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Put your money where your mouth is

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Nov. 2nd, 2012 | 09:17 am
mood: gratefulgrateful

Yesterday I turned in the revision of Levitating Las Vegas, my New Adult paranormal romantic comedy coming out on May 7 with Pocket Star, an ebook-only line from Simon & Schuster. As you may know, that was my NaNoWriMo book from 2008. Selling it took a lot of revisions and a lot of time...but ultimately, it took the market finally waking up to New Adult books, which makes me very happy.

I have always loved this book (as I have told you repeatedly). I'm thrilled that it sold. And as I was revising it, I was hoping against hope that it's something other people will like as much as I do, so that I can continue to write books set in this fictional world. If this book sells well, the publisher will want more. If it doesn't, they won't. Period.

And that's where you come in. The internet has opened so many possibilities for people to make a living in ways they couldn't have before. People can write books and sell them to a publisher like I do, or they can publish them on their own. They can design covers and ads. They can make crafts and sell them. I have already voted for President Obama, for many reasons, but one of the most important is that his Affordable Care Act will allow self-employed folks like me to work from home and entrepreneurs to start their own businesses without having to be married to someone who has health insurance through work, and without worrying about getting sick and being faced with devastating health bills if they're on their own. Governor Romney has said he will repeal this legislation if elected, but if we keep the President and the law, we'll all have a lot more choices about how we make a living in the coming years.

However, self-employed people in the arts can't make a living at all if you don't support them. Publishers often decide whether to buy another book from a writer after the last book has been on shelves only a few weeks. Those few weeks of sales can make or break a career. When the fourth Twilight book came out...I know a lot of people loved this series, but some fans were disappointed in this last installment, and non-fans had a field day. So many of us YA authors had been very jealous of Ms. Meyer's success, and I remember thinking at the time that this is the height to which we are aspiring: public derision? and lots of money. Because people were purchasing this expensive hardback book just so they could read it and make fun of it online. Assuming they did not have unlimited funds to spend on books, they were buying this book they knew they would not like instead of four books they might have liked very much. Meyer's sales went up, ensuring she can now write whatever she wants for the rest of her life and publishers will buy it. Simultaneously, lots of my friends who are fantastic writers were not getting their contracts renewed--the writer's equivalent of getting laid off--because their books were not selling enough copies.

My point is certainly not to blame Meyer. The current popularity of YA owes a lot to her, because her books made readers out of a lot of reluctant teens (and adults!). My point is that your dollar makes a difference. It is a vote. It is your voice in which writers keep writing, which musicians keep recording, which magazines stay in business, which local bands continue to think giving up their weekends is worthwhile, which stores and restaurants stay open. We hear a lot about political voters being reluctant to go to the polls next Tuesday because they think their one vote won't make a difference, but of course we know it does, especially in such a tight election. In the same way, your voice telling your friends about a book you enjoyed is incredibly helpful to the author, but your vote--purchasing the book rather than borrowing it or skipping it, and purchasing it now before it's too late and the author has been let go by her publisher--is the deciding factor.

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Comments {11}


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from: jenniferechols
date: Nov. 2nd, 2012 06:02 pm (UTC)

I certainly agree that the business side of publishing can thwart your creative side. You have to keep the two things separate. Some really great writers are terrible marketers, but that makes perfect sense--the skill we are selling is writing, not marketing!

However, I don't really understand your friend's bitterness. Publishing is a business. It is not set up to be fair. Publishers want their books to make money. If they think your book will make money, they will publish it. If they don't, they won't. If they think they can get a return on funneling lots of money into marketing for your book, they will do it. If they don't, they won't. And maybe they are wrong in their assessment of what will sell well or where they are putting their marketing dollars, but all they have to work with is the information they have on that score. Their mission is not to be fair to writers, or to be nice to writers, but to make money, and it has always been so.

This is not a defense of publishers--just a reminder that publishing decisions are not personal, and for a writer to misread them that way damages nobody but the writer.

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from: lilrongal
date: Nov. 2nd, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)

I agree with you, and that's a hard reality for a lot of midlist authors to accept. I feel like he's really taking it personally and to heart and it's damaging a lot more than just him...it's also hurting his connections to the people he could work with in the industry. But sometimes you have to let things run their course, and I truly hope that the bitterness leaves him soon.

I had a book go on submission but not get published; and yet, I still love going to bookstores, I still love reading and meeting authors. I rejoice when friends of mine make NYT or get awards. I love to see them successful because it inspires me. Bookstores and libraries inspire me. And meeting authors is my favorite! :D

I'm not sure what lesson the universe is trying to teach him with regards to his books--he is really very talented and prolific as well, but the market took a turn just as his books (didn't actually b/c they decided to skip them) hit the shelves and that was pretty much the death for him. So he has a lot of bitterness towards the whole Twilight/paranormal thing because he feels like it ruined YA (but I think he really feels/means it ruined his career). The publisher contacted him and pushed him to publish this or that, and then they didn't bother to market the books at all... OR they'd market it but B&N would refuse to carry it because they didn't like the font or something, but the publisher wouldn't change it to get the book in the stores--I think those are things that really confused him (and me!). It's not like the books had been printed yet...and they did do such things (changing fonts, covers, etc.) for other midlist authors. Why push for something and then not follow through?

He got upset when he and another author (from the exact same imprint) were at the same event (I believe arranged by the publisher and the bookstore) and the publisher had obviously fawned all over this other author--taking her to dinner, sending promo materials for her, etc. while they didn't acknowledge him at all.... I know I would feel very hurt by that. But that was years ago..... and as you said, they don't care about feelings. They care about money!

And that's what confuses me. Why pay an advance, publish a book, and then NOT try to make the money back from it? Why just let it fall by the wayside?

The publishers who'd been excited for him just pretty much turned their backs on him. I can see why he'd be upset, I would be too. His books have been nominated for awards. He's got a little bit of notoriety. But the publishers have all but given up on him. He still loves writing and nothing could stop him from doing it, but I know he's been really disenchanted by the publishing world. However, I think there comes a point where anyone who has been disenchanted has to get over it and keep plugging, if for the sake of loving their craft.

Now, seeing all this has given me sort of an edge. If I ever get offers on a book I write I will think long and hard about this particular imprint, if they were to make an offer, as he is not the only author this happened to by a LONG shot. I see so many wonderful books on the clearance racks from this imprint, and it makes me sad.

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from: jenniferechols
date: Nov. 2nd, 2012 07:15 pm (UTC)

and as you said, they don't care about feelings. They care about money!

Oh now wait...I do think the individual people working for publishers care very much about an individual author's feelings--at least in my experience. The editors I've worked with have been super nice, even when they have been rejecting my work or telling me my book was not going to be shelved in a bookstore. All I'm saying is, it's not a publisher's mission to be nice to authors and make them feel good. If they were not in the business of publishing books that made money, they would go out of business quickly.

Now, as for why a publisher makes certain decisions that seem to doom a book's chances of breaking out, I can't say. There are so many factors at play. I think I can tell you with fair certainty that every published author, every single one, has felt that way and wondered that very same thing at some point. And I KNOW we have all thought, "Why does my publisher do X for this author but I only get Y, or nothing at all?"

That's why I say it's not personal. It can't possibly be personal if it happens to everybody.

And I would say the difference between an author who lets that kind of thing stifle him and want to quit, and an author who keeps plugging, is the decision of whether to let it bother you or not.

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