chance...

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  4. I agree! I do not understand at all why everyone is in such an all-fired hurry to make judgments on anyone else's business decision regarding the publication of their novels. There is no one right way for EVERY book. There is no guarantee of success, EVER. Success in publishing is just as much about being struck by lightning-luck as it is hard work and perseverance, and everyone is going to be taking a different path along the way, and there is NOTHING wrong with that!

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    1. I agree. If we all spent a little less time worrying about what other people say, and a bit more time considering what was best for *us*...

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  5. Great points made here, ma'm! There is way too much self-centred judgement going on out there in the publishing world. Everything has its niche, and nobody has the right to control which avenue you choose to take. I've had a few people say I should look at traditional publishing for my next non-scifi book, but I won't because I don't have the patience to wait for those guys!!!

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    1. Well, yeah. That can be so frustrating. That's one of the cool things about self-pub, right - no waiting!

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  6. "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."

    Love it. Great rant!

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  7. Well said.............I have completed a research thesis through the University of Tasmania as an Honours degree, in the new academic area of Authorpreneurship. I interviewed a lot of authors from world wide best selling authors, authors that are house hold names through to indie published, self published, vanity published and e published authors. I learnt so much about the industry, and the choices all authors have, including myself. I just signed my 20th contract this morning. And every authors journey is different from another authors journey as their choices and reasons for making decisions differ. One thing I would like to say, and it is one of the reasons I keep starting a new book and not sit back and enjoy holding onto my latest contract lovingly, is that a great story will always find an audience, it doesn't matter if an author chooses to self publish or go down the traditional route or do something different altogether, the good stuff will always find an audience........so thank you for verbalising what I constantly think and what I have learnt. I am over people telling me what I should be doing with my writing career..............and I say blah to them...........we all have our own path to follow.............mind you I always like to listen to people explain their own path to me, that is if they have actually written a book and had it published.

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    1. I agree - it's always good to listen to others' experiences. I have learned so much from talking to other authors. But then I like to make up my own mind.

      Hey, I went to UniTas! Way back in the (ahem) olden days of the '90s...

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  8. As usual, Erica, your rants don't dissappoint. Good on you for saying all that - I agree. I'm me and I choose to do what works for me right now and that is nobody else's business. Big raspberries to those who think it is.

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    1. It just makes me sad when people think that because they're a bestseller and have turned down a squilion-dollar deal, that means they're the only ones who are informed. It's just utter bullshit.

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  9. Nice rant, Erica. I think we're all moving to a world where we publish as and with whom the best opportunities present themselves. And, as our circumstances change and the publishing industry changes, all with the dizzying rapidity that has become the new normal, we learn to take generalised advice with a pinch of salt.

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  10. Fabulous rant, Erica and I sat there nodding all the way through it. There is no right or wrong way and as in life, every author's journey is their own. Temperamentally I would prefer to be with a publisher (preferably trad). Self pub is hard work and to do it well costs money (editing, formatting, cover etc.) with no guarantee of recouping the costs.

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    1. Yeah. It sure is hard work. And it's work that some would rather not do. It's like saying, "oh, you want to make money writing? Be an advertising copywriter, then, you'll get an awesome job and make a ton." Sure. I could make more money in a bunch of other jobs. But I want to write fiction.

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  11. You packed that one two punch really well. On ya Erica!

    Smiles.

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    1. Blam! I'm sure the publishing world is reeling :)

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  12. Wonderful rant. Couldn't agree with you more and am so glad you did it.

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    1. It's always relaxing to have a nice rant before tea...

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  13. I knew I liked you for a reason, Erica.

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  14. "Most authors are not idiots. They're business people with decisions to make. And they make those decisions based on their situation."

    Great post, Erica. Excellent points. Good luck to you.

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    1. Thanks, Brenna! I appreciated your post about your publishing decisions very much.

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  15. Loved your rant, Erica, it made me smile, especially this part:

    "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."

    There are lots of us out there in the world of publishing just plodding along, loving what we do and trying our best to get noticed for it. We don't all get hit by lightning bolts full of money. It's easy to forget that with all the random out-of-nowhere bestsellers clogging up the lists. Making a lot of money in this industry is still very rare, especially if you want to write what you believe in. Which we kinda have to. Otherwise we might as well all go make widgets.

    Cheers,
    Sami

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    1. Well, yeah. And a lot of those random out-of-nowhere bestsellers are neither out-of-nowhere nor random. It's largely a myth. They sell because the people involved are savvy and clever and know what they're doing.

      But it's a myth some writers love to perpetuate. Some people probably still believe E.L. James was a random bestseller. Or Stephanie Meyer.

      Chortle.

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  16. Great rant, Erica, and timely. As in every area of writing, there is no one-fits-all solution. It's still all about the book. I did start out in advertising, and made a comfortable living, but I also prefer writing fiction, and still live off my books as I've done since the Stone Age. And I'm too darned lazy to self-publish.

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    1. Exactly - it is all about the individual book. And I don't understand this abuse culture that's grown up around author choices. Why do we even care what other authors choose?

      Apart from me telling people to piss off, that is. That's allowed, of course.

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  17. Like :)

    Oh, and I love "squillion dollars" - hilarious.

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  18. Rant on! Glad I'm not the only one to break the blog silence with an occasional outburst. We've all been advised and opined upon to the breaking point (unless "we" are bullies who do the dishing out of rules and conditions). As for indie publishing, as a stubborn free spirit I hesitate to let someone else do the cover art and title, and even "professional" editors can't be trusted (I've seen the results in indies as well as Big Six pubs). Even Joyce Carol Oates and Stephen King wax verbose and could use some judicious editing, but who'd dare....

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