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View Full Version : What does it mean "It's worse to be published badly than not at all?"



underthecity
04-10-2012, 08:43 PM
What is "being published badly?" Is it just paying for it, i.e. vanity? Or things like Publishamerica?

There are a lot of questionable publishers discussed in the Bewares forum. Many of them are inexperienced, do bad cover design, no distribution to bookstores. Is that "being published badly?"

Some even say e-publishing is bad. However, a lot of authors like it. Can e-publishing be bad?

What is "bad," exactly?

James D. Macdonald
04-10-2012, 08:46 PM
Bad:

No one ever reads your works.
You lose your rights to your own works.
Your bank-account gets vacuumed dry.
You doubt your own abilities as a writer.
People who do see your work decide to never-ever read anything else by you ever again.
You brand yourself as a loser.

And combinations and permutations on those themes.

And yes, e-publishing can be bad. For any of the reasons above.

MJNL
04-10-2012, 08:47 PM
I'd say this is a very subjective area--where "published badly" is going to mean something different to each person. I have my own criteria for where/how I'd like to be published, and I personally won't stray from those standards.

Of course, as was pointed out above, there are obviously-bad ways to be published. (Though I can see how some of those could even be subjective.)

ETA: Essentially, you're asking a qualitative question, rather than quantitative, so your miles may vary.

quicklime
04-10-2012, 08:47 PM
What is "being published badly?" Is it just paying for it, i.e. vanity? Or things like Publishamerica?

There are a lot of questionable publishers discussed in the Bewares forum. Many of them are inexperienced, do bad cover design, no distribution to bookstores. Is that "being published badly?"

Some even say e-publishing is bad. However, a lot of authors like it. Can e-publishing be bad?

What is "bad," exactly?

First off, isn't PA a vanity press where you pay in the first place?



bad would be anything that works against you. In your examples, it could be bad because that book might have actually gotten distribution, marketing, etc. with a good outfit.

It could also be anything rushed out the door half-assed by the writer, which creates an unfavorable impression of what they can really do.

The expression applies in both cases; a book going to a bad publisher that might have fared better, and a shit book going out and building a shit reputation for you as an author, by writing, sales figures, etc....

veinglory
04-10-2012, 08:52 PM
Amidst the subjective there are areas of broad agreement whereby, for example, paying $16,000 to have your unedited and incomprehensible book read by five people who give up after two pages makes you look actively foolish.

MJNL
04-10-2012, 09:05 PM
Very true. If you're being scammed, or taken advantage of (via intent or inexperience), that's pretty objectively bad.

kaitie
04-10-2012, 09:21 PM
Or going with a publisher who is inexperienced and has a terrible contract and then losing all rights to your book when that publisher goes under six months after your release. Or publishers that flounder or go under and authors lose royalties, and/or publishers who continue to sell the author's books that they aren't paying royalties on even after the book's rights have been given back to the author.

Jamesaritchie
04-10-2012, 09:28 PM
It also means getting published is "easy", but staying published is difficult. Staying published is dependent largely on sales.

Publish the wrong work at the wrong place, and you'll have a lousy sales record. This can be a chain around your neck that's tough to shake.

JanDarby
04-10-2012, 09:33 PM
I think people underestimate this factor:


People who do see your work decide to never-ever read anything else by you ever again.


If the first book you publish just isn't up to snuff, the reader isn't likely to give you a second chance to see if your skills improve. There are plenty of other books out there, whose authors haven't already been branded as "not for me," so you'll have to work doubly hard to convince a reader to forget the first book (dissing your own work!) because this new one has been thoroughly edited (or whatever the problem with the first work was).

bearilou
04-10-2012, 09:38 PM
I think it ties into the attitudes of the author, being so desperate to see their book in print, they will make some very bad choices not only for their book but for themselves. Usually it's against all advice otherwise.

They end up going with an outfit that doesn't benefit them in any way and really ends up doing more damage than good. The price to getting their book in print at all costs takes a very high toll for the return they get.

veinglory
04-10-2012, 09:59 PM
At the very least being badly published means you have burned rights to a book that (possibly) could have been well published.

James D. Macdonald
04-10-2012, 10:24 PM
People who want to be published in the worst way -- probably will be.

Susan Littlefield
04-10-2012, 11:22 PM
"It's worse to be published badly than not at all?"

It's better not to be published at all than to be published badly.

Badly meaning I pay money out to be published, my work is not the best it can be, and nobody wants to read what I write.

gothicangel
04-11-2012, 12:25 AM
Some even say e-publishing is bad. However, a lot of authors like it. Can e-publishing be bad?



E-publishing can certainly be bad, if your KDP published e-book sells all of 5 copies, and your reviews are full of complaints about grammar, typo's and editing problems. It's not just bad, it will haunt your career.

I don't think I've ever heard someone say e-publishing is bad. Anything that gets more books sold and read should be celebrated. I don't buy many e-books, and it's because I don't like the look of a book page on a computer screen [I think it reminds me of my Uni days reading articles on JSTOR and Project Muse until my eyes bled.]

Remember, there's a difference between e-publishing and self e-publishing.

DeleyanLee
04-11-2012, 12:38 AM
For me, being published badly means that there is no way I can use that author name again because what happen may or does count against me with a "better" publisher. But that's my personal definition.

lolchemist
04-11-2012, 02:25 AM
For me, "bad" would be if I got really shitty pay for it, they picked a horrible cover and title, didn't even bother marketing it, no one read it and the people who DID read it left awful reviews on Amazon over things like "The main character used the word 'BUTT' two times! THIS BOOK IS HORRIBLE AND WILL RUIN YOUR CHILDREN'S LIVES FOREVER!" or "I didn't read the book but the cover is ugly, LOL!"

I mean really, I'd rather just print the book out at Kinko's and draw the cover myself with crayons if that's what's gonna happen.

seun
04-11-2012, 12:06 PM
About eighteen months ago, I received a contract for a book (not the one in my sig, I add). Obviously overjoyed, I still knew it was a good idea to have someone with experience and knowledge go over the contract. They did so and pointed out an issue I'd completely missed.

Section 2 went from part A to B to C...to G and H. Now it could have been a typo (which wouldn't fill me with confidence), but there was no way I was going to sign that contract as it was. I asked the publisher for clarification, got no reply, waited a few weeks, asked again and got nothing. In the end, I emailed to thank the publisher and withdraw my ms. Eventually, they replied to wish me luck with it and my future books.

The whole thing could have been a badly worded contract or it could have been a disaster for me. I saw it as risking being badly published rather than not published and I'm glad I withdrew my ms.

lolchemist
04-11-2012, 12:27 PM
Wow Seun, that's extremely shady! I know with American contract law, you're responsible for only what's ON the contract, NOT the mysterious E and F that aren't on the contract. But the fact that they didn't even clarify, follow up or provide you with a properly formatted contract just creeps me out. I wonder what the deal was? Just over-worked, under-staffed procrastinators or something worse?

seun
04-11-2012, 12:37 PM
I'm willing to go with it being an oversight on the part of whoever drew up the contract, but I still wasn't going to sign it. There were a couple of other problems with it - the reversion of rights clause was very vague for one. They were friendly enough when they did reply. By then, though, it was too late.

WackAMole
04-11-2012, 01:23 PM
People who want to be published in the worst way -- probably will be.

This should go down somewhere in the hall of fame of quotes.

No truer words were spoken. It makes me really stop and evaluate myself and my own motivations.

James D. Macdonald
04-11-2012, 06:45 PM
My guess is that E and F were in previous/other versions of their contract, but when they were deleted G and H weren't changed so that when someone referred to Clause H they wouldn't have to scramble around to see what was in this contract.

Not to worry. A book that's publishable by one is publishable by many.

iRock
04-11-2012, 06:51 PM
Being published should open doors, not close them. If your chosen method of publishing closes doors then you're badly published.

seun
04-11-2012, 07:41 PM
Not to worry. A book that's publishable by one is publishable by many.

That's part of my cunning plan, Uncle J. :)

juniper
04-11-2012, 09:34 PM
I asked this same question last year. Here's the thread if you want to see some more responses.

http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=219086

I know many people who have "rushed to publish" and either regretted it entirely (boxes of books to sell themselves) or were very disappointed in their sales. For some of them, it's important that they can post "I've been published!" on Facebook or blogs or say so at conferences etc. Makes them feel superior to the unpubbed masses.

It's so easy to get all aflutter about an acceptance, even if it's from a sub-standard outfit.

And there's the whole question of small outfits: Are they
1. small but good? small but worthwhile? a nice feather in your cap?
2. small but too new to have a track record? (could close quickly or just underperform)
3. small but undercapitalized? (no marketing, just slap up on Amazon)
4. small but overwhelmed? (little marketing, poor editing, things slip through cracks)
5. small and just plain bad?
6. other small/don't bother

I find it somewhat confusing to know, really. I don't have time to read books from each publisher to see what they produce, I don't know how to really get the dirt on small presses, I don't know how to really gauge which is considered worthy and which is not. :Shrug:

I guess this is why Uncle Jim (and other wise sorts) say to hit for the fence when you're up at bat - don't just send your ms out to places you think will take you, try for the big ones and then work down. A pub credit isn't a pub credit isn't a pub credit - just like a law degree from an online uni isn't the same as one from Harvard or Stanford.

authorilinca
04-13-2012, 03:30 AM
At the very least being badly published means you have burned rights to a book that (possibly) could have been well published.

See above. That right there? It's heartbreaking. Really. You see your work just suffer when you know it could have been so much more.