Friday, July 5, 2013
MaryLu's Musings - whtat's a writer to do?
Major Publishers are merging (Just recently Penguin and Random House)
E-book sales are up
Print book sales are down
Fewer authors are receiving contracts
Authors who are getting contracts are getting less money
Whether these things are because the economy is so bad, or whether they are because E-books have taken off, I guess time will tell. The outcome, however, at first glance seems to be bad for authors like me. With fewer contracts being handed out to writers, that means only Top-selling authors who make the publisher the most money are going to be getting contracts. Yes, a few new authors may slip in and a few middle-selling authors too, but for the most part, the gates are definitely going to get narrower and narrower.
I've learned a lot in my 8 years as an author about this business. I always thought that if a writer was really good and had a really good story, that their chances for getting published were pretty high. I also thought that the author had a say not only on the content of his or her book, but on the cover and the title, and what type and how much marketing was done. NOPE. Once an author signs that contract and receives an agreed upon advance (payment from publisher), that book is no longer owned by the author. It has now become the property of the publisher and within the limits of the contract they can do what they want. They can put any cover on it they want, have it edited anyway they want, change the title, market or not market it, etc... and (depending on the contract), these rights go on indefinitely until the book no longer makes them money and is deemed "out of print". Furthermore, once you get your first contract, they will then tell you what you can and cannot write for them next (if they even wish to keep you).
Yet in this current paradigm, please forgive me if I say that publishers sort of remind me of trolls standing guard over a narrow bridge, wearing grins and hoisting huge clubs and only allowing a select few to cross into troll territory.
I used to believe only the best writers got to cross. But now I know that's not true. There are hordes of FABULOUS writers on this side of the bridge who will simply never get across. Why? Because who crosses and who doesn't is completely up to the individual trolls and what they think will and will not sell really big. And these trolls are only human, subject to human opinions, preconceived notions, likes, dislikes, etc... because frankly NOBODY in the publishing industry knows why some books sell millions and others sell only hundreds. If they could figure that out, they wouldn't contract so many flops.
However, there is a light on the horizon for some writers out there. It's called self-publishing. Before the e-book, self-publishing was considered the worst of all possible alternatives for an author. It was a death sentence for one's career, a shameful blemish on their resume. But not anymore. The invention of the E-book has somehow lifted the stigma of shame from self-publishing and many good authors are finding an audience for their books. Many are quite successful! Just beware, that when you open the flood gates, you're going to get some sewage in with the good water.
Anyway, all that to say that I no longer have a contract. The next two books in my Escape to Paradise series are contracted, written and turned in, but my publisher has not offered me anything beyond this series. At first I felt like a ship without sails foundering at sea, wondering which way to go, but now, I'm excited about this new era in my career. I know God still wants me to write. I still feel the call heavy on my shoulders, only this time I feel the freedom of being able to finally write exactly what I want to write. I have an agent who will shop my ideas around to see if we get any nibbles from other publishers, but in the meantime, it's great to be able to write without a deadline adding stress to my creativity.
I'm excited about my new project and will be telling you about it as time goes on.
God Bless and have a great weekend!