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morngnstar
02-14-2015, 10:02 AM
I confess I have had a negative opinion of self-publishing. Any idiot can self-publish, but, I thought, if your book isn't good enough to convince some publisher to print it, isn't it probably not good enough to make decent money if you self-publish? Lots of people think that if publishers don't like their book, there must be something wrong with the publishers, but that sounds like ego to me.

But as I read more about what publishers expect, I wonder if they are not only rejecting bad books, but just books that don't fit their mold. It's like the big Hollywood studios, only making movies like Transformers, which they are confident will turn a profit because movies just like them turned a profit the same time last year. Anything really creative is too risky for them, at least from a first-time author. But if all the authors who get their first book published wrote that book according to a formula, those same people are likely to use a formula for their second book too.

Do e-books and print-on-demand change the game, so that we have a Renaissance of creative fiction, bypassing the big publishers' shortsightedness? Or am I wrong about big publishers, and they will accept submissions that break the mold, if they do it well?

Helix
02-14-2015, 10:06 AM
The choice isn't simply between the Big Five and self-publishing. There's also a host of independent publishers.

Ravioli
02-14-2015, 12:52 PM
My father is a big believer in self-publishing to a point he conceals the fact that it is just that when I ask if he recommend any publishers - he thinks they're worth the same so when I ask about publishers, he tells me the one he used. Oh, there is none, okay. And his book ain't in the shops, either, okay. He has to market it himself, okay. Not my cuppa, I wanna entertain and make money off it, not get my infinite wisdom out there at my own noble financial sacrifice - it ain't that important.

I mean, if the self-pub costs money, it strikes me as SO absurd to do it. After all, what are you publishing if not a chunk of hard work? WTH would I PAY for my own work for? I should GET paid! It's as absurd as those overpriced volunteer programs... you fly over there, get crappy local food, get poop on your hands and little sleep, you get your heart broken by those orphaned baby animals you're not told you're raising for trophy hunters to shoot more easily, and you're billed like 3000 usd for it. Something seems seriously wrong with that. I work = I get paid, or I volunteer the work. I do not PAY in addition to either scenario.

If it's free, like most eBook selfpubbing, okay, sure. I might be going that route myself, for a bit of money on the side and a fun ego trip/warm fuzzy feeling. Not much to lose there.
But if you have to pay lots of money to have books printed or prepared for print that you can't be sure to sell (even if on demand)... then I say nurp. Nurp, nurp, nurp. Nurrrrrrpers.


Do e-books and print-on-demand change the game, so that we have a Renaissance of creative fiction, bypassing the big publishers' shortsightedness? Or am I wrong about big publishers, and they will accept submissions that break the mold, if they do it well?

Publishers may or may not accept mold breakers, but there may always be publishers yours fits in. It's always worth a try.

Ebooks may be a good way to self-publish for the lack of material cost involved, but print-on-demand is trickier than that because it can cost more than editing and optional marketing in the case of the eBook. And if it costs money, it needs to be good because otherwise the author just looks like someone who pays to get attention.
Curious and inexperienced, I was an author on the biggest print-on-demand thing on the German-speaking market and we, that's those who cared about the quality of their own work even if it wasn't enough for Random House, were constantly embarrassed by those fellow self-publishers who paid obscene money to publish bunk: Wikipedia copypasta, or unedited rants full of errors. Some of those authors would then threaten to sue us, accusing us of having written those negative ratings when we didn't, and put down and threaten to sue authors on the same self-publisher writing the same topic. These people wrote themselves reviews under different names, but often forgot to sign as the fake name, too. Exposing them also earned you threats of lawsuits.
To be quite honest, there is a lot of really gooey, gross and crass ego-tripping in the self-publishing scene that has given it a very bad name in many places. Because it simply DOES attract these ego trippers, no matter how many decent writers there are as well.

Long story short, the influence of the PoD world may be a rather bad one because... if an author pays more than any market expert could reasonably expect them to make, just to get their stuff published the editing of which costs a lot of money and is hence often neglected... then... uh... I've even encountered publishers who refuse to publish people who have previously self-published, because, as they say, it means that a) they can't be any good if they needed to self-publish, and b) they have already ridiculed themselves to the public. This is not my opinion. I think there are great self-publishing authors, my father included who got a huge Israeli actress on board for the moviefication of his self-pubbed book. But just like Pitbulls, the horrifying odd one out can tarnish the entire race which is why today, I am less excited about going that route just so I can say I pubbed a book.

Old Hack
02-14-2015, 01:45 PM
I confess I have had a negative opinion of self-publishing. Any idiot can self-publish,

You're right that "[a]ny idiot can self-publish", but that doesn't mean that all self-publishers are therefore idiots. Lots of people self publish very well indeed, and if it's what you wanted to do, you could too.


but, I thought, if your book isn't good enough to convince some publisher to print it, Printing books is just a small part of what publishers do.


isn't it probably not good enough to make decent money if you self-publish?This is something I wish more writers considered: but many writers choose to self publish rather than trade publish. They don't do it out of desperation following multiple rejections.


But as I read more about what publishers expect, I wonder if they are not only rejecting bad books, but just books that don't fit their mold. Good publishers specialise. They know their genres inside and out: they know what sells, and they know how to sell it. So yep, they will reject good books if they don't fit into their area of expertise, and that's a good thing, because they wouldn't be able to publish different books well.

The trick is to find the publishers which publish books like yours, not to submit to publishers which don't.


It's like the big Hollywood studios, only making movies like Transformers, which they are confident will turn a profit because movies just like them turned a profit the same time last year. Anything really creative is too risky for them, at least from a first-time author. Publishing houses are businesses. They need to make money on the books they publish, and to do that, they need to publish books which their customers--our potential readers--will buy.

If they've discovered that there's not a market for certain kinds of books, they're not going to publish them.

However, they publish new writers every week; they are constantly stretching the limits of the genres they do publish, because if they don't their output would quickly become samey and stale, and then their sales would fall.

Publishing is full of people who are passionate about books, and who work their socks off to find ways to publish the few brilliant, tricky, risky books which come their way. It's just wrong to state that they don't.

I've seen several books which their writers claimed were too risky for the big publishers to consider. Much was made of how challenging and groundbreaking they were, and of how the publishers were all cowards for rejecting them. When I read those books, I thought they were badly written, based on ridiculous conspiracy theories, and so on. They would have been risky for publishers to take on because they were not good books. I was not at all surprised that they failed to find good publishers to take them on.


Do e-books and print-on-demand change the game, so that we have a Renaissance of creative fiction, bypassing the big publishers' shortsightedness? Or am I wrong about big publishers, and they will accept submissions that break the mold, if they do it well?I think you mean, "[d]oes self publishing change the game", because ebooks and POD are used by trade publishers too. The answer remains no, though, because we've always had good creative fiction. Good publishers aren't short-sighted, they're very perceptive and often publish books which "break the mold".

I think you need to unravel a few of the perceptions you've picked up, and look at the logic of them very closely. Look at all the brilliant books that are being published. Find out more about why publishers reject books. And find out more about why writers choose to self publish: it's not always because they couldn't find any other way into print, and increasingly often now, self publishing is the first choice.

Melanii
02-14-2015, 02:43 PM
They're also like indie games! Except indie games sometimes get better reception than the big AAA ones. XD

Polenth
02-14-2015, 06:26 PM
It's not really all of one thing. There are self-published books that are nothing new, but they make a decent income for their authors. There are self-published books that take risks and are different, which may or may not sell. There are self-published books that were thrown up in five mintues and are terrible.

Publishers sometimes take books that do something different. They sometimes reject such books as being too different. They sometimes take books that are the same as everything else. They sometimes reject those books as being too similar to everything else.

I'd say in general that books that are a bit different, or don't fit the genre classifications well, tend to struggle with sales in self-publishing. In other words, the reason big publishers avoided them comes to pass when they're self-published, because the books are hard to market. But it does at least mean the books exist to be read. You're just going to have to search harder if that's what you're interested in.

morngnstar
02-14-2015, 06:48 PM
The choice isn't simply between the Big Five and self-publishing. There's also a host of independent publishers.

Of course. My simplistic perception is that they fall somewhere on a continuum, for good and/or bad, between Big Five and self-pub. Like self-pub, e-book pub, e-first, niche / small publishers, Big Five.


My father is a big believer in self-publishing to a point he conceals the fact that it is just that when I ask if he recommend any publishers - he thinks they're worth the same so when I ask about publishers, he tells me the one he used. Oh, there is none, okay. And his book ain't in the shops, either, okay. He has to market it himself, okay. Not my cuppa, I wanna entertain and make money off it, not get my infinite wisdom out there at my own noble financial sacrifice - it ain't that important.

I mean, if the self-pub costs money, it strikes me as SO absurd to do it. After all, what are you publishing if not a chunk of hard work? WTH would I PAY for my own work for? I should GET paid! It's as absurd as those overpriced volunteer programs... you fly over there, get crappy local food, get poop on your hands and little sleep, you get your heart broken by those orphaned baby animals you're not told you're raising for trophy hunters to shoot more easily, and you're billed like 3000 usd for it. Something seems seriously wrong with that. I work = I get paid, or I volunteer the work. I do not PAY in addition to either scenario.

I'm pretty much in agreement. I mean, I think people who do those volunteer travel programs are doing good, but I just think their $3000 would have gone further on say medicines or school books for the third world, than for showing up in person and digging a well.

I wouldn't mind losing a little bit of money on self-publishing, but to me the problem with your father's situation is that his book isn't in stores. It doesn't matter how infinite your wisdom is if nobody reads it.

Of course I believe you should never go with vanity publishing, because the companies in that business make money whether or not your book sells, so they have little incentive to serve your customers well. I'm speaking of spending a little money on things like cover, advertising, etc.


Ebooks may be a good way to self-publish for the lack of material cost involved, but print-on-demand is trickier than that because it can cost more than editing and optional marketing in the case of the eBook.

Some people choose to DIY those things too. I think I could edit my own book. I'm good enough at grammar and punctuation to have few mistakes. Marketing is something I wouldn't try, because I know from experience I'm not a pro or world-class amateur at getting people to like me. Some people are, and for them self-publishing might be successful.


Printing books is just a small part of what publishers do.

Yes, I meant print as synecdoche for all that publishers do. The hardest to replicate, for me, is the marketing and distribution. If a big publisher believes in your book, they can put out a million-dollar ad campaign and make sure there is a copy or two in every B&N. That will give you a good chance that a million people will at least crack your book before buying, and if you have a decent hook, then your book will sell more copies than a self-published masterpiece.


Good publishers specialise. They know their genres inside and out: they know what sells, and they know how to sell it. So yep, they will reject good books if they don't fit into their area of expertise, and that's a good thing, because they wouldn't be able to publish different books well.

There's nothing wrong with publishers carving up the marketplace. The problem is if after they all claim their little territory, there is a vast space of good books that many people would want to read not served by any publisher.


The trick is to find the publishers which publish books like yours, not to submit to publishers which don't.

Can you teach me this trick? How do I identify publishers who print or agents who represent books like mine? I suppose one answer is to identify publishers who have published books like mine, but my point is, there are no books exactly like mine, and if there are books quite a lot like mine, I haven't found them. So I think the best I could do would be to find a publisher who publishes books somewhat like mine, and is fairly open-minded.


Publishing houses are businesses. They need to make money on the books they publish, and to do that, they need to publish books which their customers--our potential readers--will buy. If they've discovered that there's not a market for certain kinds of books, they're not going to publish them.

Of course. But some businesses prefer to avoid risks, and try to never publish a single title that they will spend more money on than they make. It's not that they've discovered there's not a market, it's that they haven't proven there is a market, and they aren't willing to try. It's also possible to stay in business if half your books are flops and half your books are hits. Probably even with a worse ratio, since a hit might make 1000% profit, but a flop can never make more than 100% loss. If there aren't publishers with that business model, then there is an untapped market, and it makes sense for people to go into business for themselves.


However, they publish new writers every week; they are constantly stretching the limits of the genres they do publish, because if they don't their output would quickly become samey and stale, and then their sales would fall.

Publishing is full of people who are passionate about books, and who work their socks off to find ways to publish the few brilliant, tricky, risky books which come their way. It's just wrong to state that they don't.

That's good to hear.


I've seen several books which their writers claimed were too risky for the big publishers to consider. Much was made of how challenging and groundbreaking they were, and of how the publishers were all cowards for rejecting them. When I read those books, I thought they were badly written, based on ridiculous conspiracy theories, and so on. They would have been risky for publishers to take on because they were not good books. I was not at all surprised that they failed to find good publishers to take them on.

My book might be shit, but that's independent of whether it's groundbreaking. I don't think my book is unconventional in a general sense. It follows many guidelines I've read about for the structure of fiction. It just doesn't match all the expectations of my genre.


I think you mean, "[d]oes self publishing change the game", because ebooks and POD are used by trade publishers too.

No, I mean what, if anything, changes the game so that self-publishing is more viable now than in the past. It's always been possible to self-publish, but before the digital age, because of setup costs, there was a minimum number of copies of a book required to be profitable. Now it's almost as cheap to print a million different books as a million copies of the same book. If a million different people read those million different books, and then ten of those people read each of the top 10% reviewed of those, and so on, the cream has the potential to rise to the top. Of course, I don't believe we're quite there yet, because I think people are still more likely to choose a book they see an ad for than to randomly choose among unsung books that have few, but positive reviews.

slhuang
02-14-2015, 06:56 PM
I work in movies. The better analogy is more like this, IMHO:

Studio films = big 5 books
Indie movies = indie/small press books (indie meaning "independent publisher," not "self-published")
Self-produced films = self-published books

For indie films, you are still generally backed by a company and investors. Of course, the line blurs sometimes between self-produced and indie, if you're very rich and the main investor in your own film. ;) That's similar to people who start micropublishers to publish themselves. I've both self-produced and self-published, and the feel of it is strikingly similar.

As to the implication, as per your post, that the studios stifle creativity and indies are where it's at . . . well, the majority of indie films I work on are terrible and derivative. Not all of them, of course, but a lot of them are built to formula for the foreign market. Indie =/= "artistic;" provenance of the funding has nothing to do with the quality of the film. (And there's nothing wrong with that, IMHO. They're making a product people enjoy and employing people. I'm all for it.)

There are, indeed, a lot of indie films with great artistry. But I think a lot of studio films have great artistry, too -- there are just many, many fewer studio films made each year, so the absolute numbers of indie anything are going to be greater than the absolute numbers of studio anything.

slhuang
02-14-2015, 07:07 PM
Some people choose to DIY those things too. I think I could edit my own book. I'm good enough at grammar and punctuation to have few mistakes.

It sounds like you're talking about proofreading. Just so you know -- this is something I had to learn before I published! -- proofreading is a vanishingly small part of editing. I don't hire a proofreader, but I definitely hire an editor, and I wouldn't want my books to go to market without her contributions on them. My aim in hiring my editor is not to catch mistakes, but to give my books the shine and polish she provides them.

Filigree
02-14-2015, 07:30 PM
Can you teach me this trick? How do I identify publishers who print or agents who represent books like mine? I suppose one answer is to identify publishers who have published books like mine, but my point is, there are no books exactly like mine, and if there are books quite a lot like mine, I haven't found them. So I think the best I could do would be to find a publisher who publishes books somewhat like mine, and is fairly open-minded.

There is no trick, alas. It's mostly research.

There may not be any books quite like yours. Or you may be looking at the wrong publishers. You might try analyzing your book to break out themes and styles, which may be useful in finding a publisher or agent. The odds of your otherwise well-written book being so wildly different that *no one* will take it are lower than me winning a lottery.

Old Hack
02-14-2015, 09:42 PM
Of course. My simplistic perception is that they fall somewhere on a continuum, for good and/or bad, between Big Five and self-pub. Like self-pub, e-book pub, e-first, niche / small publishers, Big Five.

There isn't a continuum. For some books and writers, the Big Five is the best option. For others, small publishers. Some are better suited to self publishing. And so on. It all depends on the writer and the book.


Of course I believe you should never go with vanity publishing, because the companies in that business make money whether or not your book sells, so they have little incentive to serve your customers well.

Agreed.


Some people choose to DIY those things too. I think I could edit my own book. I'm good enough at grammar and punctuation to have few mistakes. Marketing is something I wouldn't try, because I know from experience I'm not a pro or world-class amateur at getting people to like me. Some people are, and for them self-publishing might be successful.


As others have already said, you don't seem to understand what editing involves. It's much more than grammar and punctuation. And the big problem for self publishers isn't marketing, it's distribution, which is a whole other issue.


Yes, I meant print as synecdoche for all that publishers do. The hardest to replicate, for me, is the marketing and distribution.

Distribution is the biggie.


If a big publisher believes in your book, they can put out a million-dollar ad campaign and make sure there is a copy or two in every B&N. That will give you a good chance that a million people will at least crack your book before buying, and if you have a decent hook, then your book will sell more copies than a self-published masterpiece.

You're very unlikely to get that huge ad campaign, but getting a few copies of your book into every B&N (or Waterstones in the UK, etc) is huge. It not only gets you bookshop sales, it gets you online sales too. So it affects sales of your e-books too.


There's nothing wrong with publishers carving up the marketplace. The problem is if after they all claim their little territory, there is a vast space of good books that many people would want to read not served by any publisher.

I don't think there are vast spaces which trade publishers aren't occupying; I do think there are more good books written than they can reasonably publish, and many of those are now finding their readers through other means, such as self publishing.


Can you teach me this trick? How do I identify publishers who print or agents who represent books like mine? I suppose one answer is to identify publishers who have published books like mine, but my point is, there are no books exactly like mine, and if there are books quite a lot like mine, I haven't found them. So I think the best I could do would be to find a publisher who publishes books somewhat like mine, and is fairly open-minded.

You find those publishers and agents by finding books like yours. They don't have to be exactly like yours--in fact, you wouldn't want them to be, because then there's no reason for them to take yours--but they have to be like yours. So, similar genre, length, tone, and so on. And all publishers are open-minded when it comes to signing brilliant books: you don't have to worry on that regard.

You do have to ensure that your book is really good, though. Because if it isn't, it'll just disappear into the heap of other quite-good books which fill up the slush piles.


Of course. But some businesses prefer to avoid risks, and try to never publish a single title that they will spend more money on than they make.

All publishers that I've worked for do all they can to only publish the books they'll make money on. During acquisitions meetings we focus on every aspect of the books we're looking at: editing and production costs, likely sales, marketing plans, acquisition costs, rights sales, everything.

Sometimes, if a book is good enough, we'll offer on it even though we suspect it won't sell in high number because we have faith that the writer will build on that book and do well. Sometimes we'll offer a ridiculously high amount because it's a book we are determined to have on our lists (a celebrity book, perhaps, or a book by a very well-known writer). But yep, we will take the riskier books if we think they're good enough, and here "good enough" has a number of meanings.


It's not that they've discovered there's not a market, it's that they haven't proven there is a market, and they aren't willing to try.

This is very rarely the case. Specialist publishers, like HMB, are never going to risk their money on an SF title, for example: they just wouldn't. But the broader lists do it all the time. Honest.

I wonder what you consider a risky title?


It's also possible to stay in business if half your books are flops and half your books are hits.

It would be very difficult. Most publishers work on a very low profit margin: a few percentage points only. If half the titles they publish lose money, they have to start sacking people.


Probably even with a worse ratio, since a hit might make 1000% profit, but a flop can never make more than 100% loss. If there aren't publishers with that business model, then there is an untapped market, and it makes sense for people to go into business for themselves.

When a book loses all of its investment, the publisher has to sell a LOT of books to recoup that lost money because the profit margins in publishing are so very low.


My book might be shit,

I bet it isn't. You can obviously write coherent, reasonably-punctuated sentences, and form a decent argument. This puts you ahead of most of the books I've seen in the slush pile.


No, I mean what, if anything, changes the game so that self-publishing is more viable now than in the past. It's always been possible to self-publish, but before the digital age, because of setup costs, there was a minimum number of copies of a book required to be profitable. Now it's almost as cheap to print a million different books as a million copies of the same book. If a million different people read those million different books, and then ten of those people read each of the top 10% reviewed of those, and so on, the cream has the potential to rise to the top. Of course, I don't believe we're quite there yet, because I think people are still more likely to choose a book they see an ad for than to randomly choose among unsung books that have few, but positive reviews.

Digital books have made self publishing far easier. It's great. However, the rise of online sales have made it much harder for individual books, those quirky, risky books we were discussing earlier, to be discovered. When we bought books mostly from bookshops all we'd need was a good bookseller, who would stock those quirky books and hand sell them; now we need them to somehow surface in a huge pond of books, which is much harder and more random. I miss good bookshops, I miss finding treasures from little presses displayed among the books from bigger presses. Those good bookshops are still around, of course, and the treasures are still there: but they're much harder to find now.

ElaineA
02-14-2015, 09:56 PM
When we bought books mostly from bookshops all we'd need was a good bookseller, who would stock those quirky books and hand sell them; now we need them to somehow surface in a huge pond of books, which is much harder and more random. I miss good bookshops, I miss finding treasures from little presses displayed among the books from bigger presses. Those good bookshops are still around, of course, and the treasures are still there: but they're much harder to find now.

This made my throat close. I so miss the small bookshops we used to have in abundance. Walking into a shop and seeing those hand-written tags that employees had posted about why they loved "this book"...those kind of endorsements were almost always how I "discovered" books I never thought I was looking for.

To be fair, I miss Borders, too. I miss bookstores in general. Living in Amazon-land, we seem to have lost almost all of them.

On the subject of the thread, it's been a very interesting discussion. There are so many pros and cons to weigh if you're interested in publishing a novel. Disappointment can be found anywhere on the spectrum. The question is where are one person's odds of finding success more likely. That is the I'm a bestselling author-dollar question. ;)

morngnstar
02-14-2015, 10:13 PM
I work in movies. The better analogy is more like this, IMHO:

Studio films = big 5 books
Indie movies = indie/small press books (indie meaning "independent publisher," not "self-published")
Self-produced films = self-published books

For indie films, you are still generally backed by a company and investors.

Thanks for improving my analogy. That reinforces my opinion that I don't want to self-publish, but makes me more open to small press.


There are, indeed, a lot of indie films with great artistry. But I think a lot of studio films have great artistry, too -- there are just many, many fewer studio films made each year, so the absolute numbers of indie anything are going to be greater than the absolute numbers of studio anything.

That's the point. With large numbers, there might be a lot of dreck, but good critical reception can make the cream rise to the top.


It sounds like you're talking about proofreading. Just so you know -- this is something I had to learn before I published! -- proofreading is a vanishingly small part of editing. I don't hire a proofreader, but I definitely hire an editor, and I wouldn't want my books to go to market without her contributions on them. My aim in hiring my editor is not to catch mistakes, but to give my books the shine and polish she provides them.

Yes, I don't quite understand the full range of services offered by an editor. But anyway you can self-edit, right? I think at some point a second pair of eyes is necessary, but couldn't close beta readers provide that, and the author makes the fixes to the problems they point out?

I mean, I'm not so vain that I would turn down the services of an editor if my publisher offered them, but they aren't absolutely necessary to write a quality book, right?


All publishers that I've worked for do all they can to only publish the books they'll make money on. During acquisitions meetings we focus on every aspect of the books we're looking at: editing and production costs, likely sales, marketing plans, acquisition costs, rights sales, everything.

I've observed that in business in general, if you say, "There's a fifty-fifty chance we'll lose money on this venture," you'll get fired. But if you say, "This is a solid investment," every time, but are right only a little more than half the time, you might keep your job. So I'm not impressed with what's planned for in meetings. I'd be impressed with figures on results.


Digital books have made self publishing far easier. It's great. However, the rise of online sales have made it much harder for individual books, those quirky, risky books we were discussing earlier, to be discovered. When we bought books mostly from bookshops all we'd need was a good bookseller, who would stock those quirky books and hand sell them; now we need them to somehow surface in a huge pond of books, which is much harder and more random. I miss good bookshops, I miss finding treasures from little presses displayed among the books from bigger presses. Those good bookshops are still around, of course, and the treasures are still there: but they're much harder to find now.

I would think Internet publicity can take the place of that, and do an even better job. You can have hundreds of book bloggers to your one of two local bookshops, and you can search for bloggers who have recommended a book you read and liked.

Old Hack
02-14-2015, 11:47 PM
I don't quite understand the full range of services offered by an editor.

An editor works through a book looking for problems with structure, plot, story, characterisation, and so on--the big things that make books great. The editor makes notes on all the problems and suggests ways to resolve them then hands the notes over to the author, who then either implements those changes or decides not to (and often when the author disagrees with suggested changes they'll find a better way to resolve the problem). The editor often makes several passes through the book, to make sure all issues are resolved.

A copy editor then takes the edited manuscript and goes through it looking for smaller stuff: errors in spelling, punctuation and grammar, typos, problems with continuity, problems with fact-checking. That sort of stuff.

Then the author and editor check the copy editor's work and approve all changes.

The book is then typeset and designed, and galley proofs are produced. These proofs are once again checked--and this is proof reading. Very few changes can be made at this stage, as the book is already typeset and changes might well affect the book's final layout.

Sometimes different labels are used for the different stages. Sometimes (increasingly often) copy editing and proof reading are combined (which I don't think is a good thing).

I hope that's a help.


But anyway you can self-edit, right? I think at some point a second pair of eyes is necessary, but couldn't close beta readers provide that, and the author makes the fixes to the problems they point out?

You can self-edit. But I have yet to find a book which a good editor couldn't improve, no matter how well its author had revised it.

Authors see the book they hope they've written; good editors see the book they actually have written, and know how to make it better.


I mean, I'm not so vain that I would turn down the services of an editor if my publisher offered them, but they aren't absolutely necessary to write a quality book, right?


If you sign with a good publisher you won't have the option of refusing editing.

You can write a good book without a good editor; but it's a rare writer who can write one so good it wouldn't benefit from the attention of a good editor.


I've observed that in business in general, if you say, "There's a fifty-fifty chance we'll lose money on this venture," you'll get fired. But if you say, "This is a solid investment," every time, but are right only a little more than half the time, you might keep your job. So I'm not impressed with what's planned for in meetings. I'd be impressed with figures on results.

Well, as I said in my previous comment:


Most publishers work on a very low profit margin: a few percentage points only. If half the titles they publish lose money, they have to start sacking people.

In other words, when I was editing full time, if half the books I'd signed lost money I would have been sacked. I expected seventy per cent or more of my list to draw a profit, and routinely exceeded that percentage. Is that the sort of figure you were after?


I would think Internet publicity can take the place of that, and do an even better job. You can have hundreds of book bloggers to your one of two local bookshops, and you can search for bloggers who have recommended a book you read and liked.

As sales have transferred to the internet, the pattern of book buying has changed, and so has the sort of book which is a great success.

I think quirky, different books had a better chance of succeeding when real-person booksellers were in charge. Online bookselling does better at promoting the "if you liked this book you'll also like this one" thing, which I think has made it easier for a more homogenous range of books to succeed. There are still good publishers putting out those exciting, different books: but it does seem harder for them to get noticed now, which I thought is what you were arguing earlier.

slhuang
02-15-2015, 12:17 AM
Old Hack gave a lot of good info, but I'll give you my experience.



Yes, I don't quite understand the full range of services offered by an editor. But anyway you can self-edit, right? I think at some point a second pair of eyes is necessary, but couldn't close beta readers provide that, and the author makes the fixes to the problems they point out?

I mean, I'm not so vain that I would turn down the services of an editor if my publisher offered them, but they aren't absolutely necessary to write a quality book, right?


I'm a good writer, and my betas are freakin' amazing. But they aren't reading with an editor's eyes. Also, just for example, my betas don't do things like muck around with my punctuation and paragraph breaks (provided my grammar/style is correct and reading well, of course, which I can also usually make reasonably sure of myself).

My editor will take a page that's fully correct and reading just fine, and change a semicolon to a colon and move a few paragraph breaks around, and the page goes from reading "fine" to reading spectacularly. She sees what I'm going for and will adjust with a nip and a tuck to make it exactly what I'm going for. On a 100k novel she'll make 600 or 700 suggestions, and less than ten of those are proofreading errors.

I truly believe that reading with "editor's eyes" is different from reading with reader's eyes or beta's eyes (or the author's eyes). My editor is trained to be able to see where she can add that polish. That's what makes her good.

Compare this to, say, fashion or event coordinating or something -- we're all capable of dressing ourselves or throwing a party, but the professionals get hired because they come in and add those extra things with a professional eye that make it awesome.

This comes with the caution, of course, that you need to have a good editor. A lot of people pass themselves off as editors these days who don't have that eye and experience, and I have no doubt there are people calling themselves editors who would do nothing for a book (or even be bad for it). My editor used to edit for a Big 5 publisher and has a huge amount of experience. She's more expensive than others, but she's absolutely worth what she charges, in my opinion.

I hope that helps. Feel free to ask me more about it. :)

morngnstar
02-15-2015, 01:35 AM
In other words, when I was editing full time, if half the books I'd signed lost money I would have been sacked. I expected seventy per cent or more of my list to draw a profit, and routinely exceeded that percentage. Is that the sort of figure you were after?

Good figure. At least it implies some risk, if they're willing to accept 30% losers. Obviously they'd prefer as few losers as possible. My 50% guess was a random figure. 70% is not an order of magnitude off.

Old Hack
02-15-2015, 02:14 AM
Good figure. At least it implies some risk, if they're willing to accept 30% losers. Obviously they'd prefer as few losers as possible. My 50% guess was a random figure. 70% is not an order of magnitude off.

My bold.

They're not. They're really not. Perhaps you could re-read my posts and recognise I'm talking extremes, and maximums, rather than allowable amounts.

Laer Carroll
02-21-2015, 05:44 PM
Some trade publishers are guilty of practices that are questionable or even downright shitty. But they are innocent of some of the ones posited by the original poster (and many other want-to-be writers).

First is the idea that they avoid risky books. Wrong. They take risks all the time. They desperately need bold new writers and established writers who are breaking out of their comfort zone. For their author stables are always being depleted by writers who burn out or die or change publishers. Too, many readers tire of too-familiar material and yearn for something at least a bit different. What publishers DO do is make calculated risks and limit the number of risks they take. As Old Hack pointed out, publishing is a very small-margin business and pubbers can afford only so much risk each month.

Second is the idea that there are just big publishers and little ones: the Big Five and the "indies" and that they are somehow fundamentally different. Wrong. It's a continuum from large to small. In the sci-fi/fantasy field alone there are over 200 publishers. The smaller ones may publish 5-20 new SF/F titles a year. Those in the middle publish from two dozen to (in the case of the largest or next-largest "indie," Baen) about 80. And they all share many of the same practices, including discussions of the earning potential and best rollout of each new title they buy and much else. The idea that smaller publishers provide more care-and-comfort to writers is mostly false. They also have fewer people, and often more part-time people, and so the average time for C&C works out the same regardless of publisher size.

Third is the idea that all the bigger publishers are alike and share the same mindset. Wrong. For one thing, though the bigger publishers share many qualities, each is different. Too, if you examine closely any one of the biggest publishers you find that each is made up of smaller imprints. Some of them are acquisitions of smaller publishers, many of whom have remained essentially independent editorially while sharing some common functions such as publicity, accounting, distribution, and so on. Some of the imprints were home-pub created within the larger institution but were set up to serve a particular market such as detective or historicals or SF/F or horror, so have editorial staff which are distinct from those of other imprints. Bigger publishers essentially have several "indie" publishers under their umbrella.


__________________________

Why do these myths persist? I suspect because many beginners cherish the idea that they are somehow unique, bold artists breaking new ground and being disrespected by crass money-loving small minds. I suspect it's also because the myths support the idea that one should not even try to break into trade publishing, thus allowing those beginners who hate being judged to avoid the hard work of writing or to commit to self publishing.