Agents Represent Authors
I’m a literary agent.
I advocate for authors.
That’s my job, it’s what I choose to do, and I enjoy doing it. Every day I’m grateful for my partnership with so many talented writers. I consider it my privilege to assist them in reaching their publishing goals. I work hard to understand their needs, priorities, and dreams so that I can serve them well.
Part of my job as a literary agent is also to have a deep understanding of publishers. The better I understand their goals and concerns, the better I can find the right authors for them, and negotiate contracts that are win-win for both author and publisher. The more I do that, the more both authors and publishers appreciate working with an agent, and have a positive publishing experience.
On Monday I wrote a post in which I attempted to explain the publishers’ concerns in this new age of hybrid authors who are both traditionally- and self-published.
But I messed up royally.
In my effort to illuminate the publisher’s perspective on things, I inadvertently came across as completely defending the publishers’ viewpoints, and somehow being on the side of “Big Pub” (as some commenters put it) rather than being an advocate for authors. That was my mistake. I badly miscommunicated, and I regret it because it led to so much misunderstanding.
Here are a few points I’d like to clarify:
→ I am the author’s advocate, and I take that role seriously, as I know most agents do.
→ In order to properly represent authors, it’s crucial for me to understand publishers — and it’s also necessary to maintain a win/win philosophy in all negotiations. It’s in all authors’ best interest that publishers respect agents and want to work with them. So the agent/publisher relationship is not combative, it’s not “us versus them.” There is a spirit of working together to get good books published. This is why my post didn’t try to “take sides” against publishers. It’s better to simply understand where they’re coming from, so we have a foundation from which to begin negotiations.
→ Every author’s situation is unique. They each have their priorities, goals, and preferences. Like most agents, I approach each publishing contract with that individual author in mind, and I work hard to protect their interests, paying attention to their specific needs. No two scenarios are the same, and therefore no two contract negotiations are the same.
→ The title of Monday’s post was badly worded — mea culpa! I was trying to find a colloquial way of referring to the fact that publishing contracts allow and disallow certain things, on both the author’s and publisher’s side. By saying “Will my publisher LET me self-publish?” many people felt I was treating authors like third-graders and putting the publisher in the position of the Great and Powerful Dictator. That wasn’t my intent and I take full responsibility for my poor communication.
→ I assumed that most readers would accept my post in context of my other posts and other things they already know about me. Bad assumption! Not everyone knows that our agency is working hard to help our clients become hybrid authors if they want to. Not everyone knows that I’ve written positively about self-publishing many times. Not everyone knows that I myself am a self-published author, so I clearly have nothing against it. Not everyone knows how seriously I take my responsibility to be the writer’s advocate. My post needed to stand on its own without context, and failed.
→ Like most agents, I always work hard on the stickier contract clauses, such as non-competes and options (“first right of refusal”). My goal is to protect the author’s rights and get them a fair contract. Many comments on Monday’s post seemed to assume I was saying I would “just accept” publisher non-competes. I’d be an extremely poor author representative if I did that! I meant to convey that I understand the goals of a non-compete, and this understanding helps me to speak to publishers intelligently and work with them to come to a win-win solution.
→ Agented authors depend on their agents’ ability to be strong advocates, fighters if necessary, while maintaining the ability to sell books to those publishers. It’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid “us versus them” thinking. It is NOT authors-vs.-publishers. It is NOT self-vs.-traditional publishing. We are all in this together.
→ As agents, we represent authors. We’re committed to representing writers’ interests, and to do that, we must have strong working relationships with publishers. Don’t assume, because we understand and can explain the publisher’s side of things, that we’re confused about our loyalties. We know for whom we work.
We work for authors.
Why do you think these publishing issues lend themselves so readily to an us-versus-them viewpoint? What is making all of us respond so passionately? I’m interested in hearing your perspective.
To properly represent authors, it’s crucial for agents to understand publishers. Click to Tweet.
When an agent’s post is misunderstood, all hell breaks loose. Click to Tweet.
A “mea culpa” for Monday’s post from @RachelleGardner. Click to Tweet.
Wow, I can’t believe people got so upset at you! Some people need to chill. You were offering an insiders glimpse, and I did not find it offending in the least. It was well constructed, not critical or slanderous in any way, I for one completely understood where you were coming from, and I feel better prepared for the industry for having read it. I’ve been a big fan of yours for many years (despite this actually being my first comment – I’m a silent follower), and I want to say thank you for the time and effort you put into each and every single word in every post.
Rachelle, I just stumbled across your blog. I must say that in the “sea of ordinary” swamping the net, this is one of the most stunningly honest, open and passionate posts I’ve ever come across. I have subscribed! I’m a first time novelist almost finished with a first draft. I’m not sure whether I’d like to go the self-pub or traditional pub route yet, but if I decide to go traditional, you are definitely the kind of agent I’d love to form a working relationship with.
Thanks for all you are doing for authors!
I’m sad that people didn’t give you the benefit of the doubt, Rachel, and that’s being generous because I read your post and I don’t think there was a thing to be uppity about in the first place.
I think the post is a fair depiction of what publishers need, and why. As an aspiring author myself, this is useful to me. I like to know the interests of those whom I hope will one day have an interest in my writing.
Thank you for the time you spend working on these blog posts. It’s appreciated.
I wonder, what are yours (or anyone’s) thoughts or opinions on using a pseudonym to publish in a different genre in conjunction with trad/self publishing? Does a pseudonym make it easier for a writer to publish one book traditionally and another in a different genre with self-publishing? I see the use of pseudonyms more often in genre fiction, rather than in literary or commercial lit. Not sure that’s a factor or not. Thoughts?
Rachelle, I’ve been reading your blog for some time now, but was so swamped with other things this week that I fell behind. Didn’t come upon this tempest until I saw it in referred to in another blog I read (from the top of my inbox list this morning). So I read the earlier post which didn’t offend me at all. It is critical, in any negotiation, to understand the viewpoint of the other person. And you gave us good information in that respect. Your clarification in this post is excellent. But for those of us who have seen your heart in earlier posts, it was completely extraneous. Bless you for your devotion to the heart of the publishing industry, the writer. Grace and peace be with you.
[…] Agents Represent Authors – Rachelle Gardner […]
I really respect you for taking the time to clarify your position. I found your first post fascinating however! I read in the context of your posts and, as a small-press / self-published author who would like to be a hybrid author someday, I found your comments (in both posts) very informative and quite encouraging. Thanks! 🙂
Interesting. I read the other article. I didn’t get the same impression many of your readers did. I found it informative and helpful. Guess we all see things through different lenses. Amy
Ha ha ha. I loved this, “When an agent’s post is misunderstood, all hell breaks loose. Click to Tweet.” You’re winsome and hilarious, Rachelle. And I will just say again as a traditionally published author… I love my agent. I’m thankful for what my agent and people like you are doing for people like me. Thanks.
[…] Agents Represent Authors […]
I am sorry that your last post was misunderstood by many readers. I thought it was very informative and understood your position and reasons for writing it. I think the strong response you received by way of comments is a testament to the challenges inherent in the topic itself. Authors are passionate artists who desire to have their work read and appreciated. Negotiating these waters can be difficult without a guide. Thanks for being one of those guides.
Rachelle- You write a great blog. It’s entertaining and informative. Anyone who has followed you for any length of time knows that you are an advocate for your writers. Some people in the world just can’t help but try to kick another person when they get the chance. Carry on…
writing as Bellakentuky
I commented on your previous post and questioned the ability, or intent, of traditional agents to evolve into guides that could help new authors find their way along the self publishing track.
Nothing I said questioned your integrity. I’m sure you represent authors and their interests well.
You responded to my comment by saying:
“We (agents) have no problem expanding into all the ways we can help authors bring their books to readers. And that is what most of us are doing.”
Well, everything you said in this post represents the traditional mold, you standing between an author, who may or may not be published, and a traditional publishing house.
My question is, how many new authors have you helped self publish a book? Do you represent authors to editors or just recommend a few friends in the editing business?
From my experience, an author with a manuscript is like a tourist with a few bread crumbs on a beach surrounded by a flock of screaming sea gulls. Who do you pick?
It’s not just a matter of not wanting to spend the money. It’s a matter of getting good value for the money. I would think a trusted agent would be a great person to help answer those questions.
I blog regularly and what happened here really makes me aware. I read Monday’s post and thought nothing of it. It seemed like good information to keep in mind since I hope to publish a book one day.
Now, to find out the post got such a reaction, it makes me realize we just never know how readers will react. It’s good to recognize what can happen before it hits closer to home. We’ll likely all have our day if we write long enough.
Thanks for handling it well.
If an agent’s primary purpose is to sell her client’s book (and to help the author position herself to sell LOTS more books in the future), it seems only rational for the agent to explain what scares potential corporate buyers off.
I’m a big fan of empowerment, but we seem to be arguing over an already-won battle. Anyone who objects to the ‘rules’ is free to self-pub or negotiate a better deal.
I am standing on tip-toe just trying to figure all of this out. I have a half finished book sitting in my little study. The mere thought about what happens when it is complete has paralyzed me. It is comforting to read your words. Perhaps it isn’t so frightening after all.
Hmmm… the blog responses made me think of the submission process itself, where agents/editors read and make decisions on manuscripts using their own subjective “lenses.”
All of us who read anything do the same thing. Makes life more interesting though, don’t you think?
I, for one, appreciated what you shared on Monday’s post. Of course a good agent will understand both sides of the fence they must straddle. It’s too bad so many people are so tense about the publishing scene we currently live in that they can’t take a comment in its context.
Keep your honest ideas coming, Rachelle. I love them.
Like Andrew Budek-Schmeisser among others, I too found the original post fair and even handed; in addition, for me your body of work spoke clearly for itself and for your good intentions. I’m also a believer that even perspectives far more challenging than those you shared can be a valuable part of the support an agent provides, for her clients, her blog readers, and others. I’ve read you for years because you’ve got a warm heart, an open spirit AND a clear head!
I can see both perspectives on this issue, and understand many if not most of the reactions to the post. But I don’t think that broad generalities about what huge and, in reality, hugely diverse groups of folks “all” feel is ever either accurate or useful. In fact, I find them sort of ironic. I’ve been working in and around the industry for twenty years, and I’ve rarely been part of a meeting where three folks couldn’t argue for four hours over, say, the use of the serial comma. If I could have found more of those publishers who all feel one thing and those writers who all believe another, my day jobs would have required much less coffee…and my writing would have much more consistent use of that serial comma.
Rachelle, I didn’t find your post offensive in the least (although I could sort of see why some people might have taken umbrage at the title). Your blog posts are always highly informative, and I’ve shared them with many of my authors. As a freelance editor, I follow only one agent — and you’re that agent. This general issue of self-publishing versus traditional publishing is going to be controversial for a while to come. Keep talking about it!
[…] it offensive and angering. I wrote a follow-up to clarify what I was trying to say. Click here: Agents Represent Authors. […]
I really appreciate your humility. It’s so refreshing in an age of offense and defense.
Wow, I guess I’ve been reading your blog a long time because I did not see all these problems. Your defense above is just assumed to me. However, I respect your willingness to take responsibility for not communicating fully in the content of that particular blog. What I got out of it was that it is necessary for the author to understand the other party with whom they are negotiating in order to make the negotiations profitable for all. This is a good thing because if the “other party” does not find partnership with you profitable, they are not likely to seek further partnership. Important stuff to know!!!
I didn’t even blink at that post; as you said, I read it in context.
I’m still a grateful fan of your blogs. Thanks.
I truly appreciate that!
Perhaps you should go back to your “Will My Publisher Let Me…” post and include a link to THIS article, so that new readers who land directly on the former will find context and won’t get the wrong idea about you as an agent.
That is a great idea and I will do it right now. Thanks!
Please don’t be so hard on yourself. I found your controversial post very informative, because it actually did explain how publishers look at their authors trying to self-pub and why they might be hesitant to simply let authors run with it.
[…] to the rest at Rachelle Gardner and thanks to Dan for the […]
I assumed that most readers would accept my post in context of my other posts
Whether you were right to assume this or not, doesn't change the fact that you can't put every single thing you believe into one post. Each post has to deal with one issue if it's to be any good; and who has time to write anything if we have to put eighty-seven disclaimers and clarifications into every post? The people who rip your posts out of context are the same people who rip proof texts out of context.
I think Christ said that didn't he: Blessed are you when they rip your posts out of context for so they did also to the Son of Man, and the servant is not greater than the master.
What disturbes me about all the misunderstanding going on these days is that so many seem to be unable to understand simple logical arguments anymore, and some seem to consistently interpret people in the harshest possible way. Writers ought not to be so dense, to say nothing of Christians.
I so “feel your pain”. Trying so hard to express what you mean and somehow it comes out sideways and somebody gets defensive and mad , and I am talking about in my personal life crisis at the moment. I am enjoying, and feel I am learning from your blog/posts and hope to send a submission into you one day before too long! Hang in there.. you can’t please all of the people all of the time!
Have followed you for months with 100% trust…now simply listen with interest.
An author’s story contains their heart & soul, and everyone in the publishing and marketing arena wants a piece. Doesn’t matter how they get it.
You’re right, authors put their heart and soul into their work. That’s probably why this always gets so heated.
I was pretty taken aback by Monday’s post, myself, but I do salute you for taking on a tough topic. The good news is twofold: a) I usually learn more from my own and others’ oopses than from successes, and b) I think you did a great job with the mea culpa message. That said, there is a ton of tension between traditional publishing and self publishing. Trolls lurk the Amazon forums bashing on us Indies all the time. Indies bash back. It’s a case of “Well, that’s not how I did it” amplified. And the simple fact is that until you’ve walked the self-published path you really can’t know what it’s like, as, I’d assume, can be said for the traditional publishing path (which I did walk, but only for a few months before it went sour).
Goodness, this became heated! So sorry your words were misunderstood. In these days of soundbites and twitter-phrases, it becomes easy to misconstrue a persons viewpoints as black or white and demonize the other side. So sad that it’s become so prevalent in the publishing world too.
Thank you for clarifying your position and explaining more thoroughly. I’m grateful for agents who do their part to educate as well all their other duties.
It is not just trade publishers that disdain self-publishing. After all Thomas Nelson has their own in WestBow Press. In academia self-publishing is almost like smearing mud on your face. Although, there is a trend beginning as more academics are self-pubbing their non-academic works. I would love to see more affordable text books, because the authors certainly are not seeing the bulk of the money from text book sales.
I always read your posts Rachelle, although I do not comment very much. To me, it read just as you intended. But, then, I am adept as putting things in context. Thank you for this second post, it proves your grace abounds 🙂
I love your fairness and balanced approach to publishing as it is today. In meeting a new marketing person this week he immediately asked me if I self-publish or use an agent for traditional publishing. He had a hard time getting his head around the fact that I do both. I have great relationships with publishers and we discuss ancillary materials that I typically create and publish myself. I just don’t experience this adversarial environment that so many seem to expect.
And I think the “expectation” is the key issue. If we as authors “expect” to battle with publishers we will in fact encounter that. If we view them as trusted partners for our success we will find them to be that.
I think you are SO right, Dan. Our expectations will often determine our outcome.
Not all of us are angry with you. I, for one, would be thrilled if you agreed to represent me. I’m afraid we newbie authors might be a bit drunk with power–we have seen our words in print; therefore, we are authors. Right? We, too, must understand the role of publishers. They still hold the real trump cards for most of us, but admitting that would lessen our thrill with our meager success. Rock on, Rachelle; you are still right on target.
Thanks for your comment, Corinda. I appreciate your support! Your words made me think of something about indie authors. I wonder if they’ve thought about the fact that all those things I wrote about in Monday’s post — the things that concern publishers — are things they themselves (indie authors) should also be concerned about!
Indie authors SHOULD protect their branding; pay a great deal of attention to quality in content and design; spend their time wisely when it comes to balancing the writing and marketing of books; and make sure their book promotions are well-timed and planned. Just like traditional publishers!
I believe your estimation of whether people read other articles by you or do not does have something to do with how they would receive another article. We see your heart in your posts, your hard work, and your reputation. I would be honored to have you as my agent when I am ready to publish. Thank you for the clarification, though, that was smart.
Good post, Rachelle!
You have a difficult job in an industry working hard to reinvent itself while holding onto strong traditions.
Plus, you do a tremendous job with this blog.
Thanks for all you do!
I should add that I’ve enjoyed your blog for some time now, but the sense of humility in today’s post makes me look you even more.
Thanks for the encouragement, Joseph! We agents need that too, sometimes. 🙂
Thanks for the additional insight you provided in this post. Being new to this industry as well as your blog, I didn’t have the reaction some did. Regardless, it is clear from this post you know you are dedicated to helping your clients succeed. Having a strong journalism and public relations background, I found much of what you stated in Monday’s post to be consistent with marketing concepts we share with clients. Image consistency is important. Furthermore, marketing campaigns are timely, and in some cases expensive, and such campaigns are most likely to succeed when we give our full time and resources. Thanks again for addressing the topic. I look forward to participating in this community.
I am so glad you’re here, Kristy!
Frankly, I didn’t take offense to the post until I read some of the comments and realized the title of the post was badly worded. However, being a fan of this blog, it’s obvious you are committed to empowering authors. Hey, if authors can have a clunker every now and then, so can agents. 🙂
I got you, totally! 🙂 No worries on my end! Very thoughtful post, though and I know there are some who appreciate your clarification. Best to you!
Oh good grief! Sometimes, I think people are just LOOKING for a reason to get their hackles up! I thought the post was fine. You weren’t insulting authors. You’re in a unique position to “understand” both sides of the fence, and I took it that that you were just trying to help authors understand the publishing side of things, which seems to be the point of your blog sometimes–to help authors understand the publishing side a bit more. I thought the post was fine, and not unclear or insulting. Which makes me respect you even more for your gracious response to the nasty comments you received.
[…] Yesterday my agent confessed that she “messed up royally.” Actually, Rachelle’s post was a clarification of her previous post entitled Will My Publisher Let Me Self-Publish Too? This post stirred up lots of pushback, most notably from self-published authors who felt she was siding with “Big Pub.” […]
I read both Joanna Penn’s ‘I’m offended’ post and both of yours, and find them equally important. But I lean to your first post, maybe minus the ‘let’, because those are issues and points many people ignore or are unaware of.
Self publishing is a wonderful and freeing ability. But not all writing is created equal. And with the proliferation of self publishing services plying their wares, self publishing authors are going to discover the value of good publishers, book designers, PR people, and agents and managers. Most of those people earn their commissions and royalties.
I’m a produced screenwriter and first time novelist preparing to self publish my young adult novel ‘becoming Hope’ in July. This does not mean I’m not interested in a traditional publishing contract, because I am. In my case I’m using the self publishing route as a tool to get going, create some awareness for ‘becoming Hope’, and use that as leverage in negotiating a publishing contract.
I don’t want to spend my time creating and managing websites, designing book covers, formatting my book online, continuous marketing – I want to write. And that’s what a good publishing team will allow you to do.
I thought Monday’s post was excellent. I learned a lot, and I took the title as a quote from one of your blogs readers asking a question. I’ve always loved how you explain current situations in the complex world of publishing. Thank you for doing that, and thank you for doing it so well. Every time.
You are always such a blessing to me, Sue. Thank you!
Rachelle wrote a post that didn’t do her position any favors. It was worded poorly in places and definitely gave the impression that she was justifying non-compete clauses. She knows it.
So many people rightly called her on it (respectfully, I might add), and she very graciously clarified in both responses to comments and in this follow-up post.
Good enough for me.
Thanks, Rachelle. Your kind of internet grace is in short supply.
Hey Dan, I appreciate your being here. Thanks for your kind words!
I think that explaining something and justifying it are 2 different things 🙂 She was trying to help authors understand the position of publishers. I really didn’t think she was justifying one way or the other, just trying to help authors understand why a publisher might be hesitant about it. Knowledge is power! The more we can understand things, the better off we are.
Rachelle, your posts don’t often surprise me, but this one did. Anyone who would think you would be on the side of a publisher over a client is either 1) new; 2) not paying attention; 3) never negotiated a contract with you. As a “traditional” publisher who HAS done that last one, I know from personal experience that you are an excellent advocate for your clients.
The industry is undergoing a sea-change right now, and there are a lot of unknowns. Your devotion to your clients is not one of them.
Ramona, that is one of the nicest things anyone’s ever said to me! 🙂
Coming from you, it’s a huge compliment, and I don’t take it lightly. Thank you for noticing that I advocate for my clients, and for saying so here. You are appreciated!
Anyone who follows your blog knows that you are always helping writers. I can’t understand why readers would choose to view your last post as “taking sides” with publishers over authors. I have to assume those who did must not be very familiar with you.
It is certainly nice of you to come back and apologize/clarify your remarks and intent, but I was not offended by your last post. It seemed like a “devil’s advocate” kind of post intended to educate writers about the other side’s perspective.
If writers are hoping to build a hybrid career, I’d think they’d find that information/insight valuable.
I appreciate honesty, even when it gives me an answer I don’t particularly like. I hope that this experience doesn’t make you, or other agent bloggers, censor your opinions simply to avoid backlash. It’s pretty easy for naysayers to hide behind an avatar and make aggressive comments. That’s one thing about social media I don’t like at all; people feel the freedom to express themselves in ways they’d never do in person.
Hope you aren’t stressing too much over this non-blunder!
I did stress about it for awhile, but felt better after I was able to clarify. Thanks Jamie!
Monday’s post reminded me I need to keep informed about what I’m signing regarding the long-term aspects of my career. Even though I have an agent, I want to understand my options. I don’t want to assume that pushing out my own self-pubbed books is the best decision if I plan to work with a traditional publisher, although I personally would like the option to do so. I’ve networked with many writers from my RWA group who have worked with short contracts, different publishers, and also self-pub, and some of those are the same author. I suppose career and branding is what I can work with my agent on, but I’d still rather have done my homework first.
Exactly – information is power, right? We’re all best when we make decisions from a knowledgeable standpoint.
What I read on Monday was truth, though it reawakened my independence.
Novels are not much different from music. The need to be “commercial,” as a songwriter or band in order to sign with a name brand publisher is always a tension. It has given rise to lots of indy music and musicians living for their art, rather than worldly gain. Is that such a bad thing?
I think most of us have a pull toward independence, and artists, especially, have a need to be free and not have boundaries put on their art. There will always be a tension when art and commerce mix!
I read all your blog posts and have never been offended, even if it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I thought your previous one was informative and helpful as always. Sometimes it is a “me” problem, sometimes it is a “them” problem. I consider the unhappiness with your previous post a “them” problem, you don’t have to own that one. Thanks for all your posts!
Thanks, Kimberly! I’m glad you’re here.
I read your post. Even if I’d been a huge self publishing advocate it wouldn’t have bothered me.
I mean honestly, people? You object to the title? The words “let me”? Well guess what, there are a lot of things publishers won’t LET you do. That’s why there’s a contract. Put on your big boy pants and deal with it. It’s a business, not a smooshy hug fest of emotion.
Rachelle was trying to explain WHY the publishers feel certain ways. She wasn’t stating her opinion, or necessarily even agreeing with it. When self published authors get all up in arms it’s two steps backwards for all of them. We’re just starting to shake off the bad rep, so stop exploding at every little perceived slight.
Thanks for understanding, Latimer.
I think the us vs. them mentality comes a lot from simply having a contract. The ideal of a contract is simply an agreement of who does what, a delineation of responsibilities and income, and I think (I hope) that most of us Christian writers/agents/publishers see it that way. However, our society has become so litigious that we’re constantly looking over our shoulders for the sheriff with a subpoena. I thought your post on Monday was informative and helpful as usual, but I appreciate your words today, Rachelle.
Thanks, Meghan! I agree, the contract feeds into the “us vs. them” mentality.
I think people are passionate about this issue because the system is broken—the whole system, including self-publishing. Many excellent authors can’t get published, most published authors can’t make a living (though everyone else involved in publishing their books can), and good self-published authors get lost in the enormous swarm of poor-to-mediocre self-published books. It’s easy for an author to get the attitude that everyone is against her, including agents, publishers, readers, and even other authors who’ve made different choices. I’m not saying this attitude is right, and I struggle against it myself every day. But I do understand where it’s coming from.
That’s interesting, and gives me another thought. Perhaps it not just the “system” that’s broken, maybe it’s just that WE are all broken. What makes us think we have a “right” to make a living from artistic or intellectual endeavors anyway?
I think the system can be better, but I don’t think it can be “fixed.” The only thing that would fix it is: fewer writers, more readers.
Simple, but it will never happen.
Thanks for this, Rachelle. It is not uncommon in the world of blogging to say things one regrets the next day or week. The true measure of a blogger is how they take the heat and what they do about mistakes or regrets. While I do think Monday’s post was unfortunately worded in several respects, your true character is shown in this post, and also in your long track record of substantial and helpful posts in the past. Well done.
Thanks JSB! We all put ourselves out there, and sometimes we’re bound to “step in it.” I’m glad I have supporters like you. 🙂
Don’t you know, you’re not supposed to say, “I messed up.” You’re supposed to say, “Sorry if you misunderstood.”
Have the political/corporate/celebrity apologies of the past several decades taught you nothing?
I was actually thinking how funny it would be if my follow-up post blamed the reader, i.e. YOU misunderstood me. That could have been the death of my blog!
I’m always telling my kids: “Communication is the responsibility of the communicator.” If someone doesn’t get what you’re saying, it’s your responsibility to fix it, not their fault for failing to understand.
“Communication is the responsibility of the communicator. If someone doesn’t get what you’re saying, it’s your responsibility to fix it, not their fault for failing to understand.”
A succinct description of the awesome responsibility of the writer… 😉
I read Monday’s post and didn’t think it came off that way at all. I’m sorry you felt the need to apologize for a post that was raising legitimate issues that any author should consider if they want to both traditionally publish and self-publish. For me, it addressed questions I’ve had about a few recent hybrid deals.
At the end of the day, being a writer is a business and it’s important to know what the client expects. If an author signs a traditional publishing contract the publisher is their client and they need to deliver the product the publisher expects and when the publisher expects it. And the author does need to consider competitive issues.
Just like Martha Stewart entering into a contract to deliver product to Macy’s and then also selling the product to J.C. Penney. Not a nice thing to do if everyone isn’t on board with it and something that can cost future contracts.
(I say this from a business perspective not a writer perspective since I am not yet published.)
I like your business perspective! I always have to walk that line — I’m a business person working primarily with artists, so I’ve got to be sensitive to both sides.
I didn’t mind the post title, or the post. I saw it as a view of a traditionally published author trying to self-publish, instead of the successful hybrids that went from self-pub to traditional pub. I’m always impressed by how you handle these touchy topics, and how you’ve responded to the comments in your previous post as well. You are a wealth of information and an advocate.
The “us vs. them” issue comes from the self-publishing community reacting to trade publishing’s total and open disdain of self-publishing. That reaction then takes the form of disdain against trade publishing. And trade publishing doesn’t just distain the self-published author: they disdain all authors (except their own mega-bestsellers). They can do that because it’s such a buyer’s market for manuscripts, and because most of their published books actually fail. So in contracting with authors whose books they expect to fail (at least in part) they can allow this disdain to come through. If that author balks, 50 others just as good are waiting in line to be treated with disdain.
But at least author/publishers who self-publish understand their business. They realize that more books is better for business, that sales of all an author’s books increase when more books are available. So self-publishers work hard and fast and get their books to market at a frequency that readers love.
Trade publishing, on the other hand, seems to think that other works by the author will take readers away from the feature book. They have no clue about how the book-buying public behaves these days.
Most people in the publishing-writing community admit that trade publishers do less and less for their authors. Editing is much skimped on. Marketing is non-existent for all but bestsellers. Career development is now unknown. Even covers aren’t what they used to be. This is happening at the same time that technology has made self-publishing easier and less costly. Authors aren’t stupid, though Big Publishing thinks they are. Authors see that there’s less and less reason to pursue being published by Big Publishing, and more and more reasons to self-publish. In response Big Publishing is digging in their heels rather than changing.
How consumers find, buy, and take in content and stories is undergoing a climate change. Herds of authors see this and are migrating to the better climate. Big Publishing sees it and is blaming the weather man instead of migrating too. The non-complete clauses are part of the evidence of that. The result: storms.
Thanks for clarifying and I think it was the headline that did it on that article.
Permission in general is a huge and emotional issue for authors and of course it’s personal at the end of the day. This is my career, but it is also my creative soul.
Thanks for continuing to share your knowledge openly and caring about the author’s perspective.
You’re so right, Joanna. Permission is a huge and emotional issues for all of us, writers or not! I didn’t word it well, and it was too inflammatory. Yet at the end of the day, every contract we ever sign, every agreement we ever make with anyone, has terms and conditions that “let” us do some things, and “don’t let” us do others.
We just don’t like to hear it put in those words!
For what it’s worth, I found Monday’s post helpful. As a writer who’s still figuring out all the aspects of publishing–traditional, self-pub and hybrid, I felt your post gave me a better understanding of some of the reasons why publishers have non-compete clauses. I have no doubt that you represent your authors first.
Thanks for the apology. Your level of integrity is refreshing.
Jeanne, the whole point of my post was to give authors a better understanding of the other side, so I’m glad you got it. Thanks for your note!
All hell breaks loose- that made me giggle. You nailed these points, as you always do in your work. I think the post needed to be read in the context of all your excellent work.
I think those frustrated with the complicated nature of traditional publishing feel sensitive to anything that might imply self-publishing as somehow inferior. No one wants to think their ‘hope’ is not a reality or that they do not have choices. I think we can all take a deep breath and realize every journey is different. We have lots of choices and that is blessing.
Lisa, what you said is so important: “every journey is different. We have lots of choices and that is blessing.”
Rachelle, yesterday’s post (which I just re-read) contained nothing that should be inflammatory, provided the title hadn’t already set a tone of “us vs. them,” with the “them” being conventional publishers. That, as you’ve figured, was unfortunate. Beyond that, though, you simply presented facts.
A number of blog posts and loops have been full of material from writers who’ve chosen to self-publish, extolling the benefits of doing that. Some are discouraged by failure of acceptance from publishers, some see (and rightly so) an opportunity to make more money should their book do well, some are authors who’ve been successful in the conventional world and have decided to become “hybrids.” There are lots of reasons, but there’s no need for this to devolve into an “us vs. them” situation. We’re all part of the publishing universe, and it’s changing rapidly.
What you did was set out some of the things publishers consider. Today what you’ve done is assure readers what those of us whom you represent already know: you work for (although I’d call it “in tandem with”) authors. But, just as a pitcher can only be effective against an opposing batter if he knows his strengths and weaknesses, to properly serve as our advocate you have to know the publisher’s side as well.
You’ve explained it well. I hope this puts the matter to rest.
I always love your baseball analogies, Doc. 🙂
Thank you for being such a strong encourager and source of support for me!
While I’m new to your blog, I’m impressed with your mea culpa. You handled this whole crisis communication (or rather mis-communication) in textbook fashion. I’ll admit this moved you to the top of my short list of agents to contact, Rachelle. Well done.
Aw, thanks! I’m glad you found the blog. I have a lot of fun stuff in the archives too. 🙂
I think a lot of people get the us vs. them or David vs. Goliath mentality because of the work put into the process.
I’m not saying that self-publishing is easy, but there are steps that are adjusted to accommodate the author when you choose to do so.
Since some of those steps are not so easily adjusted (like platform building), the two seem almost at odds with one another.
This was a GREAT follow-up!
“I’m not saying that self-publishing is easy …”
I bet you’re about to.
“… but there are steps that are adjusted to accommodate the author when you choose to do so.”
There it is.
I’m curious to hear what these steps are that are just so accomodating to self-published authors. I’ll use them for my next book so I can kick back on my hammock earlier.
I think keeping 100% of your profits is cool, retaining all rights, and total controls over the production are all bonuses not seen when going with a publisher.
All of these things are still however, not easy. You still need a large amount of up-front money. You have to do all of your own promotion, and you have to find your own editor, designer, etc. This is what I meant about the choices that accommodate the author. Many people want that control, but it takes a lot of work.
Thanks for the response. I found the sentence that I quoted pretty confusing, because it seemed like you were saying that there are aspects of self-pub that are easy, when you’re actually saying that it’s a lot of work. My mistake.
I will correct you on one point. Self-pub doesn’t *require* a lot of money. Sure, some people do spend a bunch to self-pub (in the thousands per book), but I think those people are insane to do so.
I self-pubbed my first novel “Orpheus” for a grand total of $15 for cover art. And it carries a 4.6 (all legit reviews) on Amazon, so it’s not like I put out slop.
Self-pubbing is less about spending money and more about finding creative ways to get things done.
The reality is, there is a boatload of work to do, either way. It would be great if people felt fine choosing their path and not needing to denigrate the “other” path – the one they didn’t choose.
Thanks for your thoughts! You are right, there are tradeoffs, and retaining “control” can be costly.
I thought the post was fine, and evenhanded. I was surprised by the inference in some of the comments that you’d either implicitly or explicitly taken a side – or even favored a side.
The title could have been better, but it was short and blunt – and accurately described the situation. A longer title might have been more revealing, but it could easily have become something like the chapter title from a Victorian novel (check out Wells’ ‘Tono-Bungay’ for some side-splitting examples)
It’s an emotional subject because the real issue is control – control over an aspect of one’s career, and control over artistic freedom. No one wants to give it up, but too often we seem to demand both control and ‘service’, as if the author is hiring the publisher.
I think that to some degree we’re geared to an us-vs-them viewpoint by the polarization evident in other areas of life, starting with how we see the government, and going all the way through businesses, schools, and ending up in the way many people relate to their churches. We’ve been fed so many examples of abuse by the media that we’re willing to characterize almost anything in those terms. We’ll do anything to avoid having advantage taken, or even to seem weak or timid enough to allow that to happen.
And, sadly, the us-vs-them position is often justified, since many ‘corporate’ entities do relate to individuals with the attitude – “go ahead, sue us if you don’t like it”. They’ll work within the knowledge that few individuals have the resources to pursue a breach-of-contract lawsuit except if represented on contingency – and many changes in employment law make a successful suit unlikely, so there are few attorneys who’ll work on contingency. (Precedent from a number of court cases from 2002 to the present also leans toward the ’employer’.)
The old advice would seem to be the best way to approach a contract – change what you can, accept what you can’t change, and pray for the wisdom to know the difference
Thanks for your thoughts, Andrew. You’re always insightful, and a very valuable addition to this blog! I agree with your point about control, and how polarization is common in so many areas of life. Thank you for being here!
Rachelle, you made my day. Being able to contribute is a privilege.
I love your blog! You give truckloads of valuable advice. I find your posts to be always reasonable and always relevant. Keep up the good work and thank you for writing!
Thanks for the encouragement, Jennifer!