Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Publisher storms

It looks like two more publishers, Mardi Gras and Silk's Vault, are going out of business, or are at least in trouble.
I feel horrible for all the people involved, especially because of my own recent experiences, but this does look to me like industry fallout. I don't know the details, but it seems as if there were some shennanigans going on with all this.
Companies do this, especially the smaller, newer publishing companies. From my experience there are pros and cons, just like there are in any investments, or businesses, and authors are investing something - months of work, which if they wished, they could price up at an hourly rate. Yes there is a monetary value you can put on unpublished manuscripts. They are a writer's product.

So here's the very basic Lynne's Guide to Getting an Epub:
Be sure of what you want. If it's fame and fortune, forget writing and take up pop music. The odds of success are probably better.
If you go to a small publisher, you are increasing your risk. Most are new startups, and they won't really know if they're winning until after the third year of trading, when US Government tax breaks end and they really have to stand on their own. So check how long the company has been in business.
Check the goods. Buy some books, read them and decide if you want to be in company with these people. Don't buy the books of any 'big name' authors with the company, buy the newcomers, the ones the company has chosen for itself. Look at the editing, as well as the quality of writing, the cover art as well as the genres. And check how easy and secure the shopping cart is.
Check the staff. If there are no company owners or members of staff anywhere on the site, do a little digging. Find out who's behind the company and look into their past history. Run a whois search on the domain, see who owns that. It's nice to see a company that goes outside the family to recruit editors and artists, good to see a mission statement that reflects reality.
Check with the authors. Here's where you contact authors who have books with more than one house. They have a basis of comparison. Write to them, ask them in confidence if they enjoy working for the company. If you never, ever, tell anyone what they said, they can be completely frank with you. Don't tell your friends, don't tell fellow authors anything but generalisations (ie "I heard bad things about these people" and if they ask, explain the information was told you in confidence).
Publishing is a small world. A really small world. Editors move around, change companies, know each other. Names are sometimes exchanged. Don't get yourself a bad rep, because you'll never work again, or at least, not under your real name.
We all know that writers, especially new writers, don't have much clout in the publishing world. So make a name for yourself. A good one. Have something to offer.
When you are offered a contract, read it through. Read it through again. If there's anything you don't like, talk to the editor about it. Most houses will listen, give you and answer and be prepared to negotiate. But be realistic. Just don't sign your life away, and don't ask for things they can't give you.
Be polite and professional. Behave as you would in any place of work.
Make sure the business correspondence you send out, anything you put out in the public sphere, is properly spelled and grammatically okay. Yes, even emails and blog and noticeboard comments. I just read a blog post in which an "author" was complaining about someone, but there were so many spelling and grammatical errors, you just ended up feeling sorry for the person she was complaining about.

There are advantages and disadvantages. If you send a book to a small company, you'll get it out faster. But you might have to find another publisher in a few months. And a small publisher has smaller sales.
A larger publisher will demand a higher standard of writing. It will take much longer to be accepted, and longer for your book to be published. Editing will be tough. Sales will be higher than with a smaller epublisher.

So make your decisions, and let's be careful out there.


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