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Publishers Must Care to Survive 25 February 2012

Posted by Camille Gooderham Campbell in Publishing Industry.
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Commitment

I believe that a publishing house should be committed to every author and title that it takes on. There’s no excuse for second-tier treatment.

There are plenty of choices for authors in the publishing game today, and no reason for an author to choose a publisher who isn’t committed to making him/her a star, so publishers need to treat every signed author as the potential bestseller s/he could be.

Why this is good for the publisher too: Being overstretched can lead to poor quality production — when you juggle too many books, they don’t all get the editing and proofreading and design attention they need to be the best they can be — plus it makes no sense to either take on a book that you don’t think could be a winner or else pick what you think could be a winner and then not give it every possible push to go big.

Advantage

I believe that a publishing house must offer at least some sort of advantage that wouldn’t be accessible to the same author if s/he chose to self-publish. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Whether it’s a lock on a niche market — bizarro fiction and sword & sorcery are two areas where excellent work has been done in niche/subgenre publishing — or access to services and skills that wouldn’t be available to the self-publishing public, or the connections and financial resources to deliver a superior marketing push, a good publisher must have an answer to the question, “What can you do for me that I can’t do for myself?”

Why this is good for the publisher too: It’s good business to know your competitive advantage. Actually, you should not only know what you can do for authors that they can’t do for themselves, you should also know what makes you stand out compared to other publishers.

Respect

I believe that a publishing house and everyone associated with it should respect the author’s position as the creator of the work being published.

Assuming that the author respects the publisher’s expertise and is open to taking advice and suggestions, and that both parties know the manuscript-to-finished-book process is going to take a fair bit of discussion and probably some compromises on both sides, the author should within reason have final approval on the text and title to be published. It is, after all, the author’s name in big letters on the cover.

For that matter, respecting the author’s feelings about cover art is a good plan too — that doesn’t mean turning over total authority to the author (who most likely isn’t also a visual artist and graphic designer and typographer and marketing expert), but a little bit of consultation is worthwhile to make sure everyone is happy with the finished package.

Why this is good for the publisher too: An author who isn’t proud of the finished product isn’t going to feel happy about promoting it, and isn’t going to be eager to work with you again. Why push your author to look for a better deal elsewhere or self-publish the next book? Why risk having your author preface any mention of the book with an apology for the title or cover art or revised ending you forced on it?

Ethics

I believe that a publishing house should hold itself to the highest ethical and moral standards in all dealings with authors and the public.

Publishers of today and tomorrow need to take every possible step to repudiate the industry’s unfortunate past reputation for weaselly contracts and royalty monkey-business. There’s absolutely no reason why a contract shouldn’t be clear and fair and in plain enough language that the author can understand it without an agent and lawyer standing by. Nor is there any reason for royalty obfuscation. And in a time where we’re competing as an industry with self-publishing-service juggernauts that create and modify terms and conditions as they please and don’t negotiate with anyone, a reasonably negotiated and honourably upheld contract might become more crucial in attracting and retaining authors than anyone can know today.

Why this is good for publishers too: You need a reason? If you must, apart from karma and decency and do-unto-others, it’s this — no one wants to do business with a slimeball or be associated with a slimeball, and in this day of instant information and Anonymous and blogs and Twitter and Google, slime doesn’t stay hidden like it used to do.

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Comments»

1. Katherines Corner - 26 February 2012

Wonderful and informative post Camille. xo P.S. Did you get your entry in for the sweetheart giveaway? It ends tomorrow

Camille Gooderham Campbell - 26 February 2012

Thank you, Katherine (and yes, I did!).


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