Home » Big Publishing, Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing » 5 Reasons You Should Still Pursue a Traditional Book Contract

5 Reasons You Should Still Pursue a Traditional Book Contract

27 December 2016

From Women Writers, Women’s Books:

I can’t tell you how often I am asked if I am self-published, and even though it’s a fair question I admit I am a bit sensitive to the assumption that I couldn’t have gotten my book published the old-fashioned way. This is because I worked pretty hard to be traditionally published and while I might self-publish someday, I’m glad I went through the traditional publishing journey.

. . . .

The traditional submission process makes your novel better. Sure, you are going to get rejected. I’ve been rejected my fair share, and so have J.K. Rowling and John Grisham, but if I had to go through all of that rejection again, I would do it. The great thing about the traditional submission process is that every time you are rejected, you have to revisit your manuscript and make it better before sending it out again. Revision is a great teacher, and I’ve learned a ton from editors who have rejected my work. If you still decide to go the self-publication route someday, you will be glad that your manuscript was read, critiqued, and rejected by editors who knew what they were doing.

 Being traditionally published is a VIP Pass. If you manage to get traditionally published, it will be good for the rest of your career. Even if you self-publish or go with a small publisher later, as I have, you’ll be able to say that you were previously published by a large traditional publisher. This isn’t just for bragging rights, but so that new doors and opportunities to reach your readers will open up to you. For example, when I first queried one of the small publishers I am now with, I noticed that all of their existing authors were previously with larger legacy publishers. Well, good news. So was I. I am sure it helped my submission on some level when I was able to say I was previously published by Random House.

Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books

Big Publishing, Self-Publishing, The Business of Writing

98 Comments to “5 Reasons You Should Still Pursue a Traditional Book Contract”

  1. Barbara Morgenroth

    “Being traditionally published is a VIP Pass. If you manage to get traditionally published, it will be good for the rest of your career.”

    Trust me on this. No, it won’t. I couldn’t get an agent or an editor to speak to me at this point even if I crawled on my hands and knees to NYC and begged most sincerely for a moment of their time and I’ve had 15 or so books (fiction and nonfic) traditionally published with top houses. Mentioning my work in television is stupid because that is not a feature to them it’s a very bad bug not proving I can write or tell story.

    Embracing reality is always a good idea.

  2. True. Bypassing those whose business it is to spot snarls in a story can be a big mistake. The process of learning what makes a story stand out from the slushpile is invaluable. Learn what a good ms looks like, get some street cred, THEN try self-publishing.

    • It’s actually not invaluable. There’s a specific cost associated with it, and it’s a cost I’m not willing to pay with the rights to my intellectual property or any control over those rights, especially when I can learn everything I need to learn to be a successful author through many other means.

    • To learn what a good ms looks like, read. A lot. Of everything including self-published books. Then if you can afford it, pay an editor of your own, who will not demand ownership of copyright forever, nor make it impossible for you to write another book unless they give you permission.

    • Self publishers do not bypass “those whose business it is to spot snarls in a story”. They hire editors, use beta readers, writing groups, etc. That you think they do shows how little you understand about the industry.

  3. This is sound advice. Bypassing those whose business it is to spot snarls in a story can be a big mistake. The process of learning what makes a story stand out from the slushpile is invaluable. Learn what a good ms looks like, get some street cred, THEN try self-publishing.

    • The same effect can be achieved through faster means.
      No need to surrender copyright control for a century.

      This is very dated, very bad advice.

      The only sound economic reason to accept a tradpub contract in this second decade of the 21st century is up front money in job lots.

      (And the odds of that are generally low. Nothing to pin hopes and dreams on.)

    • I’m curious what a writer can learn from this:

      “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider your manuscript. We read it with interest but I regret we will not be making an offer of publication. We do not feel that (Publisher’s Name) is the right firm to successfully publish this book.

      Thank you for thinking of us, and we wish you every success in finding a publisher for your work.”

      Not exactly instructive, IMHO.

      • +1

      • +1

        And if receiving rejection letters is what one wants, then why not undertake the submissions process with short stories instead of novels? It’s a quicker feedback loop and the contracts are usually writer-friendly (as opposed to being actively hostile toward the writer, replete with take-it-or-leave-it clauses).

      • Those are the people whose business it is to spot snarls in a story. Be grateful they took the time to send a form email.

    • Join a (good) writers group.

  4. Thank you, PG, the title itself was worthy of the first laugh of my day. (And whoever ‘Mike’ is was also good for a snort!)

    • Oh, it’s not impossible to identify five reasons to go for tradpub deals. Just not those five.

      • Felix,

        I’d be interested in knowing any you can name (and I say this believing there are some, but that it would be good to have the list).

        I’ll help with one:

        There are individual circumstances in which one’s literary legacy is unlikely to be preserved except through traditional publishing (despite it’s many warts). (I am saying that a traditional publisher, provided it is making money, may be more likely to keep work in print than one’s family or friends–depending, of course, entirely on one’s situation.)

        We can, in other words, somewhat trust a corporate “partner” to behave in its self-interest… sometimes. And sometimes that self-interest may align with our own.

        • Indeed.
          1- If making money is not a concern, tradpub is a viable choice.
          2- Conversely, if upfront money is more important than life cycle revenue, then tradpub is an option. (The payday loan option.)
          3- If you just want to write and don’t mind sacrificing 85% of revenues. (AKA, trusting the universe to take care of you.)
          4- If you are absolutely certain you are the next King/Roberts/Rowling the power of BPH payola will grease the skids for you.
          5- If you control a media IP franchise and you need a ghost writer.

          Bonus:
          6- If your uncle’s second cousin is a BPH executive or you have access to incriminating video clips of a BPH exec.

          • 7- Your author page can refer to your”Amazon best-selling title” which has a sales rank below the half million mark, without readers rolling their eyes and labeling you as a shameless self promoter. That sort of exaggeration is excusable when done by the marketing staff of a large corporation. Indies can’t get away with that kind of thing.

          • Felix,
            Thanks for taking my request seriously and going to the trouble to generate a substantive answer. A very good list; useful.

            I got called away from my morning TPV-reading just after asking my question, so regret that I am tardy with this reply.

            • You’re welcome.

              (I did throw in a bit of snark, though. 😉 )

              People’s needs and interests vary.
              Times change, situations change.
              Makes it important to keep an eye on what constitutes mainstream and what is an outlier. Helps one’s positioning to know where one stands.

        • There are individual circumstances in which one’s literary legacy is unlikely to be preserved except through traditional publishing (despite it’s many warts). (I am saying that a traditional publisher, provided it is making money, may be more likely to keep work in print than one’s family or friends–depending, of course, entirely on one’s situation.)

          I’d quibble with that benefit because the “making money” requirement is so pernicious. I would guess that the number of family or friends who fail to keep a book in print despite it making money are vastly outnumbered by the number of titles not in print because the rights are held by a publisher who isn’t keeping it available because it wasn’t making money because it wasn’t available.

          Also, the threshold of “making money” is much higher for publishers than for friends and family.

          If a writer wants their literary legacy to be preserved, they should appoint a competent literary executor, ideally an organization that is expected to last the 70 years of copyright after the writer’s terminal existence failure.

        • Anyone who thinks their literary legacy is worth preserving is probably wrong.

          • And those thinking it was just the works of a moment would be amazed at some of the things that were ‘worthless’ when written but were later proclaimed treasures.

      • Unless you’re already famous/infamous, already selling like hotcakes, or don’t mind lottery tickets that take a year to see if you’ve won — and longer to see if it was worth winning; you might want to try the self publishing game and see if you can build up a reader base (because unless you’re a .001%er, trad-pub isn’t going to bother marketing you, just overprice your offerings where they won’t see many if any sales.)

        (( .001 figured on not only on being a 1%er to be big enough for any marketing, but also in the 1% (or less) to ‘not’ have simply gotten a rejection slip — if they bothered to inform you.))

    • You’re welcome, Allen.

    • Ms. Forkner’s point — and mine — was not that self-publishing is bad, but that too many new writers are missing out on the experience of the selection and editorial process traditional publishing offers.

      The snide comments this well-intentioned advice received are totally uncalled for.

      • The problem with that advice is that it is harmful advice and can stunt a career.

        These days the single worst outcome (out of a whole spectrum of potential outcomes) for a novice writer is to actually *succeed* at getting an industry standard contract. Have you actually looked at what a modern BPH contract looks like today?

        Here:
        http://www.thepassivevoice.com/2016/09/a-real-book-contract/

        Not. Pretty.

        And that was for a project that drew a big advance so that is a best casec scenario contract. Typical newbies get worse deals.

        The only way to safely navigate those waters is with an established track record and the clout to make *them* pursue you. If you are doing the chase your odds of a successful career go waaay down.

        Now, there are people who aren’t actually pursuing a career but rather pursuing a contract. Any contract. Or seeking validation. Whole different story. They’re welcome to whatever outcome they achieve.

        But trying to sell “impressionable” newbies on a contract as an undoubted GOOD.THING. is a disservice to most of them.

        The safest route is to warn them to think twice, thrice, a dozen times. After that, if they still go ahead you shrug and walk away from the disaster to come.

      • “Ms. Forkner’s point — and mine — was not that self-publishing is bad, but that too many new writers are missing out on the experience of the selection and editorial process traditional publishing offers.”

        Which part(s) Mike?

        Finding an agent (for 15% of anything you might make.)

        The long wait for (much more likely than not) a rejection — most often that won’t bother telling you ‘why’ they actually said ‘no’?

        And ‘if’ you’re one of the ‘lucky’ ones to be offered a contract, you lose all rights and control over your work (and most often lose control over future works because of the ‘first chance to consider’ your next book and the non-compete that you will find in those contracts?) And don’t get me started on the way the qig5 is using agency to kill off new offerings by overcharging for the ebooks …

        And unless you’re the man alone on Mars or doing 50 Shades (both of which started as self-pub in case you hadn’t noticed) all those hoops and restrictions might net you $3-5K minus that agents cut.

        You might want to check out Amazon and the like, you’ll find many writers happily skipping that ‘missing out on the experience of the selection and editorial process traditional publishing offers’.

        Who needs to wait on gatekeepers that can’t really tell what the readers want? And if they don’t know then they can’t possibly be selecting the right books to print.

        Sorry Mike, if it’s a great book then self publish it and let them come to you (though if you’re doing so well they come to you — do you really need them?)

      • “Ms. Forkner’s point — and mine — was […] that too many new writers are missing out on the experience of the selection and editorial process traditional publishing offers.”

        Prior to the rise of self-publishing, I wonder how many Mike’s of the publishing world were pushing agents and traditional publishers to accept and/or publish more writers because of the above-quoted reason?

      • Perhaps if you had a novel that was traditionally published, you might change your mind. From your website, it appears you only have short stories published by small presses. (One of which doesn’t know the difference between except and accept.) Many people posting in the comments have had “successful” traditional publishing experiences before going indie.

        • “Many people posting in the comments have had “successful” traditional publishing experiences before going indie.”

          And they learned something from that experience, didn’t they? Which was all Forkner and I were saying. We did not disparage anyone; we only said that working with a traditional publisher worked for us, and that new writers could learn valuable experience as well. Yet several commenters were determined to express outrage about something, anything, and responded with laughable ad hominem insults. I smell deep insecurity at work here, which often tries to hide behind snobbery. Sad.

          But Elise, ferreting out an error on one of my publishers’ web sites as some kind of dig on me reveals a whole new level of obsession and pettiness I cannot comment on. Words fail.

          BTW, my second novella is due out in July. Here are the reviews from my first, which was traditionally published:

          https://mctuggle.com/aztec-midnight/

          And I want to thank y’all for the clicks on my writing site.

          • But what is the valuable experience? I’m still waiting to hear what I’m supposed to gain from working with a traditional publisher, since I’m a new writer. As far as I can tell, all I’m going to learn is how to get meaningless rejection letters (already familiar with that experience) and, should I get an acceptance, how to read a contract that will strip away all my rights (have a law degree, have read many of those kinds of contracts, and am certainly not going to sign one).

            So please tell me, Mike, what am I going to learn that’s so valuable? Sincerely. Truly. Make the case for me.

            • Mary,

              In addition to benefiting from an expert marketing campaign, I learned how to make my stories better. Traditional publishers have some heavy-duty pros who’ve seen a great deal of what does and doesn’t work in a story.

              Also, I consider myself a pretty good self-editor, and submit all of my mss to my critique group. But the editors I worked with pointed out boo-boos, some subtle, some not so subtle. When we were finished, my ms was a true thing of beauty. I’m looking forward to working with them again.

              BTW, I’ve never seen the kind of draconian publishing contracts the commenters here describe. As with anything else, research the companies you submit to so you don’t end up dealing with shysters.

              • I can learn to make my story better from pros in the indie world. I can learn from actual professional writers, who definitely know what works and what doesn’t in a story.

                I can work with professional editors, who can do just as good a job as any in trad pub.

                I can learn from professional writers and marketers in the indie world how to put together a marketing campaign. In fact, I’d probably have to do that anyway, since every other trad published writer I know has had to contribute to their marketing or do it all on their own.

                And I can do those things without sacrificing my rights or my profits. So you haven’t made your case. You haven’t come up with one thing that I can’t get as good or better in the indie world than in the trad world.

                (And if you haven’t seen the draconian contracts we’re all familiar with, you aren’t reading book contracts. Draconian has become the standard, not the province of shysters alone.)

                • I think Mike’s experience with traditional publishing has taught him some things that are worth sharing with other writers, no matter which side of publishing you are on. Sharing information can only make us better writers. It’s not that you can’t learn these things without pursuing traditional publishing, but the experience has definitely been positive for many of us. The “heavy duty pros” Mike references have taught me how to be more critical of my own work and to see my story in a different way.

                  It’s good to hear different points of view represented here at TPV.

              • “BTW, I’ve never seen the kind of draconian publishing contracts the commenters here describe. ”
                Anecdote is not evidence. Just because you haven’t seen them, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Many of the folks here have seen them (putting it mildly), which is why you are finding such disagreement here.
                E.g.: only last year, I negotiated with a publisher. They took out the right of first refusal clause when I said it was a deal killer. They defended it with the usual arguments, all of which I countered with ease. The clause is gone.
                I had them add a clause that they will give me back the original files at no cost should they go bankrupt (which happened to my previous publisher, who promptly ransomed the files, after also “losing” all the original pictures…) Then we talked about their back-up systems: it’s tape. I explained cloud-bases storage and they were going to look into it…
                I could go on. Others have had a lot worse. Our experiences are just as real as yours and they are not at all the exception. Mrs. Forkner’s piece paints an overly positive image that completely ignores the other side of the coin. If the goal is to give an accurate picture of the industry and advise authors on which path to take, it is misleading at best.

                • +100

                  It is one thing to say: “this worked for me” or to say, “this is what I experienced” and another to extrapolate from that and say “that is what you will experience”.

                  Nobody can properly say that.

              • What I learned from my traditional publishing contract (2 books) and in conversations with my still-trad-published friends, as well as those who have recently fled NY publishing:

                1. Your book is a widget. Publishers need some of their widgets to succeed, but they don’t necessarily care if *your* book does well. If your “numbers are not what we were hoping for” then you’re cut – even if there were issues with printing/distribution/returns that had nothing to do with you as the author. No hard feelings, just business. Good luck getting another contract.

                2. Tradpub advances and print runs are falling precipitously.

                3. You may get quality editing. You may get an editor who has the flu, just broke up with her boyfriend, and her cat died, who will ruin your book. I’ve seen both these things happen to author friends. Or, like me, you could get ZERO content editing and bare-bones copy edits and proofing. And trust me, the second book could really have benefited from a few structural tweaks.

                4. There’s a lot of turnover in editors. You are likely to be “orphaned” at some point, your project given to a new editor who doesn’t like your work at all.

                5. Publishers always screw up royalties. They forget to tell you about foreign sales. They just plain don’t bother sending statements (this has happened to me pretty much every year since 2007, when my debut book published).

      • too many new writers are missing out on the experience of the selection and editorial process traditional publishing offers.

        Anyone with a rejection letter is experiencing the selection process of tradition of publishing.

      • “Ms. Forkner’s point — and mine — was not that self-publishing is bad, but that too many new writers are missing out on the experience of the selection and editorial process traditional publishing offers.

        The snide comments this well-intentioned advice received are totally uncalled for.”

        Thanks, Mike. That’s exactly what I meant. I hope it will help those who are interested in going through that process.

  5. I wonder how many times the adult colouring books were rejected bye Traditional publishers before they were finally published.

  6. “I can’t tell you how often I am asked if I am self-published, and even though it’s a fair question I admit I am a bit sensitive to the assumption that I couldn’t have gotten my book published the old-fashioned way.”

    That’s funny, because if I was ever to ask an author that question, it wouldn’t be based in the least on the stated assumption; rather, I would ask the question to discern the savviness of said author.

    By the way, if I worked pretty hard, I could wash my clothes the “old-fashioned way” too, but why would I?

    • I’m adding to my comment by replying to myself. 🙂 I went and looked at the original, full article and I had to click out of it quickly, lest my head explode. There is so much wrong with what she’s saying, yet the inexperienced newbies replying are saying, essentially, “Thanks for validating the path I’m nervously pursuing.” And her replies are, essentially, “Yes, you’re definitely doing the right thing!” …Really? Are you really so sure? No qualifiers at all?

      Without going into detail about my bank account and my readership, suffice it to say that I disagree with this author’s article and her advice.

      And I would caution her to be careful about telling any author–ESPECIALLY a newbie–that doing it any certain way (even my way!) is “definitely” the right choice.

      IMO, she was trying to convince herself, so as to avoid regret.

      • It’s the old one-size-fits-all thinking.
        The idea that one solution, especially the one that works for you, is the *only* solution for everybody, everywhere, under all conditions, in all universes, forever and ever, worlds without end.

        Yeah. Right.

      • Given variations of the word “validate” are used through the article and comments, I doubt the OP or her followers would listen to an alternate POV. And that’s okay.

        While they write and rewrite and beg for attention from agents, my books are available to people who wish to buy them. My chosen method for validation will appear in my bank account on Friday. And that’s okay, too. 🙂

  7. Interesting that as I write this all the comments to the article on that site are in agreement with the post. Including several posters who claim to have self-published their books. Are comments edited, or do that many people seem to think self-publishing is a bad idea?

    • Internet echo chamber, most likely.
      If you already believe in tradub uber alles or your livelihood depends on the Manhattan Mafia you aren’t going to challenge the OP. You’ll do everything to prop up the meme. (Think of the “publishing insider” blogs.

      On the flipside, if you are and indie or know an Indie or two, you will just shake your head, snicker, and move on. Some places aren’t worth hanging ’round.

  8. “5 Reasons You Should Still Pursue a Traditional Book Contract” = Brain-Dead Basura.

  9. I’d like to know what universe the OP lives in, where it’s possible to submit a manuscript, have it rejected, edit it, and then resubmit the manuscript to the same publishers.

    Because that’s not a thing.

    Then there’s this: “It’s true that there are more opportunities for aspiring authors than ever before and self-publishing has lost much of its stigma due to quality self-publishing,…”

    and this: “If you have been submitting for years and you know for a fact that your writing is worthy of publication, then you know you are worthy of publishing it yourself. Go for it, but make sure you aren’t throwing in the towel too soon.”

    So, is there a stigma or isn’t there? Because saying self-publishing is the same as ‘throwing in the towel’ sure sounds like there’s some kind of stigma involved.

    • “So, is there a stigma or isn’t there?”

      Them dang females are just out of control, writing and self publishing without anyone having any control over them. This is just ‘Women Writers, Women’s Books’ tryin’ ta get them silly/foolish gals to kick them shoes off and get themselves back in their kitchens where they belong. 😛

      (Just in case any of ‘our’ gals are getting their panties in a bunch, I’m making fun of the OP not you!)

      • Personally, I prefer the term “chick”. 😀

        On a side note, I checked out the website of our guest Mike from above, and he’s pretty much of the same mindset at the OP, so take it as you wish.

        • Ah, but then all my ‘chick’ens come home to roost and I end up in hot water.

          I’d take it as clueless, trad-pub mouthpiece, old timer afraid of change, or newbie that hasn’t done any real research.

          Me? I’ll go get half a dozen of those ten-sided dice. If I can get throws where they ‘all’ come up the same number five times in a row, I’ll offer my story to a trad-pub (and I’ll go buy a lottery ticket!)

          • I think you’re exaggerating for effect there. That would be one in one hundred billion, which suggests no one in the history of humanity has ever had a book accepted by a publisher.

            • Getting all six to come up ’10’ sounds about right (but if I can do it more than once I’d best buy that lottery ticket while I’m so ‘lucky’!)

              Okay, maybe a pair of twenty sided and a pair of tens, 1 in 400 ‘not’ to get a rejection slip after waiting 3-12 months, 1 in 100 to be a 1%er, though the few ‘big authors’ we hear of suggests it’s worse than that.

  10. Catering to one’s ego is a damned expensive hobby.

  11. 5 Reasons You Should Still Pursue a Traditional Book Contract

    1. Lack of confidence
    2. Lack of competence
    3. Inability to discern fact from fiction
    4. Arrested emotional development
    5. You’re just plain dumb

    😉

    • Now, now. Be nice. They aren’t dumb, they’re ignorant.

      Ignorance can be fixed. (But so rarely is. See [4].) 😉

      • To fix ignorance you first have to accept the possibility that you might be wrong. If you are convinced that your path is the one true path then there is no need to consider alternatives, much less study up on them.
        It’s tidier to simply be right by fiat.
        Entire countries are run that way.
        Rule by decree is a way of life for the infallible.

      • Don’t be small minded. Many people are both.

        • Smart Debut Author

          Sarah, apparently your big-mindedness didn’t extend to actually reading the headline I mocked. Notice that it includes the word “pursue”?

          Nobody is insulting the traditionally published, so come down off that high horse and take a deep breath. 😉

          (Even I’ve politely considered a traditional offer when the top traditional imprint in my field approached me — the only reason I turned them down was that I knew I could make more money on my own. But if they had been smart enough to offer me mid- or high six figures, I probably would have signed.)

          What I”m mocking here is the asinine stupidity of the OP’s suggestion that authors “pursue” the traditional route, as well as all the pathologically delusional arguments she uses to mislead newbies to follow her into failure instead of pursuing readers and an actual writing career, and letting publishers pursue you, instead.

  12. Coincidentally, DWS re-ran a post about the excuses Fear can generate in writers. I feel sorry for the OP because she kind of fits in the category.

    http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/blast-from-the-past-to-help-with-the-future/

  13. Over 50% of big publishing profits come from their back catalogues. Most of the rest come from established writers with long term relationships with the editors. The few new writers published and promoted come from inside connections.

    The submission process simply isn’t about finding new material or writers. It’s primary goal is to create a comfortable bureaucracy of middle management jobs and internships that seem like they’re doing something when they really aren’t.

    The secondary purpose is to discourage competition and cover up the fact that it’s all an inside game for insiders. The majority of people reading submissions don’t really have the power to get things published and need to invent excuses as to why manuscripts are rejected. They go around talking to colleges and pretending like it’s a meritocracy and promoting their own important role as gatekeepers, when they are actually just patrolling the wall.

    These are the last people a writer should be getting advice from about what to write.

    There was a time when the only option open to a writer was to wander around the walls in hopes of finding an actual gatekeeper or someway to sneak through the gate. But those days are over.

  14. Smart Debut Author

    I bet the comment I left over there never sees the light of day:

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Smart Debut Author says:

    December 27, 2016 at 6:26 pm

    A well-intentioned warning to new authors who might stumble across this article:

    It contains extremely outdated advice.

    Career self-justifications by inexperienced authors like Ms. Forkner aren’t a particularly useful source of knowledge about the industry.

    Do your own homework, instead.

    You won’t be disappointed.

    • It didn’t! 😉

      • Smart Debut Author

        her blog, her rules.
        if she wants to publish only those comments that agree with her POV, that’s her prerogative.

        sad, but whatever… this is, after all, the era of fake news.

        • “… the era of fake news.”

          And they get quite upset when you call them on it.

          Keep doing what you do, if you save one would-be fool …

  15. I went out to walk the dog this morning and BAM! First person I come to hits me with, “Excuse me, but are you self-published?” Well, imagine my sensitivity to that question. Never mind, I continued on my way. Ten more steps and there’s that pesky retired woman who reads all day. From the porch she shouts, “Excuse me, but are you self-published?” Well, imagine my sensitivity to that question. At last I came to a man watering his lawn. He said nothing, simply nodded as I walked past. Then I stopped and came back to him. “I have an admission to make to you,” I said. “I’m the guy down in the gray house who’s self-published.” Says he, “I thought it might be you. Please try not to be so sensitive, it’ all okay.” When I got home, the phone rang. It was the operator, “Excuse me,” she said, “but are you–”

    “Mr. Ellsworth, our time’s up. Same time next week. By the way, are you self–“

  16. >Being traditionally published is a VIP Pass

    Oh god, this is so stunning I can’t even laugh. Honestly, only someone who *hasn’t* been traditionally published could say this.

    Go visit the big bookfairs or somewhere with a lot of publishers and editors, and see how authors are treated. You’re just a minor journeyman unless you’ve published a lot of well-know books, or had a huge bestseller.

    The only “in” is that editors you’ve had good relations with will return your calls and emails. They may even contact you if they have a certain project in mind.

  17. Something about the OP’s name was bugging me, so I googled. Tina Forkner writes (or used to) in the vast behind-the-times morass that is Christian fiction. I have a long association with C-fic and there is (really!) still this mindset that unless you’ve been given some sort of imprimatur by one of the three (?) remaining C-fic houses, you’re nothing and nobody. Not even a Christian-friendly small press will do. At the conferences, they will not stock your print books, they mainly will not take you seriously except for a few shining lights, and they only recently admitted, with much foot-shuffling and hemming/hawing, that “an e-book is a book.”

    Hence the 2006 feeling of this piece. It’s understandable now. Many of these folks are living in the previous century so OF COURSE qig-5 publishing is THE way to go!

    • Oh, dear God. I’ve been exposed. Even though I write commercial women’s fiction in the mainstream market these days and currently have 5 books published, my debut Women’s Fiction title, Ruby Among Us (A title that I’m still very proud of by the way), was published in the inspirational market. You know, the market apparently known as the little behind-the-scenes morass that is part of Penguin Random House??? Here, let me help you out with a link, just in case you haven’t heard of Penguin Random House: http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/54636/ruby-among-us-by-tina-ann-forkner/9781400073580/

      I wasn’t going to respond to this post at all, because despite the intelligent comments by Mike and Elise, whom I have never met, the other comments indicated that this was a conversation in which almost all of those posting did not want to disagree with my advice in a clear and helpful way, which is always welcome among reasonable and professional writers, but to instead skewer not just my article, but me, with nasty comments.

      To respond to your assumptions that I am not traditionally published, that I have no experience, and that my article is against self-publishing would be pointless. Most of you did not read the full article, and the only one of you who seems to know anything about me has a personal issue with a corner of the market that has nothing to do with me.

      The article in question was written for people who would like to target the traditional market first and are not sure if they should. They can certainly find plenty of advice on the contrary, such as right here, so it isn’t as if they are being led astray. True professionals do their homework and consider all sides before making decisions, so I’m not worried that my writing advice is “harmful”. That’s ridiculous.

      Finally, as difficult as it is to break in to traditional publishing these days, I definitely find the traditional publishing world to be a hell of a lot more welcoming than in the comments right here at The Passive Voice. So, go ahead and skewer me as much as you like, all because I simply wrote a post aimed at one segment of aspiring writers for a very professional blog for women that you disagree with. But do so knowing that for awhile I was right here, just outside of your little Internet echo chamber.

      -Peace, and good luck. If you treat fellow professionals in the industry the way you have me, you’re going to need it.

      • “The article in question was written for people who would like to target the traditional market first and are not sure if they should.”

        Though you seem to want them to walk blindly into it without realizing the real risks and problems — I checked the OP to see if you sold blinders and rose colored glasses for those too new to know better.

        “Finally, as difficult as it is to break in to traditional publishing these days, I definitely find the traditional publishing world to be a hell of a lot more welcoming than in the comments right here at The Passive Voice.”

        Where your post was allowed, though I see the one ‘Smart Debut Author’ made to yours was not.

        “-Peace, and good luck. If you treat fellow professionals in the industry the way you have me, you’re going to need it.”

        To you as well, though if you bother to read more of TPV you’ll see we dish praise and scoff as we see it — though I can understand how having others point out the parts of traditional publishing you’re trying to ignore might be upsetting. That is of course the downside of putting anything on the net — there’s no telling who might see it and give it a boost (just ask Ms Streisand!. 😉 )

        • Thanks for your comments, Allen F. We all have a right to go about writing and publishing in our own way.

          And I mistakenly mentioned Elise above, but it wasn’t her comment I was referring to.

          Sarah mentioned that many people are both, and I wanted to respond in agreement. It’s not uncommon to be a hybrid author, and many of us think it is wise not to discount either traditional or self-publishing.

          Also, Allen F., it’s not my blog.

          • My bad on the blog, hard to control what you give to others.

            May you and Mike continue to receive the trad-pub nurturing you seek.

            .

            Happy holidays all!

  18. Tina, you write: “the only one of you who seems to know anything about me has a personal issue with a corner of the market that has nothing to do with me.”

    Beg to differ. Your first and most referenced sale was RUBY AMONG US, which was published by Waterbrook, which is now a division of Penguin/Random House. This corner of the market had everything to do with both of us, at that time. You’ve moved on. Fine, well and good. Many of us in C-fic have moved on from trying to shift these monolithic publishers into putting out anything but more of the type of books they’ve previously published.

    My comment on the nature of that segment of the market has nothing at all to do with skewering you personally.

    • Pardon me. My meaning was that your issue with that part of the market has nothing to do with me, Deb, not that I have nothing to do with the market itself. However you feel about that market is how you feel, but I’m just a writer. I wrote the article to inspire those who are interested and to represent a certain viewpoint based on my professional experience. I had no idea it would fire up so many people and inspire so much anger and meanness. If you read the article, its a pretty simple premise. It wasn’t at all a statement against self-publishing, but it really hit some of these guys where it counts, I guess. Who knew? How interesting! I’m glad you weren’t one of the skewers, Deb, or would it be skewerers? I appreciate your comment and wish you the best.

      • Firstly, I would like to thank you for coming onto the passive voice, while I disagree with almost everything in the above article, I can certainly respect you for what must feel like Walking into the lions den.
        Secondly, I wonder if we could discuss some of the assertions in your article So that we can get a conversation going Which might help us to understand each other’s points better.

  19. Thank you for the offer, Anon. I must respectfully decline. If I felt the audience of TPV would want to engage in a serious discussion instead of spewing hatefulness as has been displayed in most of the comments on this post, I would be happy to.

    As it stands, the majority of the audience disagreeing with the premise of my post, one that you shared from another blog meant for an entirely different audience, was not interested in discussing the assertions in a way that indicates a desire to understand each side’s points. Personally attacking another author, especially one they don’t even know, because of a difference in opinion is bizarre to me.

    I will say this. It is my belief that writers need to be writers, even when we are involved in publishing. We are writers first. Supporting each other is paramount, even when we disagree.

    I would also point out that I never targeted your followers with my post. It was written for another blog and you randomly found it and decided to reblog it. I love free publicity as much as the next author and I guess it was good enough to emit a response in someone. I’m glad for that, but that said, I did not pursue your blog and I did not engage your crowd to begin this discussion, which really isn’t a discussion at all, but a one-sided comment session that reinforces their own ideas.

    If that’s the audience of TPV, that’s fine, but I’m a little bit confused as to why you shared my post in the first place, unless it was simply to poke fun at traditionally published authors.

    I have always thought there was an assumption on the side of most professional writers that we are all on the same side, but perhaps the self-publishing community is becoming more polarized. I’m not saying this is an absolute fact, but having been in this profession for ten years now and five books under my belt, this is the first time I’ve been the target of such an aggressively opinionated and one-sided group of blog followers, and I’m not even against self-publishing.

    Perhaps if you had made this offer before the 90 some odd comments were made and you had been there to moderate an insightful discussion, I would have had the time and inclination to accept. Instead, I have some more guest posts to write for other blogs.

    Have a good 2017.

  20. “If that’s the audience of TPV, that’s great, but I’m a little bit confused as to why you shared my post in the first place, unless it was simply to poke fun at traditionally published authors.”

    I’m guessing she never noticed the top of the page where it says:

    “A Lawyer’s Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing”

    And it wasn’t poking fun so much as the disbelief that anyone currently a trad-pub writer — jumping through the hoops and reading the contracts — could put forth something that tried to make it sound like they thought trad-pub treasures and nurtures each and every writer and their books.

    I mean, it’s not like it was posted on April first or anything …

  21. I’m a little bit confused as to why you shared my post in the first place, unless it was simply to poke fun at traditionally published authors.

    Because it is an example of the bad advice that continues to be given to aspiring writers. Saying your advice is bad is not a personal attack. It is a difference of opinion.

    Your 5 Reasons:

    Vetting is important. Having a traditional novel proves your book has been vetted by the industry and that your writing has been found worthy.

    Found worthy by whom? The only opinion that matters is that of the consumer who pumps money into the system by buying books. By their own statements, the big publishing house make money on 1 in 5 of their releases, break even on 2 in 5, and lose money on 2 in 5. 40% of the time the only people who put money into the system, the consumers, did not agree the books were worthy.

    Look at Amazon sales numbers, the largest single data set that includes both traditionally published and indie authors. At every income level except the top 1% or less there are roughly the same number of traditionally published authors and indie authors. Some of the traditionally published authors might be selling as much as four times as many books as their indie peers, but they aren’t banking any more money.

    The vetting conducted by the traditional publishing houses seems less than perfect. A significant fraction of the books they select fail. Many successful indie books were rejected by traditional publishers.

    The traditional submission process makes your novel better. […] Revision is a great teacher, and I’ve learned a ton from editors who have rejected my work. If you still decide to go the self-publication route someday, you will be glad that your manuscript was read, critiqued, and rejected by editors who knew what they were doing.

    The vast majority of writers rejected by traditional publishing do not get any feedback beyond a form rejection letter. I’ve never heard of an author getting a substantive critique without at least a conditional acceptance. But that’s my experience. Yours might be different.

    As for the editing, there are good editors in traditional publishing and bad. An afternoon on the internet will turn up dozens of editing horror stories.

    Editors are also available to indies, both good and bad. In fact, many publishing houses suggest you hire an editor before submitting to them. The bad news for indies is you have to pay your editor up front. The good news is you get to choose your editor (have to, in fact), and you don’t have to pay them a percentage of future earnings.

    Being traditionally published is a VIP Pass.

    False. There are thousands of authors who have had a book or three or four published who have been told their next book isn’t wanted. For the very proper reason that it didn’t make the publisher enough money. Currently dozens of Penguin authors are being told their services are no longer required. Penguin has changed their definition of “enough money”.

    A previous publishing credit might get you to the head of the line on your next submission, but on the indie side there is no line. An indie success will also get you to the head of the line should you chose to submit. On the indie side, a success won’t get you a bigger advance on your next book, because there are no advances. A failure won’t block you from putting the next book out and trying again.

    Doors and opportunities are opened by success. Success as measured by sales.

    Indie doesn’t always mean self-published

    Semantics. I would define indie as having control over your own IP. If you can get a traditional publishing contract that grants the publisher a license on only the rights they are exploiting at the moment, good for you. They are rare. (Except in the serial short-story market, where they are standard.)

    Finally, you COULD Get Published.

    And then? Expect for the incorrect statement that being traditionally published is a VIP pass, the OP provides no information on what happens if the pursuit of a traditional book contract is successful. What is the prize?

    The most important parts of the contract are control of IP and remuneration. It’s a complicated question that each author must answer according to their own values and goals. Control of IP in standard traditional publishing contracts is beyond dismal.

    Remuneration is more complex. A traditionally published author gives up control of baseline pricing and discount strategies. An indie has to think about things other than writing. (As should traditionally published authors, but they don’t have to.) An indie has to pay for services up front. A traditionally published author pays for services via a percentage of all earnings. For traditionally published authors there are many more people between the customer and the author with their hands out. They need to be paid. It is possible for a traditionally published author to sell four times as many copies as an indie peer and take home exactly the same amount of money. Is that worth it for you? Might be. Might not be.

    The OP, titled “5 Reasons You Should Still Pursue a Traditional Book Contract”, does not have a single word on the character of a traditional book contract, the prize being pursued. Nor or how that effects the author and the work. Therefore, I would categorize the OP as bad advice.

  22. If you publish indie, you can publish whenever you’re good and ready.

    If you publish traditionally, you have to wait to get a submission read, accepted, put on the publishing schedule, shipped out… so yeah, you get to wait at least a year or two.

    If you make money on Amazon as an indie, you get that money within a month or two.

    If you make money at a traditional publisher, you won’t get it for six months or more, the royalties may not be accurate, the percentage of royalties are lower, you can’t check the dashboard every hour (click, click, click) and instantly adjust your marketing for trends; and you’ll never know for sure if the sales figures are correct. (And if you have an agent, you don’t even get all your royalties, anyway.)

    So it’s not that traditional publishing is necessarily bad… but you have to be getting a LOT of money up front to make it worth the hassle and worry. An indie writer is already publishing a tonload more books, when a traditional writer is just starting to see a check in the mail.

  23. So, I don’t agree with the generalizations made in this article. To be up front about my biases – I’m hybrid, and I’m very pro-indie.

    But recently I had a Skype session with a NYT bestselling author – someone who is respected for his knowledge of the market and of writing in general. He has been a mentor to several people whose careers I want to emulate.

    I told him about my goals for the next stage in my career. His response? That the only way to accomplish what I want to accomplish is to go the NY route. And I’m afraid/worried he might be right.

    It would be have to be a huge upfront deal – high six figures or low seven – in order to get the necessary marketing dollars behind it. I wouldn’t be interested in a lowbie, e-book only kind of deal. And if that kind of deal didn’t appear? Very easy to walk away and do it on my own. Which is what I love about self-publishing.

    And if this mythical deal actually did take place, it would be because of indie publishing, not the other way around.

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