Bad Realities of Publishing
Let’s break this down a little before we get started.
The word ‘publishing’ is a hugely general catch-all word for an entire industry. In the old days that industry was very set in its ways and specific in how things worked. These days it means a whole lot more. Traditional publishing, big publishers, small press, hybrid, vanity press, self pub… all forms have different issues inherent within them. It is difficult, therefore, to give a definitive list of ‘bad realities’ of publishing as a whole as the list really can become cumbersome.
It is worth pointing out, that there are some harsh truths out there in the world of publishing, and although it is not my intent to discourage anyone from pursuing the dream of becoming ‘published’, I would like to tell you the things you might not want to hear, and what some publishers (and indeed, some authors), don’t want you to know.
For most of us, being a published author isn’t a flowery dream with a happy ending.
This is business.
The art of writing a novel is a walk in the park compared to the tricky navigation across a quagmire of the publishing world. Let’s say a publisher has just offered you a contract. Hooray! Congratulations! Now take a step back and slap yourself across the face. Stop being a giddy child and think for a moment. You are now a business person. You are a product. You are no longer a fluffy headed writerly type. You need to read that contract back to front and front to back and over and over until you understand every minutia within it. If you can’t do that yourself then you need to get someone with a head for legalese to do it for you. Why? Because you are signing a legally binding contract, and you need to know precisely what you are committing yourself and your work to, and (perhaps more importantly) what you are not committing to.
You think the publisher’s contracts will favour you in any way shape or form? No. They are in this game for one thing and one thing alone, and you need to remember that. If you’re fortunate enough to have been offered an advance, then you must take extra care in reading the contract. If you are a new and untested writer, then someone is taking a risk on you. They will expect blood in return. Every post you make on social media reflects on them. Every book you sell will be profit for them, and you will be lucky to see a few pennies from that transaction. Be careful what you sign up to because that’s your hard work on the line. Don’t give it away just because someone asked you to.
You may be giving away any say in the cover art. An editor may rip your work to shreds and put together something that barely resembles your work – which some people might not care about and others may find a horrific prospect. You might be signing away any film rights or committing future books in a series to one publisher alone. Just be careful what you agree to, you may come to regret it down the line.
Be extra vigilant for vanity press publishers. If they ask you to pay money for services, then they are vanity press – BEWARE!!!
[bctt tweet=”Never be afraid to negotiate. #publishing #publishingtips #writingtips” username=”OurWriteSide”]
The same as above applies here, but with some additional notes. Smaller publishers probably won’t put your books in book stores. They probably won’t promote your work for very long after its released so when initial sales taper off, that’s it, the story is over. You could end up with a non-selling book, a non-marketing publisher and the rights belong to them. They will expect you to do a lot of the advertising and marketing work yourself. They will want more more more and give you less less less in return.
Read the contracts of smaller publishers even more carefully. As charming as that contact in the company may be on email, remember they are even more intent on making a fast buck out of you and the unscrupulous ones will pull out all the shady tactics to get you to sign away your life. If you want out of a contract, it may cost you big.
As before, (perhaps more-so) never be afraid to negotiate, and make sure you do a lot of research into the company.
Most of the above issues don’t apply here BUT, all the work is on you. The marketing, the editing, the cover, the networking, the social media, the brand building. It takes a lot of work to sell books. You have to give up a big chunk of your precious time to get some sales and in the beginning the payoff will not feel worth the effort. All failures are on you.
With all of the above you have to consider your book to have a shelf life (no pun intended). You will get an initial number of sales which might make your bank balance look sweet for a while, but that will probably taper off very quickly. Especially with traditional publishing contracts. Expect the marketing to cease three months after release and expect sales to stall shortly thereafter.
Unless you are really REALLY lucky, you will not make any money from one book. If you plug away and put out books in quantities, then you might make a little money, but hang up the daydream of telling your boss to stuff the day job up his proverbial. Being an author is generally not a profitable business unless you commit and push and sell and work. Every-Single-Day, and even then maybe not.
Lastly, you must research. Research publishing contracts. Research self-publishing issues and options. Read, listen, learn and above all, be prepared to get burned. It’s a harsh world out there.
The barrier between author and reader is long and wide but if your work is truly good enough, then you will get there with a little effort and a lot of common sense.
Not all publishers are big bad monsters, and not all contracts will screw you over, but you must be very careful to understand the world you are entering into. That is the reality of publishing.
[bctt tweet=”Writing books is one thing, being a published author is a different world entirely. #amwriting #ampublishing #publishing” username=”OurWriteSide”]