April 19th, 2011, 09:18 AM
Hello, Runslikeariver, and welcome.
I've been away for a while - finally getting caught up on some stuff and able to come up for air.
You make some very good points. This isn't a business for the faint of heart or easily discouraged. You absolutely have to love writing - and have a lot of faith as well - in yourself, in writing, in a power higher than yourself.
These days it also takes a lot of savvy about this whole business, especially for those who want to self-publish. It can be done - but you have to be aware there are a lot of scammers out there eager to separate you from your money.
April 19th, 2011, 01:30 PM
Thank you for your reply.
I have never had the desire to publish online or to self publish. (Although the list of those who have found sucess this way is long and illustrious!) Wonder if the agents who turned down the DiVinci Code ever kicked themselves in the...
It's unfortunately true that the internet has so many sites that prey on writers, especially green writers. I have fallen victim to some of them earlier in my career, before I began to learn about the business end of things. Now I am aware of AAR and on the other hand, devious publishers and vanity publishers that carry a big bag of tricks. As many people have pointed out, this is a very competative business and your chances of getting published are 1 in a thousand.
But I still think I am one of them and I will continue to write and submit as long as there is breath in my body. I have instructed my husband that if I am ever too infirm to write he should just put me down.
April 27th, 2011, 09:31 PM
I think you've just to keep on trying, and wear your thick skin like armour! It took me almost 20 years to get my first novel published - though much of that time I didn't even try! - but some rejection letters were pretty harsh!
May 10th, 2011, 11:55 AM
Getting a graphic novel published
I am currently working on a graphic novel. It is going to be based in a post apocalyptic world. I am on the fence trying to decide if I should publish webcomic or as an actual graphic novel.
Do you know anything on how the webcomic industry works and do know anything about the publishing of graphic novels?
May 22nd, 2011, 07:11 PM
Pro Bono Graphic Designer
May 23rd, 2011, 03:09 PM
Thanks for the information about Piers Anthony - and my good wishes for everyone trying to get published these days.
The good news - yes, it can be done. What's needed most of all is persistence and belief in yourself and your writing.
I've been fortunate to find a publisher who believes in me as well. Studio See isn't well known (yet), but we're working together to change that.
And - hooray! - my first book, Shadow Path, has gone from print to an ebook, available at Kindle.
Hopefully, the others will follow soon.
May 24th, 2011, 10:14 AM
Hello Tim (hopefully you're still around!),
Can't believe I missed your book in my endless search for Epic Fantasy--starred Review in Publishers Weekly, no less. Anyway, it's now at the top of my Wish List.
How exactly does the clause that locks you into submitting your second novel to PanMacmillan work? Does it refer strictly to sequels or to anything you might submit?
I have a co-authored YA Urban Fantasy novel coming out and the publisher for that one has Right of First Refusal for any sequels, prequels, or spin-offs, but not for anything unrelated to that novel. Is that how PanMacmillan's works?
I have nearly completed a crime novel, which I'd be happy to submit to PanMacmillan once I finish, and to write a sequel if they want one, however, my next finished novel (after the sequel to my YA novel) is Epic Fantasy, and I wouldn't want to be forced to hand that one over to PanMacmillan for Right of First Refusal. Would I have to?
May 25th, 2011, 01:48 PM
Pro Bono Graphic Designer
May 25th, 2011, 03:41 PM
Tim hasn't posted here for over a year now, I don't think he's still around.
If it's important to you then your best bet is probably to contact the publisher and ask them before you submit anything.
May 25th, 2011, 05:45 PM
If I were in your place, I'd go on the publisher's web site and search for submission guidelines. Then I'd follow those guidelines pretty much to the letter.
If they don't have guidelines posted, then I'd contact them and ask about their submission criteria.
May 25th, 2011, 07:35 PM
PanMacmillan will have different option clauses for different books, depending on what's negotiated when they license the rights. Since you already have one set of YA fantasy novels with one publisher, and you would be submitting an adult crime novel, it wouldn't necessarily be the case that Macmillan, if they licensed the crime novel, would want any of your fantasy, and you could legitimately make the case that you can't option all your next novels since you already have an option clause for specific fantasy novels with another publisher.
Originally Posted by Carlyle Clark
However, this sort of thing is a lot easier usually if you have a literary agent, who has the leverage to do negotiations of having a whole client list, current and potentially future, and who may have contract precedents with Macmillan from previous deals where option clauses are concerned. So it might be time, since you're published and now generating a wide range of projects, to go looking for an agent. This would also give you better opportunities to sell foreign rights to your works. But even without an agent, (and I don't know that Macmillan accepts unagented submissions anymore; it's possible that they do or do in certain imprints,) you probably would be able to negotiate an option clause that works for you, since you have previous contracts in place.
Does this help?
Last edited by KatG; May 27th, 2011 at 12:40 PM.
May 27th, 2011, 12:08 PM
Yes, Kat, it makes perfect sense and thanks for taking the time to help me out with this. We used an Entertainment/Intellectual Property Lawyer to negotiate our YA Urban Fantasy contract, but I believe I read you said that in a previous incarnation you were either an agent or editor or both, so what I would like to know is what can an agent or editor do for me that's worth 15% forever that a lawyer and my own efforts can't do AFTER I have a publisher that wants a project? How can an agent have MY best interest at heart when it in their best interest not to burn any bridges when there are only SIX of them. Why risk burning a bridge for one client when you need hundreds of clients to make a living and you need ALL those bridges.
Originally Posted by KatG
I've been reading on the blogs from a number of long time mid-list to occasionally bestselling authors and heard horror stories from my peers about truly legitimate agents and the second class status you get unless you're a Bestseller and the way the power of agents has diminished, which makes sense because the Big Six basically have a similar monopoly as oil companies and monopolies squash competition.
For instance, the bizarre pricing and royalty rate for e-books can only be based, as far as I can fathom, on the desire of the big six to "protect" the print book and low royalty rates for authors. Granted it costs a lot of money for the whole print book industry, but it only costs about $50 to turn a print book into every form of e-book, and then it costs nothing to keep it in "stock" but an author is supposed to accept only a 25% royalty from a wildly overpriced product. I say over priced because compared to the profit made per print book vs. e-book publishers make much more on each e-version and do have to do NOTHING after it's initial creation. How is that in any way logical?
I guess what I'm really wondering is that since authors are supposed to do their own marketing nowadays, outside of the very advantageous publisher-buyback-from-bookstore-of books they don't sell policy, what would I be missing out on by going it on my own if I am able to produce a professional quality product at every step?
May 27th, 2011, 11:15 PM
Wow, that's a lot of questions. What I'll do is give you my views in truncated form of the questions, along with the info youíre asking for. Iíll have to do it in multi posts.
1) Editors don't make 15% of your money. Editors either work for publishing houses or you might hire freelance editors to help with developmental editing, line editing or copy editing, and those services are done for fees. I don't know how you value editing assistance; people feel different ways about it.
2) What you can get with an agent that you don't usually get with a lawyer is time. A lawyer costs you $100-300 an hour. An agent works as sales advocate, contract negotiator, business manager, accountant, bill collector, sub rights seller, nagger of publisher to live up to its commitments, career planner, legal resource, and quite often provides publicity and editorial assistance as well, depending on the agent. Having done it, I can tell you that agents work really long hours and if you had to pay lawyer rates for all of it, you'd be broke. Even if you're self-publishing, an agent may be useful -- and cheaper -- than a lawyer for various sub-rights deals, which is why most of the most successful self-publishing fiction authors have agents. (This is not to speak ill of int. prop lawyers -- they usually know their stuff. And they charge for it.)
3) If you don't want to be with a big agency where you fear you'd get lost, you don't have to be. There are lots of 1-5 person agencies. While they might not have as strong contacts in Hollywood or have to team up with sub-agents for some foreign rights sales, they are just as active and just as welcome in fiction publishing as the biggies.
4) If you are doing a three book, $20,000 advance deal, then yes, you are not as big on the agent's list as their biggest names. But you might be later on. The agent is in fact betting that you're going to get a lot bigger, because that's why the agent decided to offer representation. There are no quick, fast bucks in book publishing and especially in fiction publishing. So if the agent decides to invest in you -- and they can only rep so many authors at a time -- you are going to have that agent's attention, even if your stuff doesn't take up as much time and is not yet as lucrative as bigger names on her list. And that agent is going to want to build your career bigger, if possible, because not only does that earn the agent more money, since the agent gets the commission on your earnings, but the agent also then earns reputation from repping you and doing well by you, which brings in other promising authors to her list and makes publishers eager to do more and better deals with that agent for her clients.
So agents don't want their authors to fail. And the other thing that people seem to forget is that the agent gets to choose who she works with. If the agent only wants to rep established bestsellers and is only interested in that, then the agent can close their doors to submissions, hunt established authors and would never bother with you in the first place. Newer, less successful authors take a lot of time for little money at first, so it's a hunting commitment on the agent's part to do it. If the agent doesn't want to bother with first timers or mid-listers, again, the agent can simply shut the doors to having those sorts of clients, and some of them do. So if you are offered representation, it's because the agent thinks you're cool and that you have a future.
But it's a business relationship. (Not a Hollywood business relationship, but a business relationship.) The author has to be pro-active, has to keep an eye on the store, can't ignore business issues and has to not be afraid to speak up. The author has to be a partner, not expect the agent to take care of everything or assume mistakes will never occur. The author is the one who decides what deal to accept and what book he's going to do next, etc.
May 27th, 2011, 11:16 PM
5) The Hollywoodized image of fiction/book publishing as completely controlled by the "big six" publishers who attempt to crush all competition, keep track of all author and agent behavior in all of their imprints internationally, act like oil companies, etc., that seems to be going around the Internet these days is highly inaccurate (even though Hollywood companies have at times owned some of them, but unfortunately not provided the publishers with their money.) Yes, the "big six" are big and important, but the book market is a good bit bigger than that, and agents sell to other houses besides the corps. The imprints of the corps are also not necessarily coordinating with each other and none of the publishers have the time or interest to do the sort of policing that people seem to think they do. And while publishers are certainly trying to sell more than other publishers, the corps are not trying to crush smaller houses. They often have great relationships with those houses and do a lot of reprint business with them. And they don't mind the self-publishing authors either, who are also reprint opportunities. (Though you will hear sniping in the press about how editors are important, dag nab it, since self-publishing authors are running around screaming that the publishing houses are Darth Vader.)
Publishing is a slow, sleepy, resilient, frustratingly odd business that straddles several very different distribution markets, in which people work long hours for little pay and genuinely care about their product. But they are also trying to make money and the bigger ones have shareholders to deal with. So as Margaret Atwood says, it's a business and then sort of not. People do not buy books the way they buy other products. They especially don't buy fiction the way they buy other products. And now we have e-books, which is a whole other group of complications. There's no real market research in book publishing, no focus groups, no special design teams, etc. There's no money to spare for vanity projects, nor for most of the things that people assume book publishers are doing or should do, like sponsoring a Lady Gaga concert. Thatís all Hollywood, the game industry, the music industry, software industry Ė industries that are ten times bigger and have ten times the money and whose products, again, sell differently.
60-70% of the business is non-fiction, and both publishers and a lot of the agents make most of their money from that, so in a lot of ways, fiction is where agents and publishers take a flyer to see what will pop. Non-fiction is even broader in terms of publishers beyond the "big six" than fiction is. The SFF category market, being a national based market rather than having a lot of regional potential, is more centralized and is very focused on the main imprints of the "big six." But over the last decade, that's changed a good deal (I won't go into all the wholesale issues here,) and there are quite a lot of small-medium houses doing SFF, plus the other imprints of the ďbig sixĒ regularly do SFF titles as well.
6) Fiction is the part of the business that is almost entirely unpredictable. It's also a completely symbiotic market, as I've whined many times before. Authors do not directly compete with each other and help each other sell, both through the bigger authors financing bets on the smaller ones and through bringing in new readers who browse. The more bestsellers in fiction, the bigger the fiction market grows and the more titles publishers can gamble on and wait for them to get their sea legs. Fiction readers are marketing resistant and word of mouth is the main driving force of fiction sales.
Essentially, publishers really donít know whatís going to happen to any title. The first Harry Potter title was licensed for a low four figures advance. A book that the publisher pays a big advance for from a book auction may flop. An author who trundles along building an audience can then pop onto the bestseller list, or do so with a new book or series. A bestseller may have a substantial drop in sales on a new project. While general estimates are made all the time Ė the advance is an estimate of what they think the author will earn in royalties, as you know Ė itís pretty much gambling. In the last six years or so, publishers and particularly booksellers have tried to alleviate some of that unpredictability by having BookScan do fast counts of the sales in major outlets, which has led to all sorts of complications, since books donít use advertisers so the Nielsen ratings idea doesnít work that well. The biggest complication is that an authorís sales on one book donít really tell you what his next book will do.
And because itís gambling, agents have to do some really serious stuff to burn a bridge with one of the big six. Looking out for their authorsí interests is not one of those things; thatís their job. And the publisher knows that the agent may end up having an author on their roster that the publisher desperately wants to have, and that the author in the situation also is hoped by everyone to end up doing well, since theyíre investing in the author, so publishing is pretty forgiving, especially of cluelessness. If an agent gets into an argument with an editor at Vintage, the entire staff of BDD Random House wonít turn around and refuse to deal with that agent ever again. They wonít even know it happened. (Hey, I had an editor hang up on me once; did not change us doing deals with the house.) In SFF, itís a smaller group of editors and unlike other types of editors, a lot of them have been in SFF for a long time. Which is why they donít burn bridges with agents, because otherwise theyíd miss out on a lot of SFF titles they want. Yes, there are always a lot of SFF titles available, but they just donít know what they will want, and so it takes a lot to get doors closing. And Iím always having to explain to authors things like that they donít necessarily have to do to their books what their editor suggests in notes. (You do know that, right?)
And the agent has more leverage with publishers than a single author. The agent brings the leverage of her whole client list, and her potential client list in the future, which also allows her to hold book auctions and do multi-submissions, etc. The agent has negotiated contract terms and language with publishers, and therefore, gets a lot of those as precedent on all contracts for all clients with those publishers. The agent has established relationships with foreign publishers, so usually can do more with foreign sales, and usually has an easier time of it with the closed doors of Hollywood.
May 27th, 2011, 11:17 PM
7) The idea that publishers used to do all this promotional stuff for authors and now they donít do it is also false. The bulk of promotion has always been on the authorís shoulders and the more creative ideas usually come from the authors and their efforts. In the 1970ís, 1980ís, with the large mass market wholesale market, lots of authors never got assigned a specific publicist. The technique of ARCís out for reviews for most titles was used primarily for hardcovers in the past, not paperbacks, until the last fifteen years or so. Again, fiction readers are marketing resistant. So the promotion that publishers do is targeted and they adjust as factors change. Advertising works best for lead titles that already have name recognition to remind potential readers that they heard about the author and should get the book. Publishers do a lot of co-op advertising with and within the bookstores where they co-pay for ads and pay the bookstores for displays and special promotions. Publishers do less and less extensive tours for lead authors now because of a number of factors Ė the consolidation of bookstores in the 1990ís, the development of the Internet which made promotion without touring much easier, and the fact that the media is almost completely uninterested in fiction authors. (Seen novelists on t.v. much lately?) Blanket campaigns, etc., work for movies or music, not for fiction, unless thereís a movie adaptation, which is a very small percentage of titles obviously.) Publishers can do types of promotion that authors canít, but author promotion can be effective. And neither is as effective as word of mouth, which canít be controlled.
8) When an author licenses the rights to a publisher, the author is entering into a business partnership. The publisher is investing in the author and taking on most of the up-front costs, and may be fronting the author money based on estimated revenues. The publisher is editing and producing the book, finding and negotiating sales venues for the book, distributing the book, collecting monies, and doing targeted promotion instead of the author doing it all himself, and usually on a bigger scale and with better deals with sellers for print. 90% of the international book market is still print. E-books are an important and rapidly growing market but itís still limited to a few vendors, even more limited globally, and is serving a narrow slice of buyers. Those buyers can still produce thousands of sales, but it is harder for self-published authors to get visibility and they donít have the leverage of a larger list. They are one in a sea of titles. A number of the authors who have done well with self-publishing are ones who already built an audience in print with a publisher. The deal these authors have with Amazon, as a platform distributor, is a very different deal than a licensing partnership. And self publishing is a lot of work as you are not only author and promoter, but the full staff of a publishing house Ė the better you do, the more work involved. So a number of self-published authors are doing deals with publishers Ė Amanda Hocking sold a new series, Michael J. Sullivan made a reprint deal with Orbit, and so on, for assistance and more sales, venues, visibility, etc.. And this is likely to become very common, with authors doing a mix of self-published and publishing deals.
9) Back in the early 1990ís, electronic publishing was launched as CD-Rom, with e-readers Ė and quickly died because the technology changed with the Internet. So publishers got more cautious. Everyone knew there would be a viable retail electronic rights market eventually, but what form it would take and when was up in the air. E-readers started to be reborn, but there was also database ventures, POD, etc. So while they were watching, the success of Amazonís Kindle caught everyone Ė including Amazon Ė by surprise. In just four years, the industry went from being scattered experimental ventures to a rising retail market. Which meant that the publishing industry Ė one of the lowest tech industries in the business Ė had to build an entirely new industry at high speed and with little capital Ė production, proofing, distribution, tech and tech fixes, accounting, promotion, new personnel Ė all for e-books, which when it started was .5-1% of the market, with an escalating demand for product they didnít have yet. Sure, Japan had a lot of the stuff in place, but it wasnít easily translatable to the English language market. Publishers had to deal with Google first off trying to appropriate all the books before there even was a real e-book market; and Amazon trying to take all of Googleís stuff and snatch electronic rights and demanding Kindle DRM; and the software industry now suddenly being a massive part of the bookselling industry with the Apple tablet and other tablets and smart phones. And dealing with it again requires money and personnel and time to make large adjustments.
So thereís a difference between an individual author, a mom and pop operation, spending $50 to pop up an electronic file with Amazon and maybe the Nook, and the cost of digitizing, promoting, distributing and doing accounting on a massive book list of a publisher so that it is a working retail market with dozens of vendors from different industries. It does not cost at all the same. A lot of what was set in place between publishers and Amazon helped out self-publishers as well, but that took time and negotiations and everything is still in flux.
That includes e-book royalties, which more or less didnít exist except as a sort of sub-right. (And what Amazon pays self-published authors from sales is not a royalty, though they call it that.) So there has had to be lots of negotiations between publishers and agents, authors and author groups to redo old contracts and revamp new ones, and contracts with retailers too, since itís different with electronic retailers than print ones. And itís not just about e-rights in these negotiations as there are all the other rights and the bulk of sales still in print. Everybodyís trying to figure out how itís going to work. And itís going to be another five years or so before we have full adjustments and standardization. Small presses will not be able to make the deals that large ones can on royalties, etc., especially since companies like Amazon are squeezing the juice out of them, which is why a lot of the small presses are waiting till the market is developed and they can afford to do the e-books properly. But there are new opportunities that small presses are exploiting quite well. Right now, thereís an accounting problem, as vendors like Amazon arenít paying publishers for the full e-sales listed, and publishers may be holding some sales back to cover print returns or simply havenít gotten the specialized accounting needed for e-books in place. In self-publishing, itís a distribution deal which is going to be higher and is a less complicated situation than a print/electronic royalty contract. But Amazon can decide that your book is now free as a promotion and you canít do anything about it.
So there is no one right path, and most authors do multiple paths over the course of their career (and did so before e-books.) So you have to figure out what is going to work best for you, when you want to partner up or go it alone and just deal with distributors, and whether in electronic or print or both. Since you are already working with a print publisher, CC, and wanting to work in more than one market, it may make sense for you to get an agent, even if the publisher has world print rights. For YA, for instance, publishers are doing things like Scholastic offering books to students in schools with money going to the schools if the kids order titles, and print is easier for schools and libraries to deal with right now. You will have to figure out if you need a team and investors and want the print market for all or some projects, and so go seek them out, or concentrate on the e-book market by yourself.