Tuesday, July 5, 2011

It's not your fault

An author I really love, Adrian Phoenix, recently sent an email to her fans about her Hoodoo series. She has been warned that if her sales numbers don't increase, her publisher won't pick up the rest of the series. In the email, she linked to a close friend who had a very long blog post about things she had been hearing from other writers. And frankly, it disturbed me. (**What follows is my opinion so don't get your pants twisted up if it differs from yours.**)

From the post You are not alone by Kristine Kathryn Rusch: "One writer said that on her bad days, she wonders if she needs a tinfoil hat to confirm her craziness.  Another wrote on a blog that the despair from all of the changing facts made her contemplate suicide.  Still a third took all of the blame herself, and started writing vampire romances even though she hates them, thinking that her award-winning, bestselling romantic suspense novels had somehow gone horribly downhill and she hadn’t realized it."

Another excerpt: "And of course, of course, it’s the writer’s fault.  The writer misread the numbers, wrote down the wrong amount in the initial phone call with the editor on the laydown.  Oh, it wasn’t a phone call, but an e-mail? My bad, the editor says.  It was a typo.  I didn’t mean 50,000.  I meant 5,000."

Writers struggle enough as it is and the traditional published ones are supposed to have a team behind them. Agents, editors and publishers, all working together to put out a book that people will enjoy and froth at the mouth for more. Yet it looks like that team is turning on what should be their source of income, threatening to boot the author if they don't agree to less money, dropping series even though the books are selling and people want more.

Seriously, what is up with that? Yeah, publishers are running a business but you don't set fire to the bridge while your author is still standing on it. You don't say one thing then run around and stab the author in the back. All that achieves is driving more authors to indie publishing. And not every writer wants to go that way, some feel more comfortable with a team of professionals behind them. There has got to be a better way, one that ensures the publisher stays in business WITHOUT making the writer feel unappreciated, unloved and talentless. Writers are the reason publishers are in business. Sounds to me like it's time they remembered that.


  1. Well said!

    I think some of the decisions of the publishing industry in the last few years (giving publishing contracts for books to illiterate idiots from Jersey Shore comes to mind) represent a big reason why the indie market just keeps building.

  2. That was a really interesting post you linked to, thank you. As someone who hasn't yet had anything published, stuff likes this scares me. It doesn't make me want to stop writing though, just determined to tread carefully when the time comes :)

  3. I don't know how many of Rusch's posts you've read (I HIGHLY recommend reading all of the Business Rusch posts from the beginning) but she's talked frequently about how this is a result of the constant changes to the industry that are happening. Basically, things are changing so quickly and so severely that publishers and agents are running scared, trying to take as many rights and as much money from authors as they can to whether the storm. That's why publishing traditionally right now under these conditions is something you should only do with extreme caution.

  4. @Sarah P, yes, when the time comes tread very carefully and research! It's the only way you'll choose the option that's right for you.

    @William and Sarah M, It's insane the way publishers are freaking out. They're only going to hurt themselves in the long run. The ones that try to find ways to incorporate change are going to be the ones that succeed.

  5. The changes in the publishing industry are strike me as being very similar to those that occurred within the newspaper industry. The availability of information on the internet forced a HUGE decrease in the sales of print newspapers. Many newspaper companies looked at the internet as a challenge (much like those they had weathered previously - radio, TV, Cable). They tried to compete with it instead of embracing it.
    Those in book publishing industry should look long and hard at what the newspapers did wrong and learn from those mistakes. They should be embracing the digital opportunities, and helping the aspiring and independent authors, after all these are potential customers, are they not? Agents, editors, and publishers offer a service - and many of them do a darn good job. But it only takes a handful of bad experiences to take flight and word will spread.

  6. The original reason I chose to self-publish was that I didn't want to query and wait, wait, wait on the traditional-publishing world, but now that I've seen some of the contracts writers are forced to sign and I've heard about some of the behind-the-scenes crapola, I'm glad I went this way.

    I know some indies do well enough that they get approached by agents/publishers, but I'm not sure I'd be quick to jump on that if it came my way. Once you realize you can do well and make money on your own, you started to wonder if it's worth dealing with that world at all. We shall see.

  7. Lindsay, I know what you mean. Last year it was debatable whether self pubbing was the right path and a lot of people choose to take the traditional route and now it's flip flopped in my opinion. Better to try indie instead of risk traditional. Things are changes and it will be interesting to watch.