Home » Agents, Amazon, Big Publishing, Self-Publishing » Ciao Publishers. Ciao Agents. Ciao slavery.

Ciao Publishers. Ciao Agents. Ciao slavery.

7 May 2012

From the comments to Kris’s Post – Spread the Word, a classic letter to The Author Guild from 70-year-old author Suzanne White:

It’s unfortunate that an entity which professes to be an “Authors Guild” doesn’t work for authors. It works instead for the publishing industry. It works to try to protect what is obsolete.

Authors today can go to Amazon with books they have written, post them on Kindle or develop paperbacks with Createspace or seek to actually be published by Amazon… and get a 70% royalty on their sales. Do you encourage them? Do you help them to understand how they can gain their freedom? Do you applaud those courageous authors who self publish, sell on Kindle and make a living? No you do not. Instead, you warble on, lamenting the fact Bezos is taking over the crusty publishing industry. DUH!

Shame.

Where in the traditional publishing industry can an author command 70%? Where can an author have utter dominion over cover art? Formatting? Content? Illustrations? Impact? Marketing? The answer is Amazon. And a little bit Pubit and sometimes Smashwords or Apple as well. Where in the standard publishing industry can an author revive a book that he or she wrote in 1982, sold to a publisher who printed it, didn’t sell very many and took it right off the market? Amazon, that’s where. Author gets rights back, re-formats the book, slams it up for sale on Kindle and in six months is making money with that book.

Where? Tell me. Where can an author do better?

Why does a Guild for Authors rail on about monopolies and decry the demise of old-fashioned publishing as we knew it? Dinosaurs still prowling the streets of Manhattan want their good old boy industry back. Give it up already.

I have been an author for 37 years. I have had agents and publishers up to here. Most authors are, like myself, fed up with the good old boys. Publishers pay gigantic overhead for prime real estate offices and switchboards and secretaries and senior editors and junior editors and cafeterias and fancy seduction lunches for unsuspecting newbie authors and deign give 10 lousy % to an author? Agents? They don’t work for authors either. They flog your book, take their % and when you get into a dispute with a publisher, agents crawl under the couch.

Is our Authors Guild really just an arm of the Publishers Guild? We authors who want to retain digital rights so we can sell our books directly are discouraged from even trying. “Don’t self-publish. You might explode.” You warn. “Get an industry standard, agency acceptable royalty.”

You guys! Help authors reach their potential. Stop going to bat for the big guys. It’s over boys. Move on out. Don’t blame Bezos. Blame history. Ebooks are the future. Young people today grew up on screens. They don’t know any other way. Can you really imagine you might convince the young to return to paper? It’s Farenheit 451 in reverse. We are burning the books — not because they contain information deleterious to society, but because they are unwieldy and wasteful. Yes, you can spill coffee on a paper book and it won’t lose battery power. But if I pour my coffee on my Kindle and it seizes up, I call Amazon and they tell me how to restore it to its spiffy old self and they return all my books to me presto because they have stored them for me on their computers. I cannot take my coffee-stained copy of War and Peace back to the bookstore and ask for it to be replaced. No way.

I, for one, am content to have rigorously retained all my electronic rights. From the beginning in 1975. Thanks to digital rights, I now make a living from my books – which is more than I can say for all the years I was indentured to Simon and Shoestring.

Ciao Publishers. Ciao Agents. Ciao slavery.

Suzanne White

Agents, Amazon, Big Publishing, Self-Publishing

56 Comments to “Ciao Publishers. Ciao Agents. Ciao slavery.”

  1. It always makes me twitch when someone blithely throws around a comparison to slavery to make a point.

    Outside of that, it was full of enjoyable snark. :-)

    • It’s hyperbole, but then — some of the clauses in PG’s contract collection impose conditions that no free citizen should ever be subjected to. Blanket non-competes for all written works; assignment of all rights for the entire term of copyright; assignment of exclusive rights to derivative works, so that an author can be fired from his own series and the work contracted out to others; warranty clauses that give the publisher the exclusive right to settle claims, but force the writer to pay whatever damages the publisher agrees to — what are these, and many others, but attempts to impose involuntary servitude by contractual skulduggery?

      • Except those contracts … and the conditions contained therein … are entirely voluntary. “Didn’t read” doesn’t equate to “forced to sign.”

        I recognize the hyperbolic (is that a word?) intent; it just always comes across as done in poor taste or overly dramatic, that’s all.

        But that’s just me.

        • Often those conditions are hidden in places where no one but a trained IP lawyer would think to look — and not every one of those. And the number of agents who are trained IP lawyers is roughly equal to the number of fingers on the average kneecap.

          ‘Tricked into signing’ is a legitimate and appallingly common complaint.

          • Tom, no one’s being forced to do anything. Signing a contract without knowing what you’re signing is no one’s fault but your own.

            Again, the comparison to slavery is lazy, and it’s a dumb way to end an otherwise good piece.

            • On the one hand, it may seem hyperbole. On the other hand, I’ve lived in situations where the constructed reality — while being mostly false in retrospect — was pretty darn confining. So I’m not sure I want to argue “lazy” or “hyperbole” with a 70 year old author who’s been writing since 1975, dealing with publishers who got steadily more and more fruitbat guano freaky. She lived it. We didn’t.

            • Yet “roughly equal to the number of fingers on the average kneecap” is a thoroughly hilarious metaphor.

            • This is exactly how slavery was enacted in ancient Greece: taking advantage of/exploiting a system designed to deceive one into literally signing one’s life/livelihood away. Slavery, even in the modern world, can be entered into “voluntarily.” It’s not the kind of hyperbole you’re making it out to be.

              The surviving writings of and about Solon of Athens are good historical context for this, as is the post-slavery American history of sharecropping.

              -Dan

            • Dear diary: Today I learned that signing a bad book contract without being aware of what I was signing is akin to being forcibly removed from my homeland, shipped overseas, separated from my family, forced to work beyond human limits in deplorable conditions, raped, and murdered.

              My mistake. Obviously, the publishers/agents are as bad as Hitler. No hyperbole there, either. :D

            • Michael Matewauk

              “slavery was never abolished; it was just spread to all the races.”

              –C. Bukowski

              (though I’m pretty sure Bukowski had one of the rare angels-with-trumpets-blaring-through-clouds great relationships between author and publisher)

            • There is nothing overstated about the comparison to slavery, except, perhaps, what era of slavery we are talking about.

              Modern era slavery, the kind we are familiar with from the antebellum south, was involuntary. Ancient slavery, however, as referenced elsewhere in this thread, was in many cases voluntary.

              In the ancient world, an impoverished or endebted man or woman would sell themselves (or their children) into slavery either for a period of time, or in perpetuity. And unlike modern slavery, slaves in this system did have limited rights.

            • Once again: “book publishing contract with unfavorable terms” = “selling oneself (or children) into slavery.”

              I’m fascinated by this, and by how seriously a lot of us seem to take ourselves.

            • I’ll be honest.

              What really got me was this:

              “Dinosaurs still prowling the streets of Manhattan want their good old boy industry back.”

              I’ve never been to New York. And now – I intend NEVER to go.

              Because I’m not going to travel to someplace where dinosaurs prowl the streets.

              It just isn’t happening.

            • I have to admit I’m enjoying the back and forth here, and see both points, but one would think that writers would understand the use of hyperbole in metaphor. The comparison between publishing and slavery is not one of degrees of discomfort, but of the function and restriction of contract.

              It’s a metaphor, not a description.

            • “Dear diary: Today I learned that signing a bad book contract without being aware of what I was signing is akin to being forcibly removed from my homeland, shipped overseas, separated from my family, forced to work beyond human limits in deplorable conditions, raped, and murdered.”

              I’m not having a go here, Dan, honestly.

              Slavery takes many forms, it wasn’t an invention of the middle of the last millennium.

              You are, I’m afraid, equating the word slavery to a specific ‘form’ of slavery. This is understandable, given that it is the form we are all most familiar with and that it was probably the most reprehensible form of slavery in history (which anybody of European descent has to acknowledge as a crime of their ancestors — not feel guilt for, but acknowledge that there is a high likelihood somebody in your family tree was involved in the trade).

              When the British Empire outlawed slavery, they brought in indentured servitude instead, which took the form of a contract where you gave up your rights from a certain amount of time in return for money or transpiration. Indentures, before the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, were one way a lot of poor people got to North America. That is a form of time-limited slavery.

              You can argue that being a serf in the middle ages was a form of slavery. Then there is the slavery of ancient Rome, which really wasn’t based on racism, but simply getting conquered by the Romans. The Romans freed so many slaves and made them citizens that the Greeks were appalled.

              Slavery is a word. The fact that in conjures up images of the African slave trade does not mean that that is all it refers too.

              I know there was the whole ‘House Slave’ storm a while ago, which sensitised people to the use of this word.

              But I don’t think every time somebody uses the word that they should be jumped on by people who feel uncomfortable about the recent past. African Slavery happened, we are still (even those of us not in the US) dealing with the aftermath of that appalling period of history, but we don’t deal with it by denying the word to writers.

              Hyperbolic maybe, distasteful, not really. IMHO.

            • Y’all seem to think that I’m more offended by the use of the word “slavery” itself than I really am. I just think it’s a melodramatic (hyperbole notwithstanding) use of a term to describe a BOOK CONTRACT, and it distracted from the point of the article. It’s a job contract, like any other, no more, no less. Using some of the logic displayed here, I could easily call my military service “slavery” and it would have been much more appropriate than the way Suzanne White used it. But I wouldn’t because, I dunno, it wasn’t.

              A few days ago, people were up in arms because some doofus described Amazon as “the great Satan.” It appears that the worth of metaphors depends upon which side of the argument they’re on.

              If Scott Turow or someone at Random House had made a similar statement invoking slavery to describe, for example, KDP Select, this place would have melted from righteous indie rage.

              Conversely, if Suzanne had instead said, “Ciao, Nazi concentration camp!” I think this conversation would be going differently.

              But I honestly couldn’t care less about this whole discussion at this point. I made an innocuous comment about word choice, and followed it up by complimenting the article itself. Several of you apparently took that personally, for some reason, and believe that Ms. White’s publishing predicament is slavery in one form or another. Some believe that a publishing contract with less-than-ideal terms is the same as an entity literally owning another person for however long a term.

              I don’t. Big whoop.

            • *Looks back and forth*

              I’d just like to say now I can’t wait to go to New York City because dinosaurs are totally cool. I’ve always wanted a pet velociraptor.

            • Apologies, Dan, for doing exactly what I thought you were doing, make one word more important than it actually is.

            • Can someone please elaborate about the “Dinosaurs still prowling the streets of Manhattan…?”

              Because I found a video of one of them, and this one looks pretty big:

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_3r2WZmYFU&feature=relmfu

              Also, I know Matthew Broderick lives in NYC, but does anyone know why he’s speaking French?

            • Be careful, Andrea. Because Velociraptor’s a pack hunter, you see, he uses coordinated attack patterns and he is out in force today. And he slashes at you with a six-inch retractable claw, like a razor, on the the middle toe. He doesn’t bother to bite your jugular like a lion, say… no no. He slashes at you here … or here … or maybe across the belly, spilling your intestines. The point is… you are alive when they start to eat you.

              Just sayin’. :-)

            • Oh don’t worry — as long as I have my trusty dinosaur leash no velociraptor will get the best of me. Also, I will feed it delicious cookies.

            • It’s a job contract, like any other, no more, no less.

              No, Dan, it really isn’t. No job contract ever has a noncompete clause that lasts for life and can prevent you from ever working in the same field again. Publishers routinely try to insert such clauses into publishing contracts. (And they don’t call them non-compete clauses when they do that; they hide them in places where most agents and some lawyers won’t think to look for such things, and couch them in such obfuscated language that even a trained IP lawyer may fail to spot the ‘gotcha’.) No job contract ever has a clause requiring you to redo your work as many times as your employer wishes before you get paid. But publishing contracts with bad editing clauses can, and have, kept authors revising the same book for years before ever seeing publication and the chance of royalties. No job contract can compel you to work for less than the legal minimum wage — but publishing contracts very often pay less than minimum wage for the time the writer requires to do the job.

              But here’s the big one. No job contract ever gives the employer the power to alter the terms of the contract at will. Publishers are routinely known to do that. Basket accounting for books that were contractually separate; claiming ebook rights and other subsidiary rights that the author never agreed to sell; arbitrarily changing policies on reserves against returns, royalty accounting, and payment dates (never in the writer’s favour) — these are common practices among publishers, and they are blatantly illegal, but any writer who tries to fight them will find himself out of a job and unable to work in the industry again.

              Until recently, the only difference between these kinds of practices and slavery was that the writer could refuse ever to write for book publication again, and get out of the situation that way. Well, even chattel slaves could run away.

              We are not talking about voluntary and lawful contracts here, but about systematic and flagrant abuses of contract law by publishers. They have been going on for decades, growing steadily worse all the while. They do not amount to literal slavery, but they so resemble it in important respects that you actively insult a great many writers by sneering the way you do.

            • Well, one thing I don’t want to do is insult writers who compare contracts to slavery. I’d much rather insult actual slaves by comparing contracts to slavery.

              My eyes have been opened. It’s slavery to the core.

              My apologies.

            • Steve, I don’t think any apologies are needed from anyone. I tell you what, if I’m going to get into a discussion/disagreement anywhere on the internets, this is the place to do it. Civility seems to be the rule around here.

            • I agree – there’s quite an articulate and civil bunch hanging around PG’s blog. :)

              As a former trad-pubbed author, I agree with Tom’s assessment. There are systemic problems with how publishers treat authors. Aside from never being able to get rights back, and crappy ebook royalties, my experience with them was mild. Things like finding out about foreign sales when the translator got in touch via my website to ask a couple questions. Things like the twice-yearly royalty statements *always* being at least a month late. Things like not bothering to load the book covers onto Amazon in advance, and leaving it for the author to figure out (this was a few years ago, when Amazon wasn’t quite the big gun it is now.) Holding ‘reserves against returns’ money for 5+ years. Knowing that the publisher’s line was going down, but not bothering to tell the authors until a whole bunch didn’t get their contracts renewed. Little stuff, but it all adds up~

            • No worries, Dan. Arguing the idea not insulting the other person is a much nicer way to spend the time :)

    • Maybe indentured servitude is a better description.

  2. I was going to say Suzanne White’s words make me want to go buy her ebooks. Then I checked and found I already have several of her ebooks. Thanks for the wonderful words and thanks for the ebooks Ms White.

  3. I would like to thank Suzanne for a bang-up letter, and to Kris as well for her outstanding blog. (You too, PG) All points that have been made are so right, so valid, that I do hope the Authors Guild will see this and see straight. Otherwise, I have a feeling they will find their membership roster in decline, if it already isn’t. When PG mentioned that the big authors sometimes get as much as 60 to 80 per cent royalties, I was stunned senseless. Somehow I’ve been writing all these years with no inkling that this was the case. Well kept secret, it was. Oh, I thought they maybe got 25 or 30 to my 15, but this is egregious. Small royalties AND no rights? Ciao indeed!

    • They don’t get 60 percent royalties, they get royalties that are much lower, but the best authors can get advances that are much higher than they expect to earn out.

      • To do that, they generally have to give up all world rights and often film rights as well. I have read of cases where a publisher offered a seven-figure advance for a sure bestseller, and recouped the entire amount by the auction of subsidiary rights before the book appeared in print. Of course, this did not mean the author had earned out the advance; far from it. The terms of the contract allowed the publisher to keep as much as half the subsidiary rights revenue; only the other half was applied towards the author’s advance.

    • When and where did PG ever say authors get 60 to 80 percent royalties? I think I can say without fear of contradiction that no publishing contract has ever provided such terms. I have seen it alleged by publishers that bestselling authors receive 60 to 80 percent of net profits from their works; but this is extremely unlikely to be true.

      It is widely known, for instance, that the J. R. R. Tolkien estate receives much more money on the contract for The Lord of the Rings than it would on a standard royalty contract, because Stanley Unwin acquired the rights to the book on a half-profit basis. That means that 50 percent of net profits is a greater percentage of sales than any author receives on a standard royalty deal — once up-front expenses are paid and there is actual profit to divide. Unwin offered Tolkien such a contract because it reduced his up-front costs (because there was no advance) and allowed him to price the book more cheaply at a time of severe paper shortages (because he did not have to include a fixed sum for author’s royalties in his cost accounting). In ordinary circumstances, publishers never offer such terms.

      • The 60-80% came from Mike Shatzkin and isn’t a royalty number.

        First, the quote: “Since the most reliable big authors with savvy and competent agents are already getting 60 to 80 percent of the revenue their books produce guaranteed to them . . . .”

        He’s talking about high advances that mean the author receives 60-80% of the revenue their books will generate for the publisher in the form of an advance that will never be earned out.

        Here’s the link to the entire post – http://www.thepassivevoice.com/05/2012/amazons-lengthening-shadow/

        • Right, I’ve read that post. His numbers, quite frankly, are bunk. It is sometimes true that an author’s advance equals 60 to 80 percent of the eventual revenue from the U.S. (only) trade (only) edition on the book rights (only). But such contracts, as you and I both know, always include a basket of subsidiary rights, generally including MMPB, ebook, and foreign rights; and that is where the publisher makes its money. Not including those revenues when you calculate the author’s percentage is simply dishonest.

  4. You are on fire, and I absolutely agree with you. I worked in the magazine publishing business, so I know how it works. I love to read a good rant from someone who knows what they’re talking about.

  5. Oh,,, I love her. Has she done a YouTube video? This woman needs to go viral. I am going to twitter and facebook this for sure. I have been getting some shame mail recently from other people who are into traditional publishing, and I think this answers all those questions very well.

  6. Wow! Go, Ms. White! Agree with viral ::clicking over to facebook page:: she’s beautifully clear. Tell it!

  7. I agree, slavery is a hyperbolic. But, the sentiment is right on. For those of us who see indi publishing and self publishing as a valid option, the traditional world can look like a bunch of rules that are about ‘dancing to the beat of someone else’s drummer’.

    Many of us see the opportunity as things we get to do rather than we have to do.

  8. Bravo, Ms. White, bravo!!

  9. Seventy years old, and still kicking a**. An excellent piece. Thank you, Ms. White, for yellin’ it out. And a big thank you to Passive Guy, for not being all that passive.

    All my best,

    Rob M. Miller

  10. As a writer who has never published other than by my own fair hands I think this is spot on. You go girl.

    Carol x

  11. I love to see posts like this! Kudos Suzanne White!

    On a side note, it’s not just authors that are cutting out the middle man. Musicians are doing it too:
    http://video.msnbc.msn.com/the-rachel-maddow-show/47331553#47331553

    The freedom that artists have today is wonderful!

  12. wow, for a bunch of writers and readers, it’s surprising how many are affronted by a mere metaphor. *I* understood your use of slavery, and I’m not all that smart. What does that say about the people who went on an on about it?

    So anyway, great article. I love seeing the Old Model get the boot when they’re not being responsive to their audience (see also: modern media, RIAA, and the movie biz).

    Army of Davids!

    • Actually, one person was affronted by the metaphor: Dan DeWitt. The rest of us were trying patiently to explain to him that it wasn’t the irresponsible hyperbole he takes it for.

      • And then there’s the way the industry screams about pirates and pirating. More metaphore, inducing a mental picture . . . of Johnny Depp.

        Although from the volume you might think cutlass wielding buckaneers were boarding the Great Ship of Publishing and hacking editors to death on a daily basis.

        • Me, I prefer the image of the Crimson Permanent Assurance (from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life), crashing through the boardroom windows of the Very Big Corporation of America, duelling the executives with cutlasses made out of fan blades.

  13. An interesting and provocative post.

    As a literary agent whose agency has done quite well by its authors (IMHO; but by way of credentials, our clients had 15 books on the NYT bestseller lists last year, and we’ve had 5 NYT bestsellers so far this year) I have some pretty obvious opinions about the role of agents in the whole publishing process. But I don’t think this is necessarily the right forum to defend my profession, other than to say that authors are free to retain agents or not retain agents based on how they value the agent’s contribution.

    What I do find curious—particularly given the tone and content of some of the comments to this post—is why authors seem to see Amazon (and in particular, KDP) as some sort of panacea for their frustrated publishing ambitions.

    KDP (and its equivalents with other retailers) can be excellent opportunities for certain kinds of authors; in fact, we occasionally recommend them to our clients. But for those concerned with the terms and conditions of publishing contracts, I’ve rarely seen anything in a traditional contract that compares with clauses 2.1 and 2.2 of the KDP contract:

    “2.1 Changes to Agreement Terms Other than Those in Sections 5.4.1 (Royalties) and 5.5 (Grant of Rights). Changes to terms of this Agreement other than those contained in Section 5.4.1 (Royalties) and 5.5 (Grant of Rights) will be effective on the date we post them, unless we otherwise provide at the time we post the changes. You are responsible for checking for updates and your continued use of the Program after we post changes will constitute your acceptance of the changes. If you do not agree to the changes, you must withdraw your Digital Books from further distribution through the Program and terminate your use of the Program.”

    https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/help?topicId=APILE934L348N

    Note that Amazon can change royalties and/or the grant of rights unilaterally as well—they just have to give the author 30 days notice. Attempts to negotiate any of these clauses have resulted in two outcomes: “like it” or “lump it.”

    For authors who dabble, who have no other options, or who are looking to take advantage of backlists or other assets that have previously lain fallow, Amazon represents a tremendous opportunity.

    But for authors who depend on the proceeds of their writing for things like, say, paying mortgages or sending children to college—entering into an arrangement that the other party may alter with little notice would seem to merit, at the very least, a heightened sense of scrutiny, rather than mass exultation.

    • Thanks for your comments, Scott.

      However, if you’re quoting the KDP contracts, you should also mention Paragraph 3:

      The term of this Agreement will begin upon your acceptance of it and will continue until it is terminated by us or by you. We are entitled to terminate this Agreement and your access to your Program account at any time. We will notify you within 5 business days after termination. You are entitled to terminate at any time by providing us notice of termination, in which event we will cease selling your Digital Books within 5 business days from the date you provide us notice of termination.

      I suspect you are not able to obtain the right for your authors to terminate their contracts with publishers if they become dissatisfied with the way the publisher is treating them or their books. If you have an agency agreement with your authors, I suspect the authors do not have the right to terminate at any time free and clear of any ongoing commission payments to you.

      This is a freedom that many traditionally-published authors wish they had. Check the Harlequin Fail post that appeared today for an example.

      • You’re right; in the vast majority of our traditional publishing contracts, the authors may not unilaterally terminate. (Of course, they’re compensated for that restriction and others by commensurate up-front advances which, in most cases, the publishers are responsible for paying, even if they don’t publish the book.)

        And, of course, we negotiate out-of-print provisions whenever possible that include sales thresholds in the event the only extant editions are eBook or POD versions of a title.

        But when authors are hiring their own editors, commissioning their own cover art, doing their own copyediting, and taking on 100% of the responsibility for marketing (i.e., for all intents and purposes self-publishing), we would absolute insist on an author’s right to unilaterally terminate. Of course, we’re rarely involved in these kinds of deals, though it does happen on occasion.

        There’s also no doubt that some publishers’ contracts are more author-friendly than others’. (I could write a dissertation on how some publishers use discount clauses to reduce authors’ royalties.) But at the end of the day, it’s a judgment call– is this particular deal better for this particular writer at this particular time than the alternatives. And I do think that, overwhelmingly, having KDP and its cousins as viable alternatives puts a significant amount of market pressure on publishers– particularly genre publishers– and will, in the long run, go a long way toward ensuring that any publisher, traditional or nontraditional, only captures as much value as it creates.

        One more comment– I’m quite enjoying the blog, but I do wish I could comment on some of your previous posts about agents’ competence in negotiating contracts. I obviously don’t speak for the profession at large, but as one of the owners of an agency that negotiates contracts for dozens, if not hundreds of titles a year, I and the other agents who work with me know what we’re doing.

        We also have the experience of having agency boilerplate that’s been negotiated over the lifetime of our firm in competitive situations– particularly six- and seven-figure auctions.

        (Not to mention that the head of our contracts department is one of the best publishing attorneys in the country…)

        • Agreed, Scott.

          In any of my posts about agents, I try to be clear that, as with any group of people, some are better at their jobs than others.

  14. Lastly, I’m not going to further sully PG’s place just because you crave attention, especially since I was just saying how it always remains so civil. So, if you have a desire to try and bait me into giving you more time, do everyone a favor and save your breath.

  15. Elizabeth Lang

    Speaking of slavery, it’s amazing how many people have never read the Amazon policies for books. I doubt if you would be singing the its praises if they really understood what Amazon is doing. Are you aware of all the restrictions that are imposed on books that actually get the 70% commission and that the author has absolutely no protection against abuse?

    And do you realize that most people don’t dare price their books within that range and they get stuck paying the lion’s share to Amazon, for which Amazon does next to nothing other than provide an online sales platform, because the poor authors have to do all the work themselves, including formatting and uploading the book, something they didn’t have to bother with before!

    I was making a study of Amazon book covers and I can’t believe how amateurish most of them look. I could even identify exactly what problems they were having with their graphics programs. I didn’t have that problem with books of authors who actually had a big name publisher.

    Yes, I can see how having to do all the work in terms of covers, edits etc is so much better than having a publisher do that for you. How dare they spend their money on prime real estate. Of course, editors, proofreaders are just useless people that volunteer their services for free and the prestige and sales push of being attached to a known publishing brand is worth nothing. I’m sure advertisers would be thrilled to know that.

    I’m with a small publisher and I’m very happy with the wonderful level of support I get from them. They’ve helped me improve myself as a writer and I no longer feel like a tiny speck lost in the vast ocean of the publishing industry. I cannot stress enough the value of knowing I’m not alone and have a team of people in the industry behind me, supporting me. And I get a very nice royalty, thank you. I think it depends on the publisher.

  16. Brenda J. Walker

    Why say goodbye when you can get even, or better still, get more?

    I’m a full-time entrepreneur and a part-time writer who is working on my first book. I’m also a music industry geek, who was on the frontline when recorded music product sales hit their peak and in the years after as the impact of the mp3, file sharing and online streaming caused disruption.

    What amazes me about this kind of statement is how much it projects a lack of sophistication about how to maximize value and opportunities in the new world of publishing. It misses that the real power for the creator is not in choosing to sell direct through Amazon, but in having the option to do so.

    Suzanne asks “Where can an author have utter dominion over cover art? Formatting? Content? Illustrations? Impact? Marketing?” and answers “Amazon.”

    How about seeking to use the leverage that the singular option affords you to secure that option from more than one source, perhaps even a publisher, if that publisher can offer some value to you?

    Fifteen years ago it was practically unheard of for a new artist to have reversion rights in a major label recording contract. Now, if that artist has created leverage by developing an audience before they go for a major label deal, they can get reversion and much more.

    Don’t just say goodbye and walk away from publishers and agents if they can help you in true partnership, and if you don’t want to be burdened with the responsibility that comes with having “utter dominion” over cover art, illustrations, marketing and other elements that may not be your strength. (And looking at what some writers choose to do for cover art and marketing on their own, there’s no question that it is not their forte.)

    Use your power and leverage to build a team and enter relationships that work for you, not you working for or (*gasp*) being “enslaved” by them.

  17. Muriel Akamatsu

    Succinct, well-stated, fun to read. But, most of all, so TRUE.

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