Friday, January 20, 2012

A Portrait of a Writer as a Publishing Company

Once upon a time, people writing fiction had to rely on themselves for everything.  Well, almost everything -- feedback on a story remains firmly in the hands of the reader.  They had to know how to write, and edit, and revise.  Later with the advent of desktop publishing they had to know how to format too.

These days, the writer needs a host of other skills too.  He needs a sense of design and artistic ability for the cover of the story.  And he needs to know how to publish and market his work too.  For those lacking in some of all of these skills, services are available.  You can hire people to design your book cover, edit your text, and how publish and promote your work.  And in many cases, if you are self-publishing your own work, you may have to.  This pretty much makes you a publishing company in your own right.

Which leads me to ask, why are so many people jumping on the self-publishing bandwagon?  I know some reasons:

  • The writer has gone the traditional route and has been dissatisfied; as a result, he or she decides to self-publish, figuring it can't be worse.  
  • The writer has tried to go the traditional route but can't find a publisher, so he or she decides to strike out on his or her own.
  • The writer does not trust publishers or does not want to give up any rights to his or her work.  So self-publishing is the only avenue open.

All of these are perfect legitimate scenarios and have happened to people I know.  But I still don't get it.  My experience will self-publishing is that you don't get the exposure that is possible with a publisher.  Granted, for more of the writers reading this blog, I'm talking about a small press who is willing to take on new talent.  Such publishers have limited resources and will promote your work as well as they can but even they can't get on Amazon's home page.  But the way I see it is better to have two people advertising for you than only one (yourself).  Since you will promote yourself whether you have self-publish or not, why not seek the additional help.

Is it hard to find a publisher?  Yes.  More often than not, you are met with rejection than acceptance.  Will you have to give up some of the rights to your work?  Yes, but what you give up is up to you.  So if the audio book version isn't being discussed be sure to keep it for yourself.  If that's not an option, make sure they spell out your compensation for those rights in the contract they will have you sign.

Will it all be smooth sailing?  No.  There will be bumps in the road.  But isn't that true of everything?  Haven't you had problems with your house, computer, and car at one point or another?  Haven't you argued with your spouse or your parents or your children?  That's life.  You just need to before what you agree to that's all.  That too can be difficult, but if you need help there are services for that too.  Go to the web site of the local bar association in your state and see if they have a lawyer referral service.  See if you can find a someone to help you through the contract negotiation process.  That can be difficult too but worth it.

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