Defense of Traditional Publishing

Thanking the Publishers

When you’re an agent, you get to see a lot of what publishers do every day.

At the same time, because you don’t actually work in their offices, you don’t know a lot about what they do.

Since I’ve been an agent a long time, I don’t need to write a blog like this to butter up the publishers. They already know me. But because there’s such publisher bashing, I think now’s a good time to consider what publishers do for their authors.

To the publishers, thank you for:

  • Thinking through each and every book project before bringing it to market. This means vetting each manuscript through several meetings, composed of different groups of people who’ll have a say in whether they think the book will be a success. As a result, every author will have a team of publishing professionals behind each book. No one stands alone in a publishing decision. Does this mean each book will be a bestseller? No. But it does help more authors become successful once they are published.
  • Investing many dollars in each book. It’s hard for authors, and even agents, to understand just how much money we’re asking a publisher to invest in an author. Great cover designers, editors, marketing people, accountants, contracts people, administrators, and author relations people don’t come cheaply – nor should they. It must be frustrating for publishers to hear authors complain that not enough money was invested in their particular books. Maybe in some cases, more money could increase sales; maybe not. But even the last book on the list has still had considerable investment.
  • Hiring fabulous editors. As an agent, I can attest to the high quality of editors in CBA. I would hate to be an author going it alone in the publishing wilds, hoping to find an editor on my own. And while not every author and editor are a good fit at every publishing house, the publishing houses I work with consistently hire the best editors in the business. The fact that I rarely if ever read a book review saying, “The author could have used a good editor,” regarding a CBA book is testimony to the fact. Readers of secular book reviews will see such criticism time and time again – justified or not.
  • Caring about their authors. Yes, this is a business. And sometimes authors don’t “feel the love” but the editors themselves really do care about their authors. I’ve seen the tender loving professional care editors give to their authors’ books – and real friendships can develop.
  • Caring about the quality of the books they publish. The editors and publishers I know truly want to glorify the Lord by presenting readers with quality books. Isn’t that what authors want as well? What more can we ask?

Your turn:

What would you like to thank your publisher for, as an author?

As a reader, does anything come to mind?

 

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Who Owns Whom in Publishing?

Updated February 3, 2018 For a comprehensive list check out The Christian Writers Market Guide. Available in print at your favorite retailer or as an online subscription (updated weekly) at www.ChristianWritersMarketGuide.com. Our emphasis in this post is the Christian publishing industry. There are many fine commercial publishers that do not publish …

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When Editorial Errors Matter

by Steve Laube

Writers make mistakes. It happens. Often an editor’s job is to be the safety net and catch those tidbits that find their way into an early draft of a manuscript for any number of reasons.

The simplicity of “cut & paste” has created more opportunity for error than ever before. I’ve seen half sentences left in their original place because the writer failed to cut and paste accurately. Many books evolve over time with additional research or new thoughts. Errors can creep in this way. I’ve seen an author actually contradict himself between chapters. There are too many details to keep straight so the writer overlooks the inconsequential trusting the editor to fix things. I remember talking to a Bethany House editor who revealed that an author accidently brought a character back to life, forgetting that the character had died earlier in the story.

None of the above examples ever found their way into the final edition of the book and the public never knew the error was made. An editor caught it and fixed it. That is why errors found in a finished and published book are so jarring.

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Ebook-Originals, the Next Step in Traditional Publishing Strategy

Guest Post by Sue Brower

Our guest today is Sue Brower. She is Executive Editor at Zondervan in charge of fiction and thinks she has the best job in the world…she gets paid to read all day!  Zondervan is currently looking for completed manuscripts to fill the Zondervan First fiction eBook platform.  The ideal stories will primarily have romance-driven plots and vivid, realistic characters.  We are also looking for proposals in the Contemporary, Historical, Suspense, and Romance categories for our print program.  Sue lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband Todd, dogs Pepper and Ollie, and cat, Shep.

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Lately, I’ve been thinking about how much the book market has changed in just a few short years.  Some bad, but mostly good because of all the new opportunities for innovation and creativity in publishing. Traditional publishing (print books sold through retail stores) is holding its own, but now there are so many more vehicles for authors to get published: print, epub-only, self-pub, etc.

A diehard fiction fan, I swore I would never give up my printed books and I didn’t believe that there would come a day when I wouldn’t be able to spend hours in a bookstore just browsing.  I love the way books smell; I love the way they feel.  Then the company I work for, Zondervan, gave me an IPad so that I could get comfortable with the format and so I could experience books electronically.  For a while everything I read was on my IPad; current books, as well as manuscripts I was considering for publication.  I thought it was so cool…for at first.  Then, a book was being released by my favorite author and I just had to have it in hardcover.  It wasn’t enough to have it loaded in perpetuity on my IPad, I wanted to be able to hold the story in my hands.  I enjoyed it more, become involved in the fantasy just as the writer intended.

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Inside a Publishing Company

by Steve Laube

I just returned from three days at the Write! Canada writers conference outside Toronto. During my time there I presented a six session lecture series on the Complete Publishing Process: From Idea to Print.

When the entire process is compressed into a short series like that it becomes evident how many people are involved in the publishing of a book at any given publishing company.

Recently Random House did a 10 minute video interviewing a number of key people in-house who are involved in the acquisition, editing, design, marketing, and sales of a book. Having worked for a publisher (Bethany House Publishers) this video made me smile as I remembered many of the great people I was privileged to work with (many of whom are still working there!).

What thoughts does this video invoke for you?

If you are self-publishing, how much of this are you doing yourself?

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Goodbye to Traditional Publishing?

by Steve Laube

Recently Ann Voss Peterson wrote of her decision to never sign another contract with Harlequin. One major statistic from the article is that she sold 170,000 copies of a book but earned only $20,000.

Multiple clients sent me Peterson’s “Harlequin Fail” article and wanted my opinion. My first thought is that this was typical “the publisher is ripping me off” fodder. But that would be a simplistic and knee-jerk reaction and unfair to both Peterson and Harlequin.

Yes, Harlequin pays a modest royalty that is less than some publishers. Since when is that news? That has always been their business model because it is the only way to create and maintain an aggressive Direct-to-Consumer and Trade publishing program. Their publishing machine is huge and they are a “for profit” company. For Profit. If they are unprofitable, they go away.

If an author is uncomfortable with the terms, then don’t sign the contract (which is Peterson’s decision going forward). I urge each of you to be careful not to sign a contract and then complain about it later. Unless you were completely hoodwinked you agreed to those terms and should abide by them.

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21 Influential Books

by Steve Laube

There is a shelf in our living room where I have placed the books that had the most influence on my spiritual growth. I call them my “Punctuation Marks” because in a metaphoric way some books were a comma, some an exclamation point, and some a period or full stop.

The beauty of having them all in one place is the visual reminder of those moments where God reached out through the pages of creative people who listened to the call to write and thereby touched me. It is a large part of why I have been involved in the book business for over thirty years.

Here are the books in no particular order:

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A Defense of Traditional Publishing: Part Five

INFRASTRUCTURE

The more I write on this series the more “boring” it seems to become. Why? Because I’m not revealing anything particularly new or uncovering the secret to getting published. However, the goal has been to talk about things that the traditional can do quite well. And this series ultimately is a journey through the innards of the publishing business.

Today we discuss infrastructure. I’m talking about the yawn-worthy topics of accounting, licensing, legal protection, and metadata.

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A Defense of Traditional Publishing: Part Four

DESIGN

Napoleon Bonaparte, is supposed to have said, “Un bon croquis vaut mieux qu’un long discours,” translated “A good sketch is better than a long speech.” That has morphed into the modern phrase “A picture is worth a thousand words,” which is a fundamental truth when talking of book covers.

Another cliché states, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but we do it all the time. We are a visual people and our eyes are drawn to images that capture our imagination. In my opinion, the title and the cover vie for preeminence as the most important part of the presentation of a book to a potential reader.

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