Publishers Behaving Badly, Part… I've Lost Count

blogpicThere seems to be a view in certain self-congratulatory circles that publishers have finally got to grips with the digital revolution, that they have weathered the fiercest part of the storm, and that they are well-placed now not just to survive, but to thrive.

There are innumerable problems with that view, of course, but today I’d like to focus on one core truth of this brave new world that publishers have failed to grasp.

Namely, there are only two essential components to publishing in the digital era: the writer and the reader.

All of the old middlemen – agents, publishers, distributors, retailers – have to justify their cut, as the writer can now bypass them and go direct to readers. The only middlemen (IMO) currently making a compelling case for their cut are retailers. Self-publishers are more than happy to fork over 30% to Amazon to access their ever-expanding customer base.

Publishers seem determined to move in the opposite direction: making the proposition of publishing with them less attractive rather than more attractive, reducing advances, worsening contract terms, and treating writers as marks rather than partners – despite whatever guff accompanies the launch of their latest initiatives.

The recent actions of two of the largest trade publishers have drawn criticism from all across the writing community – not just self-publishers – and are thus not as easily dismissed as the rantings of a jaundiced indie zealot.

Let’s start with Random House; the rest can wait in line.

Digital-First Imprints Put Authors Last

By now, you have probably heard of the scandalous terms Random House offered authors via its new digital-first imprints – Hydra, Alibi, Flirt & Loveswept – before being forced to revise some of the terms in an embarrassing climb-down.

If you are already familiar with this part of the story, you can skip to Problems Still Remain below. For those who missed it, or want a quick refresher, here’s a recap.

The original terms offered by Random House were:

  1. No advance.
  2. Assignment of all rights and subsidiary rights for the lifetime of the copyright.
  3. No meaningful reversion clause, meaning you’ll never get any of these rights back – even the ones they don’t use – unless Random House deign to return them.
  4. A 50% net royalty rate. Which sounds okay until you realise that “net” doesn’t just mean what the publisher receives from the retailer, but that amount minus all the costs of publishing and promoting the book.

Watchdog group Author Beware broke the story, and a few days later John Scalzi eviscerated Random House in this excellent post. (The latter especially is worth reading.)

It should be obvious to all of you why you should never sign anything with terms like this. But just to hammer the point home, it combines the worst of both worlds: no print distribution (but you give up your print rights), no advance, you sign your rights away forever, and you have no reasonable means of getting them reverted at any point.

And lest there be any confusion, we’re talking about all the rights. Even though Random House only plans to publish your work as an e-book, they want print rights. They want audio rights. They want foreign translation rights. THEY WANT MOVIE RIGHTS.

Also, that “50% net” is incredibly misleading. Under the original terms, before Random House starts paying you any royalties, you would have to accumulate enough sales to cover the costs of publishing and marketing your book.

To be clear: none of this was speculation. I saw an offer letter from one of the imprints. I have also seen excerpts from the contract that deal with how the publisher calculates the (extremely misleading) “net” royalty rate. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware has been passed similar information regarding Hydra, and Scalzi has seen the (original) contract from Alibi.

SFWA v Random House

The obvious egregiousness of these contract terms led to the SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Association, of which Scalzi is President) de-listing Hydra & Alibi as qualifying markets for SFWA membership.

Random House attempted a mealy-mouthed defense of their horrendous contract terms, before being slapped down again in a terse letter by the SWFA, which also threatened to de-list Random House as whole if these terms became the norm for the publisher.

The story spread quickly, covered in outlets as diverse as Boing BoingForbes, and The Guardian, before Random House announced changes to its terms.

Problems Still Remain

The new terms from Random House are an improvement on those originally offered. Gone is the requirement for an author to pay back the costs that are normally borne by a publisher – for the ebook version at least. If the book is selected for a print edition, the author will still have to repay those costs before seeing any royalties.

From the excerpts of the contract I saw, these include the cost of printing, binding, shipping, storing, distributing, and dealing with returns.

Random House also claim that the out-of-print clause has been strengthened and allows the author “to request reversion of his or her rights three years after publication if the title fails to sell 300 copies in the 12 months immediately preceding the request.”

No-one has seen the new contracts from Random House, but I’m a little worried about the word “request” there. Without seeing the contract language, we don’t know if Random House are compelled to grant that “request.”

Indeed, if you are a regular reader of The Passive Voice (and you should be) you will know that publishers can often claim a contract provision means one thing, when it really means another.

Of course, even if the out-of-print clause is worded in the author’s favor, there’s nothing to stop Random House dropping the price of the book to $0.01 for a single day and selling 300 copies before jacking the price back up again, and disqualifying the book for rights reversion.

If you think that’s something they wouldn’t be capable of, I respectfully direct you to the original terms they offered authors (and signed authors under), before it became a PR mess.

I find it amusing that Random House first stuck to its guns, and then only agreed to make some changes when headlines appeared comparing them to a “predatory vanity press” when they have recently struck a deal to merge with Penguin – who run their own predatory vanity press (which Random House will soon co-own!). But I digress.

Author Solutions Class Action?

Speaking of predatory vanity presses, a class action suit has been launched against PublishAmerica. You can read all about that here, along with details of the suit and a call for writers who have been “published” by PublishAmerica to submit details to the attorneys handling the suit.

Joining PublishAmerica in the dock could be Penguin-owned Author Solutions. One of the firms involved in the PublishAmerica case – Giskan Solotaroff Anderson & Stewart – are also investigating Author Solutions for potential class action suit.

I know that several of you have been victims of the various subsidiaries of Author Solutions (such as Xlibris, iUniverse, Trafford, Author House, Palibrio, Inkubook, WordClay, FuseFrame, PitchFest, Author Learning Center, BookTango, etc.).

The law firm involved in this potential class action suit is trying to collect as much information as possible at this preliminary stage. While there are many steps between opening an investigation and lodging a suit (or indeed having your day in court), sharing your experiences with this law firm can only help. You can do that here.

Of course, Penguin’s purchase of Author Solutions makes them a juicier target for any such action, and if Penguin attempt to wriggle out of any liability, words like this from Penguin CEO John Makinson will come back to haunt him:

“We spent time getting to know the people at Author Solutions and their sophisticated operation,” Makinson said. “They have skills that can help us at Penguin.”

Simon & Schuster Offers Bribes To Pimp Author Solutions

A fellow publishing blogger has passed on the following email:


Simon & Schuster recently launched Archway Publishing as a new type of offering for self-publishing authors.  With services delivered by Author Solutions, Archway was developed to help authors achieve their publishing goals and reach their desired audience.  S&S has provided guidelines on book design, introduced certain unique self-publishing services, designed packages tailored to meet specific author objectives, and will monitor titles for potential acquisition. 

Your blog is an important resource to help authors navigate the variety of self-publishing options.  We believe Archway is a unique new service for authors, and would be valued by your readers.  The Archway Affiliate Program enables partners to earn a $100 bounty for each author they refer who publishes with Archway.  Click here to learn more about the affiliate program.  In addition, we’d like to extend to your audience a 10% discount off any Archway package, when referred though affiliate links on your site.  We can also create contests, webinars, and creative for your site, or discuss other ways to work together.

Please let me know if you have time for a brief call and visit to learn more about Archway.



I’ve redacted the names (and the emphasis is mine), but I can confirm that the person signing the email is a Marketing Associate at Simon & Schuster, and the phone number attached goes to the offices of Simon & Schuster.

While Author Solutions have offered a similar “bounty” (don’t you just love that word!) in the past (see here), this time it’s coming direct from Simon & Schuster. It appears that Simon & Schuster are learning just as much from Author Solutions as Penguin hope to.

When Simon & Schuster joined forces with Author Solutions to rip off writers, there was a firestorm of criticism. Instead of addressing those critics, instead of revising their scammy program, Simon & Schuster has decided to pay people to lie about it.

If you see anyone pimping Archway Publishing or Author Solutions, ask them how much they are getting paid.

Dymocks-owned D Publishing is Toast

As we have seen from the Random House debacle, public pressure can have an effect, which is why I’ll keep blogging about Author Solutions. In case you think that this kind of pressure can only effect the more media-friendly stories involving traditional publishers, think again.

D Publishing was launched in December 2011 (by Australian bookselling chain Dymocks) with some of the most oppressive terms I’ve seen to date. The good news is that Dymocks has announced the closure of D Publishing, effective by month’s end.

I don’t know the full details behind the decision, but I can’t help but feel that the massive public outcry over the terms steered many writers away.

Penguin has been more successful at shrugging off criticism of Author Solutions. Indeed, Penguin CEO John Makinson recently said he was “proud” of the purchase.

He might not feel the same way if the class action suit is lodged. After all, we all know how the last one went.

Free Books For You

If you’ve made it this far without reaching for the whiskey, I feel like I owe you something. As you might have noticed from the sidebar, I’ve three free books today on Amazon.

The big one I’m pushing is my South American historical adventure A Storm Hits Valparaiso, but you can also pick up my short stories Transfection and If You Go Into The Woods for free too.

My historical is part of a bigger promo where you can pick up some fantastic books for just 99c. Any downloads/shares are appreciated. Happy reading!

If You Go Into The Woods by David GaughranNEW_Storm_Cover_Smallertransfection final amazon - MEDIUM

UPDATE: I don’t want any non-Kindle owners to miss out, so if that’s you, leave a note in the comments and I’ll send you a copy of any of these when the exclusivity period with Amazon ends (soon).

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

100 Replies to “Publishers Behaving Badly, Part… I've Lost Count”

  1. This is both shocking and enlightening, David. It just leaves me depressed at the prospect of spending as much time blogging and doing social media and marketing my books as I would writing them. How disciplined you must be. Will you ever write a post on how you organize your day and what disciplines you have in place to accomplish all that is necessary to be an author? Do you ever sleep? I’m about to embark on all of this, I just hope I have the energy. I suppose this is nothing new, writers have always had to market themselves. It’s also difficult to explain to friends and acquaintances who keep asking when my book will be available on the shelves of Barnes and Noble. I would love a post on how to position yourself when you are self publishing your books and lack the validation of traditional publishing. Alas nothing is like it used to be, but many of the readers of the world expect it to be.The glamour seems to be gone. As a self published author, do you ever feel like a star? Did you have a book launch party for your last book? If so, how did you organize it and how did it go. I’d love a post on some of the etiquette of being self published and doing it with style. Thanks for your blog!

  2. This is a really great post. I’m so glad I stumbled across your blog several months ago. I’ve learned a whole lot about self publishing from you and it’s all been super helpful. I have a lot of people in my life who tell me I shouldn’t self publish – people who still believe that the only authors who go that route are desperate and have been turned down many times before.

    Also, thanks so much for the freebies!! I’ve been really interested in reading your work and recently added them to my to read list and then you give them away for free! Awesome! x

  3. The days and hours of the traditional publishers are counted unless they nourish the author, otherwise they are caving their own grave. Welcome the digital era in which all authors, depending their abilities are able to sell to their readers. My three books were published just before they started this predatory practice. Same as with Borders bye, bye.

  4. Once again, great reading. Sometimes I wonder what I got myself into, trying to write and publish books. I wish I knew your blog before I published my first book (with AuthorHouse). Well, one is never too old to learn. frightening is to read the whole industry is a minefield with names of publishing companies that I would normally “trust” as they are so “famous”.

  5. I’m so glad you’re blogging again! If it’s not too late, can I get in on your generous offer of free books? …It’s a bit embarrassing, but I don’t actually have an Amazon account, let alone a kindle.

  6. An excellent, informative post! In case your readers have forgotten how Penguin raked me over the coals and terminated my contract, please see my blog posts, “Sleeping With The Enemy,” and “Married To the Hit man.” http://www.davenport Thanx! Kiana Davenport

  7. Thanks so much for your honest and scathing report on the shenanigans some publishers are up to. The authors who take deals like the ones offered in the egregious contracts are not only hurting themselves, but also all the other aspiring authors. As long as publishers can get away with outrageous terms, they will. But I have to say, I’m bothered by your offer of free books. While we all love “free” and limited giveaways can be a good marketing strategy, I believe that all the free ebooks offered these days are also killing sales for the rest of us and teaching readers that our work should be free.

    1. Hi Pamela, libraries have been providing free books to patrons for generations, and that has neither diminishes the public’s appetite for books, nor affected writers’ or publishers’ ability to make a living. Many would argue it has had the opposite effect. The same goes for second hand bookstores, and indeed the widespread practice of one friend lending a book to another. I would go even further and say that the great selection of free books benefits all self-publishers, as it makes the pie bigger by drawing new readers and lapsed readers back into the market. And rather than demeaning books in the eyes of those readers, it’s kindling (or re-igniting) a passion for books that could stay with them for the rest of their lives.

      1. I should have said, Random House revised their contracts in response to RWA’s protest. RWA has also taken HQ to task. They are very pro-active in trying to protect their members.

  8. “Gone is the requirement for an author to pay back the costs that are normally borne by a publisher . . . ”

    There were costs borne by publishers? Hmm. Oh, yeah, they have to make a call to the printer, right?

    Am I overlooking something, here?

    1. In a standard traditional publishing deal, the author receives an advance which must be covered before they start receiving royalties. In the case of (the original terms of) Random Houses’s digital imprints, the author didn’t receive an advance, but also didn’t receive any royalties until the costs which are normally borne by the publisher (e.g. editing, cover design, formatting, marketing) were repaid.

  9. Thanks for shining a like on the murky corners of self publishing deals. By the way, I’d like to think that the editor might form a holy trinity with the reader and the writer in the digital publishing world!

  10. Thanks for this information, it has come at a very timely moment. I have just submitted two manuscripts to Random House for e-book consideration and am awaiting a reply. If they are interested, I shall study the contract with intense concentration! I certainly have no intention of signing away all rights. Thanks.

  11. Thanks for interesting, informative, post.

    Writers have shown it can be done without the big guns, and anyone who signs away their rights like that, have my sympathy. I am so relieved I listened to my writing friend, and took the s/p route. Readers have shown me they want to read my books, and are happy to do so, regardless of who published them.

  12. May they continue to keep missing the mark and bury themselves sooner.

    The link to ‘Transfection’ doesn’t work. The others do though, so I went that-a-way! … thanks for the read.

  13. Hi David:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I took the opportunity to get a free copy of A Storm Hits Valparaiso. Feeling a little guilty (since I waited until you offered it for free), I also went ahead and bought Let’s Get Digital. I bet you never considered that free books might guilt people into buying, did you?

    By the way, is South Americana dead? I haven’t seen an update in some time.

    1. South Americana isn’t dead, more cryogenically frozen frozen until I can rejig some stuff and clear a regular slot for it. I’d imagine that might happen when I dive back into my historical WIP, which will be when I get Visible off to the editor so… soon?

      Thanks for downloading Storm (and Digital). Hope you enjoy them both!

  14. You have done one of the most thorough examinations of this whole mess that I have read, and it is much appreciated.

    I receive your blog regularly and would like to accept your offer of free EPUB versions of
    A Storm Hits Valparaiso,
    Transfection, and
    If You Go Into The Woods,
    whenever the Amazon exclusivity is over.

    Thanks in advance.

  15. A brilliant, brilliant post that exactly pinpoints why an industry is in absolute disarray. Thank you for taking the time to write it – I learned a lot. It’s so important that readers are taking control of what they read – I continue to broadcast this message too! Oh, and I just downloaded all of your free books – thank you so much – what a gift. I will return the favour with reviews.

  16. Dave

    Just curious, can I refer to this collective as scumbags now without geting censored? 😉

    And thanks for this post! I was having a hard time keeping all the new “services” straight these last few months now that they’re popping up like weeds.

  17. The sad part is, the model the big houses are trying to foist off on their authors are being emulated by desperate small houses whose reputations and public images have taken a beating in public forums of late. Because they’re smaller houses, they don’t get the press they do when Random House pulls this kind of stunt, but the same rules apply.
    Folks, when you’re considering publishing with ANY company, do your homework first. This includes requesting sample copies of their contracts, so you can decide for yourself what terms you can live with and which ones are deal-breakers. Then NEGOTIATE. If they won’t, don’t look back. If one publisher is interested in your product, others will be too.
    Thank you for an excellent and insightful post, David!

  18. I’ve been saying for a long time that traditional publishers are totally out of touch with the new reality. The tactics they are now using are just helping dig the grave faster.

  19. “IMO the rules are an anachronism, something from the days when self-publishing was considered the last resort of the desperate” -DG

    I think the anachronism goes even deeper than that. You are coming up on a generation of writers/consumers who are not only more tech savvy, but are becoming more savvy about the legal system as well (i.e. the whole Aaron Schwartz case goes to prove that).

    I realize that the world changed only in the past couple of decades however, during the industrial revolution even a horse would have gotten the hint that they were obsolete by now.

    They are not getting that this internet ‘thing’ isn’t going away. They are not getting it is far deeper and treacherous than simple social networking. Like social networking was all people use their computer for. Like there weren’t bigger stakes out there. And if they think social networking is only about passing around cute kitten videos then they can watch as we social network the hell out of all their corrupt policies, their slight of hand incentives, and their predatory tactics.

    Thanks as always, Dave, for your source-gathering and intelligent insights.

  20. I’ve been blogging repetitively that authors create the product (which is story, not book) and readers consume the product. Everyone else is in between. They have to justify that in-between position. As both an author and publisher I see that very clearly. In fact, we don’t view ourselves as a publisher at Cool Gus, we view ourselves as partners with our authors, supporting them first and foremost. If we don’t provide value, they don’t need us. And the percentage we take for providing what we do, is far less than any publisher in NY.

  21. Thanks for blowing the whistle on these publishers. I wonder when they’ll start offering a “dead-or-alive bounty” for authors. Although the digital age appears to reduce the role of middlemen, I’m afraid that one middleman has become way too powerful. Amazon.

    Exposing and condemning predatory publishers is good. But maybe indie authors as a community should make a greater effort to support the digital platforms that give authors a fair deal. It seems to me that Smashwords has always put the author first, but I don’t know enough to make a short list of the most favorable publishers for e-books. I’d be interested in some informed reportage on that front.

    Of course the catch is that Smashwords and others simply can’t compete with the lock that Amazon seems to have on the market.

    1. John;
      I always begin any book at Smashwords, in every format, including mobi, for Kindle. As long as I keep the pricing in line, I can eventually also publish a Kindle version on KDP, then I still have the option to send out advance freebies as I wish, using SW coupon codes. Amazon doesn’t complain, as I don’t opt for select anyway. SW also distributes my eBooks to Sony, IBook, Kobo and others, so it works out nicely in the distribution, too.

  22. An eye-opening post.

    I’m afraid it has always been hard to make much money from books (fiction, at least) – barring the very rare blockbuster best-seller, and those are almost impossible to predict. It costs money up front to produce a book, to edit it, to market it, to distribute it – and they don’t sell for much. Publishers have a hard time to make money if they have to give too much to the author, and authors have a hard time to make money if they have to give too much to the publisher, There just isn’t enough of the pie to go around.

  23. It’s not a “dog eat dog” world out there in the publishing industry, it appears to be a “monster eat baby” world. Sheesh! Gone are the days of ethical practices (if ever those days existed in the literary business…

  24. Oh, my. A sober warning to be on the alert. Thanks, David. Even gladder I’m an Indie author now. It’s hard to feel sorry for the big boys; they’ve had everything their way for so long.

    Viva La Revolución…and more power to Indies everywhere. 🙂

  25. “Strings, my lord, is false.” Julius Caser Act IV Scene III.

    Yep! We could be playing into the hands of a false instrument. Thank you, David, for your unflinching pursuit of truth. I am headed to John Scalzi’s article.

  26. An excellent summing-up of the current shenanigans, thanks. For many venturing into the world of self-publishing for the first time, myself included, these imprints seem like an enticing prospect, until you start doing any proper research on them. One of the biggest barriers I’ve seen indie writers (and I’d agree there’s little need to distinguish any more between ‘indie’ and ‘mainstream’) concerned about is the idea that you need heavy investment and know-how to effectively market your book. That’s a perception that needs to be changed and is simply a process of education; there’s an ample wealth of knowledge within the indie (there I go again!) community to challenge the perception. Thanks again for a thought-provoking post.

  27. Sometime you need to offer books on other sites too. I don’t have a kindle so I can never take advantage of these offers 🙁 but I am more than willing to reblog and pass it on!
    Thanks for keeping up the press on this snake oil salespeople!

    1. I sympathize Christine, but we (self-publishers) don’t have an easy way to set books free everywhere, and the only reliable way to set books free is through Amazon – who demand exclusivity for a spell. However, that spell is coming to an end for all three of these. Both short stories will be uploaded to all retailers in a few days, and Storm will be up there at the start of April. I’m happy to send you copies of each then. How does that sound? 🙂

  28. Reblogged this on lambertnagle and commented:
    As I’ve been discussing copyright issues over the past couple of days I see this post as a public information bulletin for indie writers. Thanks David Gaughran for keeping us up to date on these lousy publishing contracts. And I am looking forward to reading a download of David’s bok, A Storm Hits Valparaiso.

  29. Nice summary. I’ve been watching the traffic accident happen for the last week with a certain amount of fascination. It’s hard to look away.

    @Jaye: You said: “Still, the biggest barrier we (and I’m talking about writers in general here) is to get writers over the attitude of “I just wanna write and let others take care of the other stuff.””

    While I agree that is just one attitude that will hold writers back the other, just as difficult a barrier, and the one that leads writers into the clutches of badly-behaving publishers like hypnotized bunnies is the calcified idea that they’re not real authors if they’re not a) published by New York b) in paperback c) in every bookstore in North America.

    If some of these writers could grasp that legitimate publication doesn’t have to involve Fifth Avenue anymore and that alternatives will make them just as happy, and probably healthier and wealthier, too, then there would be far fewer victims for the olde publishing machine to grind to dust.



    1. I think different factors hold different groups of writers back from self-publishing. I know from the emails I receive that many are laboring under the impression that it’s incredibly difficult, or that it requires specialist knowledge that they’ll never be able to wrap their head around.

      The funny thing is, if they have already written a good book, they’ll have accomplished something far more difficult than publishing the bloody thing! Of the three main tasks a self-publisher has to get a story into a readers’ hands – writing, publishing, and marketing – publishing is BY FAR the easiest. And publishers won’t give you much help with the other two.

      Having said that, there is certainly a sizable group (who are less likely to email someone like me) for whom being published by New York carries a certain cachet.

      Speaking from my own experience, my goals have changed dramatically in the last few years. Before, my primary aim was to get an agent and then a traditional publishing deal. I spent many hours daydreaming about seeing my book on the shelves, or going through revisions from my editor, or negotiating a deal, or doing a book tour. It took quite some time before I realized that all these things were symbols of something more basic: getting my stories into the hands of readers, something that you don’t need a publisher to do.

      I have paperbacks, and I’ve got my books in stores. While that stuff is cool, it doesn’t come close to the feeling you get from selling lots of e-books and paying bills with your royalty checks.

  30. All of this wrangling is the free market at work – publishers, no longer having a monopoly on routes to publishing for authors, are finally having to respond when authors cry foul over terms. It was somewhat entertaining to see SFWA (who doesn’t admit indie authors) and RH (a trad-publisher) spar over what constitutes a “proper” book (i.e. only one with an advance from a publisher, etc). And while I appreciate Scalzi’s always-brilliant attacks/analysis, I’d like to see SFWA reconsider their own terms for who they let in the door as a “proper” SF author (hint: it has to do with sales and readers, not how much advance you get from a trad-publisher).

    But that’s a battle for a different day… sometime in the next couple years, I see A LOT of this shifting the balance of power more in favor of authors.

    1. IMO the rules are an anachronism, something from the days when self-publishing was considered the last resort of the desperate. I can see why they first brought in the rule, but the logic behind it is now out-dated. They should open up, of course. It’s ridiculous that a self-publisher could sell a million e-books and not be admitted.

      1. Exactly! When Hugh Howey wasn’t admitted to SFWA until he had his first (foreign) print contract, that’s when I realized how out-of-date they (SFWA) really were. I hope they figure out how to get up to speed soon, especially considering how SF indie authors are breaking all kinds of ground in the indie world.

      2. Agreed. NINC and the Romance Writers of America have paths to recognition for Indie authors. It’s silly that a professional organization of people who write about the future lag behind the rest.

  31. Thanks so much. I put a link to this article in my writers/editors group on Linkedin. There is a weird idea circulating there that indie e-publishing somehow damages the reputation of writing… I am glad I am not the only one to see that the problem is isn’t with writers or readers… Let the publishing industry take the bad rap, let the writers say what they please, then readers will have something to be interested in.

  32. Excellent summary, and a due warning to any new authors that still think they should be looking for a deal with the “traditional” crooks with whom we used to try to work. Thank you David.

  33. God bless you, David, for all you do. It has be a dreadful shock for the big publishers to finally come to the realization that writers are well-connected on the internet and are talking openly. Moreso, that writers are pushing back against shady, unfair practices. Still, the biggest barrier we (and I’m talking about writers in general here) is to get writers over the attitude of “I just wanna write and let others take care of the other stuff.” That attitude will get them EATEN. Taking care of business looks difficult and complicated from the outside, but you know and readers of this blog know that every aspect of the publishing business is manageable and doable.

    Keep at ’em, tiger. You are doing far more good than you will ever know.

  34. The desperation which is evident in these onerous terms and acquisition tactics can actually be understood, on a emotional level, by anyone who’s ever run their own retail business. When your merchandise is “au trend” everything is cherries, the way it was for a couple of hundred years for the publishing industry. Then, their costs began to rise, even before the internet became a sales option. Paper and printing was trying to swim out of a sea-change that was a huge burden, then the internet and distribution began to morph into a competitor. Finally, a small-business owner reaches the day when, with profits down to sawdust and options available only in directions and languages you’re not conversant in, your only choice is to stay open and shrivel while self-funding as long as you can or close your doors. The stay open function, one I was unable in my prior life, to make, is painful and very frustrating, until you reach for any kind of hand-hold while the storm rages around you. Desperate measures become your only solution, and trying to maintain your dignity is a charade at best. This is where the big players are struggling to hang on right now. They are unable to see the larger picture at all, and probably think they’re being smart and proactive.

    All this says to me is that I need to find comfort in my writing career as it is, make my books as good as they can be, and stop expecting a miracle to come out of the mist in the guise of a friendly, marketing-savy publisher who loves my writing and wants to sell lots of my books and make me enough money to pay all my bills on time. It ain’t gonna happen that way, ever. I have to get used to being a one-man band, with the help of bloggers like you and other journeymen on the road at the same time. We’re all in this together.

    1. Richard, I think your assessment is spot on. It doesn’t help that the big business environment is fostering a return to the robber baron attitude that ethics are for losers. (Not all businesses operate this way, thank goodness, but enough do.) The shenanigans these big publishers are perpetrating, and David’s analysis of it, makes me grateful that I’ve never published with the big NY publishers. It was a blessing in disguise. I’ve been a very happy Indie for the last year.

      1. Frankie — I began my search for a publishing home back in 2007, and at first became an Indie by default — No one was publishing the cross-genre stuff I write. I persisted, though and five books later, I’m a confirmed Indie Author. Any remaining tickle of desire to play with the big boys disappeared as their situation became more desperate and I began reading sad stories from writers I respect with traditional contracts, and having the door slammed shut on their second book, etc.. I have one book with an Indie Publisher, but I may soon withdraw that one and get it ready for the market myself, too. My next book will be an Indie operation start to finish. No question at all.

  35. thanks for an interesting post. I am now happier than before that I have gone the self-publishing route on my children’s book. It is slow going but at least when I get there I will see some dollars.

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