Friday, July 29, 2011

Self-Publishing: The New Query Letter?

by Darke Conteur

Sounds weird, doesn't it? Self-publishing helping you to reach your goal of having a book published traditionally?

In the last few years, (generally due to the surprising popularity of the Kindle and other eReaders), the self-publishing route has become less and less of a stigma, and more of a freedom to create. Amazon and Smashwords made it easy for writers to get their works to the public, and with good results. Novels that were once ignored or passed over because the demand for the genre was too small, are now finding their audience and doing so with relatively good success. With high rates of achievement, I'm hearing stories of publishing houses (quite possibly small indie press—I doubt you'll have Random House knocking on your door) patrolling writing forums, looking for self-published writers who have strong numbers in e-book sales, and are offering contracts to these same authors. I suppose their reasoning is, if they do good on Amazon, they'd do great in traditional outlets as well.

Granted, it's a small number that are approached, but I can't help but wonder if this will increase as the popularity of e-books increases. Can you imagine? Instead of having to spend months perfecting a query letter, synopsis, and the endless rejection from agents, all you have to do is upload a few books you've written, market like hell (because in the end, it's the numbers that count) and sit back and wait for the offers of publication to roll in! Great, right? It's a win-win situation!

Or is it?

Don't get me wrong, I have NOTHING against traditional publishing, and you will never hear me bad mouth either side of this argument, but I can't help but be concerned at the fact I'm hearing horror stories about authors locked into contracts that are so Draconian in their terms, it makes you wonder how these 'publishing' houses get away with it. Don't believe me? Check out this blog post by Debra L. Martin and David W. Small. It's just frightening, and if that doesn't open your eyes, maybe these other blog posts will:

Writing Like It's 1999 (Kristine Kathryn Rusch)

Writers Are Losing the Fight Again (Dean Wesley Smith)

Authors are taking more control over their careers when it comes to publishing, and if you don't have an agent, you need to take a good look at anyone who offers you a publishing contract. Do. Your. Homework. Research the publisher. If you are offered a contract then either hire an entertainment attorney or an agent to go over it. That's easy money for them and a good safety for you. Read the fine print on the contract and if there's something you don’t understand or seems odd to you, ask around. If they ask for money up front—it's vanity publishing.

No matter how much they try to sweet talk you, remember MONEY FLOWS TO THE AUTHOR, not the other way around. Don't sign away your entire career because you were so enthralled at the fact you were 'discovered'.


Richard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Suzanne Payne said...

I've read articles about this before, but it never hurts to remind, remind remind. You're exactly right about being so excited about getting 'The call', that new authors to the business get sucked into things that's not in their best interest. I'm not speaking from experience, but if I were handed a contract, I wouldn't be able to understand everything on it. It's a scary thought. Great post!

Darke Conteur said...

Thanks guys. Thanks for stopping by!

@Richard - Agents are still good, but from what I've been reading, even they're having conflicts over epublishing. This is a new path for everyone, not just writers.

@Suzanne - IMO, writers can no longer claim ignorance to this. They have to know this is going on. Forewarned is forearmed (or something like that)

Jemi Fraser said...

Great post Darke. The industry is changing and everyone is finding their new place. It's going to be very interesting to see how much has changed in 5 years. Now, off to check out those links... :)

Leslie Rose said...

With the shifting tides of publishing it's important to stay informed. Thanks for the resources.

Darke Conteur said...

@ Jemi - Things are changing, and so fast! Husband asked me a question the other day about books, and I really did't know how to answer, as the old model doesn't really fit anymore, does it?

@Leslie - I think all authors, published or not, need to read these links. We can't just stick our head in the sand anymore. These things are happening and we need to be aware of them, even if they don't directly affect us.

Brenda Carre said...

Great post Darke. I do believe that traditional publishing will eventually come out of turmoil and that the e-industry will work in partnership with them. Between now and then however we are in for a period of instability. We absolutely have to keep abreast of those changes or be stuck in old ways of thinking that will get us nowhere.

Darke Conteur said...

It's incredible how quickly things have changed, and you are so right, we need to keep on top of things. It can be overwhelming at times, but these are things we NEED to know.