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Barbara R.
12-19-2013, 10:03 PM
It could be coincidence, but twice this week I've heard from self-published writers who've been approached with an offer from a "publishing house" (I don't know the name) to reissue their books under contract. I didn't hear any details of those offers, though it was clear there was no money offered to the writers. The books in question were not bestsellers.

Given that real publishers are almost never interested in republishing something that's already been out, unless it sold like 50 Shades, this smells to me like vanity presses trolling for fresh meat. Has anyone else heard of this?

PrisonGuy
12-19-2013, 10:10 PM
I'd like to know the names of these publishing houses.

aliceshortcake
12-19-2013, 10:23 PM
It wasn't JustFiction!Edition/LAP, was it?

Barbara R.
12-19-2013, 10:53 PM
I'd tell you if I knew. Neither of the writers identified the house.

MandyHubbard
12-20-2013, 01:49 AM
It doesn't need to be a vanity press to be a bum deal.

If a small publisher plans to do no edits, use the same cover or cheap stock photography, etc, etc, they can amass a few dozen or a few hundred titles with little work, and even if each title only sells a hundred bucks worth, they can make money.


There are a NUMBER of start-up publishers from the last few years whose MO seems to be to go for quantity over quality. The more books they put out, the more money they make. And it works.

The one thing any author should ask themselves is what a publisher is going to do for them that they cannot do themselves (and in this case, that they already did themselves). If they can't answer that, they should walk away.

James D. Macdonald
12-20-2013, 02:06 AM
I too would really like to know the name of this/these publishing house(s).


it was clear there was no money offered to the writers.

If it isn't a commercial house with a really good track record I'd say pass on the opportunity. And if it's a commercial house with a really good track record then there jolly-well ought to be up-front money attached.

Maryn
12-20-2013, 04:53 AM
Let me think. I've answered this question elsewhere online, telling the people to stay away from it the moment somebody asks for money--which they always do. But my posting history there is not searchable, so I don't know if I can find it.

Maryn, defender of gullible teenagers

veinglory
12-20-2013, 05:05 AM
I would note that occasionally this happens and is totally legit. Sometimes a self-published book is right in a niche a publisher wants to move into--so they pick it up.

Filigree
12-20-2013, 05:12 AM
ETA: if it's done well, it benefits both the author and the new publisher. If the publisher believes enough in the book to market it properly.

But this arrangement can also result in author mills. If the publisher asks for money, or there is no realistic way for the author to make money, and the 'free exposure' is of negligible worth - why the heck would anyone give away books?

Anyone can be a publisher these days. Technically, AllRomance/OmniLit now regards me as a publisher. That doesn't mean I have any business publishing anyone else's work.

Rather than say 'Oh, a publisher paid attention to me'. hopeful new writers should ask 'What can this publisher offer me that I can't do myself?' Then pay attention to the weasel-words some publishers will use to hide the fact that they probably can't do that much.

Long-tail marketing (low sales for each author, but lots of small sales for the publisher) only benefits the publisher, or the author who has a large and well-publicized backlist.

Barbara R.
12-20-2013, 06:06 PM
Let me think. I've answered this question elsewhere online, telling the people to stay away from it the moment somebody asks for money--which they always do.

I imagine that would have been the next step.


I too would really like to know the name of this/these publishing house(s).

If it isn't a commercial house with a really good track record I'd say pass on the opportunity. And if it's a commercial house with a really good track record then there jolly-well ought to be up-front money attached.

I'll ask the two people who were approached if they're willing to share that info. I don't know myself who the publishers are. Re. advances---most publishers who work with unagented writers don't pay advances (because no one makes them), but they can still be effective publishers. I'm thinking of digital-first companies like Entangled. I've had several students publish with them, and they received strong editing and marketing support.


I would note that occasionally this happens and is totally legit. Sometimes a self-published book is right in a niche a publisher wants to move into--so they pick it up.

Okay. That's a new one to me, but I can see it happening.


ETA:

Long-tail marketing (low sales for each author, but lots of small sales for the publisher) only benefits the publisher, or the author who has a large and well-publicized backlist.

In other words, what Amazon does? Most of their self-pub'd writers don't sell much beyond friends and family, but 30% of the accumulated sales from all those writers is worth vacuuming up...

merrihiatt
12-21-2013, 01:11 AM
In other words, what Amazon does? Most of their self-pub'd writers don't sell much beyond friends and family, but 30% of the accumulated sales from all those writers is worth vacuuming up...

I'm not sure this comment is accurate. If the average self-published author sells 400 e-books a year, more people are purchasing beyond family and friends, especially if it continues into the next year and the next.

Filigree
12-21-2013, 03:10 AM
The self-pub averages I have seen go from 50 to 200 sales a year, about the range for friends and family sales of multilevel marketing products. That number can be boosted a little higher with special interest targeting through social media or local events. It's remarkable when a self-pub author sells 1000 copies per year.

And yes, Amazon knows what they are doing with that 30%.

Barbara R.
12-21-2013, 05:17 AM
I'm not sure this comment is accurate. If the average self-published author sells 400 e-books a year, more people are purchasing beyond family and friends, especially if it continues into the next year and the next.

400 per title sounds high to me--I'd be interested to know where you got that figure, if you remember. I read a study in the Storyist a while ago that concluded that the average income for self-published writers on all their work is under $500. That was a year or so ago and the numbers may have changed since. More self-pub'd work is selling, but there's more of it out there, too.

Parametric
12-21-2013, 06:00 AM
I'm not sure this comment is accurate. If the average self-published author sells 400 e-books a year, more people are purchasing beyond family and friends, especially if it continues into the next year and the next.


The self-pub averages I have seen go from 50 to 200 sales a year, about the range for friends and family sales of multilevel marketing products. That number can be boosted a little higher with special interest targeting through social media or local events. It's remarkable when a self-pub author sells 1000 copies per year.

And yes, Amazon knows what they are doing with that 30%.


400 per title sounds high to me--I'd be interested to know where you got that figure, if you remember. I read a study in the Storyist a while ago that concluded that the average income for self-published writers on all their work is under $500. That was a year or so ago and the numbers may have changed since. More self-pub'd work is selling, but there's more of it out there, too.

My totally unscientific feeling on the subject of average self-published sales is that the situation is skewed by a considerable number of incredibly unprepared writers who self-publish their unspellchecked first novel, sell a few copies to their families, then drop off the face of the earth. For this group, lifetime sales are probably well under 50. I think that must pull the average dramatically downward. If you counted only serious self-publishers, even for a very relaxed definition of serious, I suspect the numbers would look quite different.

Polenth
12-21-2013, 06:30 AM
I'm not sure this comment is accurate. If the average self-published author sells 400 e-books a year, more people are purchasing beyond family and friends, especially if it continues into the next year and the next.

Regardless of whether the sales figures are accurate, it's not the same situation. Amazon aren't your publisher. They don't claim they're going to edit your book, provide a cover, send out review copies or other publisher tasks. They're your printer and/or electronic distributor, depending on format. They're selling you the use of their infrastructure. The rest is down to you.

Publishers who buy a lot of books with the aim to sell a handful of each title are not that transparent. They make it sound like they're going to do all those things for you, but all they really do is slap it together as fast as possible, and put it on Amazon. Even if they don't charge, they're working the same emotional manipulation as vanity presses. It's based on authors wanting validation by getting accepted by a publisher, to the point where they'll ignore any warning signs about the publisher.

merrihiatt
12-21-2013, 06:59 AM
400 per title sounds high to me--I'd be interested to know where you got that figure, if you remember. I read a study in the Storyist a while ago that concluded that the average income for self-published writers on all their work is under $500. That was a year or so ago and the numbers may have changed since. More self-pub'd work is selling, but there's more of it out there, too.

IIRC I read it here at AW. It wasn't 400 sales per title, though. It was 400 sales period (for all titles available by a self-published author). I remember it because when I read that figure, I was truly surprised that it was so low. I had sold more than 400 e-books in a two or three month period (mainly because of a trilogy where the first e-book was free).

Old Hack
12-21-2013, 01:18 PM
I got access to some sales statistics for print books from AuthorSolutions a few years ago, and if I removed their highest selling book, which had sold something like 54,000 copies, the mean average worked out to be 200 copies; if I removed the books which had sold over 500 copies, the mean average came out to about 39 copies.

These were for print books, not e-books, and are wildly out of date now.


My totally unscientific feeling on the subject of average self-published sales is that the situation is skewed by a considerable number of incredibly unprepared writers who self-publish their unspellchecked first novel, sell a few copies to their families, then drop off the face of the earth. For this group, lifetime sales are probably well under 50. I think that must pull the average dramatically downward. If you counted only serious self-publishers, even for a very relaxed definition of serious, I suspect the numbers would look quite different.

It's very hard to get reliable statistics for e-books, and those which are available are skewed by self-reporting; and by many people reporting giveaways as sales.

I think that it's likely that the majority of self-publishers are the unprepared writers you describe.

Not that this is particularly on-topic, of course.

I'd be wary of publishers who approached self-published writers in this way. The success of a few writers who have been approached has made it seem possible: but there are far more scammy publishers approaching self publishers now than good ones, so do be careful out there.

Barbara R.
12-21-2013, 06:46 PM
My totally unscientific feeling on the subject of average self-published sales is that the situation is skewed by a considerable number of incredibly unprepared writers who self-publish their unspellchecked first novel, sell a few copies to their families, then drop off the face of the earth. For this group, lifetime sales are probably well under 50. I think that must pull the average dramatically downward. If you counted only serious self-publishers, even for a very relaxed definition of serious, I suspect the numbers would look quite different.

I know a group of writers, all previously or currently published by commercial houses, who are now self-publishing their backlists and some new titles as well. That group of writers is doing quite well on the whole---some making in the mid-five figures annually. There's a post (http://barbararogan.com/blog/?p=469)on my blog about this phenomena by bestselling author Lorraine Bartlett, who told me she's making far more now than she did when all her books were traditionally published. But writers who were or are traditionally published are better writers than your average bear.

The writers I know whose work has all been self-published haven't done well at all and many have been reduced to screaming constantly on Twitter and FB for folks to buy their books. It's not a pretty sight.

I don't read enough self-pub'd books to know if you're right that the unprepared writers are the exception, though I have to say I doubt it. (I've read half a dozen, all by friends, and smart as my friends are, I didn't think any of their work was publishable. And spellcheck has nothing to do with it, btw.) I spent 14 years as an agent, and the last thing I ever want to do is troll through a slush pile again, which is rather what the pool of self-published writing seems to me.

But the closest thing to real stats I've ever seen came for a piece in the Taleist (http://taleist.com.au/) on the results of a large survey. "According to the survey, 75% of all royalties generated by self-published books went to the top 10% of writers; and half of all self-published writers earned less than $500 a year."

Juliet Rich
12-21-2013, 10:35 PM
I think I'd want to be familiar with the publisher. It seems like if it's a publisher in my genre/niche, then I should have heard about them. And if I've heard about them, then I'm in a better position to judge what they can do for me and my books. If I haven't heard about them, then that would be a sign to be wary. They're either new or not doing a good job marketing themselves.

And then negotiate the heck out of that contract. Don't give them more rights than they need and make sure there's a way out (based on time or sales). And go read forum posts about contracts. :D