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Old Hack
09-12-2013, 01:36 PM
I'm always interested in hearing from people who want full control over the publishing of their books.

I've heard the arguments that with trade publishing you give up creative control over your books, but it's just not true (and I don't think cwbrowning was suggesting that, so I won't go into lecture mode now). What many self publishers refer to, I think, is keeping creative control over their own publication, which is different and very important.

It's not something I'd necessarily relish: I've seen how much work it takes to just edit one book properly, and am overwhelmed by the idea of doing that while also doing all the other publishing stuff too, all while continuing to write other books; and I've worked as a packager, hiring in all the various people required to publish books well, and it was a very demanding job. It was also a very expensive process, albeit I was working with books which were very different to most of the ones I see talked about here (they were mostly non-fiction, highly illustrated, lavishly designed print editions).

You have my admiration. Good luck!

sarahdalton
09-12-2013, 02:12 PM
About the control thing... hopefully not to derailing too much!

When I think up an idea for a book I start with the story and then imagine the cover, how it could be marketed and the audience it's intended for. I like being in charge of the product from beginning to end and choose who to help me get it to the final stages. So for me control=being the boss. I actually think of myself as a small business owner rather than a writer. Hmm, no, writer primarily, small business owner secondarily. That's more accurate.

I've not had much experience with trade publishing, apart from selling a few short stories, so I don't know how much conversation goes on, or how much input there is for an author, but I really do like that sense of responsibility. Weird, isn't it? A lot of people would hate that. I'm not a very bossy or authoritative person in other aspects of life.

Old Hack
09-12-2013, 02:34 PM
Sarah, I thought this could make a very useful discussion for us, so I've split our posts out of their home thread (http://www.absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=277314).


When I think up an idea for a book I start with the story and then imagine the cover, how it could be marketed and the audience it's intended for. I like being in charge of the product from beginning to end and choosing who to help me get it to the final stages. So for me control=being the boss. I actually think of myself as a small business owner rather than a writer. Hmm, no, writer primarily, small business owner secondarily. That's more accurate.

That's exactly how I envision the creative control that most self publishers want. It's a huge challenge and when it's done well, it's brilliant. I applaud people who manage this.

The problem comes when it's claimed that trade publishers take over creative control from writers by forcing changes onto their stories, or by editing their voice out of the work: that sort of thing; it's just not true that this happens. At least, not at good publishers (and we wouldn't work with bad ones, would we?). Publishers acquire books because they love them: they try to make them even better through editing and so on, but if an author and an editor disagree with regard to the editing of a book, the author almost always gets the final say over how it's done.

There is often a discussion about book jackets and how trade publishers don't give authors enough input into them: and it's true that very few authors have any right of veto over the jacket designs their publishers propose. But jacket design is a complex and specific skill-set, which few authors have; and if an author really hates their jacket, there are things they can do (Cathy C wrote a really good post about this which I'll try to find). I can see how writers would like to have control over this aspect of their book's publication; but I can also see why very few of them don't get it!


I've not had much experience with trade publishing, apart from selling a few short stories, so I don't know how much conversation goes on, or how much input there is for an author, but I really do like that sense of responsibility. There's usually a lot of conversation, both before and after acquisition. It's essential that an acquiring editor shares the author's vision for the book, so that they're both working in the same direction; it's what makes it so difficult for authors whose books are orphaned when their acquiring editors move to a different publisher. They won't be working with the editor who loved their book enough to want to publish it, and that can be difficult.

(I get worried when I hear about publishers assigning editors to books. It happens more and more now, and is especially common in e-publishers, but I am not comfortable with it.)

Having driven so many books through the production process I know about that sense of responsibility, and the huge amount of work it requires. I am not entirely sure I'd have done so well had I been working alone; nor do I think I'd have been able to do it with a minimal budget, which I've seen many self publishers cope with. I did love the work, but it was hard.


Weird, isn't it? A lot of people would hate that. I'm not a very bossy or authoritative person in other aspects of life.Very weird. But then we knew that about you already. Ha!

girlyswot
09-12-2013, 02:57 PM
For me, creative control means something slightly different.

I write category-style romance. Until very recently that meant that I had only one potential publisher: Harlequin/Mills and Boon. They have very specific requirements for each of their lines. If my books did not fit those requirements, that was it. Things have changed a bit in the last couple of years, so there are more options. Some of my books have been published with Entangled's category lines, for instance. These have different requirements from Harlequin, but equally specific ones.

When I want to write something that does not quite fit within the guidelines for the category, there are not a lot of other potential publishers (print or e) that are interested in seeing category romances. So I self-publish them. The control I want is at the level of the story. I enjoy the other stuff too - the covers and the formatting and the marketing. But I would be happy enough without that responsibility, if a publisher wanted to take it on. In fact, I am happy enough without it for the books that are with a publisher.

The other factor in my choice to continue self-publishing in the future is sales. At the moment, my self-published books are outselling the others by about 2:1. And when you factor in the higher royalties I get for them, that becomes even more significant. I can't afford not to consider that when I decide whether to submit a manuscript to my publisher or not.

Sorry, I keep editing this because I keep thinking of other things I meant to say.

I wanted to say that while I basically agree with you, Old Hack, about not giving up creative control of your book when it's acquired by a publisher, my experience of category romance has been that there is a fairly strong push to shape your book in particular ways to make it fit better within the constraints of the line.

sarahdalton
09-12-2013, 03:03 PM
Very weird. But then we knew that about you already. Ha!

Lol! You're not the first to say it!



There is often a discussion about book jackets and how trade publishers don't give authors enough input into them: and it's true that very few authors have any right of veto over the jacket designs their publishers propose. But jacket design is a complex and specific skill-set, which few authors have; and if an author really hates their jacket, there are things they can do (Cathy C wrote a really good post about this which I'll try to find). I can see how writers would like to have control over this aspect of their book's publication; but I can also see why very few of them don't get it!


This pretty much sums up the conundrum of self-publishing. You can't be a good self-publisher without having the ability to step back and assess your own work. You certainly can't succeed without being able to choose artwork which will market the book to the correct audience.

I'm actually going through this at the moment. I've written a YA gothic novella and decided to create my book cover. I'm pretty good at image manipulation, not amazing, but pretty good. I spent about seven hours or more going through four or five different versions of a particular cover, getting feedback from other authors, having another go etc. In the end I decided to scrap the entire concept and start again because it just wasn't conveying what I wanted it to convey. So then I had to buy another stock image and do it again.

I've seen cover designers say that it can be difficult to work with some writers because they don't know what their book needs and it makes their job uncomfortable from start to finish. A good designer will turn around and say: this isn't going to work for your genre. A savvy self-publisher will listen.

When I sent my designer some ideas and images to use on the book she ignored all the images I wanted, created her own vision and it became far better than anything I'd ever imagined. The bare bones of my suggestions were there but she was able to take it to another level.

There's a great deal of self-awareness that goes into making business choices. That's where some writers fail, and it's heart-breaking to watch.

Barbara R.
09-12-2013, 03:33 PM
I'm always interested in hearing from people who want full control over the publishing of their books.

I've heard the arguments that with trade publishing you give up creative control over your books, but it's just not true (and I don't think cwbrowning was suggesting that, so I won't go into lecture mode now). What many self publishers refer to, I think, is keeping creative control over their own publication, which is different and very important.

It's not something I'd necessarily relish: I've seen how much work it takes to just edit one book properly, and am overwhelmed by the idea of doing that while also doing all the other publishing stuff too, all while continuing to write other books; and I've worked as a packager, hiring in all the various people required to publish books well, and it was a very demanding job. It was also a very expensive process, albeit I was working with books which were very different to most of the ones I see talked about here (they were mostly non-fiction, highly illustrated, lavishly designed print editions).

You have my admiration. Good luck!

I also admire people who make a go of self-publishing, because the odds are so heavy against them. Every single one of the tasks the self-publisher takes on is a profession in itself; and to excel in each of those professions takes years of work and experience. Of course there are freelancers available, but you get what you pay for.

Take editing, which I know most about. I'll start with the premise that an unedited book is not worth reading. Tons of writers, published, self-published, or unpublished, call themselves editors and offer their services. Anyone can do that; there's no professional test or certification. I have several former students who unfortunately did not succeed with their own writing but are now freelance editors. Why would a writer pay for help from someone who was not able to break through to publication? Because they're cheap. When I edit a book (which I do very rarely), I might charge four times as much as they do...which makes me too expensive for most writers. And this is true of most of the real professionals ; their fees are commensurate with their experience.

If you expand this to include all the other professions that go into publishing a book--design, art, marketing, publicity, copy-editing, proofreading, subsidiary rights, advertising, etc.---it's clear that self-publishers face a difficult choice. They can truly do it all themselves, which usually results in an amateurish book -- or they can pay more than is reasonable for services. It takes a true entrepreneurial spirit with a lot of skills to succeed in this field, so hats off to those who do.


S
The problem comes when it's claimed that trade publishers take over creative control from writers by forcing changes onto their stories, or by editing their voice out of the work: that sort of thing; it's just not true that this happens. At least, not at good publishers (and we wouldn't work with bad ones, would we?). Publishers acquire books because they love them: they try to make them even better through editing and so on, but if an author and an editor disagree with regard to the editing of a book, the author almost always gets the final say over how it's done.

...it's true that very few authors have any right of veto over the jacket designs their publishers propose. But jacket design is a complex and specific skill-set, which few authors have; and if an author really hates their jacket, there are things they can do ...

Having driven so many books through the production process I know about that sense of responsibility, and the huge amount of work it requires. I am not entirely sure I'd have done so well had I been working alone; nor do I think I'd have been able to do it with a minimal budget, which I've seen many self publishers cope with. I did love the work, but it was hard.

Just want to say Yes to all this. I've never had or heard of editing changes being forced down a writer's throat, for just the reasons Old Hack cites--the editor already loves the book or he/she wouldn't have acquired it. Jackets are part of the marketing phase of publishing, which is why publishers usually have the final say; but most agented writers have the right to be consulted and have input into the cover. If the editor and writer have very different ideas about the positioning of a book, this is where that disparity is likely to emerge. I once wrote what I considered to be literary or possibly political fiction; the publisher regarded it as women's fiction, a concept that emerged only when I saw the first draft of the cover, which was pink with a rose on it. [gag]. I lost that fight, in which the jacket was just one proxy battle--the real dispute was over how the book was to be marketed, and that's definitely within the purview of the publisher.

I love it that self-publishing is now a viable option for writers. I think it has so many excellent applications that it makes me crazy when its proponents feel the need to advocate for it by denigrating trade publishing with wild stories about books and writers being tortured into a particular mold. There are plenty of valid criticisms of trade publishing, but they're not nearly as sexy as that particular bit of viral nonsense.

evilrooster
09-12-2013, 03:42 PM
Why would a writer pay for help from someone who was not able to break through to publication? Because they're cheap. When I edit a book (which I do very rarely), I might charge four times as much as they do...which makes me too expensive for most writers. And this is true of most of the real professionals ; their fees are commensurate with their experience.

I think it's important to be careful here. I know a number of editors who work in trade publishing, and few or none of them ever harbored ambitions to be writers. They get rather irritated at the "editors are failed writers" meme, much I do when people tell me that QA is where failed software developers go (and for the same reason).

This is not to say that there aren't people who are only editing because their writing hasn't worked out. And that's not a very good reason to get into editing. But there may also be, among that population, people who found editing as one finds one's true love, or one's calling.

Parametric
09-12-2013, 03:52 PM
I run a business as my day job, so I already handle everything myself from finding clients to filing my own tax returns. Self-publishing is no different for me. I do everything I can myself and hire a professional for the rest. :)


I love it that self-publishing is now a viable option for writers. I think it has so many excellent applications that it makes me crazy when its proponents feel the need to advocate for it by denigrating trade publishing with wild stories about books and writers being tortured into a particular mold. There are plenty of valid criticisms of trade publishing, but they're not nearly as sexy as that particular bit of viral nonsense.

I'm by no means a self-publishing evangelist and fully understand that most trade publishers are run by hard-working people with good intentions, but I've heard a number of alarming stories from friends published by trade publishers. I can't really go into details in a public forum (which isn't very helpful for this discussion, I know!) but it makes me quite wary. But equally, self-publishing is full of dangers. :)

Marian Perera
09-12-2013, 04:32 PM
There is often a discussion about book jackets and how trade publishers don't give authors enough input into them: and it's true that very few authors have any right of veto over the jacket designs their publishers propose. But jacket design is a complex and specific skill-set, which few authors have

Just so.

For my first novel, I had a cover in mind. Down to the last and tiniest detail, I'd imagined it, though I knew the cover artist wouldn't appreciate getting such a lengthy description and being required to "make it so". I gave as much information as I could, asked for something "hot, but subtle" and waited.

I was disappointed with the cover, because the heroine didn't look anything like how I imagined her. Think Vivien Leigh vs. Nefertiri. Other than that it was hot and subtle and lovely, but I was still sort of bummed.

That cover has been complimented again and again. Turns out the heroine's skin and eyes fit into the color scheme perfectly, and that color scheme itself is something I would never have imagined - all dark and gold and brown. I still think of it as my Ferrero Rocher cover, good enough to eat.

I hope I get the same cover artist for my next book.

cwbrowning
09-12-2013, 05:08 PM
I've heard the arguments that with trade publishing you give up creative control over your books, but it's just not true (and I don't think cwbrowning was suggesting that, so I won't go into lecture mode now). What many self publishers refer to, I think, is keeping creative control over their own publication, which is different and very important.


It was, indeed, the creative control over my publication that I was referring to, OH. :) The example I used was more of an illustration of the impetus that pushed me to acknowledge a decision that I think I made long before that, but was too afraid to admit! LOL

Self-publishing is quite possibly the most frightening thing I have ever done, for all the reasons stated here. I have never worked in the industry and so I am a complete newbie to every aspect of this process, with the exception of writing and revision. The thought of all the mistakes that I will make is what kept me from making that decision for so long. That being said, self-publishing is also quite possibly the most liberating thing that I have ever done. I love having complete control of my work from the initial idea to the finished product.



...I like being in charge of the product from beginning to end and choose who to help me get it to the final stages...


Sarah summed it up perfectly. It is that total control from beginning to end that I'm enjoying. Of course I'll make mistakes. (Editing is my nemesis, and I have a horror of typos that would keep me up at night if I allowed it to...) However, if something doesn't work right or if there is an embarrassing snafu along the way, I'll have only myself to blame. Then, after hiding in a bottle of wine, I can make adjustments, correct what I did wrong, and ensure that it never happens again. ;) The responsibility is solely on me. (Sarah, I must be weird too because I love it as well LOL)

I think having total control over the whole process has a positive effect on my creativity. I know that I am thinking more in terms of “branding” now then I ever would if someone else was taking care of all of this for me. In fact, I'll take it one step further and say that I think that that awareness of marketing on this series is helping to direct where I take the series. I'm drafting the third book now and I am taking the series in a direction I don't know that I would have if I wasn't thinking of marketing in the back of my head as well. I know that this is something all writers are supposed to do, but I'm finding it opens the flood-gates of ideas for me.

I'm thoroughly enjoying the whole process! :D

Old Hack
09-12-2013, 05:41 PM
I wanted to say that while I basically agree with you, Old Hack, about not giving up creative control of your book when it's acquired by a publisher, my experience of category romance has been that there is a fairly strong push to shape your book in particular ways to make it fit better within the constraints of the line.

But this isn't an issue of losing creative control: it's more to do with making sure you've understood the implications of the deal you've been offered.

In a previous comment in this thread I wrote (now with added bolding),


It's essential that an acquiring editor shares the author's vision for the book, so that they're both working in the same direction; it's what makes it so difficult for authors whose books are orphaned when their acquiring editors move to a different publisher. They won't be working with the editor who loved their book enough to want to publish it, and that can be difficult.

(I get worried when I hear about publishers assigning editors to books. It happens more and more now, and is especially common in e-publishers, but I am not comfortable with it.)

If you've made certain your editor shares your vision of the book, then you won't be pushed to shape your book in ways which you object to: you'll expect your editor to help you to shape it in ways which will make it better for the market you're in.

Old Hack
09-12-2013, 05:46 PM
I'm by no means a self-publishing evangelist and fully understand that most trade publishers are run by hard-working people with good intentions, but I've heard a number of alarming stories from friends published by trade publishers. I can't really go into details in a public forum (which isn't very helpful for this discussion, I know!) but it makes me quite wary. But equally, self-publishing is full of dangers. :)

I've heard some horror stories too. And you're quite right: you can't go into them right now, if it would risk betraying your friends' confidences and so on.

The huge advantage that many trade-published writers have here is the support of a great agent. There are very few agents I'd recommend; there are probably more I'd steer people away from, although they have made good sales and are successful. Having a great agent behind you is a wonderful thing, and it can make the difference between having nightmares and enjoying the whole publishing process.

girlyswot
09-12-2013, 06:01 PM
If you've made certain your editor shares your vision of the book, then you won't be pushed to shape your book in ways which you object to: you'll expect your editor to help you to shape it in ways which will make it better for the market you're in.

In my experience, it is not always that clear cut.

girlyswot
09-12-2013, 06:03 PM
But this isn't an issue of losing creative control: it's more to do with making sure you've understood the implications of the deal you've been offered.

Well, it's both, isn't it? The implication of the deal is that you will shape the book to fit their expectations for the line. You can decide not to take the deal, of course, but if you do, you are agreeing to give up a certain amount of control.

heza
09-12-2013, 07:13 PM
But this isn't an issue of losing creative control: it's more to do with making sure you've understood the implications of the deal you've been offered.

...

If you've made certain your editor shares your vision of the book, then you won't be pushed to shape your book in ways which you object to: you'll expect your editor to help you to shape it in ways which will make it better for the market you're in.

I've been following these discussions, but I'm not sure I understand this point. Can you elaborate. (Someday, I might want to write cat. romance.)

So, from what I interpret from girlyswot's post--she has to write to very specific requirements in order to be accepted by any of the current category romance publishers. Sometimes, though, she wants to write a story that just doesn't fit with any of them... and to reshape it to fit one of those lines would be to write an entirely different story--one she never wanted to write and doesn't like. So the only real solution if she wants to keep the original story intact, is to self publish it and maintain that creative control.

Are you saying that category romance doesn't work that way? Are you saying it's a waste of time to be writing the stories we want to tell if there isn't a trade publisher who will accept them? Or are you saying this does happen, but you would call it something other than a "creative control" issue?

shadowwalker
09-12-2013, 07:18 PM
Well, it's both, isn't it? The implication of the deal is that you will shape the book to fit their expectations for the line. You can decide not to take the deal, of course, but if you do, you are agreeing to give up a certain amount of control.

But isn't that just agreeing to write to their guidelines - which is how one chooses which agents/publishers to submit to in the first place? If your book doesn't fit the guidelines, you either rewrite so it does or go to another agent/publisher where the book fits as is. Or am I missing something?

Old Hack
09-12-2013, 07:18 PM
In my experience, it is not always that clear cut.

It should be, though. Writers should talk to offering editors prior to signing their contracts to ensure they're both clear about what's wanted.


Well, it's both, isn't it? The implication of the deal is that you will shape the book to fit their expectations for the line. You can decide not to take the deal, of course, but if you do, you are agreeing to give up a certain amount of control.

If you're clear about what will be expected in the editing phase and you sign based on that understanding, you're not being forced to give up creative control: you're agreeing to make specific changes to your work as part of that publishing contract. If you feel those changes aren't appropriate then you shouldn't sign the contract. You could look elsewhere, or choose not to publish, or choose to self publish. But not one of these options demands that a writer should make changes to their books that they're not happy with.

Old Hack
09-12-2013, 07:25 PM
So, from what I interpret from girlyswot's post--she has to write to very specific requirements in order to be accepted by any of the current category romance publishers. Sometimes, though, she wants to write a story that just doesn't fit with any of them... and to reshape it to fit one of those lines would be to write an entirely different story--one she never wanted to write and doesn't like. So the only real solution if she wants to keep the original story intact, is to self publish it and maintain that creative control.

There are other options available too: she could look for another publisher, or just not publish it.


Are you saying that category romance doesn't work that way? Are you saying it's a waste of time to be writing the stories we want to tell if there isn't a trade publisher who will accept them?

No, not at all. I'm saying that if you don't want to change your work to make it fit into a specific line then you shouldn't submit it to that specific line, and if you do submit it there and it's accepted, you shouldn't be surprised if they ask you to revise it to fit with their guidelines.

Submitting work to a publisher which has very specific requirements and then complaining that they're being unfair when they ask you to make your work conform to their requirements seems a little inappropriate.


Or are you saying this does happen, but you would call it something other than a "creative control" issue?

Writers whose work is taken on by any publisher which works in a specific niche will be expected to ensure their work fits into that niche.

If you'd rather not have to do this, don't submit work which doesn't fit to niche publishers.


But isn't that just agreeing to write to their guidelines - which is how one chooses which agents/publishers to submit to in the first place? If your book doesn't fit the guidelines, you either rewrite so it does or go to another agent/publisher where the book fits as is. Or am I missing something?

No, I think you've got that right.

girlyswot
09-12-2013, 07:42 PM
No, not at all. I'm saying that if you don't want to change your work to make it fit into a specific line then you shouldn't submit it to that specific line, and if you do submit it there and it's accepted, you shouldn't be surprised if they ask you to revise it to fit with their guidelines.

I'm not saying I am surprised by that or unwilling. But willingly agreeing to give up a certain amount of control is still giving up control. That is what I am saying.


Submitting work to a publisher which has very specific requirements and then complaining that they're being unfair when they ask you to make your work conform to their requirements seems a little inappropriate.
I have not complained, nor do I think it unfair. I have just explained why with some books I do not choose to do that.

cornflake
09-12-2013, 07:46 PM
I'll start with the premise that an unedited book is not worth reading. Tons of writers, published, self-published, or unpublished, call themselves editors and offer their services. Anyone can do that; there's no professional test or certification. I have several former students who unfortunately did not succeed with their own writing but are now freelance editors. Why would a writer pay for help from someone who was not able to break through to publication? Because they're cheap.


Hold up - a writer would pay (handsomely, in many cases), for an editor who wasn't published because being published has nothing to do with being a good, decent or even competent editor.

Being able to write does not in any way convey the ability to edit, the same as being able to edit does not convey the ability to write. Some people do both well. Some people do one or the other. Many professional editors I've known don't write, had no aspirations to write, are not examples of 'those who can't do...' because they never intended to. I also know excellent writers who don't edit, because it's not within their skill set - it's a specific thing. I know people who do both well.

Judging an editor's ability or potential by his or her credits is a dire error, imo.

girlyswot
09-12-2013, 07:47 PM
But isn't that just agreeing to write to their guidelines - which is how one chooses which agents/publishers to submit to in the first place? If your book doesn't fit the guidelines, you either rewrite so it does or go to another agent/publisher where the book fits as is. Or am I missing something?

Yes, and I think that is one aspect of creative control - or creative freedom - which is inherent to the self-publishing process. It entails the freedom to publish the book you want to write, without having to fit within genre boundaries or publishers' guidelines or market trends or whatever else determines whether a publisher will acquire your book, however brilliantly written it is.

My point was simply that in my specific genre, there are very limited options with respect to other publishers.

eqb
09-12-2013, 07:57 PM
Yes, and I think that is one aspect of creative control - or creative freedom - which is inherent to the self-publishing process. It entails the freedom to publish the book you want to write, without having to fit within genre boundaries or publishers' guidelines or market trends or whatever else determines whether a publisher will acquire your book, however brilliantly written it is.

Category romance does have higher restrictions than other genres, so I agree, the author does give up a certain amount of control, even if that's by choice.

But question: if you're writing romance that doesn't fit a category, does it have to be a choice between giving up control and self-publishing? Romance publishers publish more kinds of romance than category, no?

girlyswot
09-12-2013, 08:03 PM
Category romance does have higher restrictions than other genres, so I agree, the author does give up a certain amount of control, even if that's by choice.

But question: if you're writing romance that doesn't fit a category, does it have to be a choice between giving up control and self-publishing? Romance publishers publish more kinds of romance than category, no?

Yes, they do but mine are too category in style to be anything else, really. I could choose to write something that does fit another publisher, of course (possibly, though I'm not sure I have the skills), but that's part of my point. Self-publishing gives me the freedom to publish the books I want to write.

heza
09-12-2013, 08:26 PM
There are other options available too: she could look for another publisher, or just not publish it.

:/

Okay. I'm going to apologize in advance for how rambling this might sound. I'm really not trying to be argumentative (or completely dense); I'm just having trouble with the concept of what creative control really is and where it begins and ends. And later, when I start talking about why I chose to self publish, I want to make sure I understand the reasons and not represent them.


No, not at all. I'm saying that if you don't want to change your work to make it fit into a specific line then you shouldn't submit it to that specific line, and if you do submit it there and it's accepted, you shouldn't be surprised if they ask you to revise it to fit with their guidelines. So... the idea of creative control doesn't extend to known issues of the business arrangement. If you go in knowing the publisher requires a HEA but your story doesn't, and they ask you to change it, that's not squashing your creative control. If, say, your story took place in space, and they demanded you change it to a desert, that would be stepping on your creative control... BUT editors don't ask for those kinds of changes, so it's a... strawman? Is that the word? Basically, it's worrying about something that doesn't happen.

So, basically, declining to sign with a publisher who would require you to fit into strict requirements isn't about retaining creative control, but more about finding a publisher who publishes your kind of story. And if you can't (because, say, all the romance lines require HEAs), then that's a legitimate reason to self publish...

But not being able to find a publisher who publishers your kind of story =/= retaining creative control....

Is that close? Do I seem to understand?

Medievalist
09-12-2013, 08:31 PM
While I do sometimes choose to self-publish, the trade published books I've done have always included the editor or designer sending me two or three possible cover concepts. They listen to what I think about the concepts, and most of the time have gone with my first choice. Once they went with my second choice, and I thought the reasons they did were good reasons.

They then have sent me two or three full-wrap cover concepts, with copy.

And both publishers have gone with the version I liked best.

Cover design is not something I do. I've worked with people who were amazing, and watching them made me realize I had no intention of even trying to do the art part.

I've always hired someone who does covers for a living. And I've been glad.

J. Tanner
09-12-2013, 08:33 PM
If you feel those changes aren't appropriate then you shouldn't sign the contract. You could look elsewhere, or choose not to publish, or choose to self publish. But not one of these options demands that a writer should make changes to their books that they're not happy with.

I think you draw too broad an argument here.

If we're talking about creative control of a book within trade publishing, then not publishing or self publishing are not part of the argument. They are the alternative. Only looking for another trade publisher who makes fewer or more palatable demands is part of the argument. And it's entirely possible you've already found the best or only trade publishing opportunity. Thus, to remain within the system you must relinquish more control than you prefer.

Of course, publishers have every right to only publish books they love or believe can make money from.

But I don't think you can tell self-publishers they don't lose creative control within trade publishing because they can always self-publish if they don't like the cover, title, changes, whathaveyou, that trade publishing may (at times) demand of a particular book to remain within the system.

(Please note that I don't dispute that every one of these requirements from the publisher could be in the author's best interest. It's just about where the creative control is while the book stays in the system.)

Does that make sense?

heza
09-12-2013, 08:42 PM
I'm not all that worried about cover decisions for the most part. But I have a 10-year plan for what books I want to write (should I succeed in the business), and one of them will feature a black protagonist.

So in that case, if it's still an problem in the industry, I would feel very strongly about not ending up with a white-washed cover. Can you negotiate that kind of thing in your contract?

MaggieDana
09-12-2013, 09:18 PM
I've seen how much work it takes to just edit one book properly, and am overwhelmed by the idea of doing that while also doing all the other publishing stuff too ...

For the past 30+ years I’ve designed and typeset books for publishers in New York and London (HarperCollins, Random House, and St. Martin’s Press, among others). Part of my work has involved full-service book production (fiction as well as financial and medical textbooks) which means I’ve worked closely with authors, developmental editors, copy editors, proofreaders, indexers, and illustrators … so I understand this process very well. I’m also trade published in women’s fiction and MG fiction, so I understand that process a little bit, too.

In other words, I have a reasonable chunk of experience in the world of book publishing. Two years ago I drew on all that experience by self-publishing my new series of horse books for children that seems to be doing quite well for itself — currently topping the charts in Amazon’s horse books for kids and earning me a healthy paycheck every month.

Even with all that background, I still spent six months researching ebook formatting and how to produce squeaky-clean files that would pass validation, before I uploaded the first book.

But what staggers me are the authors with no previous experience in writing or publishing who plunge into the DIY world, then jump into online forums looking for help because things haven’t worked out quite the way they hoped.

Book publishing is a wonderful and quirky business. It's hard enough for people with experience to fully understand it. For newcomers, it must be totally baffling.

GinJones
09-12-2013, 10:52 PM
It's important to define what each person means by "creative control."

Generally, when I see that used, it seems to encompass EVERYTHING. The author wants to design the cover (or choose exactly what goes on it), do the formatting (or choose the various options for typeface, etc.), write the cover copy or marketing description, choose the SEO terms, plan the marketing (or lack thereof), execute the marketing, and whatever else you can think of. The impression that's given is that to give up total and absolute say over ANY of these elements is going to violate the author's integrity.

In that case, I think it's just a silly reason for wanting to self-publish, since it's very unlikely that the author has a clue what a good cover, formatting, marketing, etc. is. Or at least unlikely that the author has a clue (and skill) in ALL of those categories, and they seem worried that giving up even one, where they're admittedly either clueless or incompetent, is unacceptable.

There's a middle ground, of course, where an author has control over sub-contractors. The author hires a cover artist and editor and formatter and marketer and business planner, etc. Yes, the author has "control" over the outcome, making the final decision. But even then, it's not as clear-cut as it might seem at first. For one thing, if the author doesn't actually know what an effective cover is, having control over that decision is just as likely to hurt the author's career as help it. (Sure, the author then can take full responsibility for the failure, without sharing it, but that's sort of cutting off the book's nose to spit its face, since, if the author ceded some control to someone with actual expertise, the book might have succeeded.) And why pay big bucks (or even not-so-big bucks) for an expert and then completely reject the expertise? Plus, I'm not sure how that scenario is terribly different from trade publishing, where the author generally has input into the cover, editing, back-cover copy, marketing, etc., just not the FINAL say, which is ceded to someone who's got actual expertise in the field. Sure, it depends where an author is in the ranks of other authors (bestselling, midlist or debut), how much of a say they'll have in the various elements, but it's wrong to suggest that it's all or nothing, or that "control" is necessarily a good thing, when the matter is something the controller knows nothing about.

Finally, I think the decision to not submit to a publisher that doesn't publish the author's stories is just not part of the "control" discussion, and it muddies the water. In that situation, the choice between trade and self is no different from the choice between submitting to trade publisher A or trade publisher B, based on their market. EVERY author has that control. If I'm writing cozy mysteries, I control the choice of where to submit. My stories aren't going to fit any of Harlequin's lines (I don't think they do cozy mysteries), for obvious reasons, just as they aren't going to fit any of a sf/f publisher's lines. That type of control is different from deciding, "Publisher A does a heck of a great job with cozy mysteries, but I'm afraid I won't have exactly the cover I envisioned on my book, so I'm going to self-publish instead." Or "Publisher B does a heck of a great job with cozy mysteries, but they won't let me have final say on the cover copy [and/or other elements], so I'm going to self-publish instead."

I guess I just don't get the passion with which some authors cling to the idea of controlling things that they really don't have any expertise in. It's particularly confounding when the person is someone brand new to the industry, who doesn't have ANY information about the process at all, and yet is determined to do what takes a dozen or more people to carry off in a trade setting.

Just as an example, we see lots of query letters in QLH, many of which are actually more like cover copy, and authors CONSTANTLY say that it was far easier to write the 400-page manuscript than to write the one-page query or cover copy. It's definitely not easy to write cover copy, and it's a specialized art, I think. I know I'm abysmal at it, and would be THRILLED to hand over the responsibility to someone else! I just don't get why the chance to do something I suck at is somehow a bonus.

Ultimately, I think it may come down to a personality thing. Some people have more control issues than others. I do like to control things, but I'm comfortable letting go of the stuff that I'm miserable doing or that I suck at. I'm guessing that the flip side of that personality is someone who likes control AND enjoys the challenge of learning to do the things they suck at.

And now I'm rambling.

TL;DR: whenever anyone says "I want control, therefore I self-publish," I really wish they'd say WHAT, exactly, they're planning to control, and what their bona fides are for being able to control it.

Old Hack
09-12-2013, 11:10 PM
I'm not saying I am surprised by that or unwilling. But willingly agreeing to give up a certain amount of control is still giving up control. That is what I am saying.

A writer signs with a publisher, knowing what changes they want to make to her book. She agrees that the changes will improve her book, and she's happy to make those changes.

A writer receives an offer of publication, but in order to accept that offer she'd have to make changes to her book which she's not happy with. She has the choice of accepting the offer, knowing she'll have to make those changes, or refusing the offer and hoping to find a different publisher for that book.

How is any control relinquished here? The author controls whether she accepts the publisher's offer or not; the author controls whose editing she accepts or rejects.

Are we talking at cross purposes, do you think? I am genuinely confused now.


Okay. I'm going to apologize in advance for how rambling this might sound. I'm really not trying to be argumentative (or completely dense); I'm just having trouble with the concept of what creative control really is and where it begins and ends.

Me too! I think there's a certain amount of assumption going on here, from all "sides" (not that there are sides, but you know what I mean).


If you go in knowing the publisher requires a HEA but your story doesn't, and they ask you to change it, that's not squashing your creative control. If, say, your story took place in space, and they demanded you change it to a desert, that would be stepping on your creative control... BUT editors don't ask for those kinds of changes, so it's a... strawman? Is that the word? Basically, it's worrying about something that doesn't happen.

Editors might well ask you to make huge changes to your book. My point is that you should talk to your potential editors before you sign your contract so that you know what changes will be expected of you, and if you're not happy with them you shouldn't sign the contract.

You might not find another publisher willing to publish your book: but it's probably better to not be published than to be unhappy with how you're published.


I would feel very strongly about not ending up with a white-washed cover. Can you negotiate that kind of thing in your contract?

You can ask for anything you want to be in your contract. Whether or not your publisher will agree to your requests is another matter; but this particular point doesn't sound too outrageous to me.

girlyswot
09-12-2013, 11:19 PM
The impression that's given is that to give up total and absolute say over ANY of these elements is going to violate the author's integrity.
No, I don't think so. No one in this thread has suggested it's a question of integrity, or that trade publishing compromises integrity. It's a matter of choice.


In that case, I think it's just a silly reason for wanting to self-publish, since it's very unlikely that the author has a clue what a good cover, formatting, marketing, etc. is. Or at least unlikely that the author has a clue (and skill) in ALL of those categories, and they seem worried that giving up even one, where they're admittedly either clueless or incompetent, is unacceptable. I honestly think you're setting up a straw man here. None of the selfpublishers in this thread (or indeed, any that I've seen in the forum) claim to be experts in all these areas.


There's a middle ground, of course, where an author has control over sub-contractors.Right.


Sure, the author then can take full responsibility for the failure, without sharing it, but that's sort of cutting off the book's nose to spit its face, since, if the author ceded some control to someone with actual expertise, the book might have succeeded.No, that's exactly the point. You take control, you take responsibility, you take risks, you take the rewards. That's what entrepreneurs do. It's not for everyone and it doesn't always (often?) pay off.


Finally, I think the decision to not submit to a publisher that doesn't publish the author's stories is just not part of the "control" discussion, and it muddies the water. In that situation, the choice between trade and self is no different from the choice between submitting to trade publisher A or trade publisher B, based on their market. EVERY author has that control.Of course every author has control over where they submit. But having the freedom to publish the story that doesn't fit any publisher's requirements is huge. Actually, I think creative freedom, rather than creative control, is the main draw for me.


I really wish they'd say WHAT, exactly, they're planning to control, and what their bona fides are for being able to control it.They don't need to provide any bona fides to you. Why should they? Self-publishers' work, like any publisher's output, stands on the merits of the finished product. The readers can judge that.

girlyswot
09-12-2013, 11:34 PM
A writer signs with a publisher, knowing what changes they want to make to her book. She agrees that the changes will improve her book, and she's happy to make those changes.

A writer receives an offer of publication, but in order to accept that offer she'd have to make changes to her book which she's not happy with. She has the choice of accepting the offer, knowing she'll have to make those changes, or refusing the offer and hoping to find a different publisher for that book.

How is any control relinquished here? The author controls whether she accepts the publisher's offer or not; the author controls whose editing she accepts or rejects.

Are we talking at cross purposes, do you think? I am genuinely confused now.


Maybe. I think it may be a question of personality. What feels like giving up control to one person doesn't necessarily feel that way to someone else. To me, in the scenarios you describe, the author is choosing whether or not to relinquish some control to her publisher and editor. To you, the author is in complete control. I agree that no one is compelling the author to do anything against her wishes, but I still think that one of the options on the table involves ceding some control.

sarahdalton
09-12-2013, 11:51 PM
I guess I just don't get the passion with which some authors cling to the idea of controlling things that they really don't have any expertise in. It's particularly confounding when the person is someone brand new to the industry, who doesn't have ANY information about the process at all, and yet is determined to do what takes a dozen or more people to carry off in a trade setting.


It's exciting. Some people hit the ground running. There's a wealth of information on the internet. Things move at a fast pace.

There are many reasons why self-publishers like doing what they do.

There's also a big community of people who share information. Expertise is shared around pretty quickly and efficiently.

Polenth
09-12-2013, 11:51 PM
I enjoy laying out books and creating covers, though I doubt I'd self-publish for that reason alone. I see the biggest area of creative control as selection. Some stories won't get a trade publishing acceptance because they don't classify neatly, or they're not hitting expectations for that genre or the publisher just doesn't think there's a market. Self-publishers have more room to take creative risks, because if it doesn't work out, it's not that big a deal.

New Adult is a good example of where it worked out. Trade publishers couldn't afford the risk of setting up a new category. Self-publishers could take that chance.

Not that I think anything I'm doing will be New-Adult successful, but I like the freedom to experiment with formats and stories that don't fit. Anything that is more trade-publishery will go that route first, because I don't think they're going to stomp on my vision... it's more that I recognise some of what I write doesn't fit their vision of what they want to accept.

thothguard51
09-13-2013, 02:13 AM
Trade publishers couldn't afford the risk of setting up a new category. Self-publishers could take that chance.

I know what you mean, but to me this is more of the self publishing kool-aid I keep hearing about. It sounds great but the realities are far different... Why?

A self publisher can create all the categories they wish, but where will the distributor and seller stock the books. Even on Amazon, if I want to search for a SF ebook, I search that category. Amazon is not going to create a new category for a handful of books and the bookstores sure are not going to create a shelf for a new category with no more than a handful of books...

girlyswot
09-13-2013, 02:23 AM
I know what you mean, but to me this is more of the self publishing kool-aid I keep hearing about. It sounds great but the realities are far different... Why?

And yet, it happened. One person can't make it happen, exactly, although one book which has breakout success might. Then others follow and suddenly you've got a new genre and B&N are re-labelling their shelves in stores. You can't plan for that, but on the other hand, it won't happen until someone (self publisher or trade) tries.

thothguard51
09-13-2013, 04:51 AM
It is far easier for the trade publishers because they have sale reps talking to the book chain reps. Once the book chains buy into a new genre, the e-sellers will follow.

I am not saying it can not happen. Look at fanfic for example. While bookstore don't have a shelf for fanfic, there are lots of websites and now Amazon is onboard with Kindle Worlds. Not sure how well that is going to go over, but it is a start.

JournoWriter
09-13-2013, 06:00 AM
A writer signs with a publisher, knowing what changes they want to make to her book. She agrees that the changes will improve her book, and she's happy to make those changes.

A writer receives an offer of publication, but in order to accept that offer she'd have to make changes to her book which she's not happy with. She has the choice of accepting the offer, knowing she'll have to make those changes, or refusing the offer and hoping to find a different publisher for that book.

Can it really be that clear-cut a choice at the moment of signing, though? Do trade publishers have a complete critique and requested edits to hand over right then? And how does the scenario work with nonfiction books, which are often sold on proposal and not with a finished MS in hand?

Polenth
09-13-2013, 06:28 AM
It is far easier for the trade publishers because they have sale reps talking to the book chain reps. Once the book chains buy into a new genre, the e-sellers will follow.

It's easier for a trade publisher, but the risks are higher. Books centred around college-aged protagonists were an unproven market with an uncertain audience. When you're running a company and you have to pay people's wages, you're going to want to know there's a market before you throw that sort of money at it.

It's harder for self-publishers to write in an area that isn't established, but if it fails, they've not really lost anything. So there aren't as many barriers for giving it a go.

For New Adult, it worked out, because there were several authors and an audience who'd been looking for those books. Those books sold and trade publishers are now taking an interest, because the market is proven. That's not living in a self-publishing dreamland... it's what's ended up happening in that case. Any authors who had relevant books have been able to ride that wave.

Like I said, I doubt anything I write will have that sort of success. But I don't have to pay my staff or office rent, so all I lose is a bit of time. Harper Collins can't be as casual about that (and we wouldn't want them to be, as people's jobs are on the line). They're different business models with different strengths and weaknesses. It's not a bad thing to acknowledge that, because if we do, we can see how they can work together.

Nightmelody
09-13-2013, 08:32 AM
Full control, creative control...for me self publishing is all about less stress. I am more creative and productive when I'm under less stress.

I write romance shorts and novellas, my longest book is 40k. I may write longer someday, who knows, but I've published since 2004, all shorts and novellas.

Knocking around the romance epub community I've made online friends and colleagues over the years--other writers, artists, beta readers, editors. Most of my circle of writer types are now involved in self publishing, many are hybrids with books with publishers, too. I'm a hybrid myself but at this point all my future plans are for self pub. I even have editors scheduled for October and March. My job is to get the stories written and to the editor on time--then publish.

I do see my writing in two ways--the creative process and the writing business.

The creative process is unchanged (except that less stress helps me focus).

The business of writing has changed a lot. For me it is easier and funner to self pub. No crazy publisher exploding all over the place, no bankruptcy holding my contract(I was with Triskelion), no missing checks in the mail.

Also, the money is much better. That is a big motivator.

merrihiatt
09-13-2013, 08:38 AM
I chose to self-publish because I wanted to choose when my hero and heroine were going to meet. It doesn't always happen in the first, second or third chapter (or whatever "formula" a romance novel is supposed to use). Setting the price was important to me, and being able to change that price whenever I wanted for whatever reason I wanted (promotion, sale, loss leader for the second and third books in a trilogy, etc.). I love cover design and never dread designing one. I can spend hours choosing one image just because I find the process fascinating. I also wanted to choose where my books would be available (online retailers, I had no vision of seeing my book on a bookstore shelf if I self-published). I also felt it was important not to "create" a publisher name to make my book look less self-published. I don't apologize for self-publishing. I enjoy the process and the "work" of it. Some things I'm better at than others and I acknowledge that right up front. The concept of taking an idea that's running around in my head and creating something in physical form (that I can hold and touch and smell) completely from start to finish is amazing. When I first began self-publishing, I quite literally made my own books (bought the paper, designed the cover, printed the cover on special paper and coated it with a sealer, learned how to bind the books myself and bought ISBNs). It was pretty awesome, but there were practically zero sales. I am not as skilled at marketing and promotion and that was where that dream ended. I also had a negative experience with a faux publisher. Paid $99 to get out of that horrific deal. It wasn't until my mom wanted an iPad when she went into a care center that I began learning about e-books and realized how much I enjoyed reading books with the Kindle app. I was hooked. Then I discovered self-publishing via e-books and decided to learn more about it.

I was completely naive about the publishing industry when I found AW. I still have a ton to learn. The one thing I enjoy doing most is writing, but the second, third, fourth, etc. are all things related to self-publishing.

Old Hack
09-13-2013, 11:17 AM
Can it really be that clear-cut a choice at the moment of signing, though? Do trade publishers have a complete critique and requested edits to hand over right then? And how does the scenario work with nonfiction books, which are often sold on proposal and not with a finished MS in hand?

Yes, it can be this clear-cut, but not at the moment of signing. Writers should absolutely talk to their prospective editors before signing and ask if they will expect any substantial changes to the book during editing, and if so, what those changes are.

If the author doesn't agree with those changes then it's reasonable to say so, and if the author and editor can't find any common ground then I'd always advise the author to refuse the offer of publication.

Non-fiction books are usually sold on the basis of a detailed proposal, which should contain a chapter breakdown. Again, the author should ask what changes would be required by the publisher prior to publication: there should be enough information in the proposal for this discussion to happen.


The business of writing has changed a lot. For me it is easier and funner to self pub. No crazy publisher exploding all over the place, no bankruptcy holding my contract(I was with Triskelion), no missing checks in the mail.

Also, the money is much better. That is a big motivator.

Triskelion wasn't a typical trade publisher, though. And in my experience, the money is much better with trade publishing. I like my advances.


Maybe. I think it may be a question of personality. What feels like giving up control to one person doesn't necessarily feel that way to someone else. To me, in the scenarios you describe, the author is choosing whether or not to relinquish some control to her publisher and editor. To you, the author is in complete control. I agree that no one is compelling the author to do anything against her wishes, but I still think that one of the options on the table involves ceding some control.

The author has the choice to sign or not to sign, to make changes or not make changes. I don't see how any of this equates to relinquishing control.


New Adult is a good example of where it worked out. Trade publishers couldn't afford the risk of setting up a new category. Self-publishers could take that chance.

Genres and categories are primarily marketing tools. It's not a question of trade publishers being unable to afford to "set up a new category": if there's no real advantage to them to do it, they won't do it.


I am not saying it can not happen. Look at fanfic for example. While bookstore don't have a shelf for fanfic, there are lots of websites and now Amazon is onboard with Kindle Worlds. Not sure how well that is going to go over, but it is a start.

Bookshops won't ever have a shelf for fan-fiction because it's copyright infringement, and they'd be dipping their toes into very murky water if they started selling it.

KindleWorlds is different: the authors and publishers have agreed to allow derivative works, so Amazon can sell it without breaking the law.


I was completely naive about the publishing industry when I found AW. I still have a ton to learn. The one thing I enjoy doing most is writing, but the second, third, fourth, etc. are all things related to self-publishing.

Merri, we all have a lot to learn from you. You've grown so much since you've been here, and I know that many of us admire you for all you've achieved.

***

And now, I think a thread-move is in order. This isn't just about self-publishing, it's about how writers view the best options for their works and careers. So I'm going to move the thread from Self Publishing to the Round Table. Hold on!

NeuroFizz
09-13-2013, 03:35 PM
This is a general comment that goes back to the original post and some of the comments that have followed. Saying an author surrenders control to a trade publisher is on the same level as saying outlining stifles creativity. It can happen in some instances, but as generalities, they are both total crap. I'll admit that with the number of small publishers around, there are many levels of quality in editing and book construction, and many levels of experience in the critical areas of author-editor interactions. And some of these interactions are horrible for their authors. But based on what I've been able to determine, these are not sufficiently common to warrant the generality of control surrender.

I have had experience with three publishers, and in all of the editing interactions, I have not had a single editorial suggestions that changed even subtle aspects of my stories, the tone of the stories, or my voice within those stories. All of the changes came as suggestions with a request for my response (with the right of refusal), and they were all forwarded to increase the clarity and effectiveness of the highlighted passages. With artwork from all three publishers, I was asked for initial input, and for subsequent input throughout the process of cover design. Nothing was forced on me, nor did I feel any decisions were made without my comment and approval.

Old Hack has a good point about the importance of research before signing with a publisher. And I'll reiterate that with so many small publishers, there is a huge range of quality and professionalism in running their publishing businesses. So every author has a personal responsibility to thoroughly research each publisher before submitting. But if an author signs with a publisher who does not live up to the spirit of collaborative editing and production, that shouldn't be extrapolated to trade publishing in general.

girlyswot
09-13-2013, 03:41 PM
This is a general comment that goes back to the original post and some of the comments that have followed. Saying an author surrenders control to a trade publisher is on the same level as saying outlining stifles creativity. It can happen in some instances, but as generalities, they are both total crap.

No, they are both matters related to personal opinion and creative practice. Outlining may not stifle your creativity but you don't get to tell me that it doesn't stifle mine. You may not feel that you have ceded any control to your publisher, but that does not change the fact that I feel I have.

I wonder if some of the problem is that 'control' is being defined in all or nothing terms by some posters. Either you have complete control, or you surrender it entirely. For me, it's on a spectrum. There are very few things in life I can control completely, and likewise not many over which I have no influence at all. I think that, when I agree to work with a publisher, I agree to move to a different point on that spectrum than I do when I decide to self-publish.

Old Hack
09-13-2013, 04:11 PM
I wonder if some of the problem is that 'control' is being defined in all or nothing terms by some posters. Either you have complete control, or you surrender it entirely. For me, it's on a spectrum.

I wonder: do you feel as if you're giving up control when you work with an editor?

Barbara R.
09-13-2013, 04:21 PM
Hold up - a writer would pay (handsomely, in many cases), for an editor who wasn't published because being published has nothing to do with being a good, decent or even competent editor.

Being able to write does not in any way convey the ability to edit, the same as being able to edit does not convey the ability to write. Some people do both well. Some people do one or the other. Many professional editors I've known don't write, had no aspirations to write, are not examples of 'those who can't do...' because they never intended to. I also know excellent writers who don't edit, because it's not within their skill set - it's a specific thing. I know people who do both well.

Judging an editor's ability or potential by his or her credits is a dire error, imo.

I don't believe I said, and certainly didn't mean, that editors need to be writers. That would be silly. I've had many editors, and known many more, and almost none of them were writers. I was referring to writers who represent themselves as freelance editors but don't have the creds to back it up, which IMO would be either having published their own work with major houses, or having seen their clients' work sell---preferably both.


Yes, and I think that is one aspect of creative control - or creative freedom - which is inherent to the self-publishing process. It entails the freedom to publish the book you want to write, without having to fit within genre boundaries or publishers' guidelines or market trends or whatever else determines whether a publisher will acquire your book, however brilliantly written it is.

My point was simply that in my specific genre, there are very limited options with respect to other publishers.

If a book is as brilliantly written as you posit, publishers will buy it first and figure out how to define it later. Take Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series for example. By rights she should have had a hell of a time selling the first book. It was way too long, and worse yet it combined genres: time-travel, historical, and romance. On paper that book was a non-starter. In fact the series was snatched up and has now sold some 20 million copies around the world.

There's no rule or standard that can't be broken, if you break it with sufficient talent and panache!


I'm not all that worried about cover decisions for the most part. But I have a 10-year plan for what books I want to write (should I succeed in the business), and one of them will feature a black protagonist.

So in that case, if it's still an problem in the industry, I would feel very strongly about not ending up with a white-washed cover. Can you negotiate that kind of thing in your contract?

You can if you insist on it and are willing to go the distance. I once walked away from a major publisher when my editor suggested changing the MC's race. I ended up selling the book to Morrow, and optioning it to a major studio...but I didn't know that would happen when I turned my old house down. Race is still a tricky subject in publishing.


I think it's important to be careful here. I know a number of editors who work in trade publishing, and few or none of them ever harbored ambitions to be writers. They get rather irritated at the "editors are failed writers" meme, much I do when people tell me that QA is where failed software developers go (and for the same reason).

This is not to say that there aren't people who are only editing because their writing hasn't worked out. And that's not a very good reason to get into editing. But there may also be, among that population, people who found editing as one finds one's true love, or one's calling.

Never said or implied that editors are failed writers! Good Lord. All I said is that if you do hire a writer as an editor, make sure they have serious credits.


I run a business as my day job, so I already handle everything myself from finding clients to filing my own tax returns. Self-publishing is no different for me. I do everything I can myself and hire a professional for the rest. :)



I'm by no means a self-publishing evangelist and fully understand that most trade publishers are run by hard-working people with good intentions, but I've heard a number of alarming stories from friends published by trade publishers. I can't really go into details in a public forum (which isn't very helpful for this discussion, I know!) but it makes me quite wary. But equally, self-publishing is full of dangers. :)

I know plenty of stories, too, and have been through and seen some heartbreaking stuff. Writing is a tough profession, whether you publish or self-publish.




For the past 30+ years I’ve designed and typeset books for publishers in New York and London (HarperCollins, Random House, and St. Martin’s Press, among others). Part of my work has involved full-service book production (fiction as well as financial and medical textbooks) which means I’ve worked closely with authors, developmental editors, copy editors, proofreaders, indexers, and illustrators … so I understand this process very well. I’m also trade published in women’s fiction and MG fiction, so I understand that process a little bit, too.

In other words, I have a reasonable chunk of experience in the world of book publishing. Two years ago I drew on all that experience by self-publishing my new series of horse books for children that seems to be doing quite well for itself — currently topping the charts in Amazon’s horse books for kids and earning me a healthy paycheck every month.

Even with all that background, I still spent six months researching ebook formatting and how to produce squeaky-clean files that would pass validation, before I uploaded the first book.

But what staggers me are the authors with no previous experience in writing or publishing who plunge into the DIY world, then jump into online forums looking for help because things haven’t worked out quite the way they hoped.

Book publishing is a wonderful and quirky business. It's hard enough for people with experience to fully understand it. For newcomers, it must be totally baffling.

Hear, hear.



I guess I just don't get the passion with which some authors cling to the idea of controlling things that they really don't have any expertise in. It's particularly confounding when the person is someone brand new to the industry, who doesn't have ANY information about the process at all, and yet is determined to do what takes a dozen or more people to carry off in a trade setting. .

Wholeheartedly agree with this. But sometimes the decision is made because the writer has tried unsuccessfully to sell the book, and it comes down to a choice between self-publishing and sticking the ms. in a drawer. In that case, I think it's reasonable to self-publish, keep the costs low, and have something real and lasting for friends and family to read. What's not reasonable is expecting strangers to flock to the book, or getting pissed if they don't.

NeuroFizz
09-13-2013, 04:25 PM
No, they are both matters related to personal opinion and creative practice. Outlining may not stifle your creativity but you don't get to tell me that it doesn't stifle mine. You may not feel that you have ceded any control to your publisher, but that does not change the fact that I feel I have.

That's why my quote you included in your post had the phrase "It can happen in some instances." For some people they apply, but they can't be drawn from those personal experiences into generalities. And unless you have tried more than just one or two traditional publishers, you can't extrapolate your experiences to the publishing world in general.

WeaselFire
09-13-2013, 04:43 PM
I'm always interested in hearing from people who want full control over the publishing of their books.
I'd prefer that the publisher take control. I am very good at writing. They are very good at publishing (or else I wouldn't be publishing with them). Why would I want to take away the best options our team has of getting my book sold?

I don't walk in with a preconceived vision of my work. While I'll invoke control over the words and phrases when appropriate, that's my skill I bring to the table and that I'm getting paid for. The rest of the publishing process some other, hopefully as skillful, person is getting paid for and rightfully has their control.

It's a business. Not an art form.

Jeff

bearilou
09-13-2013, 04:47 PM
For some people they apply, but they can't be drawn from those personal experiences into generalities. And unless you have tried more than just one or two traditional publishers, you can't extrapolate your experiences to the publishing world in general.

This is what really baffles me.

Considering many uninformed self-published authors hear about the trade industry horror stories, believing they are the rule, not the exception, or don't think to ask the questions of what publisher it is that has produced such a horror? It's hard to make any kind of decision about whether that that is a rule or an exception for that specific publisher because it doesn't hold true across the board to all trade publishers.

So while I can appreciate that many people don't want to name names, I think it is very hard to have any kind of meaningful conversation about the responsibilities of self-publishing and what kind of control is retained or given up when those very same nebulous horror stories are propagated with no substantiation at all. It's all just hearsay.

And very much like the telephone game, getting more exaggerated as the story gets passed along.

The self-publishers here at AW have very specific reasons as to why they feel they have complete control over their work, what they're saying implicitly is that they at least have an understanding of the differences offered between trade publishing and self-publishing.

So while this is a useful conversation to have, I feel it leaves out the biggest segment of self-publishers, and that's the ones who are buying the song-and-dance of people who are in the business of selling their self-publishing agenda. They leap in wholeheartedly, parrot back what these 'gurus' are saying, mouthing all the words with no idea of what it actually means or any experience themselves to base it on.

'But it all sounds really good!'

kaitie
09-13-2013, 09:57 PM
Wholeheartedly agree with this. But sometimes the decision is made because the writer has tried unsuccessfully to sell the book, and it comes down to a choice between self-publishing and sticking the ms. in a drawer. In that case, I think it's reasonable to self-publish, keep the costs low, and have something real and lasting for friends and family to read. What's not reasonable is expecting strangers to flock to the book, or getting pissed if they don't.

I kind of agree with this, but only in part. I don't think a person should self-publish because they were rejected. The part you quoted was about authors who don't know what they're doing, and oftentimes the people who haven't done enough research aren't querying correctly or well. Sometimes when a person has 100 rejections and not a single request it's just because they didn't send a proper query, and doing more research and learning will teach them to do it correctly, and then the book will sell.

And I honestly believe that some books just aren't meant to be out there. The vast majority of books are rejected because the writing just isn't good enough yet. And it's not usually even close. A lot of books being submitted have incomprehensible grammar, or writing that is too purple to be easily followed, and so on.

I think a writer who gets a lot of rejections should first check their query, then check their book, and then get some objective third parties to look it over, and any writing errors should be addressed before an author even considers self-publishing.

Even books that have been unpublished later can still show up in different places (especially print), and aside from negative reviews from a low quality book possibly affecting readers later on, I think about the fact that I would be incredibly embarrassed now to think of my first book having been published. A lot of people who aren't very good don't realize yet that they aren't very good, and I just imagine that some people would, after more experience and knowledge, look back on those books and wish they'd left them in a drawer.

Because really, a drawer isn't a bad thing. It doesn't make anyone a failure as an author. Most books in drawers were practice novels, and while we might have loved them and cherished them and thought the world of them at the time, most of us realize as we improve that those books we loved and cherished just weren't worth asking someone to spend money on yet. And that's okay.

Barbara R.
09-14-2013, 12:56 AM
I kind of agree with this, but only in part. I don't think a person should self-publish because they were rejected. The part you quoted was about authors who don't know what they're doing, and oftentimes the people who haven't done enough research aren't querying correctly or well. Sometimes when a person has 100 rejections and not a single request it's just because they didn't send a proper query, and doing more research and learning will teach them to do it correctly, and then the book will sell.

And I honestly believe that some books just aren't meant to be out there. The vast majority of books are rejected because the writing just isn't good enough yet. And it's not usually even close. A lot of books being submitted have incomprehensible grammar, or writing that is too purple to be easily followed, and so on.

I think a writer who gets a lot of rejections should first check their query, then check their book, and then get some objective third parties to look it over, and any writing errors should be addressed before an author even considers self-publishing.

Even books that have been unpublished later can still show up in different places (especially print), and aside from negative reviews from a low quality book possibly affecting readers later on, I think about the fact that I would be incredibly embarrassed now to think of my first book having been published. A lot of people who aren't very good don't realize yet that they aren't very good, and I just imagine that some people would, after more experience and knowledge, look back on those books and wish they'd left them in a drawer.

Because really, a drawer isn't a bad thing. It doesn't make anyone a failure as an author. Most books in drawers were practice novels, and while we might have loved them and cherished them and thought the world of them at the time, most of us realize as we improve that those books we loved and cherished just weren't worth asking someone to spend money on yet. And that's okay.

Most published writers do have an unpublished book or two in their drawers. I have a couple. I know one first-class novelist, Edward Whittemore, who had seven. I agree with everything you said in this post. But I think it depends on people's motives. If the writer harbors ambitions of being taken seriously, reviewed seriously, sold seriously--then yes, better to learn from rejection than to self-publish prematurely. Self-publishing can be a real trap for writers who are almost but not quite where they need to be--all that instant gratification is a snare. I argue that very case in a post called "What if J.K. Rowling Had Self-Published (http://bit.ly/17KeWcm)?"

But there are all kinds of writers, and some don't aspire to all that. Some just want the experience of publishing a book, or they want to put their work out there for friends and family and anyone else who happens along. And they have no chance, now or ever, of interesting a commercial publisher. For writers like that, self-publishing is reasonable recourse.

RedWombat
09-14-2013, 06:46 AM
I think "doesn't fit anywhere" is a pretty valid reason, myself. I'm happily trade published for the vast majority of my work, but I have a weird little novella that my agent loves and could not find a home for. After a few years of shopping, I finally said "Why don't I self publish this?" She said "Do it, start a pen name, send me a copy, and if anybody comes for the foreign rights, point 'em my way."

It's not gonna start a new genre or anything, but it takes a load off my mind, oddly, to know that all those things that want to be novellas are not doomed to exile on my hard drive. (Mind you, it's at the editor now, so. I may feel differently when I have battled the format demons.)

Kitty27
09-14-2013, 11:43 PM
I used to think self publishing was too much work. But as I talked with friends doing well with it,I began to take a different view. Then I saw its benefits and they more than make up for any hard work I'd have to put in.

I MUST have a proper cover and cultural references included. I have heard and seen too many horror stories about book covers of POCs ever to want to leave that up to someone else. I do not have the time nor inclination to have to fight to the death for what should be common sense. Nor do I want to have to explain a thousand times why the audience the book is aimed at wants and needs that cover/content to be correct.

To be clear,certainly not all publishers think this way. But for me, having complete control over the cover/content is an absolute must. I won't stand down on either one.

As far as the creative process,I tend to write weird books that don't quite fit anywhere or are a mish mash of genres. I also write very fast and churn out books. I like the flexibility of self publishing in that I can put books out as fast as I write them(edited,of course!)

I just find it very enjoyable to have complete control over the entire process. It's daunting,but there is something very satisfying in researching and then adding hard work to what I've learned. It is by no means easy or something that is going to bring instant wealth/stardom. But it works for me.

Cealarenne
09-14-2013, 11:50 PM
I wonder: do you feel as if you're giving up control when you work with an editor?
I'm coming into this discussion quite late, but I'd like to address this. I've read through most of the posts here and there are always good arguements for both sides of the debate on whether it's a control issue or a personality issue. I self-published my book The Candidate's Daughter, after signing with an agent and going on submission. I pulled the book after a short while when my agent said she always gives up after sumbitting to the first 15. I'm not going into that right now, but after that experience, I was fortunate enough to have Sara J. Henry, the award-winning author of Learning to Swim, see some of my work.

Sara made some comments on it since she's also an editor and book doctor. It may be useful to say here that when she submitted LTS to the publisher, there was almost nothing to do on it. Long story short, Sara wound up reading my work and coming back with comments like, "No, no, no. This paragraph does not work! You cannot have this."

Let me just say here, Sara does not sugar coat her comments. For that reason a lot of people cannot work with her. I swallowed my pride and listened. Result - a book that works. Don't get me wrong, I spent months reworking the passages she said didn't work. I resent them to her, and she repeatedly came back and trashed them until I got it right. Will I use her again, Damn right I will. I ran my next thriller by her. She thinks I should take it to agents. Maybe, maybe.

But here's the thing - I pay a formatter to format my work. I write, I don't want to spend my time formatting. I paid Deanna Dionne (not the cheapest) to do a new cover design.

I refuse to let something less than the best I can do go out online with my name on it. This is my brand. It can be damaged in a second.

Answer to the above question - I'm more in control when I work with an editor. Maybe that's just me.

oakbark
09-16-2013, 05:05 PM
I scrapped a script which I "knew" would have made a terrific adventure film, just because I didn't want to loose control over it and have some weird choice of director and cast and countless re-writers botch the vision I had :tongue

I'm converting the story to book format now and would just as well self-publish as see a big house pick it up. Benefits of both, but being able to largely let go of editing, packaging, marketing and whatnot seems like a luxurious benefit.

On the other hand... time is life, and the prospect of getting material to market quickly has a egocentric appeal that is hard to battle against.

One of each is perhaps best.