Friday, January 13, 2017

Writing: Choosing Mode Of Publication

I wrote last week about my own experience with a publisher that encountered problems preventing their publishing my next novel. Then one comment that was left set me thinking. Apparently, some people don't realize that publishers choose to give authors book contracts, not the other way around. And getting a publisher isn't all that simple. How does one go about selecting the publishing houses they query about a novel? And the big question everyone seems to be asking nowadays: why not self-publish?

Selecting sites for querying can be done solo, but here's where I think an agent earns his/her money. They know the ins and outs of publishing, who wants what type of novel, which house isn't accepting queries right now... There are a lot of questions, and by and large agents know the answers. It won't be as simple as querying one house and getting an immediate answer. And even if the answer is "yes," it takes months for a deal memo and ultimately a contract to be hammered out. When it is, it takes about a year from turning in a manuscript to release of the book. (We've talked before about everything that goes into that year's work, and I can discuss that again sometime if you'd like).

What about self-publishing? The ranks of  writers doing "indie" (i.e., independent or self-publication) publishing are swelling. Part of this is a reaction to increasing numbers of books and authors (over 300,000 new titles per year, and those figures are old now). There are only so many publishers and slots for books from them, so not everyone gets a contract. As a result, some folks turn to this method.  It also is being driven by the disparity in royalties between contracted (i.e., "traditional") publishing and "indie" publication. In return for lower royalties, the contracted author relies on the publishing company for marketing, getting the book into retail channels, assistance entering contests, sending the book out for reviews, etc. Some individuals like the control indie publishing gives them, so they don't mind doing all this. Others prefer to leave the other stuff to their publisher and collect a smaller royalty in return.

That's a quick and admittedly superficial review of the processes and differences. What questions do you have? I'll try to answer them (or find someone who can do it). Let me know.

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EM Griffith said...

Publishing has always been a "buyer's market", and over the past few decades (in large part due to e-books), changes have not been good for writers. If you get a contract, it's now usually an agreement to sell all rights. So the author isn't paid additional money for electronic sales, translations/foreign sales, reprints, etc. contractually. Also, publishers spend/do less than they used to for promotion of books other than for big name authors. Even those foot more of the bill today. Finding a well-connected agent is also tough, most houses don't accept unagented work, thus the rise in Indie or self-publishing, and with fewer brick & mortar book stores, distribution is less critical than it used to be. Amazon is the giant. It's how I discovered your books. A publisher isn't necessary for books on Amazon.

EM Griffith said...

For authors able to find an agent, yes, they can be helpful both in finding a willing publisher and in promotion of books, but like all things, ultimate success depends a lot on the individual agent... and the author will still have to do a lot of self-promotion for consumer sales. It's always been a brutal business. One that seems to have become harder for writers. I'm hoping you find a buyer for your next novels soon. Can't wait to read them!

Richard Mabry said...

Elise, I've tried to be sort of neutral with my posts, but I have to admit I agree with you. The publishing business never really was set up with authors in mind, and that's as it should be, I suppose. But the rise of self-published work should be sending a message to publishers that the system has to change. On the other hand, as I pointed out, the publisher takes a chance with every book of the author's they publish, having invested in cover design, editing, printing, marketing, etc. I wish I knew the answer, but my crystal ball is cloudy right now.
And as for my next novel, watch here (and on my newsletter--those recipients always hear first) for news of my forthcoming self-published long novella, Doctor's Dilemma.
Thanks for your comments.

Iola said...

It's an important distinction: "real" publishers choose their authors, not the other way around. Also, real publishers pay their authors ... not the other way around.

Publishers offering these deals call themselves a variety of things - partner publishers, co-operative publishers, subsidy publishers, self-publishers, even traditional publishers. Savvy authors call them vanity publishers. And there are a lot of them, even in the Christian publishing market.

I have no problem with people offering services to authors, like editing and cover design and formatting. But there is a big difference between selling an author a service on an hourly or job rate, and selling them the lie that if they hand over their manuscript and $2000, they'll be a real published author.

Richard Mabry said...

Iola, important points, and some that sometimes aren't apparent to people who see ads promising to publish their novel. If you choose to go with a traditional publisher, they'll do all that you mention as part of their efforts to produce and market your book. Authors who self-publish are responsible for all that. Unfortunately, the ones that advertise "we'll publish your book" and ask for money don't fall in either category. Writer beware.