The mirror isn’t nice

I’m looking at that most recent post, comparing to what some people in the industry are doing and experiencing, and wonder at how childish it seems. Or maybe how close it comes might be the positive spin.

The big thing is that what I’m offering to do is, of all the things done for authors by publishers, the easiest to do these days. Oh, gee, publishing? How nice, I’ll copy edit? and for this I want a whopping 20%?

It isn’t worth it for the author, not if he or she has a brain.

Here are some things the publishing house can offer that aren’t either primary skills or easily learned basic skills for authors:

  • Finishing. Mostly this is editing. Yes, copy-editing and basic spell- and grammar-checks are part. But real (and these days rare) editors are the ones who help authors polish and tweak phrases and constructs so the gem in the rough shines. They know the tricks to polish even a turd. Finishing: making the story be the best it can be, or at least close. (Authors can and do learn this, but not all and rarely at the start of their careers.)
  • Marketing.  Not just an ad for the book but knowing and being able to do things to get the book a bit more attention. Now a downside of this is that most Big Publishers don’t go all out for all books, just their A-listers, their blockbusters. However they do, or rather they can, provide lesser marketing assistance that is usually more than the B-list can afford.  Specific example here: As a publishing house advertise the PUBLISHER’s deals (like the one I had about 45% plus free shipping to public libraries) it lists all the books in the house, both A and B list (and lower). At about $2 per flyer for roughly 9000 public library headquarters, it’s chicken feed to a publisher with 50 or more books on sale. $18000 is a HUGE chunk for most early authors.
  • Cover art. OK, this one is controversial, but I’ll stand by it. A publisher can afford to provide unique and specifically oriented cover art. A lot of them don’t, but… Authors can do this, but it is extra time and once more it’s a higher share of available money they don’t tend to have. A lot of indi authors use workarounds for this, and it works for some of them (but leaves others looking like amateur works.) In the end I think it’s like the need for editors; for the majority, especially early authors, it’s better if someone holds their hand for a fee.

Looking at this, it looks a lot like what some indie publishers are anticipating of the future for literary agents. No longer “get it to the publisher” but “prep for publishing and maximizing sales”.

That in turn tells me the previous post probably had it 100% backward. The “by the way” stuff was the unique extra. IN ADDITION the literary agent can help guide the author through self-publishing, and/or find a house to do the publishing. The typesetting, the formatting, and such, of what the author and agent have prepared.

Rephrased, the job of the literary agent becomes “helping the author sell the book”.

I’m going to let that set for a bit and think about it. It looks… intriguing.


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