I’ll talk more about this next week in my Nerds Feather post, but this needs to be said and it fits here better. If you’ve been following this Hydra fiasco, you’ll know one John Scalzi has been championing the cause and today posted an absolute must-read on the subject.
Here’s the thing: you, the author, have the product, what makes the whole contraption go, not the publisher. They have several pieces, to be sure, in the form of distribution channels, editors, artists, blah blah blah, but what they do not have is the book. Let’s run with another food analogy, since that seems to be my thing lately:
When you go into Starbucks to get your sixth cup of coffee, at what point did the company that provides the beans get paid (this isn’t a discussion about labor practices; don’t touch it)? Even a company as massive as Starbucks doesn’t go to their suppliers and say, “Yeah, after we actually sell the coffee, then you get paid. Oh, and we’re gonna need you to front us $100k to pay for some new coffee makers and a store in Dean’s living room.” Just think about how ludicrous that sounds. Like the publishers now, Starbucks has a lot of leverage. But they still need coffee beans, and they need to pay for them. Just because you need them doesn’t mean they don’t need you. Have pride in your
beans manuscript. Don’t give it away.
Chuck Wendig just chimed in with 25 Things Writers Should Beware Of. Go read it.
Right now, publishing is in a state of flux. It’s not going to die—that’s stupid—but it is being reinvented. We have a saying in my day job: “When there’s chaos, there’s money to be made”. Publishing is a little chaotic right now, and people are going to make money off it (see #3 in Chuck’s post). Let me be very clear about this: If you have to choose between signing a contract that puts the ‘risk’ on you as the author, has you assume payments that are typically handled by the publisher and pays you no money up front, just do it yourself. Hire a damn business manager, editor, artist and whoever else if you have to. But for crying out loud, if a contract is going to put you in a hole where you assume all the risk and the publisher reaps any of the rewards why not do it yourself?
Obviously I like self-publishing a lot with the options that are available now, but I fly the flag of ‘you don’t have access to everything a traditional publisher does’ pretty high. There are risks, there are differences, but if you get none of the advantages of going the traditional route, don’t sign the contract. Have some pride in your work, in your art, in a manuscript you worked hard on.