Tag s | Book Business

Common Sense Publishing

I will often use humor as a defense mechanism. It helps maintain my sanity, to some extent.

However, I’ve noticed a number of times what might be considered a weak attempt at humor is actually true. I guess the common statement about most humor having a kernel of truth in it, might be accurate after all.

I’ll frequently respond to someone questioning why something is happening by stating, “Oh, you are using common sense to explain it. That’s your first mistake!”

I think most people who don’t know a lot about a certain field of endeavor, make a big mistake when they apply common sense instead of actual knowledge when evaluating something.

Applying common sense to anything you don’t know much about can often lead to incorrect and frustrating conclusions.

Common sense would lead one to think everyone should get along when working together to accomplish a worthwhile goal or task, but you would have to admit, this is rarely the case. Take churches as an example. They are far from perfect.

In book publishing, common sense rarely works to explain anything.

“Why does it take so long for my book proposal to get a response from an agent or publisher?”

Oh, I get it, you are attempting to use common sense and you are jumping to a conclusion that no one cares about you and people in publishing are dysfunctional. Certainly, anyone can review a proposal in less than hour. It’s common sense.

The truth is, the person reviewing your proposal has twenty proposals to review, each requiring 15-20 minutes of time and they might have an hour to spend reviewing proposals a few days each week, meaning the pile goes down by 10-15 proposals each week, but another twenty-five arrived during that same period.

Oh, and by the way, two writers’ conferences and the flu season caused two weeks to pass without looking at any new proposals.  The proposal pile is now a miniature replica of the leaning tower in Pisa.

“Can’t publishers or agents hire people to review proposals faster?

Do you want your book reviewed by a professional, experienced publishing person with the ability to make a decision to take next steps or do you want to be rejected by the intern or entry-level editor just starting out in publishing?

 “Why does it take so long for a book to be published by a traditional publisher?”

The person applying common sense would think since you can self-publish in two weeks, a big publisher should be able to be a lot quicker.

The truth is, publishers have a limited number of books they can effectively publish and most of the larger sales channels require complete information (including final covers) about six months or more ahead of time.

Christmas titles for this year were settled last year.

Common sense is a dangerous thing, and I regularly identify it as the problem when interacting with people about publishing issues. Using it will often get in the way of understanding.

“Why does a book cost so much? I know for a fact it costs less than a dollar to print a paperback book, so why does the publisher charge $15.99?

Because no one makes $15.99 on a $15.99 book. The bookseller makes from 45-60% of the amount and pays the rest to the publisher or distributor. The publisher takes their 40-55% of the total and pays for everything, with profit margins in the 5-10% range in a good year. Many years are less. And few booksellers sell at full price anyway, so everyone makes less.

And by the way, those increases in healthcare insurance you’ve seen? That money comes from somewhere or people lose their jobs.

Any time you evaluate something you don’t know much about using common sense, it will most likely lead you to inaccurate conclusions. This would be true when you look at everything from the cost of eggs in a grocery store to how tax dollars are spent and certainly most things in book publishing.

Common sense is not all it is cracked up to be.

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