Writerly Wednesday

I posted this one before, it’s older, but it still means the same to me – this is a business. Writing is not my hobby. It is my job and my career and over the years, I have come to believe very strongly that in order to truly succeed in the long run, it behooves an author to keep that in mind. What does this project do for me in two years? In five? What does this contract do for me? Am I being a professional? Am I meeting deadlines? Is this the best I can make this manuscript?

But that’s just part of it – what YOU do as an author totally counts – but what about what publishers do? I hear horror stories all the time from authors who sold to this or that publisher and they’re now totally screwed because they can’t get an email answered, or they can’t get paid, or they didn’t read the contract well enough and now they’re stuck with some horrible rights term and no way out but to just toss their hands up and walk away.

Some lessons suck to learn and even the savviest of people end up getting starry eyed and sign contracts they come to regret later on.

Part of being a smart businessperson is paying attention to as many variables as you can –

  • who is the publisher?
  • Who runs it?
  • What do authors former and current have to say (I get emails asking about publishers and I’ve emailed my share of authors asking them about editors and houses – this is important research, IMO)?
  • Do they pay on time?
  • Do they have an open process when it comes to how things run – as in can you ask and get your questions answered in a professional manner?
  • Do you have enough turn around to finish your edits?
  • What are the covers like? Look at the covers – are they good? And listen, that’ll be a WHOLE different post, but covers are important.
  • If you have issues with an editor, how hard is it to get them addressed? Can you switch if you need to?
  • What is the distribution model? THIS IS IMPORTANT – where are the books for sale? If it’s digital only, do they have all formats? Are they for sale at third party sellers? If so, what’s your royalty rate there? With print are the books available in bookstores large and small?
  • These are just a few things I’ve learned to ask about over the years and some of those items came from a hard won lesson (as in I didn’t keep my eye on all variables and got screwed)

    Here’s the older part – and still something worth saying:

    Angela James had a great entry up at Romancing the Blog about epublishing so you should check it out. As always, she’s got a lot of smart things to say. I thought in particular the last two paragraphs were the best.

    But authors should also expect more from themselves. This may be an unpopular thing to say, but first realizing that maybe not every book is meant to be published. Some books are a learning experience and will eventually be shoved under the metaphorical bed. That’s okay. It means you keep working to learn your craft, write the next book, and keep submitting. Choose your publishers carefully, read your contracts even more carefully. Authors should also expect professional behavior of themselves—online, in public and with their publisher and editor, treating epublishing obligations exactly the same as they would obligations to a NY publisher. Representing themselves and the industry they’re helping grow in a way that shows pride in themselves, their work and their company.

    Amen. Writing is a business. If you do it as a hobby that’s one thing but if you do it and intend it to be a career, you have to run it like that. Which means sometimes you have to rein in your excitement and say no when you get an offer. Because as I said a while back, not all publishers are equal. And not every author is the right fit with every publisher either. It’s about what you want and what they can provide and then you work your way toward each other.

    In the end, what we have is our gut. (and not the muffin top type, LOL) But listening to our common sense and making it louder than the excitement we feel when we get an offer.

    2 comments to “Writerly Wednesday”

    1. Casey
      February 18th, 2010 at 8:18 am · Link

      A great post containing some very sage advice.

    2. laurendane
      February 18th, 2010 at 4:16 pm · Link

      Thanks, Casey! The learning curve can be harsh in this business