Friday, January 13, 2012

Lightning, Sparks, and a Little Fire

I'm beginning to see why many writers I've spoken with about their first book have decided to self-publish subsequent books: getting a good contract is hard.  While my publisher seems to be willing to consider the cover I want to use and will give me final say on many aspects of the publication process, they seem to also want to me to give them rights that they won't be using now and for which the compensation is not clear.

That's not acceptable and I may have to walk away but since I've not seen the final contract I'm reserving judgement until then.  Still, I see how hard it is for writers to get a good contract and this is probably why a writer friend is urging me to do it all myself.

He has pointed me to several articles on the web that make the case for writers to go directly to bookstores and bypass publishers altogether.  This argument is compelling since it requires me to give up no rights and I receive a greater share of the money that is received by the bookstore when a sale is made.

But it is based on the assumption that sales keep trickling in.  That's not my experience with self-publishing.  My experience is few or no sales.  Readers are either unwilling to spend the money for my work or they grab the free sample, putting it on their to-be-read list.  While it is nice to be included in the lists, they doesn't help me because they may never belly up the bar and place an order.

Additionally, the likelihood that someone will find you in a bookstore, say Amazon, is slim because the store isn't advertising your book on their home page in most cases and most of us don't have name recognition.  Likewise, searching in the genre, say fantasy, will bring back thousands of results and most people won't sift through them.

The end result is we are a direct channel to the market but we are buried under a lot of other stuff.  That's where the publisher comes in.  The publisher can help you break through all that (at least that's my hope) but that begs the question: at what cost?  Is it worth giving up rights to the audiobook version or the screenplay adaption?  And that's what I'm wrestling with.

I don't have the answer but I'd love to hear from anyone who does.


S.G. Rogers said...

I've seen self-publishing work for authors who already have a huge following. I tried self-publishing and got nowhere. Now with a publisher it's still a tough slog but at least I have a group of other authors to call upon for help and advice. What you have to remember is most of these contracts are for three years. What are the chances your book will be such a big hit within that time you will have to worry about the rights to a screenplay, etc?

Rich Feitelberg said...

Yes. That's been my experience as well. Because my following is small (or nonexistent) my self-publishing efforts have been lackluster. With a publisher I hope to reach more people and have resources to call on too. But the contract I receive (still waiting for it, btw) is for as long or short as I or the publisher see fit. Assuming they have faith in the story selling over time, it really means that it is up to me how long the contract stays in affect. And I won't know that until I've dealt with them a bit more.