And so publishing goes


You may or may not have heard about the recent tug-of-war (emphasis on war) between Barnes and Noble and Simon and Schuster (for clarity, I’m published with S&S under the Pocket umbrella). In a nutshell, BN is slowing down on carrying S&S books. As in, almost none. It seems to be they will be carrying the Big Names, because they don’t want to cut off their noses that much. For more on this, I blogged about it the other day, and so have many others. (feel free to post links for more info and the damage it does to authors in the comments). As I point out, this hurts authors, especially midlisters like me, and most of the others who write this blog. But that isn’t what I want to talk about. I want to talk about when you get run over, whacked with a clawhammer, drawn-and-quartered, or whatever metaphor you happen to be feeling when something like this happens. I’m am going to point out a very specific example of an author who can see the hurt coming. Everyone, meet Stephanie Burgis, hamburger in the grinder.  She gives you some concrete information about her situation.brass and steel

The thing is, there’s little authors can do in this situation except get the word out, try to promote, and remind readers that they exist. Readers have more options, because they can spread the word, demand the books from BN, and write to S&S. They can complain and raise their voices. There are more readers than authors and they matter a lot to the bottom line because without readers, these companies don’t have a business.

But what’s an author to do? Well, the first thing is to keep writing and keep producing, because there’s no better advertisement than your books. In this world of changing publishing, writers have more options than ever before. Self publishing, small press publishing, cooperative publishing, to name just three. It takes fortitude to go off on your own, but I think as writers venture into those waters, many have decent success–enough to keep heart and soul together, anyhow. As they charter the way, it’s easier to follow. 

It helps, of course, to establish your name and get your books into stores so people can wander through and find you, but it isn’t the only way. It takes creativity, and I don’t even propose to answer all the ways. In fact, I put it to you here–what ideas do you have for getting an author’s name out there, particularly one who’s got a a first novel coming out? The key is to find ways to use social media and the net, and to create buzz. What works for one person, may not work for another, but there are a lot of options.

The end of it all is this: writers have options now that didn’t exist even a few years ago. There is hope. There is a way to have some control. It may take iron nerves and a stomach of adamantine, but giving up isn’t an option. Visiting here, making network connections among readers and writers, talking over options–these are all good places to start. So let’s hear it, thoughts on the BN-S&S situation? Thoughts on making a name for someone new to publication?

Forgive me if I’m late checking in with you. As this comes online, I’ll be driving off to Norwescon with kids and dogs in tow, and spending the night at a friend’s house on the way. But please, talk widely amongst yourselves and I’ll get here as soon as possible. I can’t wait to hear what you have to say.






9 comments to And so publishing goes

  • sagablessed

    I think we need to return to the small indie stores, and f^^k BN and SS and Amazon. Not gonna happen, but those three carry far too much weight. If AT&T could be broken up, why not these?
    Petty nonsense between those three and the Big Six is hurting authors and stifling creativity. Indie publishers are brining out crap like 50 shades of barf (I know I said I would refrain, but have you tried to read that garbage?).
    This leads to decent authors like our contributors here and others being down-played or ignored, while garbage gets all the press.
    Off my soapbox…..for now.

  • Well, I’ve already said my piece ad nauseum about well-meaning authors on Twitter whose every third tweet of “Buy my book!” can be a real turnoff…

    I think contests are definitely one way to get folks interested. And samples of free chapters, of course. Maybe even contests with skill-testing questions that ask the entrants a detail about that free sample, or the series, or something like that. Using ad-sites like Project Wonderful for inexpensive advertising at target sites that fit your readership could be useful, too.

  • My heart bled when I read Steph’s post — for her, for you Di, for myself, and for all the other S&S authors out there. (My take on the situation is here: )

    In addition to all the options that you set out, Di, I’d also advice authors pursuing traditional publication to *try* to diversify between publishers. It’s hard to get one contract, much less multiple ones, but allowing ourselves to be tied to one house can be deadly.

    (Oh, and Saga? 50 SHADES was published by Random House, not by an Indie. And while you might not like the style of the writing, it *has* sold over 65 MILLION copies, so it’s a great lesson for all of us looking at the traditional publishing model! ::wry grin::)

  • Yep, sometimes a poo sculpture ends up being sold as the greatest thing since awesomesauce and bought for stupid money, but one thing someone mentioned a while back, those highly acclaimed rump logs make the money that allows publishers to take a chance on other works. It’s a double-edged fan blade of spinny hope and bitter reality, but it’s true. …and I gotta stop reading so many Chuck Wendig blog posts. 😉

    Speaking of, he blogged about it too. I don’t have enough information on it to make an informed opinion myself, but no matter, it only hurts the authors most, which is, at the end of the day, why both are in business in the first place.

  • Perhaps we should encourage legislation that makes small businesses easier to open – that would keep more indie bookstores open.

    I intend to buy an S&S book from B&N, this week. I normally avoid that store, but I’ll do it, this time, to try and do my part.

  • I have been more and more horrified by the mess of the publishing world. I am not at SS, so I don’t have that to worry about, but my numbers are not climbing. Why? Because why would anyone in their right mind pay 8 bucks and change (after tax) for a book when they can buy an indie published book for $2.99 to $4.99? Never mind that it isn’t edited as well as a commercially published book, it can still be a good read for half. Or less.

    I am getting fans to promote my book, and hoping that it makes some kind of sales/money for someone… before the publishing business goes belly up, at which point I’ll be one of the poorly edited indies, but maybe making more money than I am now. How freaking weird is that?

  • I’ve been so busy with work lately that I have’t kept up with the news, so I wasn’t even aware of this until now. Book publishing and book retail right now are very scary for authors (which I hope to be) and readers (which I already am). I’m still hanging on to my optimistic dream that this will all work out for the good of authors and readers once the changes in technology and the business model settle down.

    Then again, greed and power struggles between those with power and money aren’t really caused by technology, and aren’t likely to ever go away.

  • I linked to Steph’s post on my blogs the other day. This is something that is happening more and more (remember when Amazon removed the “buy” buttons from all the books by MacMillan authors, myself included?) and will continue to happen as power in the industry grows more concentrated. The stakes are getting so high for the likes of Amazon, B&N and the rest, and pretty soon there will be only one left standing (I’m not saying which, but its initials are Amazon . . .) and then they will be free to do to authors and our books whatever they wish. Grim, but, I fear, inevitable.

  • I see sharp authors utilizing social media wisely to increase name recognition and their own sales. Not through posting “buy my book” repetitively, but by being, well, social. Online interraction has, for better or worse (and for many, it seems to be better, or at least more efficient)replaced the conversations that may have once occurred in bookstores, book groups, or anywhere folks get together to talk about what they’re reading. When a fan/follower of Author A sees her talking with Author B respectfully, Author B gains credibility. Not all that different from Author A writing a blurb for another writer’s new book. Recommendation from someone whose work the reader knows they already like is strong. When Author B then interracts cheerfully and sincerely with followers, they gain adoration. When readers are engaged with the work enough to also comment online, the net widens, so to speak. When those readers are also personally engaged to a degree by having some access to the author, they become even more committed to helpig the author be successful.

    I hope that doesn’t sound like I believe authors making full use of social media are doing it only to manipulate masses of consumers. I meant to only illustrate the results.

    The 50 Shades phenomenon was, more than anything, a word-of-mouth, socially-driven seller. Mindy, it was indeed self-published (print on demand even) first, with Random House picking up the trilogy only after multitudes of customers went to desperate means to get their hands on the book “everyone is talking about.” Not all those customers were thrilled once they read the book, but the compulsion to get it drove sales and got a major publishing deal. While most of us would rather leave a more literary legacy, it further proves my point of enthusiastic people driving sales. With or without a big bookstore.