Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue

11/13/2012

Do Book Publishers Really Hate Authors?


It would seem so. Publishers have been fucking writers since time began. Rejections without due consideration, chump change percentages for wages (even with established authors), piss ant marketing and many other dictatorial, disrespectful practices.

At times authors are also hard asses to deal with — So, it’s a very tenuous relationship.

 explains Why Book Publishers Hate Authors in his blog contribution on HuffPost

It seems so… unliterary. But publishing houses despise authors and are doing everything they can to make their lives miserable. Here’s why.

Authors are admittedly a strange lot. There’s something antisocial about retreating from life for months or years at a time, to perform the solitary act of writing a book.

On top of that, authors are flaky. They promise to deliver a manuscript in April and it doesn’t come in until October. Or the following April. Or the April after that. This leaves publishers with several options, all of them bad: revise publishing schedules at the last minute; demand that authors turn in projects on time, regardless of quality; cancel books altogether; or sue the authors (as Penguin has begun to do) for undelivered or poor quality work.

Authors are also prickly about their work. There are few jobs on the planet in which people are utterly free to ignore the guidance, or even mandates, from their bosses. Yet book authors are notoriously dismissive of their editors’ advice. When I was writing novels for Simon & Schuster back in the late 1980s, my editor, Bob Asahina, used to tell me, “You’re the only writer who ever lets me do my job.”

Also, annoyingly, writers expect to be paid. Maybe not much, but something. The Authors Guild produced a survey in the 1970s indicating that writers earned only slightly more, on an hourly basis, than did the fry cooks at McDonald’s. Publishers were still responsible for paying advances to authors, hoping that the authors would turn in a publishable manuscript — which doesn’t happen all of the time.

So it’s understandable that publishers might feel churlish and uncharitable toward authors, on whom their entire publishing model depends. But since the 2008 economic meltdown hit Publishers Row, the enmity has turned into outright warfare.

The three R’s of the publishing industry, the strategy for survival, quickly became “Reduce royalties and returns.” Returns are books that come back unsold from bookstores. Printing fewer copies typically ensures fewer returns. Reducing advances and royalties — money publishers pay writers — was the other main cost that publishers sought to slash.

And slash they did. More and more publishers moved to a minimal or even zero advance business model. They said to authors, “We’ll give you more of a back end on the book, and we’ll promote the heck out of your book. We’ll be partners.”

Some partners. Zero advance combined with zero marketing to produce… that’s right. Zero sales.

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5 Comments »

  1. John, I’ve always enjoyed and liked your comments and posts…until this one, probably because this one is unbalanced.

    Publishers do not hate authors because they know they would not exist without them. Declining advances and other changes in the industry have little or nothing to do with how publishers feel about authors, and much more to do with the changing landscape and economic survival. This does not mean that publishers always deal with authors fairly, especially when there’s a huge disparity in power. Big-name authors help publishers to survive, to publish the occasional debut author. It was ever thus.

    I have no idea what the future holds in publishing. If I did, I’d be rich. I only know that authors and publishers are struggling to figure it all out.

    Comment by Sheryl Dunn — 11/14/2012 @ 7:05 am | Reply

    • @Sheryl Dunn – You’re absolutely correct, Sheryl, on all counts. The unbalanced post was meant to be thus (to borrow a word from you). We live in an unbalanced world and this fact seems to be mirrored and even magnified in the publishing world (see my reply to brianhmoll).

      I thought this post might drive some to a little deeper thinking — But, what is the conclusion, if any? There certainly isn’t a magic, cure-all pill :)

      Comment by gator1965 — 11/15/2012 @ 8:28 pm | Reply

  2. Yeah. Funny concept, wanting to get paid for your work. Authors deserve some of the blame for this because they settle for the lower advances. Which sets a precedent. Which means no one gets paid.

    Honestly, authors aren’t doing that much as far as marketing either (but it’s not like they can afford to finance their book tours, can they? Because they get paid shit).

    But then there’s the bookstores, who suck as well. They want shelf turnover, they want to be able to return a book inside a shorter and shorter window if it doesn’t sell. And what do they do to market the books? Staff picks? Add a coffee shop that they don’t know how to run?

    Unfortunately, everybody has to participate in the marketing of a book, because people aren’t just going to automatically buy books when there are so many other convenient media vehicles. People need to be convinced to spend 15 dollars for a book instead of 12.99 for a DVD.

    Comment by brianhmoll — 11/14/2012 @ 11:06 am | Reply

    • @brianhmoll – Thanks for your input. It really is a dog eat dog world, huh? Seems what is going on in the miniscule world of publishing RE survival is reflective of the larger universe :)

      Comment by gator1965 — 11/15/2012 @ 8:11 pm | Reply

  3. Quite hard to say as not all publishers hate authors as publishers are none without authors, I hope none of my publishers hate me and my ebooks,
    For all authors click here to publish and get benefit instantly.

    Comment by basha — 11/26/2012 @ 1:23 am | Reply


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