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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Markets for Our Writing » A middle way, between big publishers and self-publishing

Author Topic: A middle way, between big publishers and self-publishing
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For the past couple months I've been looking around for a book publisher and agent, and it's quite a daunting task. In particular, I've been reading about how most of the book publishers out there offer very poor contract terms to authors, and this is something I absolutely want to avoid.

On the other hand, I really don't want to self-publish either. I know that self-publishing typically requires a ton of effort with the marketing and related tasks. But that's just not something I really want to do, certainly not any time soon at least.

I'm perfectly willing to share a percentage of my royalties with an agent and publisher, in exchange for them working hard to market my book--but the more I read, the more I'm convinced that the publishing industry has nearly a stranglehold on authors, often with onerous contract clauses and low royalties going back to those authors, who usually end up doing most of the work of promotion themselves, in addition to the work of having already written the book.

I want to find a publisher that I can experience a much more equal relationship with--much closer to 50/50, instead of the 90/10 publisher/author relationships I've been reading about, when authors are so desperate that they'll sign up with just about any deal they're offered, for the privilege of seeing their work in print. I've read about a lot of bad publishers now, so I know that's not the kind of relationship I want.

I've read a lot of stuff promoting self-publishing, but as yet I've been unable to find what I'm looking for: a list of publishers that occupy the middle ground between the bigger, older publishers that have been doing things their way, and self-publishing. I've already done a fair amount of looking around for this type of publisher, so I know there are many self-published authors that have stepped up and created their own businesses to heavily market their own books and such--and done so at far lower cost than if they had gone through a typical publisher. If there are such businesses following this model, then surely there must be some publishers out there that have a greater focus on the authors they've published. But who?

I've come up with a list of items I'm hoping to find in my "ideal publisher." Perhaps there aren't any publishers out there that hit all of these points, but there must be those that hit several, at least.

Or does such a "unicorn" truly exist?

1. Gives a much fairer portion of royalties to writers. The industry standard is that authors get something like 10-15% of the money generated by the books they create. I'm hoping to keep around 50% of all the money my book makes, possibly higher.

2. No unconscionable or incredibly unfair contract clauses. As an author, it doesn't make sense to me to sign a contract that could pretty much permanently lock me in with a publishing company—especially if it turns out to be a bad relationship. I want to find a publisher that is prepared to allow its authors to leave if they don't feel they're treated right, particularly without having a string of legal issues to deal with.

3. A real commitment to actually marketing my book. THIS, so far as I can tell, is the single biggest reason authors should even pay publishers in the first place. I've now read a number of stories of authors whose books were barely even marketed by their publishers. If a publisher isn't going to put any real effort behind me as an author, why would I want to give them a big chunk of the money that my book makes? I may as well get on with self-publishing, and then market the book myself.

4. A US-based publisher. I live in the US, and from what I understand it would probably be a pretty big hassle to work with a foreign company.

5. Global reach. I'm pretty sure that I don't want to work with one of the really big publishers. If they met the other points I'd consider it, but my feeling is that, with the publishing industry as it stands today, a medium or small publisher is the way to go. But I'd also like to get my book sold overseas. This point probably isn't as important as those above though.

6. Not a vanity press. I don't want to have to pay someone upfront to see my book in print.

7. A strong, proven track record. I believe that my book would be extremely popular and sell loads of copies, if marketed correctly (yeah, we writers are all self-delusional, right? Of course I think I'm special). I'd strongly prefer to work with a publisher that has already proven that it's good at getting product sold to customers in large quantities. This probably means that they've already developed a decent platform/network, both for marketing and distribution.

8. You have personal experience with the publisher--as an author. If you'd share some of your positive experiences with such companies, I think it'd probably be helpful to not just myself, but a lot of other writers in my position.

9. A publisher of fiction. My book is fictional. Publishers exclusively focused on non-fiction won't be useful for me--but don't be afraid to include them to benefit other readers of this thread.

10. Genres published include: romance, chicklit, women's fiction, New Adult. Again, if you know a company that fits the other points above but not this point, don't be afraid to include it.

OK. I should probably leave it at that. My points are already beginning to sound a little redundant.

Please note: this thread is for discussion about this subject. For the actual list of publishers and agents, please see http://www.hatrack.com/cgi-bin/ubbwriters/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=13&t=000315

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