Indie or Traditional?

14 March 2016

From MadGeniusClub:

Before we get into the heart of the video, let’s start with what we know — or don’t know — about the man making it. He is, apparently, an agent. He is from Great Britain. His accent and reference to pounds instead of dollars sort of gives that away. But that’s it.

Now to the video, “Seven reasons why you shouldn’t self publish” (His reasons are italicized)

1.It’s expensive because you have to pay for jacket design, “all the photos”, copy editing and proofreading. He goes on to say he doesn’t feel comfortable with any system that forces authors to pay money to enter the marketplace.

Oh, my. Where to begin?

First of all, you don’t have to hire someone to design your cover. There are templates out there you can download for free. There are detailed instructions to walk you through building your cover. There are free photo manipulation programs as well. As for “all the photos”, I don’t think I have ever paid more than $10 for cover elements. I will admit that I don’t build my own covers, not the final versions. I find what I want and then talk to Sarah or Cedar or a couple of others I know and then trade services. I will copy edit/proofread if they will make what I have drafted as a cover look good. (I’ll admit right here that lettering is my downfall.)

As for the copy editing and proofreading, I admit to shaking my head when this so-called agent didn’t mention content editing. Again, copy editing and proofreading are services you can trade off with other authors for. Effective use of beta readers will also handle a lot of those issues. So, again, no money out of pocket. Nor did this agent mention the fact that there are writers who are traditionally published and who pay to have their work edited before they send it to their publishers because they have learned the hard way that is the only way quality editing will happen.

But what really had me scratching my head was his comment about not being comfortable with any system that “forces authors to pay money to enter the marketplace.” At first, I wondered if he was conflating self-publishing with publishing through a vanity press. After all, those presses, and I use that term loosely, are notorious for making authors pay large sums of money for the production of the books and then forcing the authors to buy a certain number of books that they then have to hand sell.

Then he went on to say that the expense of producing a book should be the responsibility of “big corporations”. Okay, that’s to be expected from someone who makes his living by selling his clients’ work to these traditional publishers. But does he really think authors don’t get that, by going with a traditional publisher, you are paying them in a way? Not only is the author signing over rights to their book for a period of time, they are also giving up the majority of any moneys that might come in from sales of the book. Giving up that money is, if you are honest about it, paying the publisher to publish you. That is especially true regarding e-books when there is no shipping cost, no storage cost, no printing cost and, if you are really honest about it, no editing cost because the book has already been edited. Yet, the authors still receive less than 50% of the royalty in many contracts for digital sales.

. . . .

5. Indie publishing puts off agents and publishers.

He says this is because the author has missed the “debut bloom”. He goes on to say that you need to sell in the high five figure to hundreds of thousands of copies of your indie book to impress a publisher.

That’s when I fell out of my chair, laughing hysterically. Yes, it scared the dog and the cats looked at me like I’d lost my mind. Of course a traditional publisher would like someone with that sort of history to come knocking on their door. Unfortunately for the indie author, the track record of traditional publishers maintaining that level of sales for the author after signing a contract is poor. Part of it is that they don’t promote the author like the author promoted herself. Part is the difference in pricing. More folks will buy an e-book at $4.99 (or lower) than they will at $12.99. Not that traditional publishing gets that. They simply see a higher profit margin instead of more of a lower margin. There comes a point in profit where you will make more by selling more at a lower cost.

What he didn’t say, and what may have been at the back of his mind, is that agents and publishers are scared of indie authors. Sure, they might sign one to a contract but they know the indie author knows what sort of money she made on her own. She knows how to read royalty statements and, more importantly from the author’s point of view, she knows that she has an alternative to traditional publishing. She knows she doesn’t have to be tied to traditional publishing to make money or get her books into the hands of her fans.

Link to the rest at MadGeniusClub and thanks to Sara and others for the tip.

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When Publishing Trophies Become Meaningless

7 March 2016

From agent Janet Kobobel Grant:

Publishing trophies come in three forms: signed contracts, making a best-seller list, and winning a writing award. But, with all the changes in the publishing industry, these trophies are beginning to look like kids’ sports trophies–if you were on the team, you receive a trophy. That way everyone wins; but that also means trophies lose meaning. Here are some hints to figure out what’s what:

Signed contracts. Scrolling through posts on Facebook, I see plenty of pics of writers turning into authors as they sign their first book contract. It is a heady moment, and the writers have worked diligently and probably for years to arrive there. But a contract with a tiny indie publisher that includes little or no advance is not the same as a contract with a long-established and revered publishing venue–let alone a contract with one of the Big Five.

. . . .

[T]he difference between signing with a publisher who will sell a couple hundred copies of your book and signing with a publisher who can bring in thousands, tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of copies sold is like the difference between riding a tricycle and revving the engines of a Harley.

. . . .

Making a best-seller list. You may have read about marketer Brent Underwood’s hoax in which he created a #1 Amazon best-seller with $3 and in five minutes. He recounts how he created a wordless book and sold three copies to make his book a best-seller.

. . . .

Underwood set out to reach best-sellerdom to make a point: If you become an Amazon #1 best-seller, that might be akin to the kid who showed up for every grade school baseball game wearing a uniform. If you understand what you need to do to win the trophy, it’s not all that hard to achieve.

Now, legitimately winning a spot on the New York Times list, Publishers Weekly list, USA Today list, ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers) list  is not so easily achieved and holds real meaning.

Even managing #1 best-selling status on Amazon can mean significant sales have occurred. The caveat with Amazon is that fame can be fleeting (capture a screen shot of that #1 status because it can be gone in the next hour). And the book must achieve that status in highly-competitive categories (parenting, historical fiction, cookbooks, etc.).

Link to the rest at Books & Such and thanks to David for the tip.

PG says the best trophies are monthly direct deposits from Amazon with no deductions.

Seven reasons why you shouldn’t self publish

7 March 2016

Thanks to Michael for the tip.

It’s Time for Bookstores to Stop Boycotting Amazon Publishing

16 February 2016

From agent Andrew Zack via Huffington Post:

When announced it was going to start publishing books as well as selling them, my reaction, like many in the publishing world, was mixed. On the one hand, I loved the idea of a new market to which to license the rights to my clients’ works. On the other hand, I couldn’t imagine any other bookstore–chain or independent–ever selling a book published by Amazon, which would mean that books published by Amazon would be sold only by Amazon. Would that be enough?

I have a love/hate relationship with Amazon. I’m not alone in this, of course. Publishers dislike Amazon for certain practices, such as mucking around with pricing and devaluing books by charging too little. But publishers also love Amazon because it nearly single-handedly began the business of selling books online, creating a sales channel that has provided great rewards for publishers.

As predicted, bookstores–chain and independent–have mostly chosen not to carry the books published by Amazon Publishing. But has the time come to end the refusal to stock Amazon Publishing’s books? Has the position simply become more one of spite and petulance than principle?

Let’s be honest. The boycott by traditional brick-and-mortar bookstores of Amazon Publishing’s titles hasn’t hurt Amazon at all, but it may be hurting the authors it publishes. Some publishers may say “Good! They should never have done a deal with Amazon.” But as an agent I have represented books published by Amazon and I welcomed the offers from Amazon’s editors. In fact, I was excited to see what it would look like to see a book published by Amazon.

. . . .

The irony is that by not ordering books published by Amazon, bookstores are helping to increase the profitability of those titles for Amazon. Let’s not forget how the publishing industry works. It’s one where bookstores order books and return books that don’t sell. Yet Amazon pretty much doesn’t have to worry about returns, because few bookstores are ordering its titles. If Amazon had to suffer the ignominy brought on by the utter failure of titles it publishes, to be bloodied in the marketplace on a level playing ground, perhaps it might develop a new appreciation for the difficulties regular publishers face. Perhaps it might even take a different tack in its dealings with them. Or perhaps it would just shutter its imprints, deciding it was a foolish endeavor to start publishing its own titles. Some might see that as a “win” for traditional publishing. Many would certainly find it ironic.

But, for now, traditional bookstore owners and chain buyers should give the titles published by Amazon’s imprints the same consideration they give those published by traditional publishers, not because failing to do so hurts Amazon, but because failing to do so hurts the authors of those books.

Link to the rest at Huffington Post


Clarity: How to Love Your Contract

1 February 2016

From Publishing for Humans:

I’m just going to say it: I love contracts. But that’s not enough. I want you to love them too.

Contracts are not a dull, essential adjunct to our activity. They are the sure ground on which our business is built, the tracks along which the publishing train steams. All the creative, innovative work you do: you work to contract. All of your exciting collaborations: set out by contract. Why you aren’t an amateur: you have a contract. How you are protected: by your contract. Your friend in times of need: your contract. Your road to profit in good times: your contract. The most important thing you’ll ever write: your signature, at the bottom of your contract. If you love your contract – give it attention, understand it, read it carefully, talk about it, do your best to improve it – it will love you back. Don’t be frightened of your contract. Do you know what frightens me? How frequently fear stops authors from reading and understanding and querying their contracts with their agents and publishers. Don’t be scared, join my love-in.

. . . .

Badly drafted contracts are as distressing to me as badly written novels: just as I audibly tut and sigh when struggling impatiently through narcissistic prose, so can I be physically unsettled by the clouded meanings, lost intentions, clunky sentences and incomprehensible jargon of a badly written agreement. A good contract has a pleasing geometry to it. At DHA, we draft all our UK and translation rights contracts – as opposed to using publishers’ templates – and they are written in a style I have named DHA Simple – short, plain, minimal.

. . . .

Why should you love contracts? A good contract offers us a second beautiful thing: Stability. Even though author and publisher are interdependent, often sharing mutual interests, the balance of power between parties shifts constantly due to multiple factors: the success of the author’s last book, the strong advocacy of individuals within publishing houses, market appetite, luck, how long it is until the next book is due to be delivered, or published. The role of the contract is to ensure that, even as the wind changes direction on the landscape of publishing, the author and publisher do not move position – what was agreed, stands.

Why should you love contracts? Here is a third beautiful gift a contract can bring you: Protection. When I read contracts, I always ask myself: How will I like this contract in the worst case scenario?

Link to the rest at Publishing for Humans and thanks to Ashe for the tip.

Talking To Writers

30 October 2015

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I just got back from MileHiCon in Denver. Not only did the con committee and the attendees treat me well, I had an absolute blast. I met a lot of people—readers, fans, wannabe writers, published writers—and I saw a lot of old friends.

. . . .

I have no idea how to talk to a room full of writers any more.

I know that sounds weird. I talk to writers all the time. Just before I went to MileHiCon, I helped Dean teach the first four days of the week-long Master Class for professional writers that we hold here on the coast.

. . . .

It used to be that everyone on the panel would give the same answer to basic questions. On the basic how-to-get published questions, there was only one answer, and it was the same for writer after writer after writer.

In fact, those of us on the panel were interchangeable. It didn’t matter if I sat there or another writer sat there or a relatively new writer sat there, we all gave the same answer. So did editor after editor, agent after agent.

Everyone who had the smallest bit of writing experience stopped attending publishing panels at cons because those writers had the basics down.

Now, the basics differ depending on who you talk to. We all agree on craft issues. To sell, whether traditionally or direct to readers, writers have to tell a good story. A good story includes all elements of craft—good plot, memorable characters, a clearly defined setting, and so on and so forth. Writers need to learn all of that, and never stop learning. We all can improve our craft and we should work at it, day after day after day after day.


When we move to how to get published, writing panels actually get contentious now. When Dean and I spoke at a writers conference in Idaho in May, we debated whether or not we would say what we really believed. Because if we said what we believed, we would anger half the room. And (bonus!) we would piss off every agent in the place.

I have a lot of trouble fudging my answers if I believe someone will get hurt if I don’t speak up. And on the topic of agents, my beliefs have shifted strongly. I believe (and have seen) most writers get seriously harmed by having an agent.

I can’t, in good conscience, recommend a writer have an agent for any reason.

Before I accept a writers conference request, I always explain that I will anger every agent and book doctor who shows up. I anger agents because I think they’re no longer useful. Some agents I’ve met at writers conferences are not only no longer useful, they are actively harming writers. I know this, because I’ve seen it or experienced it.

. . . .

The book doctors who show up at mainstream writers conferences fall into two categories. Those book doctors are either scammers who want to make money off writers who don’t believe in their own work or the book doctors are well-intentioned souls who have never sold a book of their own yet somehow believe they can make a book marketable.

Both types are complete and utter waste of money. There are real book doctors who work in traditional publishing. They’re hired (for a minimum of five figures—usually more like six) by a traditional publishing house to either improve a manuscript or to write it from scratch. Generally, those book doctors work on guaranteed bestsellers, whether they are written (or should I say bylined) by a celebrity like Snooki or whether they are written by a former bestselling writer who has gotten ill or has writer’s block or a wide variety of other problems.

If a publishing house has spent millions on a project and that project suuuuuuucks, then a book doctor gets brought in to make the project acceptable so that it can recoup its investment. If it wasn’t fixed, the project wouldn’t last longer than a day or two on the bestseller list before word-of-mouth put the book out of its misery.

Those book doctors never show up at writers conferences.

. . . .

I sigh, and say that with all honesty, I can’t recommend any agent. I mention the fact that it’s illegal in all 50 states to practice law without a license, which most agents are doing, and I mention that you just don’t need them for anything, and on and on, trying to keep my answer relatively short.

The woman who worked for the agency was incredibly cool. We agreed on most things. She’s bright and is a writer herself, and handled me with aplomb. Of course, she rebutted some of what I said, but not all of it (turns out, I learned after two panels with her, we agreed more than we disagreed), and she ended her statement with a sentence that I hate.

I’m sure Kris can do these things because she’s Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

Hell, no. I can do these things because there’s this thing called “the internet” and writers I know who do not have the credentials that I do have done the same things and more because they have a “contact” button on their website. Good books are good books, and foreign rights offers as well as movie/TV offers follow the good work, not the big names.

. . . .

The 1995 answers don’t really work any more. It’s a shark tank in the traditional publishing world, and if a minnow enters, it will become chum within the first five seconds of its attempted tenure in the tank.

So many writers are minnows with no desire to swim with the sharks. And the problem is that in today’s publishing environment, the writers have to be able to swim with the sharks comfortably and easily to survive.

Writers who’ve gotten their feet wet in the publishing industry, writers who’ve finished more than one book, who’ve submitted more than one short story, who are driven and work hard, know this. They’re coming to panels and conferences to learn how to become sharks—at least when it comes to business.

But the minnows, they don’t want to learn anything except how to be sell that one project. And the poor things, they’re going to get screwed.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

A Literary Agency’s Future Is Uncertain After Its Founder’s Death

6 October 2015

From The New York Times:

Carmen Balcells, the literary agent who helped create the politically charged boom in Latin American letters in the 1960s and ’70s, was a larger-than-life figure. Her death last month, at 85, has plunged her agency — which represents the estate of Gabriel García Márquez, one of its pillars — into uncertainty, setting the stage for a land grab involving some of the biggest personalities in world publishing.

At the time of her death, Ms. Balcells was in talks to sell the Agencia Carmen Balcells, which she opened in 1956 in Barcelona, Spain. In 2014, she had signed a letter of intent to begin merger talks with the powerful New York literary agent Andrew Wylie, but those talks appeared to have foundered, and in recent weeks she had been negotiating with at least one other set of buyers, according to those potential buyers and other people familiar with the talks who requested anonymity out of respect for Ms. Balcells’s family.

Ms. Balcells’s son, Lluís Miquel Palomares Balcells, 51, inherits the agency, and last week said he would assume its management. Mr. Palomares declined to comment for this article beyond a statement issued by the agency last week in which he said that “my mother leaves a huge professional legacy, and it is my decision — shared by the whole team of the agency — to carry on with her task, in order to continue to serve our authors professionally, and providing the personal support that has always been our trademark.”

Although many of her most devoted authors, including the Chilean-American novelist Isabel Allende, said they would stay with the agency, Ms. Balcells’s death inevitably leaves her writers in limbo. They cannot decide whether to remain until it becomes clear who will manage the agency in the longer term, should Mr. Palomares decide to continue with his mother’s plans to sell. And yet the agency’s sale value depends on the authors it represents.

. . . .

 “Once more in her life she managed to do what she wanted: to stay in the agency until the last minute,” said Riccardo Cavallero, a former head of the publishing house Mondadori in Spain and Italy, who, along with the London literary agent Andrew Nurnberg, had been in talks with Ms. Balcells as recently as August to buy out her agency. “She wanted to sell without selling,” Mr. Cavallero said. “It was her creature, and she didn’t want to leave it. It was her second son.”

. . . .

 The Balcells agency represents about 300 authors, including the estates of Pablo Neruda and Carlos Fuentes, but only a dozen or so have wider readerships outside the Spanish-language world. Ms. Balcells changed Spanish publishing by ending a system in which authors signed contracts directly with publishers.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

One of the business dangers for authors who deal with agents is what we see here. What happens when the person who attracted you to the agency is no longer there?

What happens to your royalties? What happens to pending negotiations? Will the heirs run the place into the ground?

PG has no knowledge of Ms. Balcells or her agency, but when millions of dollars in royalties flow through rickety business structures, serious problems can arise.

UPDATE: If you think this is a problem limited to Spanish agents, see this post.

Lawsuit: ‘Most Interesting Man’ is ‘least honorable’

5 October 2015


From USA Today:

Jonathan Goldsmith doesn’t always get sued but when he does, it can get nasty.

The actor best known for portraying the “Most Interesting Man in the World” in Dos Equis ads is being sued for breach of contract by his former talent agency, which claims he has stopped paying commission on the roughly $1 million a year he makes from the ads, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

. . . .

Goldsmith’s former manager at Jordan Lee, Inc. says Goldsmith, who got the Dos Equis job in 2006 stopped paying the 10% commission a year ago because he felt he had paid “enough,” TMZ reports. The lawsuit says the actor’s relationship with the agency changed after the agent who got him the role — and is now his wife — left the company, per the Reporter.

Link to the rest at USA Today and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

How to talk about a self-published novel in a query

15 September 2015

From Janet Reid, Literary Agent

“You’ve said that a self-published novel is not considered a valid credit when approaching a publisher or agent, but then I was wondering what you’d write at all if you happened to have one?…. Is admitting I self-published a previous book bad because I’m admitting my last attempt was too poor to sell? Should I not mention it at all as a relevant credit? Or should I just avoid self-publishing as long as I’m trying for commercial publishing?”


The reason self-published books aren’t a writing credit is there was no independent selection process. You wrote the book, then you, yourself and ewe edited, copy edited, fact checked, sent it off to the typesetting elves, and presto, one ISBN later, it’s a book.


Now, as to whether you SHOULD self publish your novel, I will simply say this: the most common thing I hear from writers who query me again after a period of a year or more, and query for a new book is they now realize they queried too soon with that first novel.

I well understand your impatience with the glacial pace of publishing and the idea that getting the book out there is better than not, but that’s impatience and inexperience talking. And lo! I have heard their siren song myself and always to my detriment I must confess.

Self publishing your first novel is a whole different kettle of fish than publishing a novel AFTER you’ve had several published already.

Link to the rest here.

From Guest Blogger Randall

Why does everyone want to be published?

27 August 2015

From MacGregor Literary:

I thought you’d like to see this question someone sent me: “I’ve been writing for several months now, and I’m trying to figure out what my motivation is. Can you help me understand WHY so many writers want to become published authors?”

A fascinating question. Okay, this may surprise you, but I believe most new writers basically want to get published so that they’ll be famous. They want that thrill of holding up a book with their name emblazoned on the cover, show it to their friends, leave it on their coffee table, maybe peruse a copy at the bookstore and casually mention to someone in the aisle, “You know… I wrote this.” I think most new writers are seeking fame and encouragement, that they believe validity and meaning will arrive out of publication. They see fame as offering a measurable amount of worth and competence.

That’s not to say most new writers don’t also have something they want to say — they do. It’s just that many newer writers struggle with having a worthwhile story. Think about it — we all know it takes a while for a writer to become competent. Rarely do you see a novelist get her first completed work contracted. The industry average is five complete books before landing a deal… in other words, if you’re starting out, it will probably be your fifth completed novel before you get a contract.That’s why so many writers give up after one or two — it takes persistence to complete five novels before a publisher will pay attention to your work.

. . . .

Yet most writers who have achieved some level of fame fairly quickly eschew it in favor of craft. They may still enjoy the warmth associated with being recognized, or having someone come up and praise their words, but most successful authors discover that fame is not only fleeting, it doesn’t make us better people or better writers.

Link to the rest at MacGregor Literary

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