In honor of John Venn’s 180th birthday, I’ve made a Venn diagram to kick off today’s topic.
By now, I know you’ve heard all about the Hachette Publishing/Amazon dispute of the day. Long story short, Amazon wants to charge one price for ebooks, Hachette wants them to charge a different price. I can see both sides of the story. One: Hachette needs to make a profit and pay its authors the salary they deserve. With an increasing ebook market, and dwindling hardcover sales, it’s looking to stay afloat in a very challenging market.
On the other hand, Amazon contends that ebooks cost virtually nothing to publish. (Which is true from a strictly printing vs “send” viewpoint.) And ebooks should therefore be priced much lower than other mediums.
I get that. But what Amazon doesn’t say is how much of that price goes to Amazon, (a pretty percentage) and how much goes to the publisher, (a prettier percentage) and how much goes to the author (pennies.) It costs as much for Amazon to offer it as it does for a publisher to hit “send.” Which is, very little. The real money is spent in marketing, editing, promotion, book tours, etc.
There is also this other sort of murky-ugly gray area with ebooks and publishing. With the rapidly-growing ebook market comes the advent of indie publishing. This is such a thorn in the side of the publishing houses. It’s gaining traction in the market, and giving indie authors a platform that was not even a thought just ten years ago. In some cases, like Hugh Howey and EL James or Lianne Moriarty, the proof of sales leads to a traditional publishing route, and paperbacks or hardcover. It also gives them a distinct advantage at the bargaining table with a publishing house, because the house is taking on less of a risk, and gaining a following upon signing.
Great, right? Mostly. It’s also led to a rather predatory practice on behalf of some agencies and publishers. Here’s the thing: sometimes you’re a traditionally-published author under contract, or you *were* under contract to a publisher or agency. Let’s say you write a new book, it’s great, you love it, your mom has all 356 pages taped to the fridge, you excitedly send the second draft to your agent and/or publisher. They say “you know what, Cat? This book is good, but it doesn’t fit for us to publish it.” You think “ok, I’ll self-publish this bitch on Amazon and Kobo and iTunes, etc.” Problem solved, right? You did all the work, all of the edits, all of the marketing. You took it to comic con in your backpack, and handed out galleys in the Javits Center Starbucks at BEA. But your old publisher says “au contraire mon frere!, we get a cut.” I imagine I’d look something like this:
You see, because somewhere in paragraph 34957839486 line 9w8456793486 of your publishing contract, you signed an interminable agency clause or self pub clause, therefore screwing yourself out of the money you so richly deserve. It basically states they they own a piece of any backlisted book for the duration of the copyright. Or, if it’s new, it doesn’t matter if you self-pub, they own a piece of it as long as you’re under contract with them.
Note to ALL authors, indie or traditional or hybrid:make sure your agent is an ATTORNEY. So many lit agents aren’t. Also, hire a second lawyer to read the agent’s contract to determine where you’re getting effed, and how to fix it.
GAH! I’m already at 600 words. To break up this monotony, I’ll give you the character inspo for my latest WIP.
You could meditate to that picture, couldn’t you?
Back to the topic at hand. Out of this miasma of contractual bullshit came a herd of authors completely eschewing the traditional route, and going straight to the indie pub market. This is both great–and rocky territory. It’s great because there is now a wealth of new authors on the market for us to enjoy, whom we probably wouldn’t have ever been able to read. It’s bad, because there are a TON of indie authors out there that are the equivalent of the college freshman penning a fictional short story in their Comp 101 class. Complete with multitudinous spelling errors, plots that make your head spin–like a four-day bender–and much of it reading like bad fanfic.
Honestly, for a long time, the latter group was where I assumed all indie authors belonged. I was a total pub snob. I love hardcovers and Houghton Mifflin. I watched authors I respect and whose work I love, malign the world of self-publishing. Having published academic works myself, I couldn’t wrap my brain around a system without at least fourteen different steps in the editing process. That is, until, a good friend of mine said: “You’ve GOT TO READ this series I’m hooked on.”
This particular friend is a tenured professor of Literature at an ivy. He does not recommend series lightly. He’s a huge snob. He penned an entire dissertation on ONE poem of Keats. He has a tattoo of a red pen on his arm to show how much he loves his job–and because he’s a dick. He’s lucky I love him. That series? The Elemental Mystery Series by Elizabeth Hunter. An indie author. I was gobsmacked that he’d recommend a book that wasn’t put through the rigors of the publishing machine.
I immediately went on to Amazon and bought the lot of them. I went ass-over-teakettle for them. I ended up reading her entire catalog of books in a week. I called him after reading the first book, and made him come over just so I could hear him read passages of the book in his nifty British accent. (Also, so we could drink wine and gossip about people who’ve been dead 200 years.) As more books in the series came out, we’d sit side-by-side inhaling them like they were whippets for our book-whore souls. I made the bestie read them. I recommended them to my bookclub, I told groups of strangers at parties about how much I loved them. “Oh, you’re an Art History professor? Have you read The Genius and the Muse by Elizabeth Hunter? You will *never* look at metal sculpture the same way again.
After reading that particular novel, both my friend and I (we are both happily paired off) trolled artist’s instagram boards to see who’s the hottest sculptor. It’s a thing.
OMG 1000 words. You need a gif break.
After my eyes were opened, I fell upon the indie author kool-aid like that one time in middle school I fell on a treadmill. Firmly, and out for blood. It turns out, some of my FAVORITE contemporary authors are self-pubbies! One of my very favorite authors of the past several years, Penny Reid, whose books I’ve reviewed both here, and on GR, is self-pubbed. I really patiently wait for her books to be released. I don’t at all have her highlighted on my book release spreadsheet, with a google alert ping attached. I certainly don’t use her memes as macbook wallpaper…
Because that would be weird. right?
So yes, there are good and bad, but honestly, you know you’ve read some shit books that were traditionally published. That’s why you have me! I read too much! I have high standards! *even my romcoms and pnrs have to be good. So I madeth you a collage!
Clockwise from the top: My Indie Authors to read Right NOW
An Acute Attraction by AJ Walters a fun and unexpected story with a hot academic.
Six of Hearts by LH Cosway This is no creepy Copperfield love affair. It’s hot, and it’s Irish, and you need more?
Semblance by Logan Patricks Hard to give a quick blurb for this one. It’s insane and wonderful.
The Genius and the Muse by Elizabeth Hunter A grad student. A tortured sculptor. A love lost in time. This.
Knitting in the City Series by Penny Reid So well written. Such an engaging storyline. So much heart.
I really hope you will pick one or all of these up. They’re really great. Truly fantastic.
Sneak Peek for tomorrow’s blog post….