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WinterDusk14
07-06-2013, 07:31 AM
I was too busy focusing all my energy into my WIP, I kind of got left behind in the "road toward publication".

Is it really that bad? I've read a few blog posts about people getting the short end of the stick. Like, publishers (the big boys, usually) will have certain clauses in their contract that can ruin your entire writing career.

But they say something like, unless you have what they want they will strip you everything what you are. I'm assuming, if the story doesn't seem likely to be a best seller, then, they will butcher you. If you happen to be the next Rowling/King/Sanderson/etc, they'll take good care of you?

If things are really this bad, then is it really is important to build a large "Clout" first?

Here's one of few blogs I've read that really shook me up.

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=9358&cpage=1#comment-61806

Thanks in advance for the clarifications.

Medievalist
07-06-2013, 08:15 AM
I was too busy focusing all my energy into my WIP, I kind of got left behind in the "road toward publication".

Is it really that bad? I've read a few blog posts about people getting the short end of the stick. Like, publishers (the big boys, usually) will have certain clauses in their contract that can ruin your entire writing career.

No, it's really not. Decent reputable publishers have contracts that will understandably be as much in their favor as possible—but they also allow you to negotiate, compromise and strike out.


But they say something like, unless you have what they want they will strip you everything what you are. I'm assuming, if the story doesn't seem likely to be a best seller, then, they will butcher you. If you happen to be the next Rowling/King/Sanderson/etc, they'll take good care of you?



http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=9358&cpage=1#comment-61806

Thanks in advance for the clarifications.

I am now and have been underwhelmed by Mr. Smith for about fifteen years.

That comment is bullshit. I don't even always use an agent, but I'm dealing with reputable publishers and I ask questions. I ask for changes; I've never been given a flat no; I have been willing to compromise and so have my publishers. Don't assume ill will, but do ask questions.

It's my book; I get to say no, and I get to say yes.

Read a lot by people like Victoria Strauss. Read the FAQs in this section. Read the blogs by solid reputable agents whose clients' books you can find in your local bookstores and libraries—Jennifer Laughran (http://literaticat.blogspot.com/), Janet Reid (http://jetreidliterary.blogspot.com/), and many other fine reputable agents blog.

James D. Macdonald
07-06-2013, 11:13 AM
Is it really that bad?



No. Not even close.


I've read a few blog posts about people getting the short end of the stick. Like, publishers (the big boys, usually) will have certain clauses in their contract that can ruin your entire writing career. The worst contracts are from the small fry. The start-up indies who are just making it up as they go along. Although if you've ever read Amazon's take-it-or-leave-it Kindle self-publishing contract, that's one that'll really get the sweat beading on your forehead.

That being said, the only one who can ruin your entire writing career is you.



But they say something like, unless you have what they want they will strip you everything what you are.This is nonsense. You have what they want. A marketable story. They want that story. They're willing to pay for it, and they have the resources to make it the best it can be, and to get it to the greatest number of readers possible. Which is also what you want. At no cost to you. Which is what you want. And freeing you from having to run around like a fool trying to sell the darned things. You can, instead, spend your time writing. Which is also what you want.


I'm assuming, if the story doesn't seem likely to be a best seller, then, they will butcher you. If you happen to be the next Rowling/King/Sanderson/etc, they'll take good care of you?Bad assumption. The thing is, none of them know who'll be the next Rowling/King/Sanderson.



If things are really this bad, then is it really is important to build a large "Clout" first?No, they aren't really that bad, and how, exactly, are you going to get "Clout"? By self-publishing? Yeah, we can name all ten who've managed that ... out of how many hundreds of thousands? You go to a commercial publisher with a book that's already been published, that's a proven failure ... see how far it gets you. (It could be a dandy book. But the typical sales of self-published works are dire.)



Here's one of few blogs I've read that really shook me up.

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=9358&cpage=1#comment-61806
Poor dear Dean. "Agents work for publishers these days...." Really? Really? And that's where he starts!



Thanks in advance for the clarifications.No problem. I went into this earlier here. (http://wwww.absolutewrite.com/forums/showpost.php?p=8264528&postcount=2480)

Old Hack
07-06-2013, 12:03 PM
I was too busy focusing all my energy into my WIP, I kind of got left behind in the "road toward publication".

Writing a really good book is the single most important thing you can do if you want to be published.


Is it really that bad? I've read a few blog posts about people getting the short end of the stick. Like, publishers (the big boys, usually) will have certain clauses in their contract that can ruin your entire writing career.

I've worked in publishing of one sort or another for nearly thirty years, and I've never seen a contract clause which could ruin a writer's entire career.

Publishers' contracts do favour the publisher, not the writer: they're businesses, after all. And that's not a problem if you know how to change it so that it's more in your favour, and you can negotiate these improved clauses. Very few writers have the specialist knowledge to do this, which is why we have agents. A good agent is a treasure to have.


But they say something like, unless you have what they want they will strip you everything what you are.

You're listening to people who don't know what they're talking about.

Think of the thousands of manuscripts which are submitted every year. Why would publishers choose a few of them to sign up and then strip out everything that makes them individual? Wouldn't it make more sense to buy the ones they like just as they are?

Publishers buy books they adore, and then their editors work with the writers to make them the best that they can be. Changes are not imposed on writers: editors make suggestions, writers make changes based on those suggestions and if they don't agree that things need to be changed, they don't change them.


I'm assuming, if the story doesn't seem likely to be a best seller, then, they will butcher you.

You're assuming wrong.

Good editors don't "butcher" books, they work with the writer to make them better.

And if your book doesn't seem likely to be a best seller, the publisher is unlikely to buy it in the first place.


If you happen to be the next Rowling/King/Sanderson/etc, they'll take good care of you?

Publishers try to take good care of all their writers. No one knows for sure who the next huge seller will be.


If things are really this bad, then is it really is important to build a large "Clout" first?

They're not really this bad, though. And I've seen writers with no platform, no online presence, no following and no intention of building one for themselves get signed up by brilliant publishers, and end up being published very well indeed.


Here's one of few blogs I've read that really shook me up.

http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=9358&cpage=1#comment-61806

Thanks in advance for the clarifications.

Mr Smith is talking nonsense.

If I were you I'd stop reading his blog. There are other better, less-biased, more honest things to read.

I'm not saying there aren't sharks in the publishing world: of course there are. But most of the publishing people I've known over the years have been hard-working, passionate about books, respectful of authors, and determined to publish the very best books in the very best ways that they can.

If you want to be trade published, write a good book. Get a good agent. Trust her to guide you through. And keep working.

WinterDusk14
07-06-2013, 12:18 PM
This is why I love the people here. Thank you for the clarifications.

Gillhoughly
07-06-2013, 08:20 PM
Smith and others are spouting misinformation. There's just enough truth in it to make it sound plausible, but the mythbusters here on AW have determined otherwise.

1) Publishers are actively looking for the next Big Thing, but they are the last to know what that will be.
That should not discourage you from sending out work.
2) If they buy your book it means they think it will make them money. They could be wrong, but they're the ones taking that risk.
Meaning you get an advance check and can KEEP it whether the book tanks or not.
3) Of course they will offer a contract with clauses that will benefit them, which is why it's a good idea to have an agent in your corner watching your back. A good agent will remove or negotiate clauses that are not in your best interest.
Ex: Media, merchandising rights, etc.

In the extremely unlikely chance that the book gets optioned by a production company (after it's been on the bestseller list), which is the first step toward a movie deal, your agent will have reserved those rights for you so you don't split them with the publisher.

I didn't have that on my first book contract and didn't know I could reserve them. As a result, 50% of the option money from Lorimar Productions went to the publisher.

That would be a whole $50.00. Gosh, I could have gotten $100.00 had I but known! ;)

Ex: e-book publishing rights.
This is germane right now, as publishers are offering only 25% royalties on e-book sales, when Kindle and others are offering between 65-80% to self-pubbers.

Of course 80% of 10 sales is not a lot of cash.

When you have the publisher behind you on the print book, you're talking about some real money.

Publisher's Weekly--and you should get to the library and start reading it so you get a better grasp of the business side--has run articles on writers who signed deals where they kept the e-book rights, publishing those editions in tandem with the print books.

Not all writers can get that kind of deal. They have agents to do the heavy lifting and the agent is motivated by their cut from the e-book sales. If the publisher won't go for it, then shop to another house if you like. If you don't want to mess with that on your debut book, then don't. Should the sales be good, you can negotiate a better deal on the next book.

My agent is a good one, but a few years back--before the whole e-book explosion--the publisher sent her a rider to my original 18-year old contract. The rider stated I'd get 25% from any e-book sales and had a sales threshold that dictated if the book sold as few as X number e-copies per year it was still "in print." It was a low number.

I shouldn't have signed that rider, but too late now. I'm stuck with it. So is my agent. :(

We're both older and wiser now. That publisher has control of most of my backlist for as long as they choose to keep it. I want those rights back, but they're not giving them up just yet. Going over my taxes and 1099 forms I saw that my 2 self-pubbed e-books are making more than twice as much per year in sales as 12 books are making with the publisher.

Yeah, I'm not amused, but all future books deals will reserve those rights for me. That way I get the benefit of a professional edit job to put in the e-edition I'll do myself, a pro cover and the marketing machine, but I keep the better earnings from e-sales.

Many writers are opting for that kind of hybrid deal. The publishers are starting to accept that, because they want the books.

A debut writer may not have that option.

You need to read other blogs by other working writers. Smith has just one view and most of us here wholly disagree with it.

4) As stated elsewhere, no editor is going to butcher your work. If it needs butchering, they'd never have made you an offer in the first place.

The editor may and usually does ask for changes. They could be minor (you have characters with names Jim, Jan, Jon, Tim, Tad), word reps, grammar gaffs, awkward sentence structure and other problems. A good editor will point those out so you can change them. A not so good editor might rewrite some bits herself, but you get the last word on the topic.

In short--stop being paranoid. If you're so worried about someone messing with your set in stone words, then self-publish and be done with it. Just be prepared to deal with low sales.

5) Yes, people have done VERY well at self-publishing, but I can count on one hand how many were debut writers. The rest had a string of pro sales, knew about marketing and promotion, and had a solid fan base of readers.

It's a gold rush. Few neos are going to strike it rich. Having at least one professional sale gives a writer validation to readers.


If things are really this bad, then is it really is important to build a large "Clout" first?Things might be bad for Smith. He's been in the trenches, slugging it out and isn't happy with how he's been treated.

To which I say, "Welcome to the club, Mr. Smith."

Writers love to kvetch about their mistreatment at the hands of e-vul publishers, but better believe that when we made that first pro sale of a novel to a house we were all dancing on the ceiling.

Were some of us screwed over? Yes, in retrospect, we were.

Can new writers avoid those problems? Absolutely yes. That's why you look for a good agent. Such an agent will already be working for writers who do books similar to yours.

Clout? You can't build clout until and unless you hit that bestseller list and you can't get there without selling a book to a publisher.

Many cite Amanda Hocking (http://blog.nathanbransford.com/2011/03/amanda-hocking-and-99-cent-kindle.html) as a prime example of a debut writer who sold tons of e-books then got a million dollar deal.

But that deal was for a new book series, not the ones she'd self-pubbed. She signed to get the big check and the publishing machine in her corner.

Many cite Barry Eisler (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/03/24/barry-eisler-explains-self-publishing-decision.html), who turned down a reported 7-figure deal to self-publish. But the guy's got a LOT of readers and researched the market before saying no.

A debut writer doesn't have that.

I'd hoped for better when I sold my first book back in the day. I was pumped up by success stories of unknowns bursting onto the bestseller list. I fully expected to go on a paid for book tour, get my picture on the back cover, TV interviews, and be forced to wear sunglasses in public in a futile attempt to protect my privacy. I lovingly preserved all my early drafts, thinking that someday a library would have them in their special collection. I would soon be able to walk into a showroom, point at the most expensive car and say "I'll have that one in red, please," and pay the whole amount in one check. Then I'd ship it to my new private island...

Well, THAT never happened! :D

The reality dawned that I was a mid-lister with a good idea, great reviews, fair sales, and a chance to sell more books to that publisher. My foot was in the door.

But even that would not have happened had I not sent something in, which I did.

And guess what? Those same horror stories about greedy publishers and savage editors were around then and will continue to be around, with variations, today and tomorrow.

The more you know, the better off you are, so read more widely than just Smith or Konrath or others. Get to the library. Read PW, read books by writers who tell how they made their first sales, read the blogs cited above.

The more you know on the business end the more you come to see a pattern of a few wild successes (and a lot more fails), and a number of "I was screwed over" stories.

You'll also see a solid block of sensible working writers who get on rather well at the end of the day.

I think you'll find this link to be enlightening:

http://www.marthawells.com/writingguide.htm

James D. Macdonald
07-06-2013, 08:40 PM
Many cite Barry Eisler (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/03/24/barry-eisler-explains-self-publishing-decision.html), who turned down a reported 7-figure deal to self-publish. But the guy's got a LOT of readers and researched the market before saying no.And who popped back a month or so later selling the exact same title for the exact same advance to a commercial publisher -- in this case one of Amazon's non-self-publishing imprints. I call shenanigans.


And guess what? Those same horror stories about greedy publishers and savage editors were around then and will continue to be around, with variations, today and tomorrow."Sadly, the days of gentlemen publishers are long, long gone." Yeah. First time I saw that was in the collected letters of H.P. Lovecraft. From the 1920s.

Cathy C
07-06-2013, 09:52 PM
The truth is that even the most publisher-friendly contract from the Big 5, without a single edit to the terms, still won't kill your career.

The truth is that "publishers" and the "industry" are made up of people. Yes, they love money but they love books more. Every single editor, editorial assistant, agent, cover artist, publisher and accountant I've ever met that works in the large commercial and small press book field LOVE books. They have to, because despite what you might read to the contrary, very few people in the industry make tons of money. It's not a terribly high paying career, versus what they might make in other fields. I don't think I can say the same about some of the people I've heard of working in the subsidy press field. Books don't seem to be treasured and loved by the publishers or workers with vanity presses. They're just a means to an end. :(

The truth is that editors and agents regularly take on debut books---not because they're hoping for success (even though they are) but because they really, desperately love the book. Editors regularly cross their fingers on books they love and hope readers will too. But even if the readers don't love it, they keep buying them anyway.

The truth is that publishers have no desire to ruin an author's career. Yes, they want to exploit every right possible, and try to keep as many rights possible, to make the most money. But they're not out to destroy the author. Where's the profit in that? And, sometimes they keep things they don't exploit and release them later. I've been fortunate to have an agent who has kept track of unexploited rights in my early contracts and has requested those rights back to sell. The publisher agreed and we were able to sell them elsewhere.

Finally, the truth is that debut authors are selling MORE books right now, because new authors are quite frankly cheaper than bestsellers. In a time of tightening budgets, a publisher can pay a debut author a five figure advance where a bestseller might want six or seven figures.

There's plenty of opportunity. Don't listen to the naysayers. Start at the top and work your way down only if you must. :)

Supergirlofnc
07-07-2013, 07:53 PM
For what it's worth, I have almost no platform. I'm a facebook and goodreads lurker - but that's about all. Today I've been reading through posts on how to get better at book promoting, etc. It's a skill a lack and want to learn.

Despite that, I've signed with one of the big 5. Both my agent and then my editor asked me if I was active in social media before I signed with each of them. I was honest. I told them each no - not so much. They still decided to take a chance on me and my book.

My experience so far has been that people are professional and mostly friendly. I read a post a while back (I believe it was by Victoria Strauss) where she said you shouldn't always expect good faith, but you shouldn't always expect bad faith either.

In my opinion, that's good advice for life in general.

Belinda
07-16-2014, 05:22 PM
In defense of start up indies - we have a professionally written contract giving 50% of the royalties to the author (that is net but it is still good).

Please remember that so many titles fail and promotion is very expensive. At the end of the day without the promotion element you might as well employ someone to create the book for you. It is a tough world out there...

Old Hack
07-16-2014, 09:57 PM
In defense of start up indies - we have a professionally written contract giving 50% of the royalties to the author (that is net but it is still good).

So do many other start-up publishers. (I assume that's on e-books only: what do you offer on print?) Much depends on how you define "net"; and of course, there's far more to a contract than the royalties it defines, and far more to a publisher than the contract it offers.


Please remember that so many titles fail

Good publishers publish books which don't fail. Of the books I've signed I think around 70% turned a profit, and the few which didn't make a profit mostly came close to doing so. If a high proportion of a publisher's books fail then they're either publishing the wrong books, or are publishing them ineffectively.

This is another reason why I urge people to avoid start-ups. If the people behind those start-ups don't have prior experience in publishing they're likely to make lots of mistakes in the first few years; and that means their books won't sell well. It's a cycle I've seen over and over.


and promotion is very expensive. At the end of the day without the promotion element you might as well employ someone to create the book for you. It is a tough world out there...

Publishing effectively is expensive. Promotion is only part of it. But I agree: if a publisher doesn't market or promote the books they publish, authors are almost certainly going to be better off self-publishing.

profen4
07-19-2014, 05:54 PM
In defense of start up indies - we have a professionally written contract giving 50% of the royalties to the author (that is net but it is still good).


What does "professionally written" mean? Do you mean you paid a lawyer to draft a contract? I don't think that's a selling feature of a start up publishing house (or any business for that matter).