On Writing,  publishing

The New World of Publishing: Following

There is one really bothersome problem I have noticed a great deal in this new world of publishing we all live in. Writers and some publishers blindly follow someone without ever thinking. They hear a piece of advice, whether it is from this blog, from Konrath’s blog, from a Kindle board, from Publisher’s Marketplace, and they don’t question it. They just follow it blindly, without investigating the truth behind the claim or advice.

I make every effort to not set down rules here, and when I give my opinion, I do my best to back it up with business logic. Sometimes I don’t do a good enough job, I will admit, and sometimes my opinions are so strong they come across as a form of rules. But usually by that point, to be honest, I’m fighting an upstream battle and feel like I have to shout to be heard.

One example of my shouting opinions at the top of my voice is the topic of “agents as publishers.” I believe that in a business sense and legal sense and moral sense an agent turning into a publisher is so damn wrong, I just shout to writers, “Run away!”

That might be a little too over-the-top, but you get the idea. It sounds like a rule, but in reality it’s just my opinion. Every writer is different and if you have figured out a way to make it work with your agent, if you know how your agent will manage to do all the work, if you know how you are going to get paid, then don’t listen to my opinion on the topic. It’s your career. It’s your money.

Some basic beliefs of mine.

— In maybe a hundred different blogs over the years I have stated that there are no rules in this business. And when a person tries to put a rule on you, question it.

— In maybe a hundred different blogs over the years I have stated that every writer is different. But being different doesn’t mean you should just ignore simple, logical business practice.

— In maybe a hundred different blogs over the years I have begged writers to think for themselves, to not follow some trend or another, to step out of the myths and learn business.

For example, I held my opinion for a long time about the Kindle Select because I wanted to investigate the business aspects of it. I have, in my opinion, come to think it’s a horrid deal for writers in 99.9% of the cases. If it wasn’t exclusive, we would be talking another matter.

Another example: Over the past two years I have laughed and snorted and just shaken my head at information coming off the Kindle Boards. There seems to be no way for anyone active on those boards to see the real world beyond the little pool. Yet so many writers see something there and take it as truth and then defend it like their lives depended on it. They make a post by a beginning writer into a rule and then try to live by it.

I’ve been publishing since 1975 and been a publisher, editor and writer all that time. Trust me, never take anything I say as a rule and live by it. All writers are different. Learn to think for yourself, question everything, find your own path. And learn basic business. This is called the “publishing business” for a reason.

But that all said, anyone who has followed this blog for more than a few installments know I can really tilt at a windmill between trying to give practical advice like the Pen Name post or the Think Like a Publisher posts.

Some of my favorite windmills

— Pricing your book into the discount bin. (We’ve had a ton of discussion on that topic and I have another blog coming on pricing that will just start that all over again. Stay tuned.)

— Agent as publisher. (Just too stupid for words in my opinion.)

— Giving your agent all your money and the paperwork for that money before you see any of it. (Just ask yourself if you would do that in the real world with a perfect stranger and you get the idea of how wrong that practice is. And how much it needs to be changed as something common for writers to do with agents.)

— Writers signing contracts that allow a publisher to keep their book for the life of the copyright. (Author can get it back in 35 years, but see my next windmill on that topic.)

— Writers who claim to want to sell their fiction not knowing copyright, thus not even understanding what they are selling. (Actually, you don’t sell copyright, you license it, but most writers don’t even understand that basic a fact. And won’t even bother to spend a few hundred for a IP attorney to look at the contract for them.)

One Last Windmill

I have one last windmill I’m going to add into the mix before the next blog post where I go back to tilting at some more standard windmills and myths by talking about pricing.

Simply put, that windmill is “following blindly.

Question everything, folks. If it doesn’t feel right, even though your English teacher told you to do it, question it. If someone told you that you have to do thirty drafts and it’s boring you to tears, question that process. Some of us only do one draft and do just fine. Other professionals have figured out ways to write with three or four drafts. Ask what a draft is. Ask how long second and third drafts take a writer. And so on. Question.

If you are still sending manuscripts to agents because of guidelines that say, “No unagented submissions,” you really need to question how the system works. And learn it. Editors at publishes buy books and publish them. That’s their job. Give them a chance to see a submission package on your book.

If you think you have to spend a ton of money to indie publish a book, start asking questions. Most of us can electronically publish a book for under $10.00 and if we take it into paper editions, the cost goes up another $25.00. If you think it costs large amounts of money to be an indie publisher, start questioning because you have heard the wrong information.

And so on and so on and so on. Question everything. Stop following and look around and get lots of opinions and learn business and copyright and think for yourself.

A Perfect Illustration

Watch this very, very short, 30 second video a few times and then, when you stop laughing or being insulted, make a resolution to be the person standing on the sidelines laughing instead of in the line.





(Thanks, Lee, for the pointer.)