Lately I’ve been obsessively (as in staying up way too late) reading The Business Rusch, a business blog maintained by a gal who has been in the publishing industry for thirty-odd years. Really and truly, I’ve learned a lot from Kris, even though I disagree with her about some things. She definitely has me looking more into the future for my writing than I ever though I would.
Reading that blog has come with some disappointments, however.
In the last few years, my dream of publishing went something like this: Continue publishing short stories. Self-publish some novellas. Publish a few novels with small Christian presses. Eventually publish a series with a big secular fantasy company like Bantam or Del Ray or one of those ones that publishes big-name secular fantasy authors.
I knew I would probably have to deal with people who didn’t have my best interests in mind. I also knew that a huge advance was just a pipe dream. But I always thought, “How cool would it be to see my stories published by the same people who publish Orson Scott Card? Robert Jordan?” I wanted, in this age when many are complaining about the quality of Christian books, to prove that Christian books were just as good as any secular authors.
As I’ve read more of Kris’ writing, especially when she writes about some of the horrible contracts and clauses she’s seen in publishing, the more that dream has shriveled and shrunk. I know I could do it. I know I could negotiate a good contract or that I could hire someone to do it for me. I would be willing to walk away from the contract if I couldn’t get decent terms. Heck, I’m even willing to receive a teensy advance if I could get a good contract with decent royalties. That would be worth it to me.
What’s not worth it is the hassle I’m reading it could be. Between e-books rights and publishers fibbing on royalty statements and legal jibber-jabber about different royalty rates for different kind of books and agents and print runs and lawyers and losing input over layout/cover/marketing ideas and picking apart each contract since publishers like to hide nasty clauses in places you wouldn’t think to look for them…
I just made your head spin, didn’t I? I know mine was.
All of it sounds like I would be way too stressed out. I probably wouldn’t breathe easy until the rights reverted back to me, five/ten/twenty-or-however-many years down the road. Big publishers pretty much sound like they’re treating their authors like crap right now. Kris says to pick whether you do traditional publishing or another option per book, asking what the publishers can do for you.
At this point, I’m thinking the only thing a big publisher might be able to do for me is give me exposure…maybe. IF they thought my book had the potential to be a bestseller. IF I wasn’t too much of a troublemaker (and I have a feeling I would be).
At the moment, the dream of ever signing with a big publisher is essentially dead. If I go with a smaller press, one where I know the people, I have a much better chance of not getting gipped. I know I’ll have more input on the cover/etc, and, while I’ll be forced to do most of my marketing, that’s okay—I know a lot of people who can help. I’m even seriously (more seriously than I was before reading The Business Rusch) considering self-publishing.
I know some want a big publisher because it feels validating. Honestly, I don’t want that kind of validation. A big publisher is just a group of people who think they know and can dictate what will be a big seller within the next few years. I feel validated when my husband celebrates about a publication with me, or when a teenager from my church comes up and gushes about how cool my latest story was. The readers are validating for me, and I can get readers with whatever option I decide to go with.