Monday, June 27, 2011

What's in it for you? And 13,138. . . .

For a while I didn't think I was going to meet yesterday's challenge.  I didn't quite meet Saturday's, but I came close.  Sunday's output wasn't all that great, but I did find enough determination and discipline to reach the objective.  That means today's challenge is to reach 13,138 words on that novel referred to as TSQ. . . .

And it's okay if it's not perfect, because at least I'm making progress and I can always go back and rewrite.  One step at a time, one day at a time, one word at a time.  It doesn't have to be perfect; it only has to be written.

If the writing were an end in itself, nothing need go any further than getting the book written.  Personal satisfaction and personal enjoyment can be sufficient motivation as well as sufficient goals.  There is no rule that says a writer has to write for publication, and there is certainly no rule that says a writer has to be published as the only justification to write.  Many writers write only for their own enjoyment or to share stories with friends and family. 

But let's set that aside and assume that you want to share the book you've written with the rest of the world and you think you ought to be paid for your investment of time and creative talent.  Short stories and poetry are an entire different species, so I'm only going to address a full-length book at this time, but the type of book doesn't matter.  Could be romance, could be horror, could be a non-fiction family history. 

It doesn't matter what kind of book, because up until a few years ago, the process of finding a publisher was pretty straight-forward: 

1.  You sent out the manuscript, either complete or partial, to prospective editors until one of them bought it.  This process could take as short as a couple of weeks or as long as several years.  Once the book was purchased by the publisher, it would be several months to a year or more before it was published.


2.  You sent out the manuscript, either complete or partial, to prospective agents until one of them agreed to represent you and took on the job of sending the manuscript to prospective editors.  Finding an agent could take as long as or longer than finding a publisher.  See #1.


3.  You self-published via a vanity or subsidy publisher who printed your books for you at your considerable expense and then you had a garage or basement loaded with 10,000 copies that you had to sell at retail yourself.

Then in the late 1990s came e-publishing and the whole picture started to change radically.  Some of those early e-publishers are still around and successful, and the field has certainly expanded.  And most of them operate very much like print publishers -- they have editors who select what they will publish.  They have submission guidelines, they edit the books, and they prepare the art that serves as the "cover" in terms of what the potential reader sees on the website or on the e-reader device. 

But even the e-publishing option has undergone another evolution.  With the advent of SmashWords and Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing and others, that whole process of submitting your manuscript to someone else and letting them decide whether and how to publish your book has gone by the wayside.  Now anyone can publish anything -- pretty much.

For the author who is successful in getting their self-e-published work into the hands -- or at least the device -- of the e-book reader, the financial return can be significantly higher than for the print published.  As I detailed in Saturday's blog the self-publishing author takes on additional duties in terms of formatting and editing and artwork, but the potential rewards are substantially greater.

How much greater?  I was shocked to read last night at Dear Author that Harlequin Books is paying only 8% royalty on some of its digital editions and may in fact be paying only 2% on some, due to a multinational corporate structure that allows the parent company to license a wholly-owned subsidiary of itself to "publish" the books but treat the transaction as if it were with an independent third party.

Yes, dear writer, 2 lousy percent. 

Back in the day -- the early 1990s -- Romance Writers of America made an effort (sort of) to get publishers to raise royalty rates on copies of books sold through direct-mail subscriptions.  According to the 1995 "Rate the Publishers" Survey compiled and published by the Published Authors Network of RWA, royalty rates on these "book club" sales were generally in the 2% to 3% range.  ("Standard" royalty rates, for comparison sake, ranged from 4% to 8%, with only a few outliers.)

Apparently nothing has changed.  According to attorney Elaine P. English, who was hired by Novelists, Inc. to examine a selection of Harlequin contracts, yeah, Harlequin is paying 2% - 3% royalties on those digital editions, and they have the right to do so on just about any book contracted over the past 30 years.  And the writer's have little to no recourse.  BOHICA.

WHY DID THEY DO THAT?  Oh, I know why Harlequin did it -- they're in the business of making money, and these contract terms allow them to make a whole lot of money.  The question in my mind is, Why do authors sign these contracts?  And why are authors still defending still defending the practice?

Worse yet, why is RWA still defending them?

I guess I should be glad no one is reading this blog except me, because I get to write things here I probably wouldn't write if a lot of people were reading it.  But here's a fact for you to chew on, dear writer:

On the evening of 13 October 1994 -- I remember because it was my birthday and because I have a print out of the post -- I proposed, via the GEnie internet discussion board for romance writers, the formation of an RWA "special interest chapter" for published authors only.  The immediate objective was to be able to hold a conference for published authors only, to which the unpublished/aspiring/fans would not be welcome.  And yes, that's pretty much the sentiment that was going around the published author discussions at that time:  the unpubs were NOT WELCOME.  We didn't want them around.  RWA had welcomed them, embraced them, catered to them for almost 15 years and we were tired of it.  We were tired of holding workshops that were essentially training the people who wanted to take our jobs.

Well, some of us were.  At its height during my tenure as president of what became PASIC, we had something over 300 members.  Now it's up to 400.  Not huge growth, but then again, PASIC stopped being much of a rogue organization when I left.  And RWA still caters to the unpublished (because that's where RWA the organization gets its money) and still fails to be an advocate for the writers.

Back in 1994 and 1995, when PASIC was in its formative stages, there were very few of us who would dare to say RWA should be an active advocate for writers.  I was one of those few, and even though I've been away from the business since I left RWA and PASIC and PAN in 1998, I've never stopped being an advocate for the writers. 

I don't intend to stop now either.

1 comment:

  1. Good post.

    Thanks for the Passive Voice link.

    Can you send an email to ?

    I have a couple of questions about this post.