Tag Archives: Publishers

The Borders Bankruptcy Number Crunching

C. E. Petit is crunching the numbers over at his website right now about the Borders bankruptcy and how it may impact publishers as creditors in the Chapter 11 proceedings.  Go read his posts from yesterday (Feb. 20) and today, great stuff.

This is a wise time to learn about the financial health of any publisher you have contracts for novels with that are still in print, or if you are planning to sign a contract in the near future with a publisher.

If the publisher is part of a publicly traded conglomerate on the stock exchange (and you know the name or ticker symbol) you can easily look at the SEC filings at 
http://www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/webusers.htm
The quarterly (10-Q) and annual filing with the SEC is where the good stuff can be found, like how much cash they have on hand (Cash and Cash Reserves), cash flow, and their debts. You’ll want to take your time and read back as far as the database will allow you to get a good feel for what is going on in a particular company.

As for private publishing companies, if your library has access to Hoover’s (http://www.hoovers.com/), you might be able to get some info on their finances from there.

Also, another resource to turn to for help in doing financial research on a publishing company is your nearest Reference Librarian. Librarians are a wonderful resource for this sort of research.

No Quirky Writing Need Rot in a Drawer Anymore

Sooner or later it happens to every writer.  The story that’s too weird in characters or plot to get past the sales force of a publisher, or has the wrong word count–too long for a short story sale (10,000 words or more), too short for a novel sale (less than 55,000 words).

It used to be when that happened all one could do was save those stories up for a collection of short stories or let them rot in a drawer.

And then after awhile, one reaches a point where one knows a story is going to be quirky after the first few pages, and an overwhelming urge would hit to just give up on it since there was virtually no market for it.

That’s why I’m so excited about the new distribution systems opening up through Smashwords, Amazon Kindle, and Barnes & Noble’s PubIt.   Writers’ quirky stories are going to be able to see the light of day.   I’m looking forward to seeing what some of my favorite writers do in this new world.

And these days I no longer get the urge to stifle a story after the first few pages, because I know if it’s of publishable quality I can find a home for it, no matter what, down the road.  No story I write need sit rotting in a drawer–unless (like the first novel I wrote) it ought to.   Bad writing is still bad writing in this new world.

Helpful Articles on Book Covers

Laura Resnick has a terrific series of five articles on book covers on her website under “A Book By Its Cover.” Considering the significant impact a good or bad cover can have on book sales in stores (especially if the reader doesn’t know who you are), it’s well worth the time to read these.   Here’s her summary of what the articles cover:

I: Cover Karma
How does a book’s cover affect sales, and consequently a writer’s career? Why are some books (and some writers) uniquely blessed or cursed? What did a publisher do right (or wrong) with regard to a given cover? How do publishers ensure success (or stumble into disaster) when planning a book’s cover?

II:  Green Books Don’t Sell
Yesterday’s conventional wisdom becomes today’s common misconceptions as art directors from New York’s major publishing houses explain the step-by-step process of giving a book a cover.

III:  But I Wrote the Damn Thing!
If author input were actively desired in the cover process, somebody would have mentioned it by now. Nonetheless, there are constructive, productive, and useful ways for an author to contribute to the cover process; there are also contractual ways to gain influence over this process.

IV: Steal This Cover!
Next to word of mouth, the cover is the single most important means by which an author reaches new readers. Find out how this has led to increasingly ruthless and volatile competition among publishers, and why people who don’t even read often have more influence over a book’s cover than the author, the editor, the cover artist, or the art director.

V:  Worth A Thousand Words
A profile of three illustrators: sf/f cover artist Michael Whelan, winner of many Hugo, Howard, and Chesley Awards; romance cover artist Pino, with over 1,500 covers to his credit; and Janny Wurts, a bestselling sf/f novelist who is also an award-winning cover artist.

Pushcart’s COMPLETE ROTTEN REVIEWS AND REJECTIONS

I think what I love most about Pushcart’s COMPLETE ROTTEN REVIEWS AND REJECTIONS, edited by Bill Henderson & Andre Bernard, is that it lifts the veil of mystery between writers and the publishing world, and shows us just how human we are all are despite our attempts to become omniscient.   Mistakes get made.  Critics and editors get cranky and misunderstand an important book.  Writers insult other writers.

Any writer who is feeling timorous about submitting his or her work should consider reading this book.  Reading the nasty reviews and rejections other writers have received was an excellent antidote for self-pity.  The book also provides a peek into history, since Bill Henderson made an effort to include rotten reviews going as far back as 411 BC.

I don’t want to spoil the fun of what is inside, so instead I’ll quote from the back cover:

Alice in Wonderland was greeted with “a stiff overwrought story.”  Reviews of Moby Dick cited Melville for “tragic-comic bubble and squeak.”  Classic rejection slips were delivered to John Le Carre’s The Spy Who Came In from the Cold: “You’re welcome to Le Carre–he hasn’t got any future,” and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita: “I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years,”…

My one gripe is that the book has no index, and since the excerpts are not arranged chronologically or alphabetically, I have to randomly flip around to find the author or quote I’m looking for.

This book combines the three separate Pushcart editions of ROTTEN REVIEWS, ROTTEN REVIEWS II, and ROTTEN REJECTIONS.  So you’re getting three books for the price of one.  A great bargain.

The difference between traditional press, vanity/subsidy press, and self-publishing

Recently I’ve had friends of friends approached by vanity presses trying to lure them into buying their overpriced mediocre services.  The story is always the same–a newbie writer has just written a first book, is not a member of any sort of national writer’s organization, and has absolutely no clue of how the business side of publishing works.

Then there was the whole uproar over the creation of vanity/subsidy press Harlequin Horizons (see the link about it at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books for the most info.  But be warned, the comment section now stands at over 830 comments!) I’ve read quite a number of comments on this controversy, and was troubled by the number of people who didn’t know the difference between traditional vs. vanity/subsidy vs. self-publishing.

I think Writer Beware at SFWA does a terrific job of explaining the differences.  Here’s a link to their publisher definitions page.  Once you read this, you’ll know how to tell which press is which.

The Novelists Inc. blog has a post which lists several websites to help understand the hazards of vanity publishing.

My rule of thumb is “keep control of the money.”

In self-publishing, a writer gets competing bids from the best freelancers she can find for every part of the process (editing, art, making the book, publicity, e-book versions, etc.), keeps copyright and controls ISBN, and gets to keep all money made from sales.   You don’t get to do those things with a vanity/subsidy press–and on top of that you shell out large sums of money while they shell out little, and then you have to deal with them taking a huge cut of the money from sales as well.  A vanity/subsidy press makes its money off of writers, not book sales.

A traditional publisher pays the writer.   They take care of all of the expenses, which is why they get a big chunk of the sales.   Some writers exchange being paid an advance by an e-publisher in order to get a higher royalty rate (usually about 35%).   But those writers don’t pay the e-publisher, ever.

Writing is an art, publishing is a business.  Publishing presses are like any other business–there are great ones, good ones, mediocre ones, and slimy ones.   Shop around.