Thursday, October 13, 2011

The Siren Call of Too Easy

An online associate of mine is having their book published by a brand-new small-print publisher.  As in, their book is going to be that publisher's first book.  Now, I'm not going to pretend I know all the ins and outs of how that happened or anything resembling the full story behind the deal.  I don't.  But I can say what I have seen sets off yellow alerts in my brain, and it isn't a deal I would do. 

But, if I'm being honest, a few years ago I would have been all over that had I been offered it.  Whether I would have done it out of ignorance or arrogance or eagerness or anxiousness, I'm not sure.  Though I do know I wouldn't have looked at the fledgling publisher with the same critical eye that I do now.  I would have just yelled, "Awesome!" and signed away. 

A lot talk is going around about E-books, publishing through Amazon, Print-on-Demand services, and who even knows what else, all of which are essentially geared to the same thing: eliminate the middlemen/gatekeepers, and get your book out there to "the people" NOW

And that's the big temptation there, isn't it?  No waiting.  No gnawing your fingernails to stubs after you send out queries to agents.  No sleepless nights wondering if that editor has even looked at your manuscript yet, let alone if they liked it.  You can just get your book out there.

It's oh, so tempting, isn't it?  Because it would be so easy.  But here's the thing.  It shouldn't be easy. 

I'll let Tom Hanks explain:

What amazes me is how many people out there are trying to sell me on the easy.  No one is trying to sell me on the great.  Cat Valente makes a great point that while so many people are talking about how many e-books Amanda Hocking sold, no one is really talking about whether or not the books are great.  No one seems to care, they just think it's awesome that she sold so many.  This makes me really nervous.

I do hear the sirens calling how easy it is.  But I'm going to stay lashed to the mast and weather through, thanks.


leigh said...

Speaking as someone with precisely zero publishing experience, this newest post inspired a couple of thoughts just for the sake of discussion (disclaimer: Repeat, no publishing experience!).

First thing, it's not unheard of for a book to have had first small printing, and then be picked up by a larger publishing house later. But I think the catch is in the contract. It would be very easy for an author to get screwed over if the small publishing house they first signed with had a "sorry, you're stuck with us forever and have to always pay us a portion of your profits" clause. But if the contract was iron-clad in protecting the author's interests -- ie, the publishing house will do ONLY one printing, they are entitled to profits from ONLY that printing, and they still owe the author royalties -- then it might not be a bad thing to go with a small-but-willing publishing house initially. Goodness knows it happens in the music industry often enough!

And speaking of the music industry, one could liken selling one's own e-books on to a musical artist circumventing the traditionally corrupt music label industry by selling their music direct on iTunes, CDbaby, etc. Some independent musicians have done very well that way and are able to keep most of their profits, so *in theory*, might it not be possible for published works, too?

Whether one goes with a small publishing house, gets picked up by a large publishing house, or self-publishes, it's undoubtedly wise to consult an attorney who specializes in intellectual property law, and of published works in particular. No author deserves to suffer a "Joy of Cooking" disaster, where the publisher takes advantage of an under-advised author, and in the end the author winds up with little to nothing.

Abby said...

Leigh: From what I understand, the major publishers want "first publication rights" unless you already have an established fan base (like Amanda Hocking). They'll avoid a previously published novel, even if it's out of print. I'm not sure why they insist on this, though. Any insights?