Friday, 15 November 2013

Caveat writer

A writer emailed me the other day asking for advice about a submission she had just made to a "publisher". She did not tell me (and I did  not want to know) the name of the "publisher" but she did mention one thing and that's why I have put the quote marks around "publisher".

She said the "publisher" had said in the "terms and conditions" that writers would be asked to contribute to the costs.

Please read my lips: "Proper" publishers do not ask authors to contribute to any of the costs of publishing, marketing, distributing, or anything. OK? Not ever. Yog's Law states that money flows to the author. Don't forget it.

With self-publishing, the author pays all the costs and receives all the income. With selective trade (which I mean by "proper") publishing, the publisher pays all the costs and pays the author a royalty on each book sold. The publisher works hard to sell as many books as possible because this is how they cover their costs and, with luck and skill, make a profit. The publisher is highly selective (unless stupid) because the publisher needs to make a businesslike decision as to which books he believes he can publish profitably. If a publisher is being supported financially by the author, the publisher carries less risk, is therefore less selective in the first place, and may work less hard to sell the books, because he has less to lose. This is precisely why selective trade/traditional publishers so often turn books down. They take on the number of books they can manage, according to their resources. That is wise behaviour. Anything else is reckless and doomed.

As a writer, you need to know that your publisher will really work to sell your books. Otherwise, you'd be better selling them yourself and keeping all the income. Of course, many published writers complain that their publishers don't work hard enough. That's a topic for another post

The heartache of seeing your book die through lack of expertise, energy and effort is worse than rejection, and the likelihood of this happening is far higher if the publisher is not carrying all the risk and costs.

Aim high, stay strong, become informed and be careful.

Note that Write to be Published is often described as a bible for writers. It is recommended by people in all areas of the industry as being a great way to understand every aspect of the publishing and writing businesses. If you read it, you will understand far more than I can say in one blogpost. I wrote it for you!

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