I haven’t done this in a while. Maybe never under this pen name, but I think it’s worthwhile to post a reminder now and again.
HOW TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING REALLY WORKS
- Legitimate publishing houses NEVER CHARGE YOU MONEY. If a publishing house has expressed interest in your work but wants to charge you OUT-OF-POCKET for editing, cover art, distribution, placement or anything else, it’s a scam. (The only possible exception to this is a contractual thing where an author might be charged by a legitimate house for making excessive changes at the galley stage. These charges and terms will be clearly stated in the contract; such clauses exist to save certain authors from themselves, the Buckminster Fullers who can’t stop editing.)
- The same can be said for agents. If an agent has expressed interest in your work but wants to charge you fees for every little thing, it’s a scam. Some legitimate agents might charge for postage (in addition to their percentage), but I’d still think twice before signing with them.
- Publishing agreements are legal agreements between two parties: you and the publishing company. LEGAL AGREEMENTS. Like you-could-end-up-in-court legal. It’s not a wink and a handshake. Too many authors forget that.
- Excitement kills. The emotional thrill of a publishing company expressing interest in an author’s work makes some people lose their god-damned minds. Do not sign anything until you have calmed down and done your research. Sites like AbsoluteWrite exist for a reason. Never enter into a legal agreement with a publisher or agent without researching their background. If you don’t do your research, you have no one to blame but yourself for the screwing to come afterward.
- If you are lucky enough to receive an offer of publication from a legitimate publishing house, the contract should be vetted by a lawyer. If you do not enlist the services of a lawyer (or agent) to evaluate and perhaps negotiate terms, you have no one to blame but yourself when you get screwed.
- Remember, always, that to a publisher, publishing is about making money. No one gives a shit if this book is your “baby”. Publishing is business. If you can’t accept that, and can’t conduct yourself in a professional, businesslike manner, do not sign a contract.
- Remember that publishers are businesses that exist to make money? They do not exist to screw authors, and no one held a gun to your head forcing you to sign their contract. YOU SIGNED THE CONTRACT. You didn’t have to. If things don’t work out the way you thought, then it is not the publisher’s fault (unless they defaulted on their terms, of course, which 99.99% of the time, they haven’t.)
- Publishing agreements are legally binding contracts that obligate the author just as much as the publishing house. Let’s say you’ve signed a contract with a publishing house, and your book isn’t selling as well as you hoped. You blame the publisher for not putting enough push behind your title. You whine publicly and attempt to cry your way out of your contract (because the grass is clearly greener at this other publisher who ALSO can’t afford to publicize every last thing they publish), and suddenly no other publishing houses will deal with you. Guess what? You’re a ponce. You signed a contract you must honor, no matter how poorly that title performs. Other publishing houses are wise to avoid unprofessional authors such as this.
HOW SELF PUBLISHING REALLY WORKS
- The first rule of self-publishing is patience — there is a difference between “quickly” and “prematurely”. Just because you can do things quickly (like publish without thorough edits) does not mean that you should do everything quickly.
- Yes, Virginia, you must pay for (or barter) everything yourself. Just because you published a work yourself does not exempt you from the needs of professional editing, cover art and perhaps marketing help.
- Freelance professional editors, artists and formatters expect to be paid for their work. Mileage and quality vary, so DO YOUR RESEARCH.
- Freelance editors are not your housekeepers. Work should be thoroughly self-edited before it’s inflicted upon an editor.
- There are many excellent companies who assist with the self-publishing process, and they do charge fees for things like copywriting (blurbs and such) cover art, editing, and etc. They do not present themselves as — nor do they pretend to be — publishing houses. These companies are not screwing you by charging for legitimate and necessary services rendered. DO YOUR RESEARCH before accusing them of charlatanry!!!!
- Do not pay for reviews. Do not swap reviews with other authors. Do not allow your friends or family to post fake reviews. This is dick behavior that can have serious, serious consequences on sites like Amazon, which will almost certainly be your largest distributor.
- The people you hire (like cover artists, editors, formatters, narrators a/o publicists) are collaborators, not slaves. Treat them with care, and acknowledge the contribution they make to your career.
- Speaking of which, SAMPLE FIRST. Never enter into an agreement with an editor without first having them do a sample edit. Even if this person is the best editor in the world, if there’s no chemistry, no “click” between author and editor, the product won’t be as good as it could be. (Trust me, when you find the right editor, you’ll know.)
Okay, that’s some pretty general stuff, but enough of a reminder, I hope.
Remember, when in doubt, RESEARCH!!!!
EDITED TO ADD:
Okay, that post was up for less than two minutes before I got an email.
Let me explain the two things that prompted this post:
- I belong to an email list for indie authors. EVERY SINGLE DAILY EMAIL tells a story about a different author who got screwed by Publish America. Um… Publish America was screwing people eighteen years ago when I first started out, and they’re still screwing people today. How are they still in business? BECAUSE PEOPLE DON’T DO THEIR RESEARCH. I am fatigued feeling sorry for authors who sign with them. Sorry, but… Yeah.
- I downloaded a self-published title listed on BookBub that I really wanted to love. And I would have done, had the book been edited more carefully. I am THIS CLOSE to editing the book and sending it to the author, gratis; not to feel superior, but because I know how easy it is for mistakes to slip through and I would TOTALLY want someone to tell me if I had a long string of toilet paper stuck to my foot. Which this book definitely does. So rather than actually send that list of suggested edits and maybe make someone feel attacked, I am passively posting a reminder that even self-publishers need to listen to their editors and beta readers.
So that’s what prompted this. I’m not just having a random rant, even though my children will attest that I love to do.