Here’s another of Victoria Strauss’s valuable words-to-the-wise about the business of becoming a published author: what can go wrong if you type “Find a Publisher” into Google. As always, Strauss provides an excellent Writer Beware list. Her spotlight on the scams writers face is one of the most valuable resources writers can consult.
Lucky enough to attract interest from an agent? Victoria Strauss, on her blog Writer Beware, keeps an eye on our business for us. Check out this short, important read on how NOT to set up your relationship with that friendly agent!
What would you add to this thoughtful post from Alison Williams Writing? Have your experiences with small publishers been good or bad? Are indie writers better off self-publishing? What do you think?
Alison Williams Writing
I recently wrote a bit of a rant about the quality control of some small presses whose books I had read. You can read it here.
If you are thinking of signing with a small publisher, then do bear a few things in mind.
- Do your homework – start off by Googling the publisher. You might find threads on writing sites that go into a great deal of detail about your chosen publisher. Read them – they can be incredibly enlightening.
- Ask questions – if your publisher is honest and genuinely wants the best for you, they should accept that you have a right to want to know about them. After all, you are placing your book and all the blood, sweat and tears that went into writing it in their hands.
- Who are they?
- How long have they been publishing?
- What exactly is their background and experience?…
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Some good warnings to take to heart!
I have a couple of things to add. Unless the market has changed drastically, having a good agent and getting an advance is unlikely to guarantee your book visibility or even entry into mainstream bookstores. I was paid $5000 by St. Martin’s in 1983; even though King of the Roses got superb reviews (check them out in the Amazon preview), the book never made it into any of the many stores, local or national, that existed at the time (before Amazon). I was told St. Martin’s would have had to commit to a massive advertising budget before any of the stores would find spine-out space for my book, let alone any kind of display or prominent position. (This despite the fact that my mother wrote many angry letters to bookstores demanding that they put my book on a stand in the doorway!) St. Martin’s did minimal advertising, but did make sure reviewers got copies and paid attention to them, which is a big deal, and something that will be hard for us to do for ourselves.
It’s my understanding (possibly erroneous?) that publishers’ budgets are even tighter today than they were in 1983. So true traditional publishing by one of the major houses doesn’t mean authors don’t still have work to do to get their books out there. But articles like this help us avoid pitfalls that will make our efforts go for naught!
Like many of my posts, this stems from something I saw in an online writer’s group. Essentially, someone who has been traditionally published from a small press was putting down people who self-publish. Personally, I have my own problems with self-publishing that I discuss in my “Why I’ll Never Self-Publish” post, but that is besides the point. At this point, I’d like to formally begin my rant against small presses.
In my opinion, traditional publishing is best done through an agent and then with a professionally recognized publisher. Small presses, unless they are recongized by writing organizations like Codex or SFWA, often give little more than what someone can do through self-publishing but will suck away 40-60% of the author’s share of royalties and then use self-publishing tools (like Createspace) to produce the book. Small Presses get away with this by telling authors lies in order to get them to sign…
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Writer Unboxed (via, as so often, Chris the Story Reading Ape) is hitting on all cylinders these days. Here’s an extremely useful post detailing how to assess a publishing contest BEFORE you enter! Thanks to Susan Spann for this excellent list. Read the comments, too.
Thanks, Chris, for another important article. Here is my comment on this article at The Book Shepherd:
I’m amazed that so many people will pay these sums to be published when CreateSpace will do it for free. All you need is a Word file and a cover. Sorry, my CreateSpace book looks just fine. I suppose there are genius cover designers out there who could have done a better cover than DigitalDonna.com did for me, but I’d be surprised to discover them at a reasonable cost.
I went with Ingram first; again, nothing wrong with the 22 books I purchased at cost ($168). At Ingram, you will pay $49 for publication, and you must, indeed should, buy your own ISBN, since if you choose CreateSpace first, they will own the ISBN. Three hundred dollars for 10 ISBNs you can use for your entire series is a lot less than the numbers being discussed in these comments.
I formatted my own interior, which cost me $20 a month for my subscription to Adobe InDesign. On my blog [this blog!], I’m doing a series on how I conquered InDesign.
Believe me, it’s not that hard.
I hope writers will use the funds they are paying for these services to find good professional editors and cover designers. And I second Judith’s point that being traditionally published does NOT mean that you will get stellar marketing. In the end, you will do that for yourself. Why not do it all?
(And I second a comment that recommended Smashwords. Not only will Mark Coker walk you through the ebook-creation process, he will publish your ebook absolutely free!)
What about you? Do you have any tales to tell about your publishing adventures? Help us all “beware.”
Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog
Article extract from Judith Briles on The Book Shepherd site:
Oh, what a tangled web they weave … publishing predators are breeding with the surge of authors now by-passing traditional publishing. Over half of books published today are by the self and indie publishers. Traditional publishers are taking notice and are now gearing up to offer their own “self-publishing” opportunities. Some, like Simon & Schuster, Hay House and Penguin, have had a “vanity press” relationship for years in place via Author Solutions (ASI). Expect to see all of this push into a higher gear–after all … there is money in wannabe author’s pockets.
It’s a never-ending story … the emails, phone calls, postings within the Author U Group on LinkedIn and my personal group on Facebook: Publishing with The Book Shepherd (join it) … and I’ve worked with several private clients and fielded numerous phone calls/emails from authors who have…
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Joel Friedlander at The Book Designer is always a wonderful source. This piece by Judith Briles (@mybookshepher) on “How to Avoid Book Publishing Blunders, Bloopers and Boo-Boos” has some up-front advice for all of us. I especially like the “writer beware” section on “pitch fests.” Briles says save your money!
Filed under business of writing, ebooks, indie publishing, Marketing books, Money!, novels, Print on Demand, Publishing, publishing contracts, reversion of rights clauses, Reviews, Scams, Self-publishing, Writing