Saturday, 14 August 2010

Writers Don't Get Rich

As a relatively new author, I have spent hundreds of hours on the internet, reading magazine and newspaper articles, talking with other authors on Skype and author forums in an attempt to understand how the publishing industry works. By doing so I imagined this would help me with the process required to bring my work to the attention of a mainstream publishing house and secure that lucrative book deal we all aspire to.

I now know that I have no idea how to do this, but I am consoled by the fact that no one else seems to either. There is no magic formula that will get your book taken up by a publising house or an agent, it's all a question of individual taste, the popular theme or trend that is selling at the time and whether or not the acquisitions editor is in a receptive mood that day.

One thing I heard which completely depressed me, was an interview with a multi-published historical fiction author who said she has to employ a professional firm of publicists to promote her work because her publisher does not spend resources on promotion. This fee takes up a chunk of her royalties, and more of it is spent on travelling and researching her next book.

Wasn't there a time when, once a publisher takes you into their 'stable' of authors, in exchange for a large chunk of the royalties on each sale, they provide you with an editor, arrange to get bookshops to stock and display the book, their publicity department issues press releases and organises book signings, tours and interviews? This may still be true if your name is Grisham, Cornwell or Follett, but this particular author does not appear to benefit from these services, and her last book was released with several spelling mistakes and typos.

And the name of that publisher? Are you kidding! They might be about to announce they are offering me a three book deal any moment - Does that make me the 'w' word? -Probably.


Lisa Yarde said...

If the 'w' is wary, yes, by all means you should be. I don't doubt that one day a large publishing house will snap you up, Anita. The thing I find perplexing is, what are they going to do for you exactly? Is it anything like the heyday of publishing you mentioned? I'm not so sure any more.

Anita Davison said...

Actually Lisa, the 'w' word I was referring to was 'whore'!!

Meaning I might disparage the traditional publishing world and welcome all the recent changes, even its demise, but if Harper Collins rang I would be at their London office in a shot - it's the ultimate validation all writers strive for isn't it?


Heart of the wood said...

Oh it's all true, none of us do it for the money really. But if money is offered, I'll do it! Whatever it is. If money is offered I'll write whatever they're paying me to do. W-word indeed - this year it's been The Golden Age of Musicals, The Botany of Leaves glossary, The Soul Music Compilation liner notes. I've forgotten what it was I actually WANTED to write about! How you fiction bods stick at it I'll never know, but always admire. Thanks for your blog.

India Drummond said...

I think the writers of today just need to adjust their expectations. The industry is changing, and not just for publishers, but agents and authors as well.

I wonder how agents make a living these days, with authors getting smaller and smaller advances. I wouldn't be surprised if some have to scale back what they do for authors so they can take more clients, charge a larger percentage, or go out of business. I read recently one NYT bestselling author said her agent made about 23 cents an hour working for her over the past ten years. Sad!

Stacy said...

Hello Anita. I'm new to your blog, so please forgive me for asking for something that perhaps you've already posted. Could you post your query letter, since it seems to have worked in getting you an agent? I'm struggling with my own at the moment and would love see a successful example, along with any tips you might have to offer. Thank you, if you would be so kind.

Anne Whitfield - author said...

We must believe, Anita!
And I'll be a 'w' with you any day. LOL

Craig Hart said...

Not burning your bridges doesn't make you the 'w' word. It makes you smart. And the other comments are right on: the publishing industry is changing. We writers need to adjust our expectations and use the new medium to our advantage. After all, it's largely what's forcing this change in the first place.

Then again, writing has never been a hugely lucrative vocation for most writers. On the other hand, should writers write simply for the money? (Not that it isn't nice and I certainly wouldn't turn down Harper Collins, either!)

The Gilly Billy said...

Just a thought, and I'm sure you and your followers won't take this seriously seeing as how I am just a backwoods Ohio hillbilly and certainly not a writer...You are right, in a way. Writers do not make money. That's because most writers aren't writers at all. They are artists. Artists use their skills to express themselves and explore the boundaries of reality. Artists only make money when their work is trendy. If you want to be a writer (that is, someone who makes money by writing) you better start crafting some romance novels with vampires and werewolves in them. Alter your historical fiction to include a sub-plot with zombies. Basically, what I'm saying is that if your work does not appeal to the mindless masses and fit the current lucrative niche, good luck. Trying to break into the 'business' with an original work is like trying to win the lottery.