Friday, January 22, 2010

Publicity Responsibilities versus Author Payment

An interesting article appeared in the January 2010 issue of The Writer. Author M.J. Rose suggested that book authors should be compensated for publicity duties. Since the marketing effort is no longer born by the publisher, revenues should be more equitably split.

Read what the WinRs have to say and then let us know what you think!

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Jacqueline Vick self-published her children's book, Logical Larry. She has several mystery manuscripts making the rounds.

I hadn't really considered this issue before, assuming that advances were destined to be spent on marketing, but Ms. Rose's comments made me wonder if I'd been going with an outdated assumption.

Her two suggestions in the article were to allow authors to subtract marketing expenses from their book advance so they could collect royalties sooner and to give athors a highter royalty rate.

I'm a big fan of "buy in", and if authors saw a benefit to spending those hard earned dollars on marketing (other than possible increased sales) then more authors might be effective at selling more books--a benefit to publishers.

Why not a tiered royalty system to give writers something to work for? This system has been used to incentify sales people for decades.

Would this system keep publishers from purchasing as many manuscripts? I don't see why. There would be more opportunities to earn revenue.

That being said, publishers are in control unless an author self-publishes. If the current business plan says that authors have to cover publicity costs out of their own pocket, then those serious about a writing career will do it.  I think that's what defines a successful person--she jumps in and does the stuff that most people complain about and avoid.

Another interesting note from the WD article (paraphrased): If you run into a musician and they've hired a studio and musicians and put together their own CD, you don't automatically thinks it's sub-par, that if it was good, he'd have signed with a label. Why is it that we assume self-published books are "unworthy?

Some of my favorite books and CD's have been put together by the artist. I'm smart enough to flip through a book to see if I like the writing style before I buy it, and I've bought plenty of traditionally published books that I've hated. I'd rather run into a grammar error in a fabulous story than have a perfectly edited book that's a stinker. I also don't sneer at hand-crafted goods that aren't mass produced and sold at department stores. I actually hold them in higher esteem.

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Jackie Houchin is a photojournalist and a book and theater critic. She has written several manuscripts, so she can give us the perspective of one who isn't actively seeking publication but may do it in the future.

If I ever did anything with the kids' stories (or the women's novel) I wrote, I would DEFINITELY self publish, no if's, and's, or but's, about it. That way, I would not have to deal with sharing any of my advance with the publisher over marketing strategies and profits. (Of course, I wouldn't be getting any advance - ha-ha). Instead, I'd be able to decide just how much effort I wanted to put into the project. I definitely wouldn't be doing it "for the money".

Since being in the SinC and MWA organizations, I've heard countless authors bemoan the facts of publication:

---that it is very hard to get an agent or publisher even interested in your work...

---that it takes years to publication even after one agrees to look at your work...

---that you don't get any money to speak of...

---that you are supposed to market yourself or at least come to them with a huge "platform" so they don't have to do much but reap the benefits...

---that you may not get a contract for another book...

---that you may be dropped if you don't sell as much as they like...

---that your publisher may go out of business.

It makes me wonder why anyone would want try to break into the fiction industry right now.

All this sounds depressing, I know, but that's the reason I would go FIRST to a self publishing and/or POD method.

Of course another factor for me might also be that I've always worked for myself (in photography and reviewing) and could pretty well set my own parameters. 
As for your original questions, I don't think authors have much say in what publishers do at this point. They may feel a larger advance is warranted or that they should be able to deduct marketing expenses from their advances - but that is really up to the publishers. I do feel that marketing should be a tax-deductible item...but, isn't it already for the serious writer?

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Bonnie Schroeder has finished her first novel manuscript and is shopping it to agents.

First off, from everything I’ve read and heard, nobody earns a living off their books – except for a lucky handful of writers. My biggest gripe is the lack of attention given to new authors, but the reading public has to share the blame. Few people seem willing to invest their time and money in an unknown author not sanctioned by Oprah. Publishers make their money off superstars like King and Evanovich, and it appears from the sidelines like these writers don’t even need much marketing beyond an announcement of their next new blockbuster. It doesn’t seem fair (the “F word” in business) that these writers get free publicity that they don’t even need.

So, if I did get past all the gatekeepers and obstacles and finally sold a book and then if had to pay for my own marketing and publicity, my first question would be, what the heck is the publisher even doing for me besides (maybe) strong-arming the local Barnes & Noble into stocking a few copies of my book? I’m still looking for an answer.

However, since I guess I understand the realities of the marketplace, and since I’ve chosen to play this little game, I’d swallow my resentment and do whatever I could afford to do, to show the world what a great book I’ve written. It would then make sense that if I do a good job and work up enough interest to generate sales, that after a certain threshold (and I have NO IDEA what that would be), I’d get reimbursed for my expenses and that the publicity for the second/ third, etc. book would be covered by the publisher.

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GB Pool is the author of several short stories which have appeared in Anthologies and penned the novel Media Justice.

The End of the Buggy Whip

Fair? Who said life was fair? Or for that matter, the publishing business.

Publishing came to America around 1800. Many famous publishing houses started back then. By the end of the 19th Century there were hundreds of publishers and a smattering of writers. The vast majority of Americans worked on farms or in factories with no time to write. Today there are five major publishers still in existence, most owned by foreign enterprises, with a smattering of small publishers picking up the slack. Farms have mechanized, factories have moved to China, but now there are thousands and thousands of writers.

What used to be a hard back book business changed into a paperback and trade paperback enterprise. It’s cheaper to make those paperbacks. Then came discount stores and Amazon. Now there is Kindle and the other downloadable reading devices that don’t require paper at all. And don’t forget the self-published author. Even the few name publishing companies provide POD (print-on-demand) books.

As the changes in the publishing business hit, the revenues shifted. No longer are people buying those expensive hard cover books. The trade paperback sometimes comes out six months after the hard cover version. And the downloadable book will soon follow.

As the revenue shifted, so did the perks. Editors disappeared. Book tours and publishing house publicity vanished. (They got rid of the buggy whip, too. Want to go back to the horse and buggy?)

Publishers aren’t making the money they used to, even with the outrageous cost of those hard cover books. Most of the old publishing companies don’t exist. If you are lucky enough to get one to publish your book, show them you will go all out to help sell that book of yours. Your effort will not only help to sell more books, but your publisher will see you as a go-getter and they might be more eager to take on your second book.

With the tremendous number of would-be writers clamoring for their books to get noticed and eventually be published, it will be the writer with the skill and nerve to face those audiences and sell their book themselves who will succeed.

Welcome to the new normal.

1 comment:

  1. Worthwhile discussion, I think. It's something we all think about. I have been lucky enough so far to have found a publisher and agent who like my work--but that could change at any time; and I agree, it's the writer who sells their books. (Though I sure would like to just spend all my time writing!)

    Success or failure, it's up to me.

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