PDA

View Full Version : Another article on the sagging fortunes of mid-list authors



Miss Plum
06-09-2010, 09:25 PM
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2010/jun/08/authors-financial-squeeze


It's an all too familiar scenario. The squeeze on mid-list authors has been a big story in publishing (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/publishing) for years now. It's impossible even to keep track of which authors have dropped off the radar. Publishers don't announce it, and the last thing most writers want to do is broadcast the fact they can no longer get published. Yet, it seems reasonable to estimate that dozens (maybe hundreds) are disappearing every year judging by persistent industry chatter, not to mention occasional unsettling revelations, such as the fact that many writers have been moved to take legal action (http://www.thebookseller.com/news/96189-publishers-cancelling-books-to-cut-costs.html) against publishers trying to escape their contract commitments.


This discussion comes up every now and then. So once again, what to think, what to do?

M.R.J. Le Blanc
06-09-2010, 10:07 PM
I don't know, but I just had a thought. What if not every mid-lister stopped getting published was simply because of the publisher just cutting folks loose? What if some of the reason these mid-listers are getting dropped is because they're just not putting out marketable material anymore? I can't see EVERY mid-lister being jilted by their publisher for no good reason.

thothguard51
06-09-2010, 10:17 PM
I read in Donald Maass's book, (Writing the Breakout Novel), the biggest problem with many authors is they become stale or predictable to readers and thus their sales slump.

I would say this could be a factor for many mid-listers as well. But I also feel the industry needs mid-listers. In my humble opinion, they carry the industry between mega hits... They are a steady stream of income.

Xvee
06-09-2010, 10:28 PM
I think we should all just concentrate on writing best-sellers. How hard could it be? :D

Mann Crux
06-09-2010, 10:48 PM
I think we should all just concentrate on writing best-sellers. How hard could it be? :D

Oh well in that case I'm in. I've got a pile of those about four ft high in my loft.

ChaosTitan
06-09-2010, 11:11 PM
The mid-list will continue to fluctuate and gain/lose authors, just as it always has. It's part of the industry. What's important is why these authors are no longer visible in the marketplace.

Did their writing go stale? Did they stop delivering solid manuscripts, which caused their sales to slip? Did the publisher face budget cuts which required letting go of their less profitable authors? Did the author's particular genre implode when it was previously hot (think "chick lit")?

I have to wonder, too, how many of these languishing mid-listers have re-launched their careers under pen names.

Ineti
06-09-2010, 11:28 PM
I have to wonder, too, how many of these languishing mid-listers have re-launched their careers under pen names.

More than a few, I'm sure. And why not? Why rely on one name's source of income when you can have two, three, ten, or more?

As for the OP's question, I know some writers who have gotten a book or two published and then either got bored with the writing life, or felt like they had met their goal of being published and didn't have a need to continue. They saw it as a short-term goal rather than a career. Different strokes.

Libbie
06-10-2010, 12:17 AM
Write books that don't bore people, and you will be fine. You might not be a consistent bestseller, but you ought to have a good midlist career if you keep from getting stale.

I'm never worried by the "sky is falling" articles that seem to crop up in cycles. The exact same fears have been broadcast in the industry for over a hundred years.

gothicangel
06-10-2010, 12:51 AM
I thought it was one hell of a melodramatic flounce. :D

I was in Waterstone's today an found myself thinking, I've read all the good ones. But on the other hand during the two hours before I found myself a book there was a steady stream of customers actively approaching staff seeking out their favourite authors.

Okay I don't like books by Stephanie Meyer, Dan Brown and JK Rowling but I'm sure their success allow me to buy my beloved literary thrillers.

Toothpaste
06-10-2010, 12:55 AM
You know there was a time I'd agree with most posters here about fluctuating trends and stale midlist authors, but I'm seeing far more and more these days authors of two or three novels utterly unable to sell a third/fourth because their first few books weren't massive best sellers. Not because their work was bad, nor their next work bad.

You can blame the authors all you want for the reason they are no longer viable to publishers, but I am starting to really get the sense that the big houses at least are looking for big, massive, numbers. Even if you have a decent publishing track record, that might not be enough any more.

Nor is sagging sales necessarily reflective of bad quality writing, or writing that doesn't reflect what the market wants. It's hard for a book to sell in vast quantities when the bookstores decide not to stock them on their shelves, and the publisher puts no money at all into promoting the book.

I think actually these days the midlist IS in a dire way. I see publishing as wanting to produce little more than blockbusters now and it's scary. I even know of editors who have quit because they are tired of this trend. The steady and unglamorous midlist is not of interest as much anymore. And certainly if you don't have the numbers to back it up (numbers which so often have little to do with the product itself - I don't care what people say about good books always selling, I've seen too many fantastic published books flounder because the publisher didn't care), you don't have a publisher to nurture you through the rough patches.

Sure this is good news for new writers, because every debut is a potential brand new bestseller. But for the rest of us with a few books under our belts, with a decent but not phenomenal track record, it's damn difficult. And I've won awards, kids write to me telling me how much they love my stuff. Doesn't seem to matter.

I understand the importance of making sure we don't wallow in the doom and gloom predictions out there. But it's also not fair to just blame the writers and move on. I get that there is a degree of self preservation in that, "Well it's that writer's fault her career has stagnated, obviously she did something wrong. When the time comes for me, it won't be the same because I'll do everything right." Still . . . I think it's a little cold. And a little blind to the reality that has happened to the publishing industry in the past two years.

Bubastes
06-10-2010, 12:56 AM
Write books that don't bore people, and you will be fine. You might not be a consistent bestseller, but you ought to have a good midlist career if you keep from getting stale.

I'm never worried by the "sky is falling" articles that seem to crop up in cycles. The exact same fears have been broadcast in the industry for over a hundred years.

This.

Seriously, the alternatives are keep writing or quit and do something else. It's that simple.

I'd rather focus on writing, improving my craft, and yes, figuring out how to adapt to changes in the publishing business. Worrying about stuff I can't change is a waste of energy.

Toothpaste
06-10-2010, 01:00 AM
This.

Seriously, the alternatives are keep writing or quit and do something else. It's that simple.

I'd rather focus on writing, improving my craft, and yes, learning how to stay afloat as the business changes. Worrying about stuff I can't change is a waste of energy.


Absolutely. There's no point in moping.

But I think it wise that people don't just assume that because they've written a good book it will get published. And that it's only bad books that make the midlist authors disappear.

Because if we believe this it means that every time our books get rejected and unpublished that must make them unmarketable and bad. It's hard to keep going when you feel like you're a failure in that way.

The fact is yes, you have to keep learning, keep writing. But you also need to be wise to the fact that sometimes things are out of your control, and sometimes good books don't get published for other reasons than there is something wrong with the book.

That's the business. Especially lately.

Bubastes
06-10-2010, 01:04 AM
Any kind of business, not just writing, involves factors outside of one's control. I think the key to staying sane is to accept that we can't control every aspect of our careers. All you can do is all you can do, and if it doesn't pan out, you try something else. That's why I don't dwell on doom and gloom news in any industry I'm in. It's good to be aware of the market, but I don't focus on it so much that it paralyzes me.

Ken
06-10-2010, 01:06 AM
... so much the better if the market is sagging and things are becoming more difficult. Makes getting published more challenging and also more rewarding if one manages to beat the odds and succeed. Doubt I'll be one such, but that won't keep me from trying as well as rejoicing when writers more skilled than me get a book on the shelves. Plenty of instances of that on this board. Nice to see :-)

Toothpaste
06-10-2010, 01:08 AM
Any kind of business, not just writing, involves factors outside of one's control. I think the key to staying sane is to accept that we can't control every aspect of our careers. All you can do is all you can do, and if it doesn't pan out, you try something else. That's why I don't dwell on doom and gloom news in any industry I'm in. It's good to be aware of the market, but I don't focus on it so much that it paralyzes me.

Which is just right.

But so many people here have been actively blaming the disappearing midlist on the authors themselves and I find that really sad. There are so many factors, and if you are going to have a conversation about the disappearing midlist, let's not just all jump on the blame the authors bandwagon.

Lol, I'm probably just a little sensitive to this issue personally however.


ETA: Ken, getting published isn't the be all and end all. Things only get more complicated from there.

blacbird
06-10-2010, 01:15 AM
But I also feel the industry needs mid-listers. In my humble opinion, they carry the industry between mega hits... They are a steady stream of income.

As I understand it, the mid-list is not much of a "steady stream of income". For many publishers, especially the bigs, the back-list, the stuff nearly always in print, is that quiet source of income buoyancy. The bean-counters see the mid-list numbers as expense or at best minimum profit not worth the time and energy, ergo, to be trimmed.

Now for me, as a no-lister . . .

caw

MartinD
06-10-2010, 02:53 AM
You can blame the authors all you want for the reason they are no longer viable to publishers, but I am starting to really get the sense that the big houses at least are looking for big, massive, numbers. Even if you have a decent publishing track record, that might not be enough any more.

A., from what I've heard from my non-romance writing friends, you're exactly right. Publishers and agents are seeking the Next Big Thing, regardless of writing ability and fresh ideas. Don't blame the writers. Blame the desperate search for a million-book seller.

The world of romance is a different thing, though. There, people seem to survive and find a home on the mid-list.

Jamesaritchie
06-10-2010, 02:57 AM
I remeber reading similar article almost thirty years ago. Worse, I read through every issue of The Writer and Writer's Digest going back decades before that, and found similar articles there.

Mid-list writers have always been the first to get cut. I remember a couple of truly massive mid-list cuts way back in teh seventies, and I know others came long before that.

Who else are publishers going to drop? There's this notion that "mid-list" means middle of the pack, but it very seldom does. Really, who do you drop in order to make room for new writers? Do you drop the writers who are selling at or nearteh top of teh list? Of course not.

Do you drop the new writers who haven't yet had the chance to prove themselves? Of course not.

You drop the writers who have had many chances to write books that sell well, but who still aren'tturning enough promit to justify keeping them around. This means mid-list.

If you're a new writer, you shuld be happy publishers do this. It means they need another writer who can do better than the one they just dropped.

Jamesaritchie
06-10-2010, 03:02 AM
Absolutely. There's no point in moping.

But I think it wise that people don't just assume that because they've written a good book it will get published. And that it's only bad books that make the midlist authors disappear.

Because if we believe this it means that every time our books get rejected and unpublished that must make them unmarketable and bad. It's hard to keep going when you feel like you're a failure in that way.

The fact is yes, you have to keep learning, keep writing. But you also need to be wise to the fact that sometimes things are out of your control, and sometimes good books don't get published for other reasons than there is something wrong with the book.

That's the business. Especially lately.

A good book is one that sells. A bad book is one that doesn't. Mid-list writers disappear every so many years because they've written books that do not sell enough to matter.

Dropping mid-list writers always seems to catch people by surprise, but it's been happening forever. It'll happen again in ten year or so, and again ten year or so after that, and again people will act surprised and come sup with all sorts of reasons why it happened. It happens becaus eteh books these writers write simply are not popular enough with the reading public.

It will always happen, and it's a good thing for the industry, and for new writers, if not for the mid-list writers who get dropped.

Medievalist
06-10-2010, 03:03 AM
This discussion comes up every now and then.

That article has been coming out in the spring for at least the last twenty years or so.


So once again, what to think, what to do?

That hasn't changed. Write the best book you can, and submit it.

Toothpaste
06-10-2010, 03:26 AM
A good book is one that sells. A bad book is one that doesn't.

.


So if a book gets no publicity, is not bought by the big box bookstores, it's a bad book? A book who lost its editor mid way through the process, and got passed around from editor to editor, a book that's lost its champion and that a publisher puts out because it has to, is a bad book? A book that everyone at the house loved but then gets eclipsed by a book bought by a senior editor in the exact same genre making the house have to make that one priority is a bad book? A book that is so good that a major author at the same publishing house feels threatened by it and insists that they will make a huge fuss if the book is promoted at the same time as the major author's, is a bad book?

I've seen all of these situations happen. By your estimation, all those books didn't do well because they didn't deserve to.

I am getting seriously sick and tired of this mentality, that a good book is only one that does well otherwise there must have been a reason it didn't. That's just not true. And it's insulting. I'm not sure why everyone has to keep insisting that things in the publishing industry are fair. They're not.

The biggest thing is that things don't HAVE to be fair. It's business, not day care. But the way some publishers insist that all books have a fair chance once they are picked up is simply not true. The fact that they insist that publicity does nothing, for example, when I know from personal experience that it does, is mind blowing. Be friggin' honest. Not all things are equal. Not all books get the same kind of promotion and help. Why? Because it isn't practical to give equal weight and time to every book. It makes sense.

But don't get all, "If it's a good book it'll do awesome" because that's the biggest lie of them all.


Pimp My Novel just posted a blog (http://pimpmynovel.blogspot.com/2010/06/terms-to-know-lead-title.html) about Lead Titles and how not all books are created equal for anyone interested.

Gillhoughly
06-10-2010, 04:06 AM
I'm a mid-list writer and I *am* blaming my main publisher. Five of my twelve books with them are out of print, they've not released the print rights, and for five years have only made vague noises about putting them out as omnibus collections. Lukewarm doesn't cover their attitude.

My genre is HOT right now. Other houses--and mine--are kicking out new titles in the genre, but my house isn't cashing in with my works--which would be pure profit by now. A whole new generation of fans has come up since their debut and they are hungry for reading. A reprinting of those titles, an aisle dump here and there, and we'd all be making money.

But reality sucks. For the last four years one of my books on their website is available only as an e-version that's the same price as the long out-of-print hardcover. The e-pirates are having a fine time of it.

Used book dealers are selling the paperbacks online for 50-90 bucks a pop. I got a mail from a fan who was over the moon that she secured a copy for only 60.00 on eBay. She could have bought a signed copy from my website for cover price + shipping. I didn't have the heart to tell her.

My publisher is one of the biggest, so I'm likely lost in the crowd. I don't make enough on the few titles in print to get noticed, but they're sure as hell not helping by keeping the books in limbo.

It's hard for me to swallow that things are tight all over when I see a virtually unknown name has closed a nearly four *million* dollar deal for three books in (you guessed it) my genre.

My agent and I will be discussing getting my backlist away from its original house. We've been slow to consider that, but if the publisher hasn't done jack with them in all this time, odds are good they never will.

A smaller press might think my sales numbers are just fine and at least they'd be back in print, in the bookstores, and making money.

I won't play the world's smallest violin in sympathy for the publishers or myself. I'm too busy. My agent's got my new proposal, same genre, different setting and characters, and I will hope for the best and be working on another book.

M.R.J. Le Blanc
06-10-2010, 05:24 AM
I understand the importance of making sure we don't wallow in the doom and gloom predictions out there. But it's also not fair to just blame the writers and move on. I get that there is a degree of self preservation in that, "Well it's that writer's fault her career has stagnated, obviously she did something wrong. When the time comes for me, it won't be the same because I'll do everything right." Still . . . I think it's a little cold. And a little blind to the reality that has happened to the publishing industry in the past two years.

I wasn't intending to solely blame the writers :) What I meant is that you can't really just blame the publishers either. For there to be a real concern there has to be a clear picture of just what exactly is going on. Is it all the writers? I doubt it. Is it all the publishers? I doubt that too. It's likely a combination of many factors.

Hallen
06-10-2010, 08:14 AM
It seems to be human nature.

Companies (the people within the companies) are always looking for ways to increase the income. They're not going to be satisfied with a 10% return if they think they can take the resources used to create the 10% return and use those resources to make a 20% return. It's more risky -- trying something unknown -- but it has the potential to make a bigger return so they compulsively go after it. It would seem wise to evaluate what you have, the known quantities, and then work hard to make that more of a success. You'd have less risk that way.

Unfortunately, I would suspect that the only form of proof they have of how good a published author is, is their sales numbers. At least, that's what the higher level decision makers are going to think. They're looking for a single home run, not a string of singles. Both are effective and both can make money, but the homer gets a lot of money on a single swing.

Nothing is ever as good on the inside looking out as it was on the outside looking in. Once you learn the gritty little details things aren't as glamorous as they seem.

blacbird
06-10-2010, 08:58 AM
A good book is one that sells. A bad book is one that doesn't.

JAR again channels blacbird.

caw

willietheshakes
06-10-2010, 09:07 AM
It's hard for me to swallow that things are tight all over when I see a virtually unknown name has closed a nearly four *million* dollar deal for three books in (you guessed it) my genre.

Don't forget the $1.75M movie rights sale...

Seriously, though, I agree with everything you've written, except characterizing Justin Cronin as a "virtual unknown". He's an interesting example for this thread: a textbook midlist literary author -- Iowa MFA, won the PEN/Hemingway, and made little splash in the larger world.

Until, that is, The Passage.

So, there ARE different courses that the midlist bump can take...

blacbird
06-10-2010, 09:38 AM
It's hard for me to swallow that things are tight all over when I see a virtually unknown name has closed a nearly four *million* dollar deal for three books in (you guessed it) my genre.

Wasn't me.

caw

kaitie
06-10-2010, 10:22 AM
I actually have problems with publishers passing out huge, multi-million dollar advances. It's such a big gamble with no guarantee, and when you have advances even for bestselling authors in that range and then the books flop (couple of big stories about that this past year), I can't help but be really annoyed with the publishers who paid that much in the first place. I have little sympathy for what's basically bad betting, so I do get irritated when you hear people talk about how hard it is on mid-listers and how tough publishing is right now and how hard of a time they have making money when you hear stories like that.

I'm sure for some of these guys four million dollars is a drop in the bucket, but it still seems ridiculous to me. Who was the publishing guy recently who was making a similar comment about the big houses driving themselves into the ground with massive advances that weren't paying out?

I guess my take on it is if the author is really going to sell millions of copies, enough to earn out the advance, they'd make the money on it anyway in the royalties. I'm sure there are problems with my logic, though.

Anyway, as for the comment Toothpaste made earlier about publishers leaning toward big bestsellers, that worries me, too, because we see what that's done to Hollywood. I would really, really hate to see the vast majority of books become just crappy repetitive nonsense and pointless shitty sequels. You already see that a bit, but at least when I go to a bookstore to pick up a book, I know there will be a big variety that's at the very least pretty darn good. I think there's a feeling of safety in the known formula, and it's still my own personal belief (I have friends who disagree wholeheartedly on this) that books still tend to have originality to them.

aruna
06-10-2010, 02:51 PM
You know there was a time I'd agree with most posters here about fluctuating trends and stale midlist authors, but I'm seeing far more and more these days authors of two or three novels utterly unable to sell a third/fourth because their first few books weren't massive best sellers. Not because their work was bad, nor their next work bad.

.

Etc etc etc
Every word Toothpaste said is true.
My first novel, with HarerCollins, was released the same day as the first novel by Tony Parsons, Man and Boy. Tony Parsons at the time was a popular Daily Mirror journalist. I was a nobody.
Guess which author got a huge launch party, which book got promoted to the sky and back?
Guess which book became a bestseller?

Nobody is going to tell me that because Man and Boy outsold mine by several hundred thousand it's a better book. I'm not buying it. It's a terrible book. The writing is almost infantile and it has no story; it's Kramee vx Kramer delivered in simple sentences, and you have it. No story, flat characters -- but it sold.

I can only scratch my head at the opinion that a book that sells well is automatically good, a book that sells less well is automatically bad. So many factors go into the success of "failure" of a book.

aruna
06-10-2010, 03:01 PM
Gilloughy's story reminds me of my own.
In 2008 my country had its turn as focus country for the World Day of Prayer, in which Christians all over the world select one country and celebrate it that day. In Germany this is a really huge matter, and I happened to be a sort of Ambassador for Guyana in Germany, travelling all over the place giving talks. The organisers promoted my novels at every turn. At ever talk I gave, they sold copies and invariably they sold out. In the middle of that year the book went out of print. The World Day of Prayer people were begging me to get it back on the market and promised a huge promotion: potentially, they would reach several hundred thousand people who would be participating. Both the Catholic and Protestant magazines featured me AND my first book (set in Guyana). I told the publsher what was happeneing and suggested they reprint very quickly, because this was jut the run-up to the Big Day.
They refused.
You would almost think they didn't want to sell books. There was a huge free promotion laid on for them, and they refused!
ANyway, I got the rights back and that is one publisher I will NOT be going back to, when the time comes.

aruna
06-10-2010, 03:04 PM
My one-time agent once told me that in publishing you're either HUGE, or you're nobody.

Captcha
06-10-2010, 03:12 PM
A good book is one that sells. A bad book is one that doesn't.

Add me to the voices disagreeing with this statement. As I see it, you're not saying that all good books sell, you're saying that the sole purpose of writing is sales, so that there's no point in writing for anything other than maximizing appeal to the mass market. A book that won't sell is like a sailboat that won't float - it might be pretty, but it doesn't fulfill its primary purpose, so it can't be good. I think that's crap. And I think it's sad to think that the primary purpose of writing is mass sales.

I absolutely believe that there is quality writing, independent of sales. We may disagree about what makes up a good book, and there have been endless threads about this discussion: the relative importance of writing style, vibrant characters, rich description, compelling plot, humour, drama, wisdom, originality, etc. As others have clearly established, there is no necessary relationship between writing that has these qualities and writing that sells well.

Is a book only 'good' after it's been sold? If someone was uninterested or unable to publish, would they be incapable of writing a good book?

nitaworm
06-10-2010, 03:45 PM
Okay, to play devil's advocate. It's the publishers $$, their business model, and therefore their gamble.

The author is a supplier that sells to that publisher. If the publisher wasn't happy with the returns, (ie: they payed out a large advance and didn't make that $$ back) oh, I don't know...maybe investing in that venue (or author) is to them no longer a profitable endeavor.

Now, the paying of large advances for an unknown author and a new piece of work...that's just bad business sense. However, I'd think that the editor would have had to really sell that baby to get the publisher to agree to pay that much for it.

shaldna
06-10-2010, 04:11 PM
I'd still rather be a mid list author than no author at all.

seun
06-10-2010, 04:55 PM
A published book isn't, by definition, better than a book that's not published.

It's just published.

ChaosTitan
06-10-2010, 05:52 PM
I'd still rather be a mid list author than no author at all.

Ditto.

It's highly unlikely I'll ever make a best-seller list, and I'm okay with that. My sales numbers are steady, they make my publisher happy, and they helped me sell more books. I can name half a dozen other midlisters in my genre who continue to write steadily and sell books, but who've never made a best seller list.

A bit of me wonders if this thread needs to differentiate between literary/mainstream and genre publishing. Because within genre I see much less evidence that one must be an instant bestseller, or that publishers are looking for the next huge author. New romance and paranormal/UF authors are being signed every week, and very few are netting huge advances.

So I disagree that you have to be huge or you're a nobody. It may be true in the experiences of some, but not of all.

Toothpaste
06-10-2010, 06:08 PM
Ditto.

It's highly unlikely I'll ever make a best-seller list, and I'm okay with that. My sales numbers are steady, they make my publisher happy, and they helped me sell more books. I can name half a dozen other midlisters in my genre who continue to write steadily and sell books, but who've never made a best seller list.

A bit of me wonders if this thread needs to differentiate between literary/mainstream and genre publishing. Because within genre I see much less evidence that one must be an instant bestseller, or that publishers are looking for the next huge author. New romance and paranormal/UF authors are being signed every week, and very few are netting huge advances.

So I disagree that you have to be huge or you're a nobody. It may be true in the experiences of some, but not of all.


First.

I would have no issue being a midlist author. I think in fact the issue many of us are having here is that we would be perfectly content to be midlist but the mislist is disappearing and we can't get our other work published in the first place (though of course many in this thread believe that's because our work is bad and not suited to the market).

Second, the whole concept of new authors signed every week is exactly the issue. The new author things is the trend now in publishing. Once an old author has "failed" the company by not making the big time it's time to move onto a new author who might be the next Meyer or Rowling. So the issue isn't new work being published, that's happening all the time. It's old authors being published.

Maybe this isn't happening as much in Romance or UF (don't forget that Romance is one of the few genres thriving in the current economy), but it is happening. I guess one doesn't have to care about what is happening to other authors out there, how so many are having to return under pen names because their real name is considered muck now. How wonderful authors can't seem to sell a second/third book for a number of reasons even though they were nominated for big awards etc. But it is happening.

I guess the debate is, does it matter if it's only happening to some authors but not me? It's pretty clear in this thread the divide is based on personal experience. I'm really happy that you and your friends are getting consistently published, truly, that is wonderful. But for those of us who had a damn fine product (though I'm sure James is reading this thinking, "Toothpaste you obviously had a crappy product, if it was good you wouldn't be posting as you are in this thread") and know others in a similar situation who now can't get published again it's a very sad reality.

I don't want to take away from the success out there, I don't want to imply that there aren't midlist authors who's work does get tired and they deserve to fall off the radar. I am simply speaking up because initially this thread was turning into a blame the authors thread, and I wasn't about to let that happen. It isn't either/or, it's a complicated situation. But it isn't all one group's fault either.

aruna
06-10-2010, 06:14 PM
I don't want to take away from the success out there, I don't want to imply that there aren't midlist authors who's work does get tired and they deserve to fall off the radar. I am simply speaking up because initially this thread was turning into a blame the authors thread, and I wasn't about to let that happen. It isn't either/or, it's a complicated situation. But it isn't all one group's fault either.

And thank you for speaking up!

kaitie
06-10-2010, 06:21 PM
I just wanted to say I'm sure there are some people who get dropped because they legitimately just aren't good enough. I've heard some agents say that there are people out there who only have one book in them, or that some people have a great first book because they spent five years on the same one editing and revising over and over and making it spotless, and then when they try to write a second in a faster time-frame they realize they can't do it and basically without another five years of revising and what not it isn't going to be as good.

It happens. The thing is, Toothpaste is exactly right that there are plenty of very good, even great writers out there with good books who get dropped. Uncle Jim has explained before how hard it is to get a third book published and why, and it has very little to do with the quality of the book. And I also have no doubt that promotion can play a huge factor as well.

The truth is, there are published authors on the bestseller lists consistently publishing dreck. I could name one for you if you wanted, off the top of my head. She's certainly not the only one. They're certainly not selling because their books are "better" than everyone else out there, and if people were being dropped based solely on quality they would be gone in a heartbeat.

It's a sad thing to think that someone can spend years of their life working up to the point of being publishable, and then because of poor marketing or promotion or just poor timing end up not having sales that make the publisher decide they're worth taking a chance on again.

I think Toothpaste is on the money here.

shaldna
06-10-2010, 07:15 PM
within genre I see much less evidence that one must be an instant bestseller, or that publishers are looking for the next huge author. New romance and paranormal/UF authors are being signed every week, and very few are netting huge advances.

So I disagree that you have to be huge or you're a nobody. It may be true in the experiences of some, but not of all.


I agree with this. And I think we have to consider the readership of these genres as well. I've found that UF readers especially will actively seek out books with little or no regard for who wrote them or how well they sell.

waylander
06-10-2010, 08:43 PM
But for those of us who had a damn fine product (though I'm sure James is reading this thinking, "Toothpaste you obviously had a crappy product, if it was good you wouldn't be posting as you are in this thread") and know others in a similar situation who now can't get published again it's a very sad reality.


I just want to chime in here and say that Toothpaste indeed wrote a damn fine book, my niece loved 'Alex'.

HJW
06-10-2010, 11:40 PM
I just want to chime in here and say that Toothpaste indeed wrote a damn fine book, my niece loved 'Alex'.

I want to agree. A bloody damn fine book.

blacbird
06-10-2010, 11:42 PM
A published book isn't, by definition, better than a book that's not published.

Then define a different standard by which something can be judged "better".

caw

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
06-11-2010, 12:59 AM
Very interesting thread, I am reading it with growing amazement. A bit of a tangent but ... here's me knowing mostly academic publishing and the pitfalls of peer reviewing and the lack of better models to drive publication (yet ultimately working) ... naively assuming that commercial venues are bound to be "fairer" in bringing quality as they are market driven. Quality simply has to float, after all it will bring in money, right? Until I think of parts of the music industry of the last decade thriving on atrocious rehashes (with exceptions of course)... Is this the way publishing is going? But, but, but... surely books are different :) Or not? And if there is a problem, surely it will be corrected? Original music still emerged and succeeded, Disney when slacking faced Pixar (not that I am slagging Disney, bless them for marvelous movies), a certain computer company that took short cuts and got away with it got an age old competitor with far better products biting its heels :) I'm a firm believer that quality will float, so perhaps, * if * there is a problem, it will only mean someone will provide a new safe haven for quality. It's bound to happen. Right?

Naive ramblings by a mere onlooker ...

I sympathize with the plight of mid-list authors. Also agree with Medievalist (on producing the best book we've got in us). Books change hearts and minds, I cherish the books I grew up with and grew up on, literary and scientific pearls alike. The point being, even if a book gets published, then dropped, it's still out there, sitting on a library shelf for a very long time to come. Until someone picks it up, and builds on it/grows with it.

Hallen
06-11-2010, 01:53 AM
Very interesting thread, I am reading it with growing amazement. A bit of a tangent but ... here's me knowing mostly academic publishing and the pitfalls of peer reviewing and the lack of better models to drive publication (yet ultimately working) ... naively assuming that commercial venues are bound to be "fairer" in bringing quality as they are market driven. Quality simply has to float, after all it will bring in money, right? Until I think of parts of the music industry of the last decade thriving on atrocious rehashes (with exceptions of course)... Is this the way publishing is going? But, but, but... surely books are different :) Or not? And if there is a problem, surely it will be corrected? Original music still emerged and succeeded, Disney when slacking faced Pixar (not that I am slagging Disney, bless them for marvelous movies), a certain computer company that took short cuts and got away with it got an age old competitor with far better products biting its heels :) I'm a firm believer that quality will float, so perhaps, * if * there is a problem, it will only mean someone will provide a new safe haven for quality. It's bound to happen. Right?

Naive ramblings by a mere onlooker ...

I sympathize with the plight of mid-list authors. Also agree with Medievalist (on producing the best book we've got in us). Books change hearts and minds, I cherish the books I grew up with and grew up on, literary and scientific pearls alike. The point being, even if a book gets published, then dropped, it's still out there, sitting on a library shelf for a very long time to come. Until someone picks it up, and builds on it/grows with it.

Yes, but (you knew that was coming) there are a lot of factors at play. If, for example, there were only 5 authors in the world, and they were all published, and the publisher put the exact same effort into marketing all of them, then the one that sold the most books will have the highest quality product. Notice I didn't say "best".

Unfortunately, as Toothpaste and others have pointed out, the publisher does not give the same support to all authors. They also act as a gateway to the marketplace. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good in that they pre-screen out a lot of crap so the consumer doesn't have to and by doing this, gives the market a reasonable chance of getting a good product. It's bad in that they make stupid decisions, they are often driven by really dumb corporate policies, they have resource limitations, and they will ride the hype pushing an author who has a low quality product but has somehow captured the public's eye. Cough**Dan Brown**Cough

Marketing is the key. Without it, nobody will know your book exists so they can't buy it. Self publishing, especially with ebooks, is very viable now. But your book still won't sell if people don't know about it and all the social networking in the world isn't going to get that audience for you. You need some big bucks and the right connections to get that marketing done.

Anyway, that's my take on it. Your mileage may vary. :D

Wayne K
06-11-2010, 01:54 AM
My one-time agent once told me that in publishing you're either HUGE, or you're nobody.

Then huge it is :D

Wayne K
06-11-2010, 01:55 AM
I've never done anything small. Why would I start now?

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
06-11-2010, 02:38 AM
[/QUOTE] Unfortunately, as Toothpaste and others have pointed out, the publisher does not give the same support to all authors. They also act as a gateway to the marketplace. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good in that they pre-screen out a lot of crap so the consumer doesn't have to and by doing this, gives the market a reasonable chance of getting a good product. It's bad in that they make stupid decisions, they are often driven by really dumb corporate policies, they have resource limitations, and they will ride the hype pushing an author who has a low quality product but has somehow captured the public's eye.
[/QUOTE]

Point taken. Still, a bad decision "too far" leads to the public copping on, sales dropping, the company losing influence, paving the way for better products ... People will buy horrible "chocolate" under hype ... until they taste that one bar of cocoa stuffed goodness. They'll never look back. Pretty tough of course for those producing excellent bars while others manage to market the other stuff.

ChaosTitan
06-11-2010, 03:06 AM
First.

I would have no issue being a midlist author. I think in fact the issue many of us are having here is that we would be perfectly content to be midlist but the mislist is disappearing and we can't get our other work published in the first place (though of course many in this thread believe that's because our work is bad and not suited to the market).

Thing is, though, a book can not be suited to the current market without being bad. Ten years ago zombie books would have been a very hard sell. The market just wasn't there. But today zombies are big and they're selling. So there's a market for that kind of book right now. Next month? Who knows?

It isn't insulting to say a book isn't suited to the current market, nor does saying such mean a book is bad. It just isn't the right time to try and publish it.



Once an old author has "failed" the company by not making the big time it's time to move onto a new author who might be the next Meyer or Rowling. This is where your argument keeps losing me. You keep assuming that all editors buy a book by a new author assuming this author will make it huge. But compare the tiny number of Meyer/Rowlings to the huge number of midlisters. The odds of any author hitting that sort of success is insanely small, and I can't imagine editors are dumb enough to always bank on those terrible odds.

Midlisters keep this industry going by providing a continued source of revenue. Editors are going to buy book that will sell, yes. But I think it does a disservice to editors to constantly assume they only expect Rowling-esque sales figures from every new author they sign.


I guess one doesn't have to care about what is happening to other authors out there, how so many are having to return under pen names because their real name is considered muck now. How wonderful authors can't seem to sell a second/third book for a number of reasons even though they were nominated for big awards etc. But it is happening. You know, I get that this is a very touchy subject for you. But nowhere in my post did I say that I don't care about what's happening with other authors. Because I do. I merely provided another perspective on the topic, which looked at it from an angle that is different from yours. You said yourself that it's a complicated issue, so let's look at it from various sides.

That's what discussion is for, yes?


I guess the debate is, does it matter if it's only happening to some authors but not me? No, that's really not the debate. I'm sorry you inferred that from my post, but it isn't.

You posted your experience. It's happening to you. I posted my experience. It's not (currently) happening to me. That's all it was. Different perspective, different experience. And no, those differences do not negate the fact that a portion of the midlist is suffering, because it is. No one is saying otherwise.

And for what it's worth, I don't agree with JAR's blanket statement that if a book doesn't sell, it's because it's bad. There are a lot of other reasons why a book may not sell. Being bad is just one of them.

cwfgal
06-11-2010, 03:07 AM
I have to wonder, too, how many of these languishing mid-listers have re-launched their careers under pen names.

I'm one.

Beth

Cathy C
06-11-2010, 03:15 AM
Here's a small reality check. Did you know the term "mid-list" means from around 10K books printed on first press run to 125K. That's "mid." There is no term for "bottom rung" other than "low mid-list." Low mid-list is loosely defined (publisher to publisher) as being between 10K and 50K first print run.

I know, because I'm low mid-list.

:eek: No. Really.

That's not to say we don't sell through our advances. We mostly do and we make a profit for the publisher. But here's the trick. If a first press run is only 10,000 books, and there are some 40,000 bookstores, then only a quarter of the stores would see even ONE book. If there were 10,000 bookstores, there would be one per store. And what happens when that book is bought? Will someone who'd never seen the name, or read a review, or saw the cover somewhere even know it exists?

Nope.

We learned from the district manager of a big box store that we were struggling with hitting lists because we promoted too much. Again... :eek: How could that be!? Because people PRE-ORDERED the books so that when the limited number of copies arrived in the store, they all went to pre-order customers. Not a single copy . . . not ONE made it to the sale floor in the first week. Nobody who hadn't pre-ordered even knew we had a release that month. They re-ordered, but not in time for that first critical week of sales. And slow, steady sales do not make for bestseller lists.

So, I asked a bookbuyer for that very chain what would happen if people pre-ordered before THEY order the books (which in most cases is at least a season before release---4-6 months before it hits the shelf). Well, then, of course, they'd order more from the publisher.

And that's where a lot of the problem comes from. Bookstores order X quantity of books. Publisher prints Z quantity of books (being X orders + Y potential restocks). And bookstores are dropping like flies, so publishers are printing less of all but the sure-fire known sellers. So readers never see the books because they're not in stores and never know to order them unless somehow, magically, they KNOW the book exists. But not all readers actually read reviews or visit websites. They're impulse buyers, so if the book isn't in the store, they have no idea it exists until (and unless) it DOES appear in the store.

Then sales are lackluster and the next time around, the print run is even less and then there's no contract at all.

Whose fault is it? Nobody's. Not really. It's a vicious cycle, and one I'm trying to figure out how to break. I'm actually studying it, trying to find a work-around. So far, massively early pre-orders seem to be working a little better. But it's hard to get people to actually ORDER the book somewhere. Not "wish list" or "tell me when it comes in" but actually ORDER it. Tough in a bad economy and especially tough when they haven't read anything of yours before. It's a leap of faith.

Sigh... still trying to figure it out. :(

Hallen
06-11-2010, 03:28 AM
Point taken. Still, a bad decision "too far" leads to the public copping on, sales dropping, the company losing influence, paving the way for better products ... People will buy horrible "chocolate" under hype ... until they taste that one bar of cocoa stuffed goodness. They'll never look back. Pretty tough of course for those producing excellent bars while others manage to market the other stuff.

Yep, that's what I'm rooting for.
There is a lot of inertia and momentum that mixes things up though.

I do hope that ebooks will open the doors wider in the future and will force the big six to either wise up, or opens the doors for smaller publishers to really have an impact. It will hopefully be good for the industry and for writers.

cwfgal
06-11-2010, 03:49 AM
I'm not sure even pre-orders are the answer. My first published novel was put out by one of the Big 5 in NYC. It was a paperback original and it came out as the number two book on the publisher's list in their catalogue for the season. The initial print run was 150,000 copies. PW gave it a stellar review. The early orders came in like gangbusters and a second print run was ordered. When the book came out it was everywhere, book stores, airports, grocery stores, Walmart...with book dumps, and overhead voice promotions in the stores, and a Baker & Taylor promotional drive. Things were looking rosy.

A month or two later, the book was still in a lot of stores but it was relegated to the back shelves. The book dumps were gone. The reviews were ancient history. The title was no longer front and center on anyone's radar because a whole new bunch of books were out getting all the attention.

Shortly after that, the returns started coming in by the droves. When all was said and done, the book sold 90,000+ copies...a little over half the print run. It was good enough for a second book, and a third, but by the time the third one came out (once again to a great PW review) the publisher was shifting things up in their corporate structure and tightening their belts a LOT. They cancelled contracts on over a hundred authors who were late delivering their mss. They made the decision to cut their entire paperback original division by either dropping the authors they had there or moving them into hardcover. Then they bought another company who specialized in PBOs.

I was one of those authors they decided to drop rather than move to hardcover. This decision was made just before my third book came out. Needless to say, the promotional dollars left for my book were nil. The initial print run was 105,000 copies. It launched with a fizzle and a thud. Final sales were around 65,000 copies.

So what started out as a promising, albeit midlist, career launch, was dead in the water four years later.

It's a business, and the publisher's interests often are not the same as ours. What I think is happening more and more these days is that publishers are aligning themselves as one of two types of entities: a big mover and shaker who is always looking for the next big hit, or a low to midline producer with a solid backlist and an interest in nurturing and growing new authors over time. The masses of midlisters stand a better chance of survival with the latter style of management IMO, but it's an evolving business and there will always be casualties. And just to keep things interesting, we also have all the ebook publishers out there who are muddying the waters a bit.

Most days I believe all we writers can do is write the best damned books we can, send them out there, and cross our fingers. You can study the business and learn its idiosyncrasies and trends, but in the end, we writers don't have a lot of power. We produce a product that we hope someone else will want to buy. But whether or not anyone will is subject to the evolving whims and capricious tastes of an unpredictable reading public.

Beth

Cathy C
06-11-2010, 04:10 AM
VERY good points, Beth! And you've done what a lot of mid-listers do---start over with new pen name. Some even start in new genre. I have a friend who's been through THREE "purges" (as she called them) and had to start over with a new name.

So it's not forever, or career-ending, provided the mid-lister keeps writing good books. But I do worry about the closing of so many bookstores. Secondary markets (Walmart, Costco, Target, airport shops) are hard to break into when you're writing in a genre other than romance.

Medievalist
06-11-2010, 04:39 AM
The closing of retail spaces that aren't handled by Giant Multinational Bulk buyers does worry me.

The airport shops, the newstands, the spin racks and the current "flat pack" versions--those were really really important sales and were very much catered to by local sales folk. I'm seeing them vanish.

Toothpaste
06-11-2010, 08:00 AM
Thing is, though, a book can not be suited to the current market without being bad. Ten years ago zombie books would have been a very hard sell. The market just wasn't there. But today zombies are big and they're selling. So there's a market for that kind of book right now. Next month? Who knows?

It isn't insulting to say a book isn't suited to the current market, nor does saying such mean a book is bad. It just isn't the right time to try and publish it.


I was covering all my bases with that statement. I should have said "or" not "and", that's my fault. My point was more that a book doesn't have to be necessarily bad or not suited to the market to not do well. A book can just be the product of poor attention given to it by its publisher or given a lousy cover or whatever.

Once again, for the record, I was responding to a thread which up until I arrived was placing the onus of success of a book directly on the content of that book. Yes some books are bad. Yes some books aren't right for the market in the moment. And yes, okay, therefore those books don't make money. But that isn't the ONLY reason, and that was my issue. It isn't always the fault of the writer was my point.



This is where your argument keeps losing me. You keep assuming that all editors buy a book by a new author assuming this author will make it huge. But compare the tiny number of Meyer/Rowlings to the huge number of midlisters. The odds of any author hitting that sort of success is insanely small, and I can't imagine editors are dumb enough to always bank on those terrible odds.



Actually, I don't think it makes editors "dumb" but I'm pretty sure, at least with the big houses, that's exactly what they are banking on. How many times have I seen publishers say "Advertising does nothing" as an excuse to authors? Since I have seen first hand what one ad in the New York Times book review can do to one's Amazon stats, I know that is patently untrue. So I've been trying to understand why we are consistently told this. And aside from concluding that publishers are just lying to us, I decided that when they said that advertising does nothing what they really mean is advertising won't turn a book into a Rowling style success. For that you need word of mouth. And I totally agree. Advertising will never guarantee a book's major success, but it can definitely guarantee a midlist success. Considering that so many publishers refuse to so advertise, I have to believe that they are banking on the big blockbusters to fuel their enterprise.

I believe that the big 6 houses are looking for "the next big thing". Absolutely.





You know, I get that this is a very touchy subject for you. But nowhere in my post did I say that I don't care about what's happening with other authors. Because I do. I merely provided another perspective on the topic, which looked at it from an angle that is different from yours. You said yourself that it's a complicated issue, so let's look at it from various sides.

That's what discussion is for, yes?

. . .

You posted your experience. It's happening to you. I posted my experience. It's not (currently) happening to me. That's all it was. Different perspective, different experience. And no, those differences do not negate the fact that a portion of the midlist is suffering, because it is. No one is saying otherwise.



I guess for me, your side of the debate had been aired (which was the side that said the article was a hyperbole, that the publishing industry was as it ever was and that really the reason some midlist authors are dumped is because they deserve it). And I was a little hurt that in response to my post I got a "well I know a lot of people doing well, so I'm not sure what you say is true, at least not in romance". To me it actually did sound like you were "saying otherwise".

And for the record, I am not denying there still is a midlist. I didn't say it was gone. I just said from what I've been experiencing (and while I have some personal connection, I have to say most of my rage is fueled by what I see happening to my fellow author friends, not so much my own experience - though that hasn't been all that fun either) it is getting smaller. And that the big houses ARE being pickier, and wanting works that are an easy sell. I know this because I've talked to agents and editors about this. It is happening. Yes, there are happy midlisters out there (thank god!), yes there are positive stories out there, yes things are good and bad and complicated. But this thread started out as one placing all the blame on the authors and it really annoyed me.

All this being said, I am sorry that I read you wrong. That is my fault. I am extremely sensitive, obviously, to this issue, and I am tired of seeing the onus of an author's success placed solely on their shoulders. The amount of work we have to do, we evidently were meant to go to business school as well (as JA Konrath would have it), we have to know how to do everything. And if we don't, well it's our own damn fault we failed. We are not allowed to be just writers anymore. Well okay, those who got their feet wet before the new millennium are probably, but the rest of us . . .

It hurts. I'm working so hard, I'm writing book after book after book. I'm getting praise from every corner including the editors rejecting me. Despite all my frustrations, I have never personally encountered anyone in publishing I didn't like and respect. I tweet. I network. I do presentations. I sit on panels at conferences. What's more I think I'm relatively nice and personable. I believe in karma, I put out positive energy as much as I can. I help people for free on my blog, I advertise people's books, I go to others' launches (and I do it because I want to, I'm not saying I'm doing this begrudgingly, just pointing out I do all the things one is told one is "supposed" to do).

Quite frankly, I'm exhausted.

And then I come to a thread like this where a bunch of writers, writers - the people who are meant to support each other - are saying that the reason the midlist is disappearing is because the midlist writers aren't writing well enough or working hard enough.

And maybe I snap. Just a little. :)

I'm sorry Chaos. I certainly did not mean to attack you nor to suggest that you don't care about other authors. I know you do. I'm sorry. And I'm sorry in general to AW if I've been a bit snap-ish in general of late. This is a great place, and I know how supportive everyone is of each other. It's just that sometimes in our efforts to reassure one group of people, another gets left out in the cold. All I wanted to do was make things a bit more even. I'm sorry if I went off on one a bit.

I'll back away slowly from this thread now :) .

Medievalist
06-11-2010, 08:37 AM
I don't know that I'd say "deserved," certainly. I do know that a lot of my favorite authors, the ones I "glom" on to, and track their books, and bought the ones I'd missed when they first came out—are profoundly mid-list.

I also know that several authors that were told their next book wouldn't be bought, not because their books sucked or anything, but because they weren't selling ended up doing much better under a new name. The old books then were reprinted and did well.

This suggests to me that, as publishers will tell you, sometimes a book doesn't do well because the marketing or distribution failed, or it just was a little ahead of the curve or any number of other reasons.

I can talk specifics in the genres I know best--SF and F--but I know that this is true for all sorts of books.

tinapickles
06-11-2010, 10:48 AM
Forgive my ignorance.

I've been following this thread and now I want to try and make some sense of it. I am wondering if someone can explain to me what exactly comprises the market (? is that even the right word?). We've got mid-list... what else? Is mid-list the largest portion of the market/whatever? Is this where a lot of books (regardless of genre) are classified?

Thank you!

Medievalist
06-11-2010, 11:18 AM
Midlist is just about everybody. The discussion here has been about midlist in the context of mainstream genre fiction (sf, mystery, romance etc. etc.)

But midlist is used in textbook, non fic, scholarly and pretty much all sorts of publishing. It means if you listed all the authors in a particular genre/field, that most of them are in the middle, mid list. They are so very much in the middle in terms of sales figures that in some genres/publishers the sales figures will be within 100 copies of each other.

Midlist means you aren't a best seller like King, Rowling, Meyers--but, you don't suck and you sell reliably.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midlist

I want to point out, btw, that authors like Patterson, King, or Rowling, or G. R. R. Martin, or Robert Jordan make it possible for publishers to have midlist authors; authors who do sell out, but you know, it's going to take a few years.

In my genre-of-choice, (SF/F) midlist includes people like Clarke, Heinlein, Cherryh, P. N. Elrod, Bujold, Weber, etc. etc.

Authors with big backlists. Authors who reliably sell, but whose entire backlist might not be in print. Authors who do regularly appear on NYT and other "best seller" lists, but who are still being printed in print runs of 20K, rather than 175K a shot.

These are good books, by good writers. They deserve to be in print and read.

But. Printed books take up space in warehouses. Tax changes mean that publishers pay tax on the value of unsold books (really!). They have to be shipped, etc.

Worst of all, midlist authors compete with each other for shelf space in stores.

Stores are dwindling. Shelf space is dwindling. So that's a serious problem.

I'm hoping (knock on wood) that epublishing done right means keeping midlist authors "in print," that is, available to buy, pretty much forever.

There's a thing that happens when an author releases a good new book.

New readers find the book. They like it. And then they want all the other books by that author.

But books by Elrod, or Robert Parker or Cherryh are not all in print. And the price of some of 'em used?

Well. I can't afford them. But a new ebook at $4.00 to $10.00 ?

I'd buy that.

aruna
06-11-2010, 12:05 PM
Gilloughy's story reminds me of my own.
In 1008 my country had its turn as focus country for the World Day of Prayer, in which Christians all over the world select one country and celebrate it that day.

:o {of course, I'm not THAT old!)

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
06-11-2010, 09:57 PM
And you've done what a lot of mid-listers do---start over with new pen name. Some even start in new genre.

So how does this work? I assume the publisher knows an author's past history when they start under a new pen name? Why would publishers accept the pen name publication as opposed to writing under the original name?

Is the assumption that readers won't touch a book by the same author after they have been put off? But, as pointed out here, a book can undersell for many reasons. So the smaller cohort that did read the original work might have liked it and those could be lost once the pen name is assumed.

Apologies if I missed a thread where this has been answered ...

aruna
06-11-2010, 10:22 PM
So how does this work? I assume the publisher knows an author's past history when they start under a new pen name? Why would publishers accept the pen name publication as opposed to writing under the original name?

Is the assumption that readers won't touch a book by the same author after they have been put off? But, as pointed out here, a book can undersell for many reasons. So the smaller cohort that did read the original work might have liked it and those could be lost once the pen name is assumed.

Apologies if I missed a thread where this has been answered ...

I believe, but I'm not sure, that this is more about booksellers than publishers. Booksellers don't want to stock books by writers they count as "failures". So the publisher will try to launch you again under a new name, if the momentum you may have originally earned has fizzled out.

Ton Lew Lepsnaci
06-11-2010, 10:26 PM
I believe, but I'm not sure, that this is more about booksellers than publishers. Booksellers don't want to stock books by writers they count as "failures". So the publisher will try to launch you again under a new name, if the momentum you may have originally earned has fizzled out.

Concise and making perfect sense. That clears it up :)

Chasing the Horizon
06-12-2010, 01:42 AM
From the article:

Deadfolk rightly received a handful of very good reviews and sold a respectable number of copies. It was followed by Fags and Lager and King of the Road both of which also received equally favourable reviews, but sold in smaller quantities.

This makes it sound like the author in question's sales were declining with each release. If that were the case, it would make perfect sense for the publisher to drop him. At least from a business perspective, keeping a product line which is selling less each time simply doesn't make sense.

It would be interesting to me to see a summary of the sales figures for all the releases from every mid-lister who has been dropped over the last two years, and see if there is indeed a trend of the publishers dropping the authors who are declining instead of holding steady or increasing with each release. Is that information available?

Also, I don't find the reporting in the above article to be very informative. They were basically talking about a single author, who could've been dropped for anyone of a hundred reasons. What are the statistics across the entire industry for 2009? How do those compare with the statistics for 1999, 1989, 1979? What happens to the statistics when you break them down by genre? Again, is this information available?

brainstorm77
06-14-2010, 11:00 PM
Ditto.

It's highly unlikely I'll ever make a best-seller list, and I'm okay with that. My sales numbers are steady, they make my publisher happy, and they helped me sell more books. I can name half a dozen other midlisters in my genre who continue to write steadily and sell books, but who've never made a best seller list.

A bit of me wonders if this thread needs to differentiate between literary/mainstream and genre publishing. Because within genre I see much less evidence that one must be an instant bestseller, or that publishers are looking for the next huge author. New romance and paranormal/UF authors are being signed every week, and very few are netting huge advances.

So I disagree that you have to be huge or you're a nobody. It may be true in the experiences of some, but not of all.

You never know when you just may break out :)

CTaft
06-23-2010, 10:48 PM
Just getting the chance to become a midlister has gotten tougher as well. When my novel was out on submission (sadly didn't sell-yet) I received three glowing rejections from big publishers: the editors loved everything about the book, but sadly, the bean counters couldn't justify a 25,000 copy first printing (hardcover). I wonder how many first novels (hell, any novels) sell 25,000 in hardcover.