Friday, July 06, 2007

Find the right publisher (Part Four)

The Honeymoon Period

I see the same sad story all the time, and so have you if you've spent any time in writing communities.

A new publisher opens. Their site looks good, they post Calls for Submissions in all the big places, they seem intelligent and enthusiastic.

Writer X sends them a book, and it's accepted. Instantly, whenever this publisher--let's call them Books of Love, because I don't know of any publisher with that name and doubt it would be used, because it's pretty awful--whenever Books of Love are mentioned on any forum or in any chat, instantly Writer X pops up to say how happy s/he is, how great everyone at BoL is, how professional they are. Often this is echoed by several other Xs, all saying the same thing.

Here's the problem(s). One, unless Writer X is already published with several other places, they really can't say how professional BoL is, because they have nothing to compare it to. Two, being "great and nice" is, well, great and nice, but doesn't mean the staff at BoL is actually professional either. Three, none of this has anything to do with what the actual job of an editor and publisher is, which are respectively to edit your book to professional standards, and to sell that book to the public.

Writer X, high on the rush of a sale and thrilled at the idea of publication, is in The Honeymoon Period.

This is the period of time between contract and royalty statement, and it's the one time when you should probably pay little attention to Writer X's effusive compliments.

The Writer X I'm thinking of specifically for this example was thrilled when BoL signed her, and continued to be thrilled while editing, while getting cover art, while receiving emails from BoL's staff saying how her book was the top seller, and wasn't it exciting?

Do I need to elaborate on what happened to Writer X when she got her royalty statement? She sold three copies.

Three copies in three months.

It wasn't Writer X's fault. It wasn't BoL's fault, either--they had done the best job they could. But BoL was new. BoL had not built a reputation or a readership. Which made BoL a bad choice for an author looking to place her/his novel.

This Honeymoon Period is eveident everywhere, on every blog and forum and website. A new publisher opens, people start selling to them, and before you know it Teh Internets are full of happy, chattery writers, encouraging all of their buddies to sub to BoL, discussing how they're going places, they're doing great, etc. etc. All of it meant kindly. All of it honest--neither BoL or the authors are trying to scam anybody.

But the fact is, and it's one any writer should know and a writer interested in epublishing should tattoo on their arms, that ebook readers tend to be loyal to certain publishers and certain authors. They're not necessarily going to take a chance on a new book by an unknown author from an unknown epublisher. (There are of course exceptions to this, but in general.)

Is this a set rule? No. If a new epublisher is opening its doors and the first books released ar by Patrice Michelle or Jaci Burton or Lora Leigh or any other big name, that publisher becomes a much safer bet. Chances are those authors are over there because they know these people, which means these people are connected and know what they're doing. And readers will follow those big names, and reputation spreads from there.

But anyone can open an epublisher. It's as easy as building a site and posting Calls for Submissions. No advances are paid in epublishing, so it requires little money to start up.

What this means is that every day, it seems, another publisher opens up. Every day new writers submit to and are accepted by those publishers. And every day a writer realizes they've made a huge mistake.

This is the one thing I only skimmed over in my last posts, and one of the most important things there is. Does this publisher have a reputation of sales? Have you heard of them? Have you heard of the authors talking them up all over the place? Are those authors discussing how good the sales are, or are they talking about how nice everyone is?

Don't trust anyone talking up a publisher while they're in the Honeymoon Period. It doesn't mean anything.

Don't submit your work to a start-up publisher unless you know someone in the organization and/or their background. Isn't it better to wait however many months to get acceptance from a publisher you know, than to have your book out there and nobody knows about it?

Yes. It is. Don't gamble with your book. Give it to someone you trust because they've proven they know what they're doing, not because they seem really nice.

More next Friday.

Continue to Part Five


Anonymous said...

Yup, that's the problem. Anyone can do it. I got a message on MySpace the other day asking if I have a website or exerpts posted online. It was from a new epub.

One more off the list. Though, really I doubt it would have ever made it on the list. The owner is a 24 yo recent college grad with no publishing experience.

Seriously, go to that Contact Us/About Us page and Google those names. Is their other job selling handicrafts on ebay?

Bernita said...

More good stuff from "The December Code" - An exercise im common sense.

Anonymous said...

Do you believe there is a reverse "Honeymoon Period"? Let's call it the "Trial Period".

With a publisher let's say a decent, but new publisher starts up. Let's say some of their editors or writers just don't work out and after a few months it becomes clear and they clear out the riff raff. Then let's say, whether it is initiated by the people let go, or not, that a lot of online people take this as a reason to throw every word they can at the publisher to soil them. should a publisher also be avoided if they are being put on trial for what could very well be normal mistakes and growing pains?

No, I'm not profiling a specific publisher, I'm actually wondering because I have often seen (in certain well know author-like places) agents who have been with reputable companies split off to form their own company and in that time period of establishing themselves a lot of people jump on them for reasons that ultimately are just that they are new. I know it's somewhat different with publishers and agents.

But how do you know if you are in the "The Honeymoon Period" or if the publisher is just going through "The Trial"?

Oh, and is it worth going with a new place (that has none of the warning signs) if you know your work is very niche (like an explicit fetish romantica, or GLBT erotica. I know there are many places that will consider those, but not nearly as many as other genres) and therefore is a hard sell period.

littlebirdblue said...

Even print pubs can have similar problems with editing and sales and distribution. Oh, and cover art. Your favourite.

December/Stacia said...

And the sad thing, Seeley, is that they'll be swamped with submissions soon from people desperate to be published. :-(

Lol at handcrafts on ebay!

Thanks Bernita. I don't think this installment is as well structured as my last ones--this week writing 15k words and editing two novels really took it out of me--but hopefully it's still useful.

BernardL said...

Another good one, D. It's easy to give rave reviews until the royalty checks don't live up to the hype.

December/Stacia said...

Hmm. Michele, I'd say trust your judgment on that one. It's impossible to say to avoid even the slightest whiff of scandal, because scandal is everywhere these days. I would be cautious, certainly, and I'd ask around a LOT before signing.

As far as niches go, yes. If you're writing, say, f/f, there just aren't as many options out there, so you probably have a better chance doing well because people looking for f/f might be willing to try a new publisher in a way people looking for m/m or regular erorom or romance might not.

I'd still look for everything else on that list though, and be prepared not to sell a lot, at least at first.

Very true, lbl. Ah yes, cover art. :-) Next week I'm going to discuss more general warning signs--how to tell a publisher may be having problems.

Serena Joy said...

You're doing a great job with this series, DQ. This is all very informative and a definite keeper.

Rhian / Crowwoman said...

This series is really giving me alot of food for thought Stacember!
You are correct about readers being loyal to certain tried and true e-publishers. It doesn't mean another can't open in what certainly a growing market but the new e-pubs pretty much have only one shot to snag that exploring reader. The reader picks a book that is not quite up to snuff, or has trouble with their store, or doesn't think the site look professional - they're gone, never to return. Been there, done that with all three instances in play.

Rhian / Crowwoman said...

errr - sorry for the typos. gah.

December/Stacia said...

Exactly Bernard! I don't know how I managed to miss your comment earlier while I was commenting but I did. But yes, it's easy to love a publisher until you realize they can't provide the sales.

Thanks Serena! I do feel like this latest installment is bit lame, but hopefully the point still gets across. :-) No gamlbng with your work!

December/Stacia said...

That's it exactly, Rhian. There is always room at the top (don't let them tell you that there is not)--but a publisher doesn;t get a lot of chances, and there aren't as many chances with epubs as there are with print (at least that's what I think.)
I'm too tipsy to notice the typos.

Arin Rhys said...

Though, what about authors who refuse to believe that anything is wrong? Their honeymoon with a publisher could go on until the place bombs. It seemed like a lot of the Trisk authors were almost willfully ignorant of the rumors and scandal swirling around them. Will you be covering that sort of thing in your next post?

Anonymous said...

One of the things some authors do that annoys the piss out of me, is sucking up on chat loops.

"Oh my publisher is the BESTEST because they hold my hand when I tinkle and wipe my nose when I sneeze"

These are the same people who will jump down the throats of authors who voice concerns about said publishers.

For example, I recall a Trisk author very diplomatically asking about her rights on some blog somewhere (this was a while ago) and 2 other Trisk authors basically told her to shut up or fuck off.

The girl wasnt even complaining, poor thing. But some authors want so badly to champion their publishers (IMO, as a career move, not out of genuine concern) that they twist shit like that.

(Sorry to mention Trisk.. its just the example I recall...)

December/Stacia said...

Arin, there's nothing you can do about people who refuse to see what's in front of them. The only thing to do is try and be there for them when they fall.

I agree, Isa. That kind of thing has always bothered me.

Lynne Simpson said...

One of the first things I do is a search to see if the publisher is even incorporated to do business. If they're planning to pay anyone, they need a federal tax ID.

I know people who've signed with publishers that didn't have ANY of this stuff in place.

Anonymous said...

Ooo, good advice Lynne! I just wanted to drop by and say I had a blast at the chat today :)

Anonymous said...

How appropriate that my honeymoon only lasted a few days. ;~)>


December/Stacia said...

That is excellent, Lynne! Thanks so much for that!

Hey, it was cool having you there, Michele, thanks for coming! :-)

It is appropriate indeed, V95. But a little sad. :-)