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View Full Version : Secrets of book publishing I wish I had known



CBumpkin
07-31-2008, 07:09 AM
Author Mark Hurst wrote an article about his experience as an author. He's an experienced author and wrote Bit Literacy (http://www.amazon.com/Bit-Literacy-Productivity-Information-Overload/dp/0979368103/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1217473718&sr=8-1). Here's his article (http://goodexperience.com/2008/07/following-up-on-these.php) for anyone who is interested in what he wishes he had known about the publishing business before he wrote his book.

I found it interesting.

scope
07-31-2008, 07:14 AM
Great article, and so true-so true-so true.

blacbird
07-31-2008, 07:30 AM
And what about this article represents any new insight, anything that hasn't been rehashed ad nauseum for the past two decades or more? If this is all the more insightful he can be, I think I understand why he wound up self-publishing.

caw

Claudia Gray
07-31-2008, 07:37 AM
I'm with blacbird. There's nothing new here, and while most of it should not be astonishing to anyone over the age of 14 (publishers like to make money! Who knew?), some of it is flat-out false (while I do some promotion, my publisher does a whole lot more.)

Soccer Mom
07-31-2008, 07:42 AM
Sorry, but much of that is pure bunk and what keeps people flocking to hand their hard earned cash over to self-pubs and vanity presses or :shudders: PA.


If you do get a publisher interested in your idea, you should know now what the deal will be. You write the book, you promote the book - in other words, you create the product and sell it - and in return, the publisher will allow their name to appear on the book jacket. Oh, and the publisher keeps most of the money - since, they'll remind you, they assumed all the risk in the project.

Seriously? Is this all he thinks a publisher does? Let me tell you, a good editor can be make or break for a book. The right editor can make a very good book fabulous. A vanity publisher does nothing but slap their name on the product. A good publisher does much more.


As for how you get those sales... that's your job, as I said above. Wait: you thought the publisher was going to sell and distribute your book? No no no. Their job is to put their name on the book jacket, fulfill orders and accept payment from bookstore orders (which come from your sales efforts), keep most of the money, and then, several months later, cut your small royalty check.

The bolding is mine. And YES (!!!!!) a publisher does sell and distribute your book. The author should be prepared to help promote the book, but publishers actually do distribute and sell books. Shocking, I know, but that is how they make money.

Basically, this person's premise is that you should just self-publish like he did because publishers and agents don't do anything but grub off an author's talent and hard work.

It's one thing to present a realistic view of the difficulties of publishing, but I'm weary of the hand-wringing and moaning that we all might as well go jump off the nearest cliff because the odds of being published are slightly less than sprouting a horn through the forehead.

There is realistic and then there is overly pessimistic.

Quossum
07-31-2008, 07:48 AM
It's one thing to present a realistic view of the difficulties of publishing, but I'm weary of the hand-wringing and moaning that we all might as well go jump off the nearest cliff because the odds of being published are slightly less than sprouting a horn through the forehead.

Yeah, but things ain't so sweet for unicorns, either. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5im0Ssyyus)

Seriously, I read the blog and thought, Sheeze, bitter much?

--Q

Virector
07-31-2008, 08:14 AM
I don't know as much as I probably should (as an aspiring author) about getting published, but I thought this article was overly pessimistic too... In fact, it was really discouraging to read, especially for some of us who have WIPs which are still far from complete- reading this makes me not want to continue, knowing that there's a really, really faint light at the end of the writing tunnel, as this article seems to be stressing. And really, what this person said about you having to sell your book entirely by yourself is thoroughly unpleasant... I can't even think of where I'd start if I had to sell my own book 100%... At least you guys seem to be disagreeing with him, because I would have thrown down my pen TODAY after reading this, because I'm not that much of 'fighter' and I would fail to endure the very nearly impossible task of getting published (as described in the article).:e2thud:

BenPanced
07-31-2008, 08:58 AM
Blah blah blah won't publish me blah blah blah insider job blah blah blah too unique blah blah blah it's a conspiracy blah blah blah out to silence me blah blah blah only after my money blah blah blah only way to go is self-publish blah blah fishcakes.

Prozyan
07-31-2008, 09:19 AM
Personally, considering the small market for his book, I'm not particularly surprised that no established publishers wanted to take a chance on it.

I guess he is a bit bitter about that.

Old Hack
07-31-2008, 10:58 AM
If you didn't know a whole lot about publising it could easily seem that this guy knows what he's talking about, and has managed to overcome the problems he encountered. And is now letting his readers in on the secrets.

If you have some experience of book publishing, though, it's clear that he failed to get published commercially, and is bitter about that. The post is a mishmash of all of those misconceptions about publishing that are popular with vanity-publishers and the Great Unpublished, with a hefty dose of rhetoric to top up the whole mix.

There's a marked lack of logic in some of his points, too.

I started my blog to try to address some of this misinformation. There's so much of it out there that I don't think I'll ever run out of things to say. It's sad.

Jane

CBumpkin
07-31-2008, 11:48 AM
He's a savvy writer, though, you have to admit. I really did find the article interesting. He's savvy in the same way that some people are when they take a Bible verse and twist it to suit their own purposes. There's a hint of truth in what they're saying, but it's been stretched so thin and twisted so subtly that others who aren't so experienced could say, "Hey, yeah!"

At least some good is coming from it. Some of you now have new blogging ideas! ;)

Bartholomew
07-31-2008, 12:31 PM
What a pessimistic piece of crap. I'm sorry I read the first half, and very glad I didn't finish it. The way he spins it, self publishing is the way to go.

channeller
07-31-2008, 12:54 PM
After all, you have write the book...

I know, it's outrageous! They'll do nothing for you those darn publishers!

Momento Mori
07-31-2008, 04:35 PM
Given that Mark Hurst couldn't get an actual publisher to publish his book, how does he know what they do and don't expect you to do regarding the marketing and selling of a book?


Mark Hurst:
If you sign with a big enough publisher, you have the chance - not the guarantee - of getting some - not necessarily much - distribution in some - not necessarily more than one - national chain, where customers will have the chance, on a shelf somewhere in the store, to come across your book and maybe buy a copy. As I said, it's not the best sales route. (And it's not a compelling reason, on its own, to sign with a publisher.)


And yet a publisher has a significantly higher chance of getting your book on shelves across the country than you do if you self-publish.


Mark Hurst:
You can also hire an agent to seek out and negotiate with a publisher for your book idea.

Since when do you hire an agent? Agents are paid if they sell your book and most agents can get around the contracts issues that Mark talks about in his article. Do not go to an agent that charges up-front fees for representation.


Mark Hurst:
But you, the author, can't be in it for the money - it doesn't pay enough.

<snip>

you have write the book, you have to sell the book, while the publisher may get you some distribution that may lead to a little bit of sales.

<snip>

You can self-publish, as I did with my book Bit Literacy - or you can publish your content online for free (via a blog, for example). It depends on your goals.

I will guarantee you that in 99% of cases, a deal with a publisher will earn you more money than if you self-publish. It will certainly earn you more money than if you publish on-line for free.

The shame of it is, the idea of managing your email etc is quite a hot topic in the UK at the moment (there was a documentary on it a few months ago about the stresses caused by electronics in the modern age). If he had an agent and developed a platform, I could see a niche publisher going for it.

MM

nevada
07-31-2008, 08:07 PM
Wow, another article for the PublishAmerica book of lies.

Toothpaste
07-31-2008, 08:13 PM
What is more shocking to me are the people, published and publishers, in the comments section who appear to agree with the author of the article. I guess I just run in a very different circle, because the ones I know . . . I have met such passionate editors that I am truly offended on their behalf right now . . .

scheherazade
07-31-2008, 11:30 PM
Ten percent of something is better than a hundred percent of nothing.

Bubastes
07-31-2008, 11:40 PM
I'm glad he wrote this misguided, bitter article. Less competition in the slush pile for the rest of us.

ishtar'sgate
08-01-2008, 12:00 AM
It's too bad he's so bitter. Although some of his points are valid, as long as you go into it realizing publishing is a business just like any other and that publishers do what it takes to make a profit, you'll probably be fine. I went with a small literary press, no agent, and I'm thinking of doing it again as I earned out about the same as most do with a large publishing house but without all the pressure I'm learning authors have to put up with to get their next book out - fast. I don't work well when I'm pushed.
Linnea

scope
08-01-2008, 12:04 AM
Sorry. My initial comment was written tongue-in-cheek, but apparently I didn't do a good job -- correct that, after reading it once again, I definitely didn't do a good job.

I hate the article, although I can see how it would appeal to some who want to self-publish, but don't have the proper credentials to do so.

joyce
08-01-2008, 12:09 AM
Sounds like someone didn't get up on the happy side of the bed.:)

III
08-01-2008, 12:19 AM
Sorry. My initial comment was written tongue-in-cheek, but apparently I didn't do a good job -- correct that, after reading it once again, I definitely didn't do a good job.


Next time try using the Sarcastic superscript like so:

s Great article, and so true-so true-so true. s

That way severyones will know you're being sarcastic.

scope
08-01-2008, 12:49 AM
III,

Never knew that. I'll bear it in mind. Thanks.

geardrops
08-01-2008, 12:51 AM
Really just sounds like sour grapes from someone who couldn't get published.

Yeah, there's truth there. But a lot of it is caricaturized.

Bubastes
08-01-2008, 12:55 AM
What I keep wondering is why he's still so bitter. He got a blurb from Seth Godin and his book mentioned on a lot of personal productivity blogs and business book websites. So it's not like his book is bombing.

roncouch
08-02-2008, 04:49 AM
Wouldn't dream of self-publishing before, or after reading the article.

sunnyxlove
08-02-2008, 09:45 AM
I think some of his points were helpful...but mostly depressing. I think he is just trying to warn us, but I wish he was a little more optimistic XD

pianoman5
08-03-2008, 08:10 AM
As an article it's not a bad summation of the publishing industry, although the author might have tried harder to conceal his bitterness about finding out the truth the hard way. And his statement that nobody in the industry really cares about books is hopelessly wide of the mark. But as hopeful participants in the industry, it behoves us to understand something of the beast we would like to engage with, and he has clearly identified many of the issues that make it less glamorous than one might fondly imagine.

It's like 'Show business' - onlookers are only interested in the romantic 'Show' part, but everyone in that industry soon realises that the 'business' aspect rules supreme. The only difference with publishing is that instead of 'bums on seats' it's 'copies sold'.

If you ever want to depress yourself about the likelihood of success, you don't need to read the article. Just go into a reasonably-sized bookstore, head for the section that might contain a copy or two of your little work, and imagine them placed spine-out where your name fits in the alphabetic arrangement. Then look around at the handful of customers in the shop and consider what might draw them to your offering, from a choice of many thousands, and rush over to the counter, credit card at the ready.
The entire world of publishing hinges on that scenario, repeated a billion times a year. Unfortunately, it is also bound by the Pareto Principle, the 80:20 rule - 80% of sales are for 20% of authors. It might even be closer to 90:10 in the book business.

So we should not be suprised about publishers focussing their efforts on the 10-20% of authors, and potential authors, that make their business models viable. The challenge for each of us, if we insist on being lionised by its movers and shakers, is to try to fit into that glorious upper echelon by writing un-put-down-able books.

Ken
08-03-2008, 08:56 AM
...so any one know of a link to an article on the "secrets of book publishing" that's informative. Clicking on this thread, I'm in the mood to read one, now. But I suppose there really aren't any huge secrets, out there, other than to just write a good book.

triceretops
08-03-2008, 09:28 AM
J.A. Konrath (sp?) has a great, great webiste with a free publishing/writing book, a tip section, bio, and blog. Some of the best advice I've ever read. Except...for some of his excessive ideas about self-promoting. Gak.

Tri

Ken
08-03-2008, 09:39 AM
thanks, Tri. On my way over to check it out...
http://www.jakonrath.com/

mirrorkisses
08-03-2008, 10:39 AM
They're not doing it for the love of books.
Nonononono! Completely incorrect. Publishers love books, but they also need to make money. Once my former employer asked me if we should take on a book, and I said, "if it sells, yes." He told me that was the answer he was looking for. Selling is important, but it doesn't mean they don't love books.

Drop any illusions about spending time with book lovers; this is business.
Incorrect again. Every person I've worked with is in publishing because they love reading and writing.

You write the book, you promote the book
This is only true to a certain degree. What, has he self published???

Publishers and bookstores are in it for the money. But you, the author, can't be in it for the money - it doesn't pay enough.
I didn't know people wrote novels for the money (other than celebrities and bigger names). I thought it was just for the simple joy of writing. There's nothing wrong with writing for money, but that's not my motivation.

You can self-publish, as I did with my book Bit Literacy - or you can publish your content online for free (via a blog, for example).

Oh I see.... He couldn't get legitimately published. It's all clear now.

KikiteNeko
08-06-2008, 12:57 AM
lol. Yup! That first one is the first thing I learned when I started querying agents and reading their feedback.

priceless1
08-06-2008, 01:46 AM
He's a savvy writer, though, you have to admit...There's a hint of truth in what they're saying...
I don't find this article at all savvy. To me, savvy denotes practical understanding and intelligence. He exhibits neither of these attributes. In many places he's plain wrong and shows little understanding of the industry. And how could he? He's never been published by a trade publisher.

This is the #1 danger of these blogs that exhort advice about publishing. The only ones truly qualified to talk about the ins and outs of the business are those who live it every day.

KikiteNeko
08-06-2008, 03:36 AM
I don't find this article at all savvy. To me, savvy denotes practical understanding and intelligence. He exhibits neither of these attributes. In many places he's plain wrong and shows little understanding of the industry. And how could he? He's never been published by a trade publisher.

This is the #1 danger of these blogs that exhort advice about publishing. The only ones truly qualified to talk about the ins and outs of the business are those who live it every day.

I figured he'd never been to a trade publisher when he started talking about how it's YOUR job to make sure your books end up in bookstores, and your job to convince the stores to buy it while the publishers sit around smokin' indo and sippin on jin and juice.

priceless1
08-06-2008, 04:45 AM
I figured he'd never been to a trade publisher when he started talking about how it's YOUR job to make sure your books end up in bookstores, and your job to convince the stores to buy it while the publishers sit around smokin' indo and sippin on jin and juice.
Well, okay, he found us out. In reality, we do sit around eating Twinkies and guzzling cheap tequila. When we're really toasted, we throw darts at our favorite cover art and play pin the tail on the distributor.

KikiteNeko
08-06-2008, 04:51 AM
Well, okay, he found us out. In reality, we do sit around eating Twinkies and guzzling cheap tequila. When we're really toasted, we throw darts at our favorite cover art and play pin the tail on the distributor.

lol.
My ms is on submission right now, and I reallly, I mean ruh-eee-ally don't think my agent would be wasting so much time trying to get a publisher if all they did was sit around and put their name on the book flap.

KikiteNeko
08-06-2008, 06:57 AM
Another thing.... Don't you get your advance.... in advance? Isn't that what an advance is? What was he talking about when he said they withold your advance?

JeanneTGC
08-06-2008, 07:17 AM
Well, okay, he found us out. In reality, we do sit around eating Twinkies and guzzling cheap tequila. When we're really toasted, we throw darts at our favorite cover art and play pin the tail on the distributor.
I KNEW it! I KNEW it was all glamour and lounging about and making the authors do all the work while watching the money roll in like it was in oil barrels! Now I want to be a publisher! I have no contacts or anything, but hey, I love Twinkies and can whine and lounge with the best of them.

*races off to print business cards and put up a Google ad*

Twizzle
08-07-2008, 08:18 PM
Well, okay, he found us out. In reality, we do sit around eating Twinkies and guzzling cheap tequila. When we're really toasted, we throw darts at our favorite cover art and play pin the tail on the distributor.

Oh, man. There's nothing I love more than a good Twinkie, chased by a shot of tequila.

I should have gone into publishing...sigh...

Enraptured
08-08-2008, 02:20 PM
Publishing isn't as idyllic as a pot of aspiring authors think it is. That's a fair point. But everything he said in here has been said before, and some of it seems a little... excessive.

And it doesn't make me want to self-publish. You have to have a certain type of temperament to succeed in self-publishing, and I don't have it.