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rebew
06-10-2007, 09:56 PM
hey-love reading your posts!, but new to posting, here is my first.

Iím writing a rigorous college paper for my masterís degree on the publishing industry. I want to explore what improvements can be made to make the process less painful.

Iím close to closing the paper and would like to include the thoughts from you, the author. Whatís the most challenging part [I know getting someone to read it is an issue] and if you had the resources to change the industry what would be some of your solutions?

My paper will be presented before a crowd of professors and colleagues, so if you have a book published Iíll be happy to include your title. ex. "The industry needs..." from the author of "your book title". Iíll throw in a small advertisement for ya ;)

thanks for your help!

gp101
06-10-2007, 10:11 PM
Good luck with your thesis. I'm not a published author, but am a veteran of the rejection slip. That said, the thing to make the publishing process easier on the writer, quite frankly, would be better writing. There, I said it. I think a lot of us send in material that isn't properly polished and because it's far easier to produce material than it was 20, 30 years ago with computers instead of typewriters, we clog up the process with stories that aren't quite ready (blame it on our I-want-it-now culture) if not outright crap.

That said, even though agents and publishers may have a lot more crap to sift through, I wish they could find a way to speed up their process of replies, whether rejection or acceptance. Especially frustrating is when an agent/publisher decides from your query that they want to read the full manuscript, then take months to get back to you. I'd rather know sooner than later that they are/are not interested. The best would be if they could provide feedback with a rejection but this is not feasible.

I'm sure the folks here, both published and not published, will chimein with some good comments for your paper.

JoNightshade
06-10-2007, 10:42 PM
My particular fantasy in this line of thought is that agents would be courageous enough to take on good books as opposed to saleable ones. I can't tell you how many rejections I've got that tell me my material is great, my writing is awesome... but "I just don't know how to market this effectively."

I realize that agents are business people, but novel writing is also an art. We need "patrons," as it were, who are willing to support excellent writing based on the fact that it is excellent, not just because it will sell a million copies. Fiction that sells like hotcakes is more than likely crap, because it appeals to everyone-- the lowest common denominator. So how many really, really good books, that might have become classics, are not being published because agents and publishers just wanted eye candy?

Anne Lyle
06-10-2007, 10:42 PM
I'm not published myself, but from what I've read of (UK) agents' blogs, I'd say it would be an improvement for writers if editors' careers depended less on their ability to make the next Big High-Profile Sale. There seems to be a push from above to focus on finding one author who can be offered an impressive six-figure advance - with all the risk that that one book could flop - when that same money could further the careers of five or ten hard-working writers and would probably provide a more reliable return on investment in the long run.

Just my two ha'porth :)

(I realise that this isn't true of every genre - category romance seems to favour cheap newbie advances over the more expensive midlist author.)

Fox The Cave
06-10-2007, 11:04 PM
Yes. The publishing industry needs a good rejection letter to straighten itself out and start redrafting itself. See if it likes its own medicine.

veinglory
06-10-2007, 11:15 PM
I think publishing is a pull economy. If it needs to change it will have to be by encouraging people to read what we want to right rather than blaming businesses for not buying it.

johnzakour
06-10-2007, 11:49 PM
If I'm not mistaken isn't the publishing business publishing more books and making more money than ever before?

Obviously it's not a perfect industry. (I personally hate returns.) But all in all I think functions pretty well.

johnzakour
06-11-2007, 12:03 AM
To me the biggest problem with the publishing industry is that huge advances go to a few writers and this cuts into the pool of money available for moderate advances to more risky writers. Huge advances are especially prevalent for people who aren't really writers, but who are celebrities in some other field, usually politics or Hollywood, and occasionally in sports. The books they write (or most often have ghostwritten) may sell a lot of copies short-term, but have little lasting value. They won't make it to the next decade, let alone the next generation. The publishing industry is essentially creating disposable literature. This simply mirrors many other aspects of American culture in which products or ideas have a short run of popularity and then become disposable when the next fad product, diet, or movie star hits. The unfortunate part is that thoughtful writers who are producing works with lasting value get squeezed out. They are marginalized by an unwillingness of the publishing industry to take a chance on something that may have long-term value but lacks a quick bang for the buck.

For better or for worse, the industry is just responding to the culture. Can you blame it?

(Personally I think pulp humor SF writers should get HUGE advances and that authors with last names that begin with Z should always be shelved at eye level in bookstores.) ;-)

James D. Macdonald
06-11-2007, 12:23 AM
... to make the process less painful.

Less painful for whom?

The one thing that you must know about the publishing industry is that the readers drive it.

Bookstores, publishers, agents, editors, authors: All are the readers' slaves.

ORION
06-11-2007, 12:30 AM
Publishing is a business.
People buy what they want to read. It is naive of us to say that we need to give the public "better" books -- The public buys what it wants to read. With self publishing and ebooks authors have even more venues if they want to see their words in print. With computers more people are able to complete novels. An industry can change but that change comes from within and is due more to financial pressures rather than some outside entity deciding what "good" books are.
I think (and maybe wrongly) that if a writer writes well, has a great premise, and doesn't ever give up -- then most likely they will be published.
Of COURSE editors want to find best sellers...that's their JOB! To make money for the publishing house.

ORION
06-11-2007, 12:33 AM
IMO Sports need to be changed -- I mean all those obscenely large salaries to only a few when there are such DESERVING little leaguers out there...

talkwrite
06-11-2007, 12:49 AM
The publishing industry in the U.S. is starving by it's own hand: denying itself the nourishment of new authors because it has limited it's markets to the big chain booksellers. Independent and small bookstores can not compete with the big chains and have closed in record numbers changing the landscape of publishing. I am a published writer here in the U.S. and ( full disclosure) a series acquisitions editor with a British traditional publishing house.
Thanks for getting the word out!.
Talkwrite

johnzakour
06-11-2007, 01:07 AM
The publishing industry in the U.S. is starving by it's own hand: denying itself the nourishment of new authors because it has limited it's markets to the big chain booksellers.

This is being overly dramatic. There are plenty of new authors coming into the business every year. Just a mere dozen years ago there was this new author called Rowlings and I understand she went on to have a nice little career.

I'm sure she won't be the last of the new authors to make a living at this fair trade.

RG570
06-11-2007, 01:48 AM
I just think the business could be streamlined. A lot. There are too many middlemen, too many people coming between the publisher and the author and diluting the money.

Death Wizard
06-11-2007, 01:52 AM
The publishing industry needs a Bill Gates/Mark Cuban type with tons of money and wild ideas to come in and shake things ups.

pconsidine
06-11-2007, 01:54 AM
I'm not a published novelist or anything, but I do work in publishing, so take this for what it's worth.

Regardless of how it looks from the author's perspective, the publishing industry works just fine – within the parameters it's been given. Media in general is in a very risk averse mode right now, but they still have to produce a vast amount of material to keep the markets stocked (regardless of size). So they have to figure out a way to produce a great deal of material (which they absolutley do) without risking too much. Hence those large advances to famous personalities who can guarantee at least some kind of return. Just like movies, publishers count on blockbusters to help finance their slate for the following year. It's the way it is.

Frankly, anything we could change would involve going back in time. We can't undo the WalMart effect and increase the number of independent booksellers. We can't change the highly politicized climate that makes even marginally "edgy" books a much bigger risk than they used to be. Efforts to increase readership in children and young adults may yet pay dividends, but those will only benefit certain segments of the market with each passing year. Even more the point, as I said at the start - the industry isn't really broken. And if it ain't broke, it isn't gonna get fixed.

Cathy C
06-11-2007, 02:51 AM
I believe the method of reporting sales to be archaic. In today's world of instant notification, for booksellers to not be required to report sales (to the public) back to the publisher for six months to a YEAR is ridiculous. Authors are forced to wait for up to two years for payments due them, because the publishers hold reserves out pending those bookseller reports. If publications such as USA Today and BookScan can get numbers weekly then why not publishers?

johnzakour
06-11-2007, 03:05 AM
This is really a silly argument. We can complain all we want about the system but is a pretty established one and I don't see it changing all that much. Especially since a fair number of people are making nice livings off of this system.

It's not locked to anybody. There are more publishers and distribution channels than ever. Write a good book and it will find a home.

Sure, it's tough to get a blockbuster, but it should be tough to get a blockbuster.

Sure a massive marketing budget helps a lot. That's the way of the world. Coke and Pepsi aren't much different than Brand ABC cola but the big boys just spend way more on marketing.

All we can do is keep writing our books and hope enough people notice.

I'm a big fan of the Woody Allen quote, "80% of success is just showing up." (Or something like that/)

Christine N.
06-11-2007, 03:27 AM
I think that it pretty much works fine, although not the way we necessarily want it to.

In a perfect world, agents and publishers would all give us a detailed rejection form, telling us exactly how to fix it in order for them to buy it. Of course, as soon as we do, someone else will send us a note telling us the exact OPPOSITE. Because publishing is run by people, and people have different tastes in books.

In a perfect world, replies from agents and publishers would come in a week, but we know that can't happen because publishing is run by people.

But, so far, what we've got is what's working. More new authors are being published, can't say they don't get a fair shake.

If I had to say anything, I'd say that the biggest problem is so many good authors not seeing their books on shelves. That returns reall ARE a big problem, although I see the need for them.

Oh, hey, I know. I'd like to see less money paid in big giant advances (because I think I read that most books aren't earning out, not that publishers aren't making money, it's an overall effect of ones that don't earn out and ones that make far above and beyond.) and that money spent on marketing. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, so to speak.

Jamesaritchie
06-11-2007, 04:36 AM
To me the biggest problem with the publishing industry is that huge advances go to a few writers and this cuts into the pool of money available for moderate advances to more risky writers. Huge advances are especially prevalent for people who aren't really writers, but who are celebrities in some other field, usually politics or Hollywood, and occasionally in sports.

I never have understood why some believe this. The huge advances go to writers who are making the publishers huge profits. They don't cut into money for other writers at all. They make money for other writers.

Even if publishers stopped giving out huge advances completely, other writers wouldn't get one dime more. There is no shortage of cash. The primary factor in handing out an advance is how many books are expected to sell, not how much money the writer needs or wants. When marketing think a book can earn back 5K, they won't give it 10K, no matter how much cash is lying around.

Most huge advances are not handed out to celebrity writers, but to proven, bestselling writers. But celebrity writers do receive large advances because experience tells marketing that these books will earn back the advance, or at least enough of it to make a profit.

Publishing is a business, and no one is going to hand out money if they have reason to believe they won't get it back.

With most first time writers, publishers do error on the side of caution, but this isn't going to change, even if they stop handing out large advances to celebrity writers.

Garpy
06-11-2007, 04:17 PM
Umm...not sure how things are going in the states, but over here in the UK, there have been quite a number of high-pofile deals for celebrities, getting ridiculously large advances and then failing to sell very many books.

Here's some recent examples Linky (http://alexscarrow.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html)

And yes...I think if a publisher commits a ton of cash to a Sleb book that utterly tanks, there's almost certainly going to be less revenue to spend on up and coming mid list authors. C'mon, that's just simple maths.

historian
06-11-2007, 06:30 PM
Orion said:

"People buy what they want to read. It is naive of us to say that we need to give the public "better" books -- The public buys what it wants to read."

If they can find it. I have a great deal of difficulty finding anything interesting in the new books list. In the library, I find almost all the books I borrow (and enjoy) were written before 1990.

A gunshot or bed jump on every page (or any page) doesn't interest me at all. I want to read about ordinary people in a different milieu than my own and how they deal with their problems.

historian

cletus
06-11-2007, 06:31 PM
Umm...not sure how things are going in the states, but over here in the UK, there have been quite a number of high-pofile deals for celebrities, getting ridiculously large advances and then failing to sell very many books.

Here's some recent examples Linky (http://alexscarrow.blogspot.com/2006_12_01_archive.html)

And yes...I think if a publisher commits a ton of cash to a Sleb book that utterly tanks, there's almost certainly going to be less revenue to spend on up and coming mid list authors. C'mon, that's just simple maths.
That Gary Barlow £1,000,000 advance was the one that popped in my head when I read the post before yours.

I really have to wonder what was going through the publisher's head when they agreed a £400,000 advance on that Chantelle book.

Garpy
06-11-2007, 06:48 PM
I regularly dine out on the impressive sounding little factlet that...I've sold more books than Ashley Cole (famous football player) Shayne Ward (X factor winner) and Chantelle (ummm....) Michael Barrymore (Tv presenter/comedian) combined.

It usually draws a gasp from whoever I say that to. For a fleeting moment I get to feel awfully cool, then I concede how few books each of them actually sold.

In fact if you add up their combined advances....£1,150,000.00. For that money you could publish 115 debut novels.

Toothpaste
06-11-2007, 07:18 PM
I think what happens with the big celebrity book advances, and even the big famous author advances is that you hear all the details, so you assume that that's all that's going on. I was just at BEA. The number of books coming out this year is insane. Yes if all you did was read the reporting on it, you would think only Rosie O'Donnell and Stephen Colbert had books coming out, but there were thousands of new books there.

Yes maybe I am writing this from a skewed perspective. I am a first time author who got a decent advance, who knows several other first time authors with decent advances. None of us are famous or celebrities.

I'm not saying the publishing industry is perfect. But when people rail about the celebrities etc, I can't help but shrug, because yes it is annoying, yes I HATE that Chantal and Paris have books. But at the same time, there are thousands of new writers published a year, and every established author was a new author once.

And I am sorry, but to the person who claims there are no good books since 1990, I think that is simple ignorance. There have been some beautiful works released in the last decade, plain and simple.

Finally, as for "the middle man". I for one am so glad I have an agent. Someone who can talk with my editor, and who knows the business inside and out and better than I ever would. Who is in my corner, and gives me random pep talks if I am feeling insecure. I am so glad I don't have to deal with contract stuff, or foreign deals, and just you know . . . get to write.

Okay now to answer the actual question, one thing I would change is the exclusive submissions policy. While I understand why agents/editors want exclusives, it seems to me slightly selfish, considering it takes months to hear from them. If they knew from the beginning that they were one of five, let's say, who had the MS, I think that knowledge could be enough. Yes it sucks for them to put all the effort into a MS only to find the author has given it to someone else, but it sucks equally for the author who gets rejected and has put all his eggs into that one agent's basket for almost half a year. The agent/editor always has other MSS to choose from, and is also working with their current list. For the author this one MS is their life, and a rejection means back to square one, and a wasted couple of months. So that maybe is what I would change.

Death Wizard
06-11-2007, 07:51 PM
Okay now to answer the actual question, one thing I would change is the exclusive submissions policy. While I understand why agents/editors want exclusives, it seems to me slightly selfish, considering it takes months to hear from them. If they knew from the beginning that they were one of five, let's say, who had the MS, I think that knowledge could be enough. Yes it sucks for them to put all the effort into a MS only to find the author has given it to someone else, but it sucks equally for the author who gets rejected and has put all his eggs into that one agent's basket for almost half a year.

Good point.

johnzakour
06-11-2007, 08:35 PM
I regularly dine out on the impressive sounding little factlet that...I've sold more books than Ashley Cole (famous football player) Shayne Ward (X factor winner) and Chantelle (ummm....) Michael Barrymore (Tv presenter/comedian) combined.


Yeah from those numbers my first novel has outsold them all put together, but their advances were way bigger than mine.

Still that's the nature of the business.

Life goes on.

Raistlin Justice
06-12-2007, 07:58 AM
Hi there,

I'm not a published author if your definition of published is strictly print form. I am published electronically and some will say that doesn't count. This will segue nicely into what I have to say about the publishing industry needing to change.

Alright why did the publishing industry develop? To produce books and market them for others to read. But there is now a thriving electronic media out there that is going to catch up and eventually render the print media obsolete unless the traditional publishing houses adjust their own business models.

Right now the majority of the population still favors Print form books. I count myself among them. But us old timers are being replaced rapidlyby the younger generations who do not view the electronic media with a jaundiced eye as some of us may. It's what they are growing up with. It is the wave of the future.

Authors who are sick and tired of difficulties involved in marketing their material to the traditional houses will one day have a viable option to traditional print publishing. One that will be competitive with it in all ways. Sooner or later someone will come up with electronic publishing on a much broader scale than the traditional print media could ever hope to match.

The benefits of going electronic are many and varied. Book length would no longer be an issue. Say you have a 500 page novel of great quality but traditional publishing houses say to publish one that large kills their sale to profit ratio. In electronic format no problem. Art work that you developed yourself for your book. Electronic media No Problem. Traditional? Oh my that gets expensive and drives the price of your book too high for viability.

Please don't misunderstand me here. I still prefer the Print format myself. I'd love to see any of my books in print, but from a realistic perspective the moment the electronic media develops an economically priced version of hand held e-books I can't see how the traditional print form could compete. This will be especially true if anyone ever develops programable readers that are hand held, priced competitively with traditional books and easy to operate and index.

Now some may say that will be a long time coming. Hand held devices of today are too small or too bulky. That's true now but will it be true in ten years? In five?

Have a great day,

Don Allen
06-12-2007, 08:14 AM
This probably won't be popular, but I think the problem with the publishing industry is that they publish too much garbage. Bad writing, dumb prose, endless descriptions of nonsensical scenes that have little or nothing to do with the story. But somehow these books make it to the shelves and fail miserably while many authors with great ideas and well written stories flounder in some dreary abyss of anominity. Thank you, I needed to vent....

LaceWing
06-12-2007, 03:35 PM
I read more than I write and I'm picky, so I'll respond from a reader's point of view: out of the thousands and thousands of books shelved in the stores as simply "fiction" or "fiction and literature," there are few I'm interested in. I dread going through those thousands when in search of a new author meeting my tastes.

I dearly wish finer categories were used, so that Crichton and Rollins were shelved separately from Chabon and Vonnegut. Would a publisher's imprint be useful for this purpose? I don't know.

Namatu
06-12-2007, 06:47 PM
There's a bandwagon mentality at work, in my opinion. Oh, historical fiction is great! Oh, now it's murder mysteries set in turn of the century England! Now it's vampires! Now it's vampires in Regency England with romance! This isn't new or particularly surprising, but as a reader, it doesn't satisfy.

The balance of selection is skewed as the market is glutted with these "fads" as publishers rush to meet this "new" need. The old standbys (for lack of a better word) and their proven authors are left to languish or to shift tactics and also try their hands at the new greatest thing, oftentimes not to the best effect.

Tish Davidson
06-12-2007, 09:22 PM
There's a bandwagon mentality at work, in my opinion. Oh, historical fiction is great! Oh, now it's murder mysteries set in turn of the century England! Now it's vampires! Now it's vampires in Regency England with romance! This isn't new or particularly surprising, but as a reader, it doesn't satisfy.

The balance of selection is skewed as the market is glutted with these "fads" as publishers rush to meet this "new" need. The old standbys (for lack of a better word) and their proven authors are left to languish or to shift tactics and also try their hands at the new greatest thing, oftentimes not to the best effect.


This is more or less what I meant when I said that publishing currently pushes "disposable" literature - stuff that won't be read in 10 years, let alone 100.

Joe Moore
06-12-2007, 10:49 PM
The publishing business is just that: a business. Itís not about art or the humanities or beautiful prose. Its sole reason to exist is to make a profit. If you believe otherwise, youíre in for a big disappointment.

The comment that too many bad books get published does not make sense. Hereís why. No publisher intentionally releases a "bad" book. Doing so would be a business plan that is laughable and doomed. Their goal is to find the best written manuscript, give it the most professional editing possible, promote it within budget limitations, and work closely with the author to raise the awareness of the book in the marketplace. But no publisher has a plan that is immune to failure. Not all books appeal to enough readers to make back the original investment. The dumpster is full of great books that did not make it into the hands of enough readers. Writing a good book is no guarantee that it will ever be published. And we have all come across books that we personally didn't like or thought were "bad". That is individual preference, not quality of writing. If they are truly written poorly--spelling errors, typos, incorrect punctuation, etc.--that would be the failure of the editor.

I have never met an author who said, "Today I'm going to write a mediocre book." I've never dealt with an agent who was looking for writers with minimal talent. There are no publishers out there willing to risk their money on a sure-fire loser.

All books are considered great by someone.

That's why they were written, represented, and published. Did enough readers agree? Better yet, did enough readers even get the chance to agree. That's the battle we all face in trying to make money writing.

Now to the original question. What needs to change in the publishing business? I believe it is already changing big-time. What I see happening will affect the entire publishing industry in the years to come. As always, change will be driven by money and technology. Itís showing up in a new generation of publishing contracts containing such issues as non-competition language, derivative/adaptation rights, automatic signing away of third party rights with no increase in royalties should the third party take on production costs, severe indemnification clauses, and language about signing away the rights to all future books at the same rate/language as the current contract. These are fueled by, among other things, print on demand technology. POD means a book never goes out of print. Backlists live forever. Production costs are slashed. Inventory is a minor issue.

Publishing houses are seeing the potential for considerable revenue from electronic rights and print on demand rights. In effect, they are seeing a way to never let a book go out of print and thus want to hold the copyright for eternity. This is a long way from being fully implemented, but contracts are starting to reflect that line of thinking. The day of ďboilerplateĒ publishing contracts is over.

Other signs of the changing times: Indies are dying. Chains are struggling. The new books store of the future will become the superstores like Samís Club, Costco, BJís and others. Per store, indies get hundreds of customers a year, chains get hundreds of thousands, Samís Club gets millions and have enormous buying power. The publisher wants those millions of people walking by the New Release table and seeing their books, not just hundreds or thousands like in smaller stores. Their sales departments want orders for truckloads of books, not just boxes or cases. Now comes the problem of floor space. The books in these superstores are competing with sport shirts and ground beef. Itís going to cost the publisher more to get placement which means that the emphasis is on books that sell.

Thatís why publishing is a business. Itís about money and profit, not art.

The only thing we can do to cope with these changes is to keep writing the best books we can, get a good agent, work closely with our publishers to promote and market, and hope for a little good luck.

LaceWing
06-13-2007, 12:12 AM
I read more than I write and I'm picky, so I'll respond from a reader's point of view: out of the thousands and thousands of books shelved in the stores as simply "fiction" or "fiction and literature," there are few I'm interested in. I dread going through those thousands when in search of a new author meeting my tastes.

I dearly wish finer categories were used, so that Crichton and Rollins were shelved separately from Chabon and Vonnegut. Would a publisher's imprint be useful for this purpose? I don't know.

At Amazon, I clicked on a recent book, found the publisher (the imprint) but no direct link, googled it, clicked to get that imprint's main page, and found a long blurb about the authors they are most proud of. Bingo: almost a list to print out and take to B&N for my next browsing session, a Starbuck's hazelnut latte in hand.

And it occurred to me that Amazon and B&N could add another index to their database to save me all that trouble, and maybe even charge the publishers for the service they provide to readers. B&N would be more likely to display a printable list, one would think. Amazon might let me mark imprints as personal favorites so as to keep their new releases front and center during my online browsing.

Tish Davidson
06-13-2007, 01:20 AM
T

Itís about money and profit, not art.

The only thing we can do to cope with these changes is to keep writing the best books we can, get a good agent, work closely with our publishers to promote and market, and hope for a little good luck.


I think you missed the point. The OP's question was What would you change about publishing if you and the resources?

I agree that publishing is a business and that no one starts out planning to promote a "bad" book -- bad defined in the business sense as one that will lose money. However, I do believe that emphasis on the short-term profit and quarter-by-quarter bottom line has resulted in increased power of the marketing department and decreased the opportunity for of editors to work with good writers that they believe will develop into great writers. The writer's platform and what they bring to the table in that will sell books in addition to good writing has become increasingly important. I recognize this, but it doesn't mean that if I had the resources, I wouldn't want to change it.

James D. Macdonald
06-13-2007, 01:34 AM
This probably won't be popular, but I think the problem with the publishing industry is that they publish too much garbage. Bad writing, dumb prose, endless descriptions of nonsensical scenes that have little or nothing to do with the story. But somehow these books make it to the shelves and fail miserably while many authors with great ideas and well written stories flounder in some dreary abyss of anominity. Thank you, I needed to vent....

Yep, and it's been that way for the last century at least. Someday you should look at all books published in 1907, not just all the books published in 1907 that anyone hears about now.

JoNightshade
06-13-2007, 01:54 AM
Yep, and it's been that way for the last century at least. Someday you should look at all books published in 1907, not just all the books published in 1907 that anyone hears about now.

Back in college I worked at a used bookstore. I learned then that 90% of everything that's published is ultimately trash. Literally. Our dumpster in back was piled high with garbage that people would leave on our counter after we refused to buy it. As someone who revered books, I thought this was sacrilege... for about three days.

chartreuse
06-13-2007, 03:59 AM
I'd like to see the entire dynamic between publishers/agents and writers turned on its head.

The fact is that everyone seems to have forgotten that without the writers, there wouldn't be anything for publishers to publish, and agents wouldn't have anything to represent.

Writers are bombarded with books, conferences and workshops on how to get published, how to attract on agent, how to build a platform, blah blah blah, to the point that after awhile it's really easy to get discouraged about the fact that the last thing anyone seems interested in is the story you've told so well.

If I could snap my fingers and make it different, workshops would have pitching sessions where agents pitched to writers, telling them what it is that they could do for them, laying out why they are the perfect person to represent the book, etc. Publishers would be expected as a matter of course to lay out all of the steps they will take to promote the book, and those steps would be a burden on the publisher, not the writer. Any agent that wants an exclusive would have to pay for it, in effect "renting" the rights while they prepare their offer to you.

I know that this is at best idealistic and at worst delusional, but it really seems to me that the publishing industry is based on a mistaken premise - that they are more important to us than we are to them.

mscelina
06-13-2007, 04:47 AM
I thought about this question quite a bit before I dared to post my answer. That being said, here goes:

In my world, it doesn't matter if the publishing industry needs a revision. As an author, it is my responsibility to operate within the guidelines established by the industry if I wish to be published. Naturally, there are aspects of the industry that annoy the bejesus out of me, but if I'm submitting I pay very careful attention to the requirements for submission and follow them to the letter. It's almost like a test of meticulousness--if you follow their (admittedly sometimes ridiculous guidelines) they are more disposed to give your work a chance.

What it all boils down to is this: if publishing is big business (and I think we can all agree that it is) then arguing over what needs to be changed within it is counterproductive. It reminds me of a fairly well-known college football player here in the States who sued the NFL to force them to let him in despite their rules about eligibility Even at the time, I was like, "Way to go, moron. Sue the people you're trying to get to HIRE you...brilliant." One single indisputable fact is this: we can't change the industry from OUTSIDE it.

Just my two cents' worth. Cheers.

herdon
06-13-2007, 05:39 AM
I think the one thing that would help the industry would be more independent/small presses with the clout to get their books into bookstores. There are a few, but the industry is going more and more to a few large conglomorates -- like most industries. And I think competition is always good.

As for the writer, the one pet peeve I have are agents that don't respond to email queries. Email programs come with a SASE in the form of a respond button and copy/pasting a form letter into the body of an email is bound to be easier than printing out form letters and mailing them.

talkwrite
06-13-2007, 09:21 PM
Hello Rebew- original poster (Quoted below) Just curious if your deadline for this paper has passed. I had little to no support for my standing up for the indies ( bookstores) and I work for a publishing house... Just trying to guess at what you will be reporting, and curious, what university or college?
Talkwrite
hey-love reading your posts!, but new to posting, here is my first.

Iím writing a rigorous college paper for my masterís degree on the publishing industry. I want to explore what improvements can be made to make the process less painful.

Iím close to closing the paper and would like to include the thoughts from you, the author. Whatís the most challenging part [I know getting someone to read it is an issue] and if you had the resources to change the industry what would be some of your solutions?

My paper will be presented before a crowd of professors and colleagues, so if you have a book published Iíll be happy to include your title. ex. "The industry needs..." from the author of "your book title". Iíll throw in a small advertisement for ya ;)

thanks for your help!

Torgo
06-14-2007, 10:35 PM
The fact is that everyone seems to have forgotten that without the writers, there wouldn't be anything for publishers to publish, and agents wouldn't have anything to represent.

And without publishers, writers would have to take on the whole risky and expensive publishing process themselves, without the benefit of publishers' and agents' know-how and economies of scale.

Writers are bombarded with books, conferences and workshops on how to get published, how to attract on agent, how to build a platform, blah blah blah, to the point that after awhile it's really easy to get discouraged about the fact that the last thing anyone seems interested in is the story you've told so well.

Many people are desperate to be published; 99% of them cannot tell a story at all well; certain publishers (and workshoppers, and conference organisers) will always regard them as a good market. No book or conference or workshop - not even Uncle Jim - is a necessary step on the road to getting published.

If I could snap my fingers and make it different, workshops would have pitching sessions where agents pitched to writers, telling them what it is that they could do for them, laying out why they are the perfect person to represent the book, etc. Publishers would be expected as a matter of course to lay out all of the steps they will take to promote the book, and those steps would be a burden on the publisher, not the writer.

Publishers, at least, should do this as a matter of course. (If they don't, ask them.) I've pitched for the odd blockbuster. It's not only the money, it's the plan that you're offering them. But a publisher has to want your book first. There's no point in them tossing money at something that isn't going to sell just to take a burden off the you.

Dave.C.Robinson
06-14-2007, 10:56 PM
Ok here's my two cents:

It's all about the money, and the fact that "The Customer is always right." Publishers are writers' customers. They have money and we're trying to sell them something. That puts them in the driver's seat.

Most suggestions recommend making things more writer-friendly. As a writer I appreciate that, but it's not how things work. Publishers want to make things bookstore or distributor-friendly, while bookstores want to make things reader-friendly. Everyone puts their attention on pleasing the people who give them money.

This is why "author-friendly" should be such a huge warning. Authors are suppliers, they're the people who get yelled at because something wasn't turned in on time?

This is where the scams really infuriate me: they're a complete reversal of the publishing industry.

I do agree that there are changes that could be made to the current industry, but they should be to make it more consumer friendly. More publishers should relax their restrictions on DRM free ebooks. I've spent a lot of money on ebooks lately, (at least $1000) and I won't buy anything with DRM.

Also, reporting should be faster, no reason why they can't use modern technology to get information back to the writer within three months of the quarterly returns.

Harper K
06-14-2007, 11:27 PM
If I could snap my fingers and make it different, workshops would have pitching sessions where agents pitched to writers, telling them what it is that they could do for them, laying out why they are the perfect person to represent the book, etc. Publishers would be expected as a matter of course to lay out all of the steps they will take to promote the book, and those steps would be a burden on the publisher, not the writer. Any agent that wants an exclusive would have to pay for it, in effect "renting" the rights while they prepare their offer to you.


But this kind of thing does happen when publishing houses or agents find themselves with an author worth fighting for. In some of johnrobison's posts, he's discussed how he had offers on his memoir from several publishers, and he got to pick which one to work with.

Similarly, I recently read a blog post by a new author who had 2 agent offers. One of the agencies was local to her, and so the agent took her out to lunch and discussed what the agency could offer her as an author. I imagine the second agent also spelled out the benefits of working with her agency. So yes, in essence, the agencies pitched to her.

Plus, think about any time a big author's contract runs out with their current house. Other houses will rush to woo them. This happened recently with YA / chick lit author Meg Cabot. Scholastic successfully wooed her away from HarperCollins, and now she's got an exclusive contract for her YA books with Scholastic. I would bet Scholastic put up a good chunk of their Harry Potter profits to pay for Meg Cabot's contract. But young girls love her, and her stuff sells very well across North America and Europe.

Not to sound like I think everything's perfect in the publishing industry, but if the market's right and the author's work is good enough, the industry will allow the author to be in the driver's seat, so to speak.

rebew
06-16-2007, 10:31 AM
Just want to thank everyone that replied! You were awesome. Best of luck and much success in the industry. see you around the forums.

aruna
06-16-2007, 11:40 AM
Just found this thread. Maybe your deadline has passed, but anyway I wanted to say that there is one thing I would change: I would give editors more clout in the decision making process. These days a book has to go to an editorial board before it gates taken on, so even if the editor is competent and loves the book it might still get rejected. I would like editors to be the sole deciders; the people from sales and marketing could then get to set the advance and the promotional and marketing details, but not to choose the book.

triceretops
06-16-2007, 12:31 PM
Well, I blogged about this, so I'll include one of my biggest pet peeves--the death of the advance.


Have We Seen The Demise Of The Advance?
Thursday, June 14, 2007


Have we seen the demise of the advance? I’m talking about all these print-on-demand companies (POD) that are masquerading as “traditional” publishers. With the advent of POD, we’ve seen a proliferation of publishers hanging out their shingles, writing glowing mission statements, and proclaiming that they are bonafide royalty paying publishers. We’ve had about what, ten or more years of this? They often convey lofty ideals that appeal to the “dreamers”, “rejected”, “hopeful” or newbie writers. Without doubt, most of these pub outfits are run as hobbies, in garages or spare bedrooms, with limited staff and resources. Many of them went through Lulu or iUniverse to publish their own tomes, and decided they liked the idea and had enough business savvy to open their doors to fledgling writers. Friends and associates jumped in to help out with book cover art, editing, shipping and mailing. These contract employees are internet acquaintances. This so called workforce is not toiling under the same roof at a business address, working as a real publishing team. So when they all come together, we have a…

Presto, we have a publisher!

Not. These people usually have little or no experience in the trade and don’t belong there. They offer higher royalty percentages (they claim), but what they don’t tell you is that those percentages are based on “net” sales, or the profit they actually receive. No advance means a very low startup cost. If they request that an author supply them with a large list of friends and relatives, you can bet that they know purchases from THAT source will compensate them for their initial print order. What’s their initial print order? However many free copies they promised the author—usually 2-5 copies, rarely more than ten. Where are the sales going to come from? From that list you sent them. Plus…You. First-time authors are so enamored with their books that they’ll gladly lay down hundreds of dollars for crates of their own product. And those that do make these large outlays—congratulations! You have just become that publisher's unpaid sales force. Now they’re raking in profits from the sale of your book back to you, less their printing cost, of course. The solution is to print as many authors as possible in a given year—quantity over quality—the K-mart mentality.

Where is their incentive to offer you an advance now?

An advance is a publisher’s faith and conviction in a book that they expect to sell to the general public—that is the vast reading audience out there. They fully expect to see their books shelved in brick and mortar bookstores. This is the way it’s handled in the big leagues. An advance also confirms to the writer that they are being professionally dealt with, and this money gives them a little leeway and time for them to write the next book. It’s also validation. An advance-paying publisher almost always uses an offset print run. Offset is much cheaper to produce thousands of copies. An advance publisher employs/utilizes hard-mail color catalogues, sends dozens, sometimes hundreds of books to reputable book review sources, have a tradeshow presence, retain a small advertising budget, have a publicity manager on deck (bet you didn’t know that), radio, TV and newspaper coverage, and a real sales force that door-bangs on the thresholds of distributors, wholesalers and book shops. They rarely, if ever ask for any list of friends and relatives. Author copies number in the dozens and the author discount is always up in the 50% bracket.

I can’t think of more than 15-20 major publishers in my genre that provide an industry standard advance. That’s about $2,000 to $5,000, and that’s low-ballin’. There are a few dozen (maybe) who offer a few hundred dollars. But there are thousands who are offering zero. The zero people, I like to call them, think that they are revolutionizing the industry, fixing something they believe is inherently broken, saving paper, and leading the way into the next millennium. They are quick to offer up excuses and proclaim that they are ready to get behind a book that proves itself. The trouble is, none of the books reach this milestone. Why? Because there was no advance.

Advance means a publisher is serious about entering the trade. It means they have enough clout, prestige, and confidence in their ability to MOVE product. It means libraries and bookstores will take them seriously, because they receive the best discounts and quality books. It means that publisher has a real address, is working full time, and houses enough professionals to get the job done. An advance-paying publisher BELIEVES in you, the author.

The zero people have vision problems. They claim that once they are solvent things will change. Things never have to change when the profit is so good. Things can’t change, really. It all goes back to that money thing again, the same reason why they didn’t offer an advance in the first place—too much overhead. Take the risk out of the publisher and slap the author with it—much safer that way.

So the next time you receive a contract from a publisher who does not pay an advance, has no marketing or distribution, pays on net, asks you for a friends and relatives list, doesn’t do offset, or can’t even qualify for Ingram’s, all you have to ask them is, “Are you SERIOUS?”

But you’ll already know the answer to that, won’t you? Well, won’t you?

BEWARE OF PUBLISH AMERICA!!!

Philip64
06-16-2007, 06:12 PM
hey-love reading your posts!, but new to posting, here is my first.

I’m writing a rigorous college paper for my master’s degree on the publishing industry. I want to explore what improvements can be made to make the process less painful.

I’m close to closing the paper and would like to include the thoughts from you, the author. What’s the most challenging part [I know getting someone to read it is an issue] and if you had the resources to change the industry what would be some of your solutions?

My paper will be presented before a crowd of professors and colleagues, so if you have a book published I’ll be happy to include your title. ex. "The industry needs..." from the author of "your book title". I’ll throw in a small advertisement for ya ;)

thanks for your help!


Again, going back to the question...

If I were free to change the industry (and, of course, nobody is) I would be very. very bold. I would:

Re-instate the net book agreement in the UK and its equivalent in the US. Books would be sold at recommended retail price and it would be illegal to sell new copies at any discount until they were at least 2 years old.
Internet book retailers would be permitted to reduce prices only equivalent to postage cost; so they would be at no disadvantage.
This measure would be introduced in stages, so as to minimise disruption.

What would be the effect?

- Independent book shops would spring up again. They would be at no cost-base disadvantage to the big chains.

- Supermarkets would lose market share. Good. Their title range is too small anyway, and their discounting hurts publishers and authors alike.

- The RRP of books would probably fall, because publishers would no longer have to factor in the enormous discounts that might be offered - discounts that increasingly effect the wholesale price they can command.

- In time, more independent book publishers would emerge. The big media groups would sell or spin-off their book publishing arms, many to their own managers via MBOs.

- We would probably see less money spent on marketing. Only the big media groups can afford such spending. This would be no loss. Such campaigns have to be paid for by someone (the consumer ultimately) and only succeed in damaging diversity. The decline of the so-called midlist and authors' falling incomes can be related directly to the rise of the marketing departments at publishing houses.

- If popular books became more expensive, more people would go to the library. This would arrest the tragic decline in library usage and funding (certainly in the UK). Getting people, and especially kids, back into libraries would provide a wealth of social benefits, going well beyond literacy.

- Finally, we would see sales and incomes for the majority of authors rise, since their (typically non-discounted) titles would no longer be at a cost disadvantage to the bestsellers. At present such discounts are typically in the 30%-40% range, which is quite simply unfair. (NB: I speak as an author whose last paperback was available at 3-for-2 in most stores, an effective dscount of 33%.)

Does this amount to a form of protectionism? Yes. But so does subsidising the Royal Opera or - for that matter - using public funds to police football matches.

Well, you did ask...