services provided by publishing houses?

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services provided by publishing houses?

Postby trixie » 25 Mar 2011, 13:16

Hi gang,
Likely by now, you've heard about the Amanda Hocking/St. Martin's Press book deal. If not, here's the link to the NY Times article:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/books/amanda-hocking-sells-book-series-to-st-martins-press.html

Here is a direct quote from Mr. Matthew Shear at St. Martin's Press about the plus side of going the "traditional" route:
“But a publisher provides an extraordinary amount of knowledge into the whole publishing process. We have the editors, we have the marketers, we have the art directors, we have the publicists, we have the sales force. And they can go out and get Amanda’s books to a much, much bigger readership than she had been able to get to before.”

One of the more common critiques I've heard about her books was the need for more/better editing.

So on the one hand, agents/publishers are saying "We're not going to edit for you, do all of that before you bring it to us." And on the other hand, Mr. Shear above is touting the fact that editors will hit your ms before it goes to print. [You could also replace "edit" in the above example with marketing, sales, or advertising...]

Before anyone points it out: I know--I KNOW--your ms must be in top shape before you shop it out to potential agents, so I'm not saying people should send out drafts and hope an agent can read between the grammatically incorrect lines to see the gem beneath.

However, one of my (many) fears of the query process is that an agent (or their assistant?) will see my misuse of a semi-colon or inappropriately placed comma, and automatically give me the stamp of rejection.

Is the pendulum swinging more towards a middle, common ground? Have publishers seen enough potential clients flee to the indie scene while still being inundated with poorly crafted drafts, that they feel the need to take a step towards the authors and maybe meet in the middle?

Mr. Shear's comment suggested the editing function as something self-published authors don't automatically have, but I guess I never believed traditional authors received much in the way of editing, art, or sales services from their publishing houses either.
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby Margo » 25 Mar 2011, 13:53

trixie wrote:However, one of my (many) fears of the query process is that an agent (or their assistant?) will see my misuse of a semi-colon or inappropriately placed comma, and automatically give me the stamp of rejection.


A semi-colon misuse, no. Constant, yes. But the reality is that punctuation issues are usually the least of a manuscript's problems. With those other problems also, frequently, comes the punctuation issues. So the person gets a rejection and assumes it's based on something it's not, or they are lucky enough to get a small amount of feedback, most of which they don't understand because they aren't familiar with the terms or the concepts. They latch onto the one or two things they actually do understand, like, "You need to clean up your punctuation." They completely ignore something like, "This lacks tension." Or, "The pace is erratic." Or, "It lacks voice/The voice doesn't stand out for me."

trixie wrote:Is the pendulum swinging more towards a middle, common ground? Have publishers seen enough potential clients flee to the indie scene while still being inundated with poorly crafted drafts, that they feel the need to take a step towards the authors and maybe meet in the middle?


I think people might not be aware that there are different kinds of editing. An agent or publisher might feel comfortable taking on a client who needs proofreading but not one that needs major developmental editing.

trixie wrote:Mr. Shear's comment suggested the editing function as something self-published authors don't automatically have, but I guess I never believed traditional authors received much in the way of editing, art, or sales services from their publishing houses either.


Do trad-published authors get edited? Less by editors, more by agents. There are some big-name authors who refuse anything but proofreading. (The passive-aggressive way to get this is to miss your deadlines so the publisher only has time to do a quick proofread. Bad practice, though.)

Do they get art? Yep, that's one of the few things they do get. The publisher handles the cover (and the title). The author gets to make comments on the cover, but they don't have the final say.

Sales service? You mean publicity? Debut authors, not much. There is the occasional exception. Debuts and midlisters are going to be primarily responsible for their own publicity.
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby trixie » 25 Mar 2011, 14:06

Thanks, Margo. I think I'm just trying to find any way to twist, shape, and contort the current state of indie vs. traditional publishing routes to somehow benefit me if/when the day ever comes.

And by benefit, I mean make it possible. :)
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby Guardian » 25 Mar 2011, 14:16

I believe the publishers doesn't know what they truly want. They're telling us to edit our work to 100% perfect, yet they're advertising themselves with pro editors that without a writer can't live. It's already a contradiction. I'm saying this a long time ago. Of course, there is a different type of editing, what Margo mentioned, but right now the agents are demanding both editing from the writers.

"We have the editors, we have the marketers, we have the art directors, we have the publicists, we have the sales force."

And you have agents whose actually doesn't read anything and handling the writers as some tertiary elements. So, you may have all of these when the actual manuscripts are never reaching you. By the way; marketing. If you have the marketing, why the agents are asking the following; do we capable to market our very own work? Is there any opportunity? If yes, list it (If not, instant reject.). I already asked few times; if we must edit our work to 100%, if we must make our very own advertisment and promote our own work as the agents are demanding all of these, also we must beg to agents to actually read our works or at least response to letters, why should we work with them at all? Because they can offer us art directors? Freelance artists are usually the same quality and they're much cheaper. And actually the writer will have the last work in it. And they have sales force? I never heard that a book was sold in greater numbers, because of the publisher's name.

However, one of my (many) fears of the query process is that an agent (or their assistant?) will see my misuse of a semi-colon or inappropriately placed comma, and automatically give me the stamp of rejection.

If you actually get a read. There is the if. The problem is; the present system is too bureaucratic. There are too many middle men, whose are trying to tell the writers they should do with their very own work. Write a query, beg to the agent and maybe, just maybe you'll get a read (If not, you're lucky if they respond at all.). But people won't wait, they won't beg and foremost they won't tolerate this behavior. Now, as the writers have a new opportunity, they'll take it. Personally I can understand them. If the publishers and the agents are now desperate... well, they can thank this to their very own elitist and arrogant behavior.

An agent or publisher might feel comfortable

As a writer friend of mine said not long ago, someone who is recently turned to self publishing and suggested me to do the same; Agents and publishers should work instead to feel themself comfortable. And actually I have to agree with this. Writers want to give some of the hard task to agents and publishers (Marketing, cover, editing). Yet, the agents and the publishers are rather telling the writer to do all of this. So why a writer should hire an agent and a publisher if they're pushing all the work, all the task back to us?
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby Margo » 25 Mar 2011, 14:22

trixie wrote:Thanks, Margo. I think I'm just trying to find any way to twist, shape, and contort the current state of indie vs. traditional publishing routes to somehow benefit me if/when the day ever comes.

And by benefit, I mean make it possible. :)


LOL. I know what you mean. I've grown more indie-friendly over the last few months and looked at the same issues. I can think of one thing I'd miss by going indie...the truly fabulous book cover. However, I write in a genre that is highly unlikely to give me the cover of my dreams. And some cover designers working with the indie's now are pretty darn good and not that expensive (by my definition - $200-300). I'm also not big on feeling I need traditional publication as validation.

Heck, let's be honest. After a candid discussion with an agent a few days ago, I'm planning on going indie - long term, not to get a Big 6 publisher's attention down the line.
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby Guardian » 25 Mar 2011, 14:27

Margo wrote:Heck, let's be honest. After a candid discussion with an agent a few days ago, I'm planning on going indie - long term, not to get a Big 6 publisher's attention down the line.

Honestly, I'm really surprised. I never thought you would go indie. :)
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby Margo » 25 Mar 2011, 14:27

Guardian wrote:Agents and publishers should work instead to feel themself comfortable.


As you said, nice in theory. But people who are going to spend time and money on you do need to feel the investment (risk) is justified. It can be argued, certainly, that they have become overly cautious and overly concerned with short-term profit over taking on a writer as a long-term investment, but just on the face of it you can't hold it against them if they want to feel at least a little sense of security about how they're investing their resources. Overly cautious, overly reckless, neither is good for business.
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby Margo » 25 Mar 2011, 14:28

Guardian wrote:
Margo wrote:Heck, let's be honest. After a candid discussion with an agent a few days ago, I'm planning on going indie - long term, not to get a Big 6 publisher's attention down the line.

Honestly, I'm really surprised. I never thought you would go indie. :)


You and me both. But seriously, it was a very enlightening conversation.
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby Guardian » 25 Mar 2011, 14:38

Overly cautious, overly reckless, neither is good for business.

I agree. The problem is they want us to do everything, so they can lower the mentioned risks and cost of investement. But the problem is, for us the risk still stands. And if they're not willing to work that much what they should be, because they want to feel themself safe, the risk is greater for us, because if they're not willing to care with our work, who will?

But seriously, it was a very enlightening conversation.

Yep. It sounds it has changed few things in you.
Last edited by Guardian on 25 Mar 2011, 15:16, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby trixie » 25 Mar 2011, 14:52

So I'm going to ask a follow up, but need to clarify the question.

I am a huge fan of what Amanda Hocking represents and as a fellow Minnesotan, I'm extra happy for her, but I should point out I haven't read any of her material. I don't mean to question her talent, but I will use her as an example.

Do you think the Big 6 waged a "week-long bidding war" for Amanda Hocking's material or the brand that has become Amanda Hocking, complete with $2M in sales, a massive following, the reluctant indie "darling," and really, a sales machine?

Going one step further, what if when Margo goes indie and has enormous success? Has the indie publishing playing field changed enough now that the bar of "enormous success" is almost $2M in sales on your own in order to get a traditional publishing contract?

If so, maybe I'd rather try my chances the traditional route...

EDIT: It is 5pm on a Friday, closing out an incredibly long week for me. If this post sounds like I'm diminishing the successes of Amanda H, please understand I don't mean it to. I'm just asking if pub houses are waiting until indie authors reach that level of success before courting them over to the traditional track.
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby Margo » 25 Mar 2011, 15:23

trixie wrote:I'm just asking if pub houses are waiting until indie authors reach that level of success before courting them over to the traditional track.


Actually, they tried courting her once before, when her sales hit 100,000 copies in a month...back in...December 2010? And H.P. Mallory was doing something like...40,000 copies a month, I think...when she went traditional. So, no, I don't think the publishers want to see 1,000,000 sales in a three or four months before they come calling. Then again, with the way royalties break down and the way the return process works, if you're selling 1,000,000 copies in a few months (and keeping $2 per copy)...why would you want to go traditional?

Of course, Amanda cited her reasons. I would have just hired a personal assistant (as many traditional authors have) and stayed indie. But that's armchair quarterbacking for you. Not my career, not my choice.

Let's hope I get to make that decision. I'd like the sales.
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby Guardian » 25 Mar 2011, 15:40

if you're selling 1,000,000 copies in a few months (and keeping $2 per copy)...why would you want to go traditional?

From 2 million you can publish traditionally (Marketing included). So, good question. Why would anyone want to go traditional after this?
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby trixie » 25 Mar 2011, 17:32

Amanda listed the fact that people couldn't get her books as one of her reasons for signing with StMP. I don't have one but I'll admit, my interest in Nook/Kindle/iPads grew after reading about her stories and successes. Amazon and B&N should make their own e-house publishing group complete with editors, art directors, and a sales staff to keep indies away from the traditional houses! Imagine the e-reader sales!

Margo, thanks for the additional information on pub houses going after Amanda earlier. I missed that.
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby siebendach » 25 Mar 2011, 17:50

trixie wrote:I guess I never believed traditional authors received much in the way of editing, art, or sales services from their publishing houses either.


Can anyone tell me any fiction book (new author, old author, anyone) that's being advertised by a traditional publisher --- anywhere? As far as I can see, all they do is get the book into bookstores (with the occasional little poster right there in the store). My parents tell me they used to see ads like that, a lot. But I haven't seen an ad for a fiction book on TV, the internet (except their own website, which is of course free), in print, or on a billboard in forever. Not even on the sides of buses or bus stops, or on those little overhead ads in subways.

I don't think any publisher, big or small, print or e-book --- spends a dime on that. For actually getting the word out about new books, you might as well scream out the window.
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Re: services provided by publishing houses?

Postby trixie » 25 Mar 2011, 19:28

siebendach wrote: But I haven't seen an ad for a fiction book on TV, the internet (except their own website, which is of course free), in print, or on a billboard in forever. Not even on the sides of buses or bus stops, or on those little overhead ads in subways.


I thought about this the other night. Since I don't have cable, I'm subjected to whatever I can find on basic tv. We have a station called Ion Television that shows reruns of Criminal Minds and Without a Trace each weeknight. At least once an hour I see terrible commercials for the latest and greatest James Patterson book. Every time I see one, I wonder who approved such a ridiculous and cheesy ad. What a waste of advertising funds. If I can find them on you tube, I'll post a link.

Edit: Ever have one of those moments when you think you've been punk'd? I just did a search on you tube for the James Patterson book commercial and I think the one I saw was intended to be a joke, but it was really just so bad that I couldn't tell. If I can find any others, I'll post.
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