Skip to content

Posts from the ‘publishing’ Category

The Long, Winding Road to Publication 

I have given a lot of thought to those 15 years, and what I learned from that huge mistake of turning down the offer from HarperCollins. I’ve wondered why I would have been so willing to subject myself to being treated like a commodity, as the major publishers tend to do, rather than working with people who value your work for what it is. And one thing became clear. It’s not the money, although that certainly helps. It’s more a matter of being taken seriously, of having your efforts validated. It’s about avoiding that feeling of meeting writers you admire and having them dismiss you because you’re an unknown author. I can’t even begin to count how many times I’ve experienced this, and it’s an awful feeling.

Source: The Long, Winding Road to Publication – The Millions

Most published authors can tell you a story like Russell Rowland, if not worse. Editors quit, agents move on, publishers change directions, reviewers only pay attention to big houses and big books, it goes on and on. If you’re an aspiring author, Rowland’s long, winding road is a cautionary tale.

Readers, who enjoy his books are likely to say, “He should have been treated better than this,,” or “If a successful author has to fight to a contract, what chance to those of us right out of school have in this business?” The answer is always “Slim to none.”

A friend on my Facebook list, who is very well known, honestly reports on her weekly writing activity, including rejections. Rejections? What’s wrong with the people who are reviewing her work for possible publication. She is more well-known than Roland but still has to fight for every sale.

Publishing has always been this way though, it appears to me, it’s much harder today than it was 25 years ago to have a manuscript considered by either an agent or a sizeable publisher. I don’t know why. Perhaps publishers were losing too much money considering everything. Or perhaps it’s more difficult now because profit margins are smaller and everyone wants to be a writer.

Dorothy Parker once suggested that if you have any friends who want to be writers, one of the best things you can do is “Shoot them now, while they’re happy.”  When I was a college teacher, several students asked about their odds of becoming successful authors. None of them liked my response and (so far) I haven’t seen any of their names on a bestseller list.

I like writing, but it’s somewhat of a curse; as long as you know that, you’re ready to go.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell’s most recent novel is a mystery/satire.

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Tinkering with the blog and the website

One never knows for sure what works.

So, this weekend, I got rid of two of the pages on this blog and updated the “About Me” page. One new page will rotate through a series of excerpts from my novels. The other will have related pictures of all kinds. Right now, it’s showing examples of the page proofs for the dust jackets when we came out with the hardcover editions.

When I first came out with Conjure Woman’s Cat, my website included a page about conjure. I decided that after adding two more conjure novels to the series, I really didn’t need a “conjure page” per se. Initially, I thought such a page would attract people interested in conjure who would then discover the novels. I don’t think that happened.

That page is now a page for excerpts. There are three there now. I hope to remain organized enough to change them from time to time so that there’s always something new on the website.

My publisher tells me that Thomas-Jacob Publishing’s hardcover books are selling. That’s certainly good news. My colleagues at T-J and I thank you.

My website is always in a state of flux. Frankly, that’s because I never know what information there attracts readers and what doesn’t. I also debate (with myself) how long something should stay there. I want more people to see items, but I don’t want them to come out to the site a few weeks later and find the same stuff. I’m winging it on this but usually, try to include something new every week.

My blog posts and tweets have feeds on the website. I have no clue whether that’s bad or good. At the very least, those feeds represent “new material.”

Most days, I think that bookselling is more of a gamble than either an art or a science.

Malcolm

If I Buy One Wrench, Should the Rest of the Set Be Free?

Look at this fine set of Craftsman Wrenches available at Ace Hardware. Now, using many online book buyers’ expectations, I should be able to walk into the hardware store, buy the ¾” wrench and get the rest of the set for free. This is the online mindset publishers and writers face these days.

This mindset is probably behind the fact that Audible wants to add closed captions to audiobooks without compensating the authors and publishers. Our agreements with Audible call for them to make available an audio copy of our books, a copy we must pay a professional narrator to produce.

Now, major publishers are suing Audible for copyright infringement, and well the should, for none of us–large and small publishers–have granted Audible the rights to a print version of the text. Many of us think that publishers should have an opt-in/opt-out choice. If we opt-in, Audible pays for essentially distributing a print and an audio version of the book.

Audible claims the captions will help the deaf and the hard of hearing. I don’t doubt it because I rely on closed-captioning to watch TV shows. But Audible cannot expect to offer the service without paying those who created the material.

Many readers will probably side with Audible because they think when you buy one edition, all the other editions of the book should be available at no charge. Well, for one thing, paperback and hardcover books don’t cost the same to produce, so I can’t imagine a publisher throwing in a free hardcover edition for everyone who bought the e-book or the paperback. All of these editions (e-book, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook) are not produced by a giant computer on demand. Each one has been created separately by the publisher or self-published author.

  • The formatting and cover requirements for e-books and physical books are different.
  • If you add a paperback edition, you need a high-res image for the printing, back-cover art, and you must consider how thick the book will be, based on the number of pages, in order to properly format the front cover/spine/back cover.
  • If you add a hardback edition, usually printed by a separate company for small presses, you also have to consider the dimensions of the dustjacket and what will be printed on the front and back flaps.
  • If you add an audiobook, you have to find a producer/narrator whom you can afford–or contract for a royalty/share provision–and then work with them to make sure they have pronunciations and ambience right. My Florida Folk Magic Series wasn’t easy for narrators because it had phrases in African American dialect and North Florida’s dialect. So, pronunciation lists must be compiled and every file must be listened to before it’s approved for publication.

Publisher expenses, actual or work hours, are incurred to produce every edition of every book. So, I side with the authors, printers, narrators, and editors who feel discounted when buyers say they are entitled to a free copy of every edition after buying one copy of one edition.

Right. Just try that nonsense with the people at Craftsman or Ace Hardware and see how it works out. Or, walk into an expensive restaurant and ask if buying an appetizer entitles you to an entire meal (Including cocktails and wine) at no extra charge.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of a whole bunch of stuff.

 

What happens to your book cover when you change publishers?

If this issue resonates for you, the first thing we would suggest — first, last, and always — is to read your contract. Only there can you discern what the original agreement was, and what you signed off on. In 99.99 times out of a hundred, the publisher retains the rights to the cover image. What this means is that if you part company with them but still want to self-publish your book on your own, you must come up with a new cover design.

Source: When You Split with Your Publisher: Book Covers ‹ Indies Unlimited ‹ Reader — WordPress.com

Melissa Bowersock, at Indies Unlimited, tells us that there are legal reasons for this based on where the cover art came from. So, it’s not a matter of your old publisher being nasty. When I left my previous publisher, I wanted new covers because old, out-of-print editions of books seem to remain on Amazon forever. I can still find books my father wrote in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Most of these are there because third-party seller frequently use Amazon as their preferred site for reselling books in their collections or warehouses.

So, I thought it best to begin with a new cover to keep my new editions from getting mixed up with the old ones. Some publishers will let you keep the old covers if you’re willing to buy them. Might work, or might not work. I did it once because one publisher never managed to get the books into print.

Interesting article and a part of book publishing to keep in mind when your publisher goes out of business or when you want a fresh start.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of satire, magical realism, contemporary fantasy, and paranormal stories and novels. Click on my name for more information.

Don’t Let Your Publisher Become Your Worst Enemy

I have a wonderful publisher, in Thomas-Jacob, and couldn’t be happier. One of the positives of a small (some say boutique) publisher is that the author and the publisher can actually talk to each other about what the best approach to the book.

Larger publishers often make decisions about books that come from heavenly heights and cannot be questioned.

A long-time online friend of mine is an acclaimed Canadian author. I’ve read most of her books. What bothers me about her publisher’s decision making is the fact that those books have different Canadian and U.S. Titles. Sometimes this is necessary. But in her case, those differing titles cause a lot of reader confusion about what book they’re buying. Frankly, I don’t think the U. S. and Canadian audiences are so different that a book requires separate titles for Amazon and Amazon.ca. I think this kind of thing hurts the author.

I just finished reading a novel by one of my favorite U.S. authors that is set in New Orleans just after the Civil War. I considered posting a review today, but then saw that on Amazon the book was listed as Political Fiction. Those who like southern gothic fiction and historical fiction will never find it there. Pardon my exasperation, but who the hell came up with those genre classifications for this novel?

From what I hear, if one of the major U.S. publishers releases your novel, you may have to put up with some stuff you don’t like. I guess that’s called “paying your dues” or pretending that “the publisher knows best.”

Book genres aren’t perfect. Neither are titles. But they do tend to steer prospective readers toward an author’s book. If you can, I hope you can discuss such things with your publisher before the historical novel you titled “Tough Women” is released as “Porn Babes” in the “How To Repair a Flathead 6 Engine” genre.

I’d say that if you cannot agree on the title and the genre, you have a problem.

Malcolm

Creating ARC Copies: A How-To

Once upon a time, Publisher’s Weekly asked for a review copy of a children’s book our small press had in the works. We were new to the business then and had no clue how to accommodate them, so we lost the opportunity for a high-profile review. Ouch! Now that I know better, I won’t make the same mistake again. Better still, I’ll share what I’ve learned so you won’t, either.

Source: Creating ARC Copies: A How-To | Celebrating Independent Authors

I saw a post by author Hope Clark in which she said that she buys copies of her books and sends them out to her favorite readers prior to publication so that then her books go live, there’s a batch of reviews ready to go. (She’s at a mid-seized publisher and buys the books at cost because many publishers don’t send out review copies any more.)

For the same reason, think about creating advance reader copies (ARCs) of your books so that you can send them to review sites before your books are published. In fact, major review sites won’t look at a book after its publication date; many of them expect a copy four months in advance.

You may not get in Kirkus or Book List, but it’s worth the time an effort, I think, to try. This post at Indies Unlimited takes you through the basics. Reviews early on in a book’s life not only draw more readers but improve how your book is displayed on sites like Amazon or in book newsletters.

Malcolm

 

Jane Friedman’s new ‘Key Book Publishing Paths’

Since 2013, I have been annually updating this informational chart about the key book publishing paths. It is available as a PDF download—ideal for photocopying and distributing for workshops and classrooms—plus the full text is also below One of the biggest questions I hear from authors today: Should I traditionally publish or self-publish? This is an increasingly complicated question to answer.

Source: The Key Book Publishing Paths: 2019-2020 by Jane Friedman

I’ve been reading Jame Friedman’s blogs for a long time. She knows her stuff. The explains it clearly. And it’s always on point when applied to the kinds of questions and concerns aspiring and emerging writers have about the business.

There seems to be a misconception that one either has to self publish or try to first his or her way into a conglomerate publisher like HarperCollins. This post explains that there are a lot of choices in between those options.

–Malcolm

Learning from agents (yes, agents still exist)

If you want to learn about the business of books, it helps to be hungry. Not only hungry to learn, as the expression goes, but also just plain hungry, literally—it helps to have an appetite. Or an expense account. Ideally both. Because no matter how much the world of publishing has changed over the past hundred years—and, boy, has it changed since the days of Blanche Knopf, Horace Liveright, and Bennett Cerf—some things remain the same. It is still a business of relationships; it still relies on the professional connections among authors and agents and editors and the mighty web of alliances that help bring a work of literature out of the mind of the writer and onto readers’ screens and shelves. And those relationships are often sparked, deepened, and sustained during that still-sacred rite: the publishing lunch.

Four Lunches and a Breakfast: What I Learned About the Book Business While Breaking Bread With Five Hungry Agents

This is an interesting article by Kevin Larimer on the Poets & Writers website. It’s worth reading, I think, in spite of its length because many aspiring writers who want their books considered by mainstream publishers and reviewers forget that agents still exist. They are your route to big publishing. Yes, I know, in an era of Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace, nobody thinks about agents or the standard methods for approaching major publishers.

Yes, publishing is changing, but one thing that hasn’t changed is that if a writer publishes his/her book, s/he will never find it on the New York Times bestseller list or reviewed by Kirkus or in the local Barnes & Noble store. Take that to the bank. So, from time to time, a reality check can be a good thing just to see how you would approach publishing if you seriously wanted a six-figure book deal and more movie options than you could shake a stick at.

Malcolm

People often ask if authors compete with each other

Sort of, kind of, maybe, if we’re up for the same award, but usually not.

In fact, if Amazon (or some unbiased guru) tells me that if I like book ABC, I will probably like book XYZ, I’ll probably take a look. Sure, I know Amazon wants me to buy more than I can afford to buy. But, if another author is writing books that Amazon thinks are competing with mine, I will probably want to read them. Why? I write the kinds of books I like to read, so if anyone else is doing it, I want to find their books.

Sometimes I’m surprised. I was looking for magical realism books this morning and found one on Amazon that came from an author I’d never heard of from a publisher I’d never heard of that had almost 4,000 customer reviews. After getting rid of a few initial feelings of jealousy, I wanted to find out how they did this. Usually, 4,000 customer reviews is something you expect for titles by famous writers. So how does somebody “come out of nowhere” and get that kind of response?

Unless one is a very avid magical realism reader and buys every new release, I doubt that my books are competing with this book. I have a feeling that I’m going to read this book. But first, I want to know how 4,000 people found out about it and took the time to post a review. Most people don’t review the books they read, so if 4,000 is a fraction of the book’s total number of readers, wow!

As writers, our first duty is telling stories. After that, the whole business falls into the black hole of marketing and promotion. So, when we see somebody who is successful, we want to know how they did it. We learn from each other, sometimes at conferences and panels and workshops, and sometimes through information on authors’ websites and interviews. Chances are, we will never be able to duplicate another author’s road to success exactly–or even inexactly. What s/he did, is probably so closely linked to who they are, where they are, the hundreds of choices of a lifetime they have made, that there is no way to “become them” and “do what they did.”

Perhaps we’ll learn one tip or a hundred tips. If so, we’re a little better off than we were before!

Malcolm

 

 

KDP Print vs. IngramSpark 

“Last month, I wrote a refresher post comparing Smashwords and Draft2Digital. This month, I think it’s probably time for a refresher post comparing KDP Print and IngramSpark. First up, KDP Print Own…”

Source: KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) vs. IngramSpark | Celebrating Independent Authors

This handy overview lists the pros and cons of both routes of taking your book into print. Self-published and small-press authors have many decisions to make about production, publicity, and promotion, so finding this kind of information cuts through the chaos.

The author has also written an article comparing Smashwords and Draft2Digital here.

–Malcolm