“Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.” ― Mary Harris (Mother) Jones

Archive for September, 2012

I admire indie authors

I do. I can’t say I’m as happy about their insistence on referring to themselves as “indie publishers,” because those of us who have been publishing independent of the traditional model for the last couple of decades think we’ve earned the right to that name.

When you consider how much courage it takes to single-handedly put yourself and your work out in front of God and the world without the support a publisher provides, I would think there would be more cachet to being an indie author than an indie publisher.

I’m aware that indie authors are constantly being bombarded with sage advice. Some of what follows I’m sure they’ve heard so often reading it again will send them screaming. Consider that it’s is based on my personal experience both with self-publishers and the traditional industry, bearing in mind that I was active in ebook publishing before Harlequin and Amazon invented them.

This isn’t advice about self-publishing. These are my responses to what I experience on a regular basis, and I hope will explain a some things a few people seem not to be aware of. And in conclusion, I’ll tell you why so many manuscripts get rejected over and over.

  • 1. There are far too many books being published electronically that show a painful lack of editing–and I refer to NY published folks re-publishing backlist, too. You can’t trust OCR to be accurate, and you can’t trust Amazon or anyone else who scans your old print book to fix errors. Ebooks have been around since the mid-90s, so there’s no huge rush to get yours published. Take the time to do it right.
  • 2. I can’t review your books. Not even the good ones. I barely have time to read the manuscripts from my authors and the submissions samples I request plus stay abreast of what’s being published by my competitors. In addition, I’m a professional editor. When I see so many things that should have been fixed it distracts me. Your book may have wonderful potential, but I’m not giving it four stars when it’s riddled with problems.
  • 3. I respect your right to publish your own work. Please respect that other people prefer not to, and that doing so doesn’t make them idiots. As a corollary, we are not a way for you to self-publish without cost. If you have signed a contract for us to publish your work, you may not refuse to make reasonable changes when required, dictate your cover design, or inform us when your next book will come out. That’s our decision, not yours.
  • 4. My partners and I go out of our way to ensure our authors receive a proper return for their efforts. Making your ebook available for nothing does not make it a best-seller. It makes it a book that got downloaded a lot. Our ebooks are reasonably priced and DRM-free because we know that while you can always lower a price you can’t raise one–and that’s an economic fact, not an opinion. So, bombarding our authors with “advice” that they should demand we lower the price of their ebooks because they’ll never sell otherwise is insulting. Please don’t.
  • 5. You’ve self-published the first book in a series. Now you want me to pick the series up because you did fairly well with book one. My policy is to want all books in a series under contract to make it convenient for readers to find them. So, you’re asking me to publish at least two books: the next in the series and the one (or more) that came before. I will have to edit the books and pay for new cover art for the previously published, costs the previously published book may never earn back. Unless there are extraordinary circumstances in play, it’s likely not going to happen.
  • 6. Connecting with me via networks and social media will not provide you with a way around our submissions protocol. I’m delighted to know you, but if your Twitter stream is an endless commercial, I will not follow you back. Do not send me messages on LinkedIn telling me about your new book or asking me to review it. For one thing, I have an acquisitions editor who handles submissions. For another, I’m the one who established the submissions protocol, so I’m not likely to look favorably on someone who thinks it doesn’t apply to them. If you have a book you believe is worthy of publication and don’t want to do it yourself, the method is simple: read our guidelines, submit per instructions. The only way around that is to be referred to me by someone whose opinion I respect, and they need to contact me first, not you.
  • 7. If you published through a channel that provided you with an ISBN, that channel is your publisher of record. Any book you’ve sold through that channel and want me to consider would be a reprint. Reprints don’t sell. We do them as a courtesy to our contracted authors, and then only if we feel there’s a new market for them. I have rejected doing reprints of backlist titles by some well-known writers; backlist from unknowns is going to be a hard sell.

The above list doesn’t just apply to Zumaya Publications. Any legitimate publisher will tell you at least some of the same things, although there are exceptions, of course. Getting published is hard not because publishers are ignorant or uninterested in finding new talent but because they are professional organizations who expect professional behavior from writers seeking to establish a relationship with them. They don’t expect perfect manuscripts, but they do require something more polished than one you finished last week.

Yes, publishers do provide editing and copyediting. They aren’t, however, in business to teach you your craft, and if you can’t be bothered to learn that craft before you submit, don’t be surprised if no one’s interested. I would venture to guess that 90% of the manuscripts we reject are potentially good stories that are so badly written they would require months of editing to be even halfway ready for publication. So, before you buy into the myth that publishers are the enemy, be sure you aren’t your own worst one.