1. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534

    Traditional What's your experience with traditional publishing?

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Mckk, May 4, 2014.

    Question's in the title. I guess I'm asking more specifically those who've had experience with agents and publishers, although of course any opinion/insight is welcomed.

    So I think the benefits of self-publishing is fairly clear:
    • keeping 100% of all rights and profits,
    • no one changing your book/title,
    • no deadlines,
    • no limit on what you could do with said book or any future books
    • guaranteed that your book will be "out there" and probably read by a handful of people, as opposed to nobody if it's never pushed out

    And the pitfalls of traditional publishing is also fairly clear:
    • losing 80% or so of profits,
    • being told what to write in some cases, alterations to match market needs or even just publisher's taste,
    • potentially getting a terrible contract you can't fight,
    • book gets put in waiting line and never gets to print,
    • being trapped with one publisher based on multi-book contracts
    • or the obligation to allow the publisher first picks of any future works in the same genre,
    • lengthy waiting time to snatch an agent and then publisher and then finally getting into the stores
    • No guarantees that much editing would even be done on your book due to cuts

    So, the only things I can see that're good with traditional publishing is:
    • reputation
    • you'd probably get at least a small slot in several book stores, which is still more than you would on your own
    • some budget on promotion and marketing
    • cover (made by a professional artist) designed to attract target audience
    • presumably at least some editing/proofreading

    So now I'm curious - what do publishers actually DO for your book? I don't mean theoretically, but these days what do they actually do? How much effort and money do they put into a debut author? And for those who have worked with agents and publishers - what's it like working with one? Pros and cons? What are your good or bad experiences?

    And are all the cons to trad-publishing worth the pros?
     
  2. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    Mckk,

    I noticed you did not list the cons for self-publishing. Is there a reason?

    My experience being traditionally published has been positive. I believe I've attracted more readers and sold far more books (print, ebook and audiobook) than I would have if I'd self-published. My publisher isn't a major one, and my books do not show up on the shelves of the average Barnes and Noble bookstore. But being traditionally published, in addition to some of the things you mentioned, has provided opportunities for me that wouldn't otherwise be available. For example, I have been invited to attend the Ohioana Book Festival this weekend. They don't accept self-published authors.

    I believe your view of contracts is skewed, as you (or your agent) should be able to negotiate better than what would equal 20% of the profits while getting locked in with a publisher that would stymie and stall your career.

    There are some publishers out there that will do little more than you could by yourself, self-publishing. I guess that's partly what you meant by "presumably at least some editing/proofreading." There are some that, with poor formatting and covers, no or ineffective marketing, poor editing, could be a detrimental.

    I do know a few authors that went with publishers and regretted it. All I can say is if you decide to go the traditional route, do your homework before submitting to a publisher (presumably your agent, if you have one will already have done this) and don't sign a contract you. I know more than a few traditionally published authors that are very satisfied with the decision they made.

    I can say the same with self-published authors. Some glad they did, others not so much.
     
    peachalulu and Mckk like this.
  3. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,943
    Likes Received:
    5,473
    Traditional publishing gives the reader a substantial assurance that the book will meet at least a minimal standard of readability, coherence, editing, and general quality. Self publishing gives them no assurance whatsoever.

    Edited to clarify: In other words, it's not about what each option gives the writer. It's about what they give the reader. All the advantages in the world don't do a writer a bit of good unless somebody buys and reads the book.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  4. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Wow. Not the least bit one-sided there, right?

    Not really. You get an advance, to begin with. Most books don't earn out their advance, so you actually end up with more money than you would if you only got royalties. If your book does really well, you get the royalties on top of that. You also have your book available to a wider audience (ie, print purchasers) and bookstores, which yields more sales. Not to mention that you don't have any out of pocket costs - the necessity of which is becoming apparent to self-publishers who are really serious about SP.

    No reputable publisher will "tell" you what to write. It's your book. They will make suggestions and you can follow them or not. The only time an author has to follow the publisher's demands is if they are contract writers (hired by the publisher to produce a particular book).

    Then you shouldn't sign it.

    Why would a publisher pay out an advance of any amount, spend time and money on editing/cover art/etc and then not publish the book? Who told you that, anyway?

    Again, if you don't like the terms of the contract, you either negotiate those terms or you don't sign. Nobody's holding a gun to your head.

    And in the meantime you're working on the next book instead of working on your own publishing duties.

    See http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/books/2014/03/yes-book-editors-edit.html
     
  5. Ritrezer
    Offline

    Ritrezer Member

    Joined:
    Dec 1, 2013
    Messages:
    46
    Likes Received:
    10
    Location:
    Mordor
    Well, I've heard that your Query letter needs to be really impressive, and you have about 8 seconds until the agents decide if the book is good or should be rejected. In that span of time, you need to convince them. Not sure if that's true though.
    "You are only as good as your query letter" I've heard that being used before.

    Actually, to get your book in print you usually pay yourself don't you? (in self-publishing that is) Publishers pay you for your work, print a ton of copies and pay you a certain amount for each book sold. So isn't it better if you're getting paid for your own work rather than you paying for your work?

    Publishers handle, book covers, they get you reviews, publicity and press, so a ton of work all accounted for, and those guys are pro's they know the field. Better to get experts to do things in my opinion.
    Either way, I believe Traditional is better.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  6. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,210
    Likes Received:
    4,218
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    From what I understand, self-published authors have to do both the work of a writer and a publisher. Traditionally-published authors only have to worry about the writing while the agent and publishing company worry about the rest.

    Sorry, but I'm gonna go traditional if I ever publish. :D Just remember to read the fine print before you ink your signature on the dotted line.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  7. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    This is one of those discussions where one really should post whether one is a published author or not, and whether what you are posting is based on experience, what you have researched, or just what you "think". Because this is not a decision that one wants to make without having all the facts.

    I am not yet a published author, so my take is entirely based on what I have learned through research and discussions here with those who have published traditionally or self-pubbed. @TWErvin2 pointed out that @Mckk didn't list any cons to self-pubbing. My own view is that those cons would go a long way to answering her question. If one self-pubs, one bears all the costs of production, distribution and promotion, cover design, formatting, editing - the works. Granted, these are greatly reduced if one limits oneself to e-pubbing, but then one is also limiting one's potential market.

    Some misconceptions mentioned above:

    I haven't heard of many first-time novelists being offered multi-book contracts. I think one-book-at-a-time is the most optimistic assumption for the as-yet-unpublished.

    My understanding is that unless the writer comes to the table with a proven track record or some pre-existing notoriety (like a celeb), one does not get an advance on a first novel.

    Several months ago, I met Rachel Simon, author of the Story of Beautiful Girl and Riding the Bus with My Sister. We chatted a bit and I told her that I was working on a novel that I hoped to publish. After asking me a little about it, she urged me to go the traditional route. "It's harder up front," she said, "and you have to make sure your ms is perfect - not very good, perfect. But you'll be far better off in the end." There's no question that getting an agent and then a publisher is difficult and time-consuming (although somewhat less so now that some agents accept e-mail queries).

    There is another potential benefit for the as-yet-unpublished writer in the traditional querying process: in trying to get two of my earlier attempts published, I received valuable feedback - once from an agent, once from an editor - on what I had to do to improve my writing. There's no guarantee that this will happen for everyone during the querying process, but it can't happen in self-pubbing (unless you pay a professional editor).

    An aside - Iris, does this mean you're nearing the point of publishing?
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
    Mckk likes this.
  8. Mckk
    Offline

    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2010
    Messages:
    4,749
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    @shadowwalker - allo, my dearest character :D Sorry couldn't resist - I'm sure I told you once that my villain turned basically co-MC is called Shadow Walker.

    Anyway, yeah sure my post was one-sided - and if I weren't aware I might just be a tiny bit biased based on not very many facts but rather based mostly on impressions, I wouldn't have created this thread. It's great that you're pointing out any misconceptions I might have.

    About the advance - as Ed said above, I'm under the impression that most publishers no longer pay an advance unless you have a proven track record.

    I also heard that nowadays, even if they pay you an advance, if your book doesn't make back the advance, you're required to pay the publisher back. That would be a nightmare.

    As for all that stuff about not signing unless you like the terms - yes, I know that, but are you really gonna sit around and wait for that publisher, and when you land one after like 3 years, you're gonna reject it because the terms are crap? The desperate would sign, and no so desperate wouldn't sign, but then if you don't sign, then it means you've waited all this time for basically nothing. You might as well have self-pubbed it - at least it would be out there rather than gathering dust after several years.

    As for the publishers who sign for a book and then puts it in the eternal waiting line - I don't remember now, but I'd read stories about that at least twice on this forum. I do believe those were cases with small publishers though.

    It is true that it would be far nicer only to have to worry about my writing duties and not also the publishing duties.

    @EdFromNY - you could do print on demand via Createspace, but the profit you get is minimal. You also have to charge something like $10-$15 just to make a tiny profit per book, because you obv pay for printing and that's pricey. However, it's feasible to sell printed copies even in self-pub.

    Lol nah, I'm not close to publishing. I finally got unstuck thanks to a member on this forum and finished my first draft about 2 days ago. Someone on FB offered to read the rough version before I edit it, so I've sent it to them hoping for some feedback before I go for the rewrite. I'm hoping to have a polished version within the next 1-2 months, and then it's off to find beta readers (and I have 2 friends who are definitely interested in reading, one of whom was the member who helped me). After that, make any changes I need, and then well... yeah, it'd be time for thinking about publication.

    As my above post indicates, I'm leaning heavily towards self-publishing because I have little faith in publishers - I don't really believe they'd do anything for my book, as in, I don't believe they'd really make my book known to the public because all their effort and money will likely go to their bestsellers first.

    @TWErvin2 - thank you for your insight. Could you expand a little on your experience? Like, what do your editor and publisher do? What is it like working with them? Do you ever feel restricted, or do you actually feel encouraged because you have their support?
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2014
  9. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    Well, that's certainly a milestone, and great news. I finished my first draft about a month ago and just started reviewing and editing. My plan isn't quite as aggressive as yours, since I know I still have some structural issues to address, but I do have some beta readers lined up.

    If you go the self-pub route and I go the traditional route, let's compare notes on the process.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  10. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    Any informed author wouldn't sign a contract that has this condition. If a publisher can't make back what they paid the author, that's their loss, not the author's. Seriously, stay away from publishers that do this.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  11. Thomas Kitchen
    Offline

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    422
    Location:
    I'm Welsh - and proud!
    I agree with you overall, but I must point out that first-time authors do get an advance, it just isn't as big an advance as more established authors. But if the book did not sell well, some contracts would specify that some of the advance would go back to the publisher, to make up for the loss of sales. Advances, for a first-time author, are usually between £600-£6000 ($1000-$10,000).
     
    Mckk likes this.
  12. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    I have not seen where larger publishers are not paying any advance to new authors - smaller ones, perhaps, but they still pay. Small (and particularly epub only) do tend not to pay any.

    Advances are ABSOLUTELY NOT PAID BACK. Any publisher who has that in their contract is a scam, and you wouldn't want to sign with them anyway. Most publishers are very, very good at determining the amount of advance, which is why so few books earn out. They earn almost precisely what the publisher expected them to, hence the amount of advance.

    As to desperate authors signing bad contracts - that's on them, then, isn't it? Publishers are businesses, not your parents, not your friends, not your neighbors. As with any business contract, Party A starts out with all that's best for them. Party B wants all that's best for them. There's not good guy/bad guy - there are two sides that both would like the whole pie. That's when the negotiations start (and where an agent is invaluable). Nobody gets everything they want (including the publisher), but both parties should come away satisfied or the contract doesn't get signed.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  13. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    One thing I'd like to add to this is that this range represents the average advance, so it takes into account all those authors who are getting six-figure advances.
     
    Thomas Kitchen likes this.
  14. LeighAnn
    Offline

    LeighAnn Member

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2013
    Messages:
    63
    Likes Received:
    37
    I've worked with three different publishers under three different pseudonyms (and I've played around with self-publishing because I have that kind of time on my hands and it's kind of fun to goof around sometimes). In all the contracts I've signed, I've never had a terrible one. I've never even seen a clause for paying back an advance if the book doesn't earn enough, multi-book contracts are rarely offered these days unless you're truly established, and I've only once seen the 'first dibs' clause (and I negotiated that one away). The only other thing in a contract I had to negotiate was a rights reversion clause just to make sure my work would either hit the shelves or revert back to me to find another home; it was added with no objections from the publisher. And no one ever forces you to sign a contract if you don't like the terms. Ever.

    I got an advance each time I traditionally published, though I will admit the very first advance was very small. No publisher has ever offered no advance at all (not to me, anyway). Some offer more than others, but most offer something, even to first time authors.

    As for editing, every piece I've ever had traditionally published had been edited, sometimes substantially. I've had entire chapters removed or been asked to rework them, but that's part of being a writer. I've certainly never been told what to write, but I have been asked to remove an irrelevant subplot, chop a book into two separate stories, and to add depth where there really wasn't enough. Editing happens (and should even happen to self-published writers). Get used to it.

    I'm certainly not against self-publishing, and I don't endorse traditional publishing. Each writer needs to decides which route best suits his or her own needs (and you might have different needs for different projects), but you should do it knowing the facts about each. Take an unbiased look at all your options before deciding which one works best for you.
     
    peachalulu and Mckk like this.
  15. EdFromNY
    Offline

    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    4,683
    Likes Received:
    2,534
    Location:
    Queens, NY
    I'm very happy to stand corrected on this.
     
  16. TWErvin2
    Offline

    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2006
    Messages:
    2,528
    Likes Received:
    561
    Location:
    Ohio, USA
    Some comments on what's been mentioned since my last post in this thread.

    I've never heard from any authors I know about having to pay back an advance that didn't earn out. I do know one author who, a short time back, had a clause stricken from her contract that would've linked the two novels, such that she would not earn royalties on the second novel until the first one earned out, and sales of the second would count toward this. I think this was with Bantam (an imprint of Random House).

    I suppose there are contracts that have a clause requiring repayment of an advance out there, just none that I've ever seen or heard about (and not one that I would sign).

    The larger publishers still offer advances. I pay attention mostly to publishers of fantasy and SF, and to qualify as an SFWA Qualifying Market they (publishers of novel length works) must offer contracts with a minimum $2000 advance.

    Many ebook publishers don't offer advances. My publisher offers a very small one, nowhere near SFWA's minimum, and I've always earned out before the first quarterly royalty statement/check after publication.

    It is not prohibitively costly to establish a POD novel, as a small publisher and especially as a self-pubbed author. It depends upon the venue (Create Space, Lighting Source, Lulu, etc.). I can say that of the three I mentioned, Lulu would be the most expensive to sell on say Amazon or B&N, requiring a higher price to earn a decent royalty. Much depends on the number of pages and dimensions of the novel as to the cost per book printed, and the resulting earnings per sale to the author (or publisher).

    To answer your question Mckk, My editor and publisher edit my novels, provide advice and guidance and suggestions, cover art and titlework. They help get blurbs, assist with obtaining quality narrators for audiobooks, does marketing and coordinates with me on some ventures, sends out review copies, etc. What an author would expect from a publisher. See, my publisher earns money when my books are successful. They have a stake in my success.

    Some publishers, especially ebook publishers, are 'author mills' where they earn money on volume ( for example: 100 titles that sell 5 copies a month each as opposed to 10 titles that earn sales of 50 copies a month--same publisher income derived both ways). They pay cover artists and editors a %, much like an author earns royalties, so there isn't really an initial investmen by the publishert. Those would be publishers to be wary of. Not that it isn't a legitimate business model and means a publisher isn't a quality one and won't benefit the authors it publishes, but in my experience (what I've seen and heard and even read) the further a publisher is from earning based on sales and or attempting to recoup an investment (in cover art, marketing costs, editing costs, etc.) the less interested they are in selling books, or are more willing to push everything upon the author.

    The worst I think would be 'vanity presses,' where the author pays for services, yet only earns a royalty from finished product for each sale. Vanity press published authors tend to sell very few overpriced books, and the publisher's main income is derived from the author's wallet rather than the wallets of interested readers. Some even call it a version of 'self-publishing'. A self-published author should hire for services, especially those they cannot provide him/herself, such as professional editing or quality cover art and manuscript layout, etc. But those publisher packaged services often are little more than a scam. Research and homework by an author are required to determine legitimate publishers from those that are not.

    Something to consider when searching for a publisher is to look at the website. Is it reader focused or the design more along the lines of attracting authors? The latter would concern me, even thought most sales don't go through a publisher's website. The website, in my opinion should be highlighting new releases, what's coming soon, and current authors and published works. Another thing to consider is the pricing. Is it competitive with what's out there? Before signing a contract, take the time to obtain and read a title released by the publisher being considered. That will give the solid evidence of what to expect in the final product. No, don't buy a book from every publisher you query or submit your work to (but if you find something interesting to read why not)... but expend the funds only those that offer a contract. An easy thing to do is to look at the 'look inside' features to see the quality of the editing. Check out Amazon rankings. If all of the titles are ranked in or near the millions, especially for ebooks, be concerned. Of course, some publishers (just like some self-published authors) do far better on Kobo or Smashwords or B&N than Amazon.

    What it comes down to is the author doing homework on a publisher before submitting a manuscript to them. The same way an author should research what would be required to self-publish and release a quality work that has a shot at success.

    It has been mentioned that an advantage of having a publisher is that the reader can expect some level of quality (story/editing), whereas with self-publishing, anything goes, from awesome, well-edited stories, to poorly edited, utter directionless crap. As mentioned in my initial post in this thread, that is why being traditionally published has opened doors to events that would be otherwise closed. The 'screening' has already been done. Similar to a publisher accepting only manuscripts from agents as opposed to unsolicited submissions.

    A major advantage to self-publishing is that a work will make its way to availability, especially if it's a novel with a niche potential audience. It's faster than the traditional route, even considering the author having to find an editor and commission the cover art, etc. With the traditional route, there is no guarantee at the end of the process a work will find a publisher.

    A last thing, especially as I've strayed from the original topic. Deciding to self-publish so that the author can 'get a work out there' is a weak reason. There are thousands of works published every day. The 'out there' novels are doomed to readerless obscurity without accompanying focus and time-consuming effort by the author.
     
    Mckk and EdFromNY like this.

Share This Page