Tag Archive for: New York Publishers

A Whole Industry Built on Vibes!!

by Linda Rodriguez

This past week, we have been treated to the spectacle of the heads of of the hugest publishing companies in the United States sitting in a federal courtroom under oath, testifying about the publishing industry. We have heard things that were patently untrue, even if the CEO making the statement is sworn to tell the truth under pain of perjury, things such as, “$100,000 is a relatively small advance anymore”. Cue writers across the land for insane laughter at this preposterous statement.

We have heard things that were quite unbelievable and yet, apparently, true, simply because they were unfavorable to the executives testifying, their publishing company, and the cause for which they are suing. Statements which admit that the current CEO of one huge publisher has totally mismanaged his company (but he still wants the government to allow him to acquire another huge publisher, apparently so that he can mismanage that one as well?), or that even the largest publishers have absolutely no idea which books will sell or how to sell the books they have acquired, or the admission that they give no marketing budget and make no marketing efforts for the vast majority of their books which fall below the $250,000 advance mark.

These court proceedings have been live-tweeted by reporters for several industry publications and others with a strong interest in the industry. Their live tweets have been seized upon by writers across the country, who have been simultaneously horrified and stunned into laughter by some of the incredibly ignorant and inept statements these CEOs have made under oath. As one writer tweeted in all-caps response after a CEO agreed laughingly with the judge that their P&L statements had no validity, “An entire industry run on vibes!!”

Most of us who have been involved in this industry and with the Big Five publishers for any length of time have not been surprised at much of what has come out in this hearing. It tallies with what we have experienced and what we have suspected all along. We have had few
doubts about the mendacity and ignorance of the people in ultimate power at these houses (as opposed to their hard-working and wonderful editorial staffs). How could we, especially after seeing and experiencing events such as the purge by one of the houses in this case of all of its
cozy-mystery writers, no matter how successful, and of their knowledgeable cozy-mystery editors, only to sign a new set of inexperienced cozy-mystery writers for vastly smaller advances than normal? (Perhaps this irrational act played a part in the fact that this company had a
disappointing record of sales for the past few years and its CEO had to publicly admit to mismanaging it?)

But even veteran writers have been stunned by the sheer extent of the lies, the ignorance, and the deliberate mismanagement this week’s testimony has displayed publicly. These men are being paid multi-millions of dollars per year, yet are clearly incompetent in their roles. At least, if the goal is what the company publicly states it is–to acquire and publish books successfully and profitably.

On social media, writers across the country are moaning, laughing, and despairing as they read about each day’s testimony. I find myself wondering how many writers, who would otherwise have had a career with traditional publishers, will turn to self-publishing in disgust at the practices so callously outlined, most of which exploit, abuse, and humiliate the very writers upon whom this industry rests. This trial has only begun. We have weeks more of this testimony ahead of us. Will publishing ever be quite the same afterward?

My Take on the Publishing Game

Most of my fellow Stiletto Gang members are published by New York publishers. I started that way–eons ago–and then the editor who signed me left the company. The one who took her place wasn’t interested in my next book. After many rejections, it was accepted by an independent publisher who really looked great–and the owner and his son ended up in jail after gambling away everything they made in Las Vegas.

I kept on writing. A mystery was signed on by a publisher I found in Writer’s Digest big market book. He did a great job of editing and formatting the book, but it turned out he was an e-publisher, one of the first. This was in the days long before any sort of reading device. It was far too hard to even order the book (I tried) and there weren’t all the ways we have today for promoting. A few years later, when the Rocket eReader came on the scene, I tried several e-pulishers. One turned out to be less than desirable for a number of reasons. Since that time, I resold that same mystery (became a series) to two different publishers, one went out of business, and now Oak Tree Press has published the whole series (Rocky Bluff P.D. crime series) and several other of my books as trade paperbacks and e-books.

My Deputy Tempe Crabtree mystery series also followed a bumpy path. The second, third, fourth and fifth book in the series was published as mass market by a small publisher in a nearby big city. Previously she’d published beautiful coffee table books about flying. We became friends and did promotion together. She knew nothing about e-pubbing so I still had those rights which I sold to a prominent e-publisher of that period and she brought out the first in the series as a prequel in e-book and trade paperback.

To make a long story short, the publisher who became a friend died unexpectedly. The e-book publisher put all the books out as e-books. Eventually that publisher quit the business. I met the owner/publisher of Mundania Press who is now publishing that series and bought out the other e-book publisher, so Mundania now has all those books.

Though I know that authors make more money going the Kindle route themselves, I’m quite happy to have someone else put my books on Kindle and all the other e-book sites and take care of all the other publishing chores.

Now there are all sorts of  ways to read e-books and though I’m no longer with a New York publisher, these days I don’t think it matters. In fact most of them don’t quite understand the e-publishing world yet.

Back when I was first e-published hardly anyone knew what that meant. I joined Epic which was and is the main organization for e-published authors and I learned and am still learning a lot from them.

Agents are changing their roles as they have realized that having an agent isn’t quite as important as it used to be. I heard an agent speak who is with a large agency in San Francisco. Though she’s still active as an agent, she’s also hung out her shingle to help authors promote their e-books. I’ve read about other agents who are now working with authors to turn their manuscripts into e-books for all the different e-Readers.

The bottom line is publishing has been turned upside down and as authors, we need to pay attention to what is happening.

Marilyn, who knew all this was going to happen but it took much longer than she expected.