Author Topic: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!  (Read 4008 times)

Tom Wood

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TimothyEllis

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Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #1 on: December 10, 2018, 09:17:37 PM »
I moved this out into the general public area. It's worth being more visible, and isn't really about craft, but publishing.

A good post I thought.
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Twolane

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2018, 10:11:13 PM »
And then there's this:

Literary agent Selwa Anthony ordered to pay author more than half a million dollars

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-10/selwa-antony-bid-for-extra-royalties-backfires/10600540

And yet the author in question now has a new literary agent. She's a million-seller. My oh my. It would seem to me as though the author needs a good contracts lawyer more than a new agent. Oh well, to each their own.
 
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Mark Gardner

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2018, 11:17:54 PM »
DWS 8 reasons are 100% accurate. Iíve personally experienced six out of the eight reasons that he listed.
 
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Cate M

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #4 on: December 11, 2018, 12:30:50 AM »
Thanks for posting this, Tom. After #pitmad on Twitter this past week, I was starting to feel the siren call again. This brought me back to reality.
 
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LilyBLily

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #5 on: December 11, 2018, 01:14:19 AM »
To me, the rights grabs of modern publishing contracts are the huge no-no. Standard contracts are time bombs ready to go off in the future that can earn the publisher a fortune and the author pocket change. Pursue one at your peril. 

Every hybrid author I meet says they went indie to get control. What does that tell us about how infantilizing and infuriating being a contracted author can be? Yes, once you have a wonderful book, it is possible to get a major push by a big-time publisher. But just as people who change jobs are likely to get better salary increases than people who already work for the company, authors who have already established themselves as powerhouse indies will get better deals from publishers than ones "made" by the publishers.

I like Dean's point that we are well into the 21st century, so why are we still hanging on to 20th century ambitions to be traditionally published?
 

David VanDyke

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Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #6 on: December 11, 2018, 03:03:14 AM »


I like Dean's point that we are well into the 21st century, so why are we still hanging on to 20th century ambitions to be traditionally published?

Why do people who are too cheap to buy a drink at a sit-down restaurant still rush to throw $10K at a vanity publisher who dangles the bait of being "published"?

They want the validation and the status of being a "published author." I still see this phrase thrown about, and we all know what it means: traditionally published. That's why vanity publishers dress themselves up as traditional publishers and emphasize the status and (thinly disguised) vanity parts in their pitches, not the profits.

Historically, authors have been icons. Many still are. The lure of fame and recognition is powerful. The route to that fame and recognition still often runs through the traditional industry, at least in the minds of many.

 
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Vijaya

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2018, 04:26:41 AM »
I'm so glad I self-published my novel. I've already earned back what it cost to produce it. However, I am finding it very, very difficult getting it into libraries. Maybe it won't matter if my readership continues to grow, but I've written so much for the school and library market, it's upsetting that this book, which is good, if not better than some of the other books I've written, is automatically dismissed. I've applied for an ALA award and I hope it wins because that's the only way I can see it getting into libraries. It'll be vetted by one of their own. But in the meantime, writing new stories!

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Edward M. Grant

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2018, 05:05:11 AM »
A large part of library purchasing is driven by what readers ask for. So you probably need to reach the point where readers are actually asking for the library to get your books. And then hope those readers actually read them, so the library order more in future.
 
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Eclectic Dan

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #9 on: December 11, 2018, 06:00:45 AM »
I am not pro or anti traditional publishing.  Whether you go with a traditional publisher or not should be based on what benefits you, as the author, and getting your book to a wider audience.

To me, the benefits traditional publishers traditionally offered were these:

1. Advance - Getting money upfront is a huge boon.  If you get $10k or $25k advance, that's money in-hand that you can use to pay bills while you finish the book.  Or, if the book is already finished, money you can use to pay bills today rather than months down the line.

2. Marketing - Selling books is the publisher's job.  They want a return on their investment.  They need you to see your books.  Maybe you have to go do book signings and stuff, but you don't need to worry about how anyone is going to find your books.

3. Editing - They pay the editor.  You don't have to find an editor and then send them money and deal with all that.

4. Cover Art - They take care of that too.

5. Legal Stuff - They have lawyers.  Is that reference to McDonald's in your novel okay or is it going to pose a problem?  As the publisher, a lot of the liability will be on them, so they'll check things out and make sure.  Plus they probably have insurance to cover themselves too.

Maybe there are more but that's all I can think of right now.

But, those advantages are fewer these days.

1. Advance - If you get an advance, it probably won't be very big.  Even a $10k advance seems uncommon these days unless you're a celebrity with a million Twitter followers.  So, the small advance combined with smaller royalties largely takes away this advantage for traditional publishers.

2. Marketing - These days, that's basically all on the authors anyway.  And if you're going to be doing most of the marketing, you ought to be compensated for it in terms of higher royalties but you probably won't be.  That takes away this advantage for traditional publishers.

3. Editing - Still an advantage of traditional publishers.

4. Cover Art - This one is a wash these days.  You won't have to pay for a cover with a traditional publisher, but you may not get a good one either.

5. Legal Stuff - Your insurance agent is probably going to stare blankly at you if you ask about publishing liability insurance.  Either that or you'll pay through the nose.  So this one is probably still an advantage for traditional publishers.

Aside from that, the rights grabs are probably the biggest issue.  I think about something like, okay, how did George Lucas get rich?  Granted, Star Wars was a good movie and made tons of money, but rather than negotiate for more money for directing Star Wars, he instead kept licensing and merchandising rights.  Back then, that wasn't as big a deal.  Movie studios made money on movies, so tie-in stuff often served to promote the movie rather than be moneymakers on their own.  But Star Wars merchandise was everywhere.  George Lucas certainly wasn't stupid.  How many millions of dollars did they make off that stuff?

So, yeah, now companies want those rights for themselves.  They want every dime they can get.

My characters will probably never be anywhere near the popularity of Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader or any of the others but if they ever do catch on, I kind of think that money should be mine.  I created my characters and I should reap any rewards for them.

I think rights are an important issue.  It's one thing for a company to want the rights for characters created under a work for hire agreement.  That's okay because you know upfront you are creating those characters for someone else.  It's another thing for a company to want the rights to characters I created on my own and in exchange for a paltry (or non-existent) advance and almost negligible royalties.

For an agreement to work, both parties need to bring something to the table.  I'm bringing (what I hope is) a quality work.  What is the traditional publisher, the other party, bringing?  If (and I do mean if) I can earn, for example, $10k profit on a book on my own, what can they do to help me reach $20k in profit or $50k in profit?

And if all I would end up doing is more work for less money and fewer rights, why would I want to do that?
     
 
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Edward M. Grant

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #10 on: December 11, 2018, 06:26:49 AM »
And if all I would end up doing is more work for less money and fewer rights, why would I want to do that?

'Validation', apparently.

BTW, when did fiction writers ever get an advance before the book was finished, unless they were a big name who the publisher trusted to deliver?
 

Jake

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #11 on: December 11, 2018, 07:29:50 AM »
And if all I would end up doing is more work for less money and fewer rights, why would I want to do that?

'Validation', apparently.

BTW, when did fiction writers ever get an advance before the book was finished, unless they were a big name who the publisher trusted to deliver?

That does happen and you don't need to be a big name. If a publisher likes and buys your first book sometimes they'll buy a second book from you that you're working on, especially if it's a sequel to the first book they liked. I don't know how common that is but it does happen.

Personally I don't see anything wrong with going the traditional route. Self-pub isn't for everyone. And for certain genre's self-publishing isn't very viable at all (Though for the most part I agree with that article.)
« Last Edit: December 11, 2018, 07:32:45 AM by Jake »
 

elleoco

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #12 on: December 11, 2018, 09:22:13 AM »
5. Legal Stuff - Your insurance agent is probably going to stare blankly at you if you ask about publishing liability insurance.  Either that or you'll pay through the nose.  So this one is probably still an advantage for traditional publishers.

The only contract I was offered and got far enough in the process to see and read had a clause whereby I pretty much indemnified the company for anything and everything. I'm not a lawyer, but I worked for law firms for 30 years, and that clause was why I said no and walked away without even attempting to negotiate. If that's the starting point I don't believe there's any use discussing things.

Maybe a clause like that isn't common and only stuck in contacts with people pub companies consider suckers, but somehow I doubt it.

Eclectic Dan

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #13 on: December 11, 2018, 10:46:18 AM »
5. Legal Stuff - Your insurance agent is probably going to stare blankly at you if you ask about publishing liability insurance.  Either that or you'll pay through the nose.  So this one is probably still an advantage for traditional publishers.

The only contract I was offered and got far enough in the process to see and read had a clause whereby I pretty much indemnified the company for anything and everything. I'm not a lawyer, but I worked for law firms for 30 years, and that clause was why I said no and walked away without even attempting to negotiate. If that's the starting point I don't believe there's any use discussing things.

Maybe a clause like that isn't common and only stuck in contacts with people pub companies consider suckers, but somehow I doubt it.

Was this a big publishing company or a small one?  I'm no expert, but if I was someone who felt wronged by a book, I imagine I would sue the publishing company or the publishing company and the author.  Probably the latter.  If I sue you and your publishing company for millions and win and then the publishing company sues you under their contract terms with you, what are the odds they will get money out of you?

They may have indemnity terms in their contracts (maybe their insurance requires it?) but I would think they would still have lawyers and/or knowledgeable editors reviewing books prior to publication in order to protect themselves.

But, regardless, maybe the Legal Stuff isn't a traditional publishing advantage after all.
     
 
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PJ Post

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #14 on: December 11, 2018, 10:59:25 AM »
And yet, I bet Amazon makes more from self-publisher AMS spends than it pays out in Indie royalties. The reality is, while we may have the freedom to self-publish, reaching an audience through the print legacy distribution model has become extremely difficult - and that's by design. My understanding is that even the mighty BB no longer guarantees a meaningful long tail. Prices are still stupid low, and 'good enough' has gained mainstream acceptability - even through traditional publishing. I'm kind of shocked by some of the sh*t being published these days, even more so by the award nominations. Search and recommendation engines suck, and even genre lists are notoriously irrelevant. On the upside, everyone wants me to join their email newsletter club. Joy...

Manning the tiller of a sinking ship isn't really autonomy, is it?

It's all a mess.

I think it's time for a better mousetrap.
 

elleoco

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #15 on: December 11, 2018, 11:12:34 AM »
Was this a big publishing company or a small one?  I'm no expert, but if I was someone who felt wronged by a book, I imagine I would sue the publishing company or the publishing company and the author.

Small company. You do understand that if I indemnify you for something, it doesn't matter if someone sues you for whatever I indemnified you for. You're going to bring me into the suit, and I'm going to be the one who has to defend and pay if I lose. You get to walk away laughing.

Tom Wood

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Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #16 on: December 11, 2018, 11:36:03 AM »
... I think it's time for a better mousetrap.

In a few years the most successful writers will be the ones who can write the best code to guide the artificial intelligence so it writes the best stories about the writer who writes the best code to guide the artificial intelligence...
 

LilyBLily

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #17 on: December 11, 2018, 11:46:22 AM »
Was this a big publishing company or a small one?  I'm no expert, but if I was someone who felt wronged by a book, I imagine I would sue the publishing company or the publishing company and the author.

Small company. You do understand that if I indemnify you for something, it doesn't matter if someone sues you for whatever I indemnified you for. You're going to bring me into the suit, and I'm going to be the one who has to defend and pay if I lose. You get to walk away laughing.

Yes. The indemnity clause is all over contracts these days. The big risk is that the publisher, who looks like a nice fat target to the person suing, will decide it's cheaper to settle. And the author then has to pay the publisher's attorney fees and the settlement, and can be separately pursued. This was an issue a number of years ago, and I believe publishers aren't typically trying to push their authors into holding the bag. But what's down in black and white is what rules in court, and it's a huge risk.

A good contract (seldom seen but not unheard of) will include that the publisher will buy liability insurance to cover everyone in case of a lawsuit. This I am quite sure is routinely done in hot nonfiction where the publication of the book might enrage someone with money, who then sues because of wounded ego. If an author of a major political tell-all doesn't get that in his/her contract, I'd be very surprised.

Recently I was asked to sign a contract with a clause requiring me to purchase liability insurance that would only pay the publisher. There was no way. The publisher was willing to drop that clause but not the basic indemnification clause that is boilerplate these days.

There's a lot of risk involved in our business.
 

Tom Wood

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Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #18 on: December 11, 2018, 12:51:18 PM »
Indemnity...

I'm an architect who was in the midst of my career in construction management when the infamous Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkway collapse occurred:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyatt_Regency_walkway_collapse

The fault was in an innocent-looking change to one fabrication detail that was proffered during the shop-drawings phase. For about five years after that event, we had to add HUGE disclaimers on the shop drawings that effectively rendered our review irrelevant. Many court cases later, I think the responsibility/risk was distributed. The industry changed our review process as well.

The latest version of this sad tale is the bridge collapse in Florida:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florida_International_University_pedestrian_bridge_collapse

The design and construction industry will change their process again.

So yeah, risk management is a thing that we all should consider whenever we sign a contract.
 

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Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #19 on: December 11, 2018, 12:55:41 PM »
And yet, I bet Amazon makes more from self-publisher AMS spends than it pays out in Indie royalties. The reality is, while we may have the freedom to self-publish, reaching an audience through the print legacy distribution model has become extremely difficult - and that's by design. My understanding is that even the mighty BB no longer guarantees a meaningful long tail. Prices are still stupid low, and 'good enough' has gained mainstream acceptability - even through traditional publishing. I'm kind of shocked by some of the sh*t being published these days, even more so by the award nominations. Search and recommendation engines suck, and even genre lists are notoriously irrelevant. On the upside, everyone wants me to join their email newsletter club. Joy...

Manning the tiller of a sinking ship isn't really autonomy, is it?

It's all a mess.

I think it's time for a better mousetrap.

I know this will sound arrogant, but I've purchased quite a few books that I thought were pretty terrible once I read them. The majority of fiction books I've read, actually. And, I regularly check out the 'Look Inside's of books across multiple genres and subs just out of curiosity, and I'm really taken aback by how bad most of them are, how amateurish, and yet many of them have tons of positive reviews and boatloads of sales.

I realize it's snooty of me to say, and I'm hardly [insert author you think is brilliant here], but I just don't get it. Have audience standards fallen? Are people less discerning than they used to be?

Same thing with the majority of film and television. Fictional content these days seems to have really fallen off a cliff into a deep vat of either mediocrity or just plain terribleness. And yet there's tons of blogs and youtube channels and social media commenters who sing the praises of these blandscapes to the heavens and back. I must be missing something.

I truly don't want to go out of my way to appear iconoclast and "above it all". I'm not a hipster like that. I'll fully admit when I think something is great, regardless of how the "masses" feel about it. I have no need to buck the system or go against the grain. But, I really do think almost everything in the fiction realm is crap right now.

Meh...maybe it's always been this way. It's possible that is the case and I'm just more sensitive to it now. Yes? No? Maybe?

Again, though, I realize someone out there is reading the 'Look Inside' on one of my books and is saying "you call that writing?" I suppose that means I shouldn't think what I'm thinking about so much of the content out there.
 

Eclectic Dan

Re: Some more Dean Wesley Smith - Stay away from traditional book publishers!
« Reply #20 on: December 11, 2018, 01:22:27 PM »
Small company. You do understand that if I indemnify you for something, it doesn't matter if someone sues you for whatever I indemnified you for. You're going to bring me into the suit, and I'm going to be the one who has to defend and pay if I lose. You get to walk away laughing.

And if you don't have the money to hold up your