Marchbooks' Blog

August 28, 2009

The Old Publishing Model – Is It Fair To Authors? by Janus Kane

Filed under: On Writing and Publishing — marchbooks @ 4:58 pm
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I just read a wonderful article on the need to change the royalty structure for authors as it exists in today’s publishing industry. I won’t bother to regurgitate it. You can read it yourself. Publishers Must Change The Way Authors Get Paid

When you weigh the benefits of publication (for the majority of published authors out there) against the cost; in blood, sweat, tears and yes, money, one has to wonder why the allure is so strong. As a new author on the scene, I can tell you that it is not an easy road. The search for a publisher is a grueling one. First you tool and polish your manuscript to its finest. You craft a compelling query letter. You grab the latest version of The Writers Market and carefully select a number of compatible publishers.

Your first mailing goes out. WHAT? No positive responses. Undaunted, you retool your query letter and send it out to another batch of likely suspects. INCREDIBLE! Still no one has seen the promise of your book project. So you blow the dust off of your wallet (after all you have been busy writing for the past two years, not chasing the almighty dollar) and pony up a sizeable chunk of cash to attend a conference or two, where you are sure that you will be able to make the connections you need to get your books onto the bookshelves. Sadly, one brief weekend connection does not get you into the inner circle.

Although you have found some editors who like your project, (we’re getting closer) those editors were not able to convince their board of decision-makers about the marketability of your book. EGADS! How could this be happening? So, you write and you continue to pursue publication until one day, the miracle letter comes. You have been chosen out of the masses. It is a Herculean feat, but you’ve done it and it is all down hill from now on.

HA! In reality, you now have to watch your baby as it is wrenched out of your hands, mauled and manhandled until it is barely recognizable. For what? In many cases an unknown author will receive a token advance it they receive one at all. Okay, so you can’t pay of your mortgage just yet, but at least you can get back to what you were meant to do – writing, as you sit back and wait for your 5% royalty to roll in. 

Of course, you could do that – if you don’t mind seeing your firstborn die a slow and ugly death in the book return bin. So, you try to get some love from your publisher. Sorry, no go. They’ve got a long list and a small budget. There is no money to market your book. If you want it done, you will have to do it yourself.

You square your shoulders and dive in. Six months later, you are buried under a mountain of bills; website, web design services, review copies, mailing expenses, a shelf of how-to books on how to market your book, travelling expenses, advertising materials, more mailing expenses and perhaps your own publicist…The list goes on. It all comes out of your pocket – out of that generous 5% royalty that you so eagerly agreed to when desperation was biting at your heels. But, what is infinity worse is that these marketing efforts have completely sucked the life out of you, preventing you from being able to write another creative word.

Does it sound grim? It should. Unfortunately, it is reality for all too many hopeful authors. The road to publication is not short or easy. It is fraught with perils. Significant time and money could reap very little benefit. But, there are options; POD, ebook publication, blogging, online writing communities…There are many new ways to have your voice heard these days.

Authors should consider all of the options carefully, then they should consider them again. Be very clear about what you want out of publication. Do you want fame, fortune, notoriety? Do you want to establish yourself as an expert in your field or will you be happy just to have your book printed and distributed to family and friends? Or do you just want to tell your stories in a way that others can share and enjoy them?

If you decide that you will be satisfied with nothing less than the brass ring, by all means, go for it. But, go for it with your eyes open and love what you are doing because if you love what you are doing, you will never have to work a day in your life.

Write on.

The Little Insanity


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