Self-Publishing has Changed the Industry—Not Always in a Good Way by Cassiel Knight
Posted by SeeJanePublish
Many sing the praises of self-publishing. I’m one of them because I love that authors now have more freedoms and opportunities than before. However, in my role as an editor with several publishing houses and viewing things from that side of the industry, I’ve learned that self-publishing has created unrealistic expectations among authors. It’s been eye-opening, sad and frustrating.
Let me explain.
Self-publishing “gurus” (and you all know who they are) have touted self-publishing as the end of commercial publishing as it has stood for centuries. Um, sorry, not going to happen. More importantly, that attitude is actually proving to be a detriment for some authors.
On a publisher board recently, but not the first time this has come up, publishers were venting about authors who view the house contract as something they can change at their whim just because self-published gurus and author watch-dog forums say so. I’m not talking about changing things like royalty percentages, release dates or unfriendly author clauses which actually make sense to negotiate. I’m talking about things like removing rights of first refusal, the ability to “shop” around the book while it’s at one house (Really?) or any number of nitpicking things.
One can argue in favor of these and my argument against is for another blog post. <grin>
Bottom line is most publishers work hard, and pay for attorney support, to come up with a contract that protects the house and is also good for authors. As such, many are not negotiable and why should they be?
Dear authors, a commercial publishing contract is NOT a self-publishing contract! Trying to squeeze it into one is just plain ridiculous.
The publishing contracts I’ve seen and signed are more than fair. Are they perfect? No. There’s some things I would have liked to change – get more copies, sooner releases, etc. Did I ask for them? No, because overall, the contract was fair and realistic.
Here’s the thing and this may be harsh – don’t like the publishing contract? Don’t submit to a house. It’s a simple as that. Think you can do it better by self-publishing then go, do it. Believe me, there’s enough authors out there who get it – who want to work with a publisher.
What really gets me is that I highly doubt New York is inflicted with this much inflated expectations, dare I say ego?, of the authors seeking publication. Heck, most of those going after a New York contract are happy with 8% and other restrictions. So why should expectation with digital publishers be any different? I propose they aren’t.
Self-publishing isn’t the end of commercial publishing. In too many cases, it has bred authors whose expectations are unrealistic. Very unrealistic.
And here’s something else to think about – the commercial publishers see this. We talk. We listen. We notice who “you” are. Do you really want a reputation of being difficult to work with? Sure, someone may pick you up eventually and maybe you’ll do well there. I suspect the majority don’t get picked up or don’t get picked up a second time. Don’t put yourself in that position. The analogy of catching more flies with sugar is just as appropriate in the publishing industry as elsewhere.
For those of you reading this who “get it”, thank you. I’ve had more pleasurable times over the last year with you than the occasional prima dona author.