Monday, March 19, 2007

The Other Side of Being an Author

It didn't occur to me until last night that I have at least four manuscripts sitting in my files doing nothing but sitting. This doesn't include another five or so at various stages of completion, plus a relationship book that will be sent to Zumaya real soon.

But, getting back to the Fab Four, I took a poll in my writing group to see which one I should be concentrating on getting a contract for and the overall winner was Over the Hill. The book has been rewritten I know six times. Every time I'd get an agent rejection, it would get revised.

Crazy, but true. And this really isn't the way to go about it being as every agent has their own set of rules and guidelines and maybe the book was perfect in every way, but wasn't right for them. I would not know this, of course, and would rewrite it again.

But, everytime I rewrote, I did feel the book getting stronger. Against what I'm hearing, I changed everything from third person to first. And I really like it better this way.

But, after the fifth rewriting, I put the book aside and started teaching authors how to promote. I self-published A Complete Guide to Promoting & Selling Your Self-Published eBook, appeared on Fran Silverman's book marketing radio show, set up a promoting blog, Pump Up Your Online Book Promotion, and have started representing authors in various degrees of promotional representation.

What I am learning through this is that now I can look at being an author from the other side of the fence and what I'm seeing, it ain't pretty.

Publishers are a business, that we all should know. They "buy" your book for the intentions of making money from said book. They give authors a free service (unless it's vanity, of course) - free editing, free printing, free distribution - and, in return, they want reinbursement in books sold. If I were a publisher, I would definitely expect this; after all, I've invested my own monies into this venture and I want to see some of it back or I'm going to be in the red and will question why I got into this business in the first place.

The problem is that as the population of writers grows, the amount of books being published is astronomical. Everyone seems to be writing a book and everyone wants said book published or all that work is down the drain.

So, they search for a publisher or an agent, or opt to self-publish or pay for it through one of those vanity publishers. Either way, they are determined this book will be published.

For those who self-publish or pay through a vanity publisher, the stress is minimal. Sure, they want to make money off their books, but there's no one standing over them with death threats if a certain amount isn't sold within a reasonable amount of time.

For those authors who go with publishers, whether it's a NY house or even a publisher who prints using POD technology, it's a whole different ballgame.

There is an incredible amount of stress involved because if said book doesn't sell a reasonable amount of books according to what the publisher deems reasonable, they are automatically blacklisted. And by that I mean, either a) they will not accept anymore books from said author or b) they will pull their book. I know of one publisher who is actually putting their "promotional agreements" in their submittance guidelines (authors, read your contract carefully for said agreements).

One author who I'll call Sallie is published by a NY publisher. She came to me, wanting me to help her promote her book because she simply was stressing out because she was afraid of not selling enough books. I checked her Amazon rankings (they were great), I checked where the book was reviewed (they were great), I checked her website and blog (again, great). So, what's the problem here?

I represent an author right now who was published by a POD company. They turned down the last book she sent to them simply because her past sales from her past books weren't what they considered "enough."

It's a scary world out there. The reason for this post is that I want new authors to go in with their eyes open. There is no magic success secret. There is no magic potion. You can have the greatest Amazon rankings, the greatest reviews, have a blog and website up with everything perfect, and still, sometimes, it isn't enough.

I'm not sure what the problem is. Are publishers getting over their head and going into this business with their own eyes closed?

As an author, I know I have done everything possible I can do for my books, although maybe there's more I don't know, that I haven't done. But, you can better believe that for subsequent books, and maybe that's why I'm even stalling submitting them, I will definitely have a marketing plan already in place. I will do my research. I will do my homework. I will make sure before I put a publisher through this, and myself, that I will do everything possible to make sure I'm not one of the victims of having a contract being pulled or a publisher who feels that my sales weren't enough to publish subsequent books.

It's a scary, scary world out there, but a good idea might be for publishers to contact said authors ahead of time and help them. Maybe they don't know what to do next. Maybe they don't even know their sales are lagging to the point where the publisher is going to pull the plug.

I say it's time authors and publishers get together on this. No surprises. Honesty. Up front honesty and help these authors. Everyone is already in the game; how about we help each other win?

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7 comments:

  1. I know exactly what you're saying. It's really overwhelming. As for me, I'm taking it one book at a time. Also, I'm combining my books with a message - an author platform. And if it wasn't for that being so well-received, I'm not sure I'd be as motivated to continue. It's a crazy business.

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  2. Kathy, you are already a success. I don't know whether you know it but I can look at it from an outsider's point of view. I've been following you from day one and I am so amazed at what you have done. I hate to get at the point where I am getting fed up but it's there and I have to deal with it. Maybe I need to rethink a few future goals, who knows, but if there's a problem, I'm right in the middle of it and I don't like it one bit and it really zaps my energy, you know?

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  3. Ah, that is so nice to hear. Thank you, Dorothy. I've learned so much from you.

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  4. Go check this web site for Nick & Terry who travel the US in their converted bus, now an RV, and publish a monthly newspaper called the "Gypsy Journal." They have also published a few books on RVing. Their web site is a gold mine of information and they can help you with ideas, etc. about how one can help to support yourself while traveling in an RV. They are also regulars at the Life on Wheels seminars sponsored by the U of Idaho, with your nearest session in Kentucky or Pennsylvania. I would suggest you go ahead and subscribe to their newspaper. Let me know what you think of them and it.

    Dick & Huggy

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  5. Oops, I forgot to leave the link. It is http://www.gypsyjournal.net/.

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  6. LOL, I was just going to email you and say "Where's the link?" Thanks, Dick!!!

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  7. So, the way it is is that the publisher judges your book, and decides whether it is profitable before they will publish it. Then, if they judged wrong and its NOT profitable, its still the author's fault? That ain't right.

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