Tuesday, September 7, 2010

New Writers...BEWARE


All of us who go into this whole writing gig have stars in our eyes at the very beginning of things. It's natural to sit there hammering out your story and dreaming of the day someone, anyone will love it as much as you do. These are emotions that, as writers, we all share. We love what we are writing and hope for all we're worth that someone else will love it too. We dream of getting 'the call' and how it will feel when that validation arrives. At this point, you've probably not done much research on how the business works and haven't been warned about those shark infested waters. But they are there. They are real.

I know it's exciting when publisher XYZ writes and says they want to publish your baby. You don't want to believe the contract is bad or that this publisher (who expresses such faith in you) might not pay you on time, might release your story without edits and give hardly a thought to helping you promote your work. These are things you MUST think about.

Lately we've seen blog posts full of all kinds of horror stories and it should all give new writers pause. Please, please look before you leap when being offered a contract. Ask other writer friends, do some research. Does this small publisher have a kickass website featuring beautiful covers? Or it is a website that looks old and shoddy? Are the covers icky? Now imagine YOUR story on that website! Yes, look around carefully before you leap. Fight that glowey, lovely feeling of acceptance and look beneath the hood. If you were buying a car, you'd want to know it was a top notch, well-oiled machine, wouldn't you? You need to find something that will take you from point A to point B with nary a glitch.

New writers should always ask around before they sign a contract. Talk to friends who know the business. Join yahoo loops and other on-line groups where there are lots of published writers who know the ins and outs and have some experience. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You'll find that writers are the most generous people on the planet. What are the questions? Easy...how are they to work with? Are their editors knowledgable? Do they pay on time? Think of it as a job interview. You don't want to rush into something without having all the facts.

Yes, there are many many great publishers out there (mine included) who know how to treat their authors. Some are nurturing for new writers and can offer an author a first-time glimpse of how the publishing world really works. It's not all fairy tales and rainbows. It is a business and you should look at it that way.

In the end, you want your first experience as a published writer to be all you dreamed of. If you hear whispers of non-payment, non-existent promotion and lack of prompt payment, you must realize these are red flags. Step away. I know it's hard because of the whole 'this is my first book and I'm so excited' thing. Believe me, there are other publishers who will love your book too. Best to wait for that perfect publisher to come along than to drown in those shark infested waters. Good advice is everywhere. Take it. Use it.

31 comments:

Karenna Colcroft said...

Great post, Rita!

One thing I wanted to add, because it seems to be a common misperception:

A reputable publisher NEVER asks the author for money. Not to have the book published, not to cover printing fees, not even for promotional efforts. (I pay for promo sometimes, but that's my choice; none of my publishers have ever asked me to do so.) Yog's Law (via the Absolute Write forums): Money flows TOWARD the author. If your publisher asks you for money for anything, at the very least take a close, close look at them.

And I'd strongly advise choosing a different publisher.

Dréa riley said...

WHOOOO... TELL IT LADY!

Regina Carlysle said...

Very good point, Karenna! This is what I want...good advice for new writers and this is definitely something for new writers to be aware of. Red Flags should go up EVERYWHERE if a publisher asks for money! My first publisher (yes, I was such a NEWB) said if I wanted my ebook to be in print, I had to pay a fee for that to happen. Dummy me, did it. DUMB DUMB. I simply didn't know any better. It didn't take me long to realize I wasn't in a good place. I got my rights back and ran far far away.

That's when I decided I was sick of being a dumb ass and began to educate myself.

Regina Carlysle said...

Thanks, Drea! I think we've all been there...just soooo excited that someone wants our book that we forget to check things out. That can lead to all kinds of problems in the future.

Laurann Dohner said...

Yeah. The money thing is important. I've had a lot of people emailing me asking me how much it costs to have my covers done and how much I pay for this or that to my publisher. I DON'T! Another thing is that if you're broke...don't go into massive debt and pay out a ton of money you don't have for things like websites and expensive promo items. As nice as they are ( I drool... and one day plan to hire someone to revamp my website, do my book trailers, etc ) but the truth is...I had $50 to spend so I did research and built my own in my budget. Free hosting site, paid $20 for the domain name and privacy so my home address isn't on allwhois and bought stock photos I made banners with on a free photofiltre ( google it ) photo shop type program. I've talked to newbies who spent so much money on just that... their checks for their books goes to just paying back what they've spent. Professionally done websites are awesome! Just do it when you can afford it, shop around, and find the right one for you at the right time.

Great post, Regina!

Serena said...

Thank you for sharing, as a new writer who as yet is still working through her first novel and haven't as yet thought about the weird and wacky and some what scary world of publishing i know at some point in the future i will. Dodgy publishers, is somthing that i never even concidered. So I thank you!

Anne Rainey said...

I've fallen into this mess myself, back in the beginning, and it's no fun.

Two things to remember if you're dealing with a bad publisher. One, you aren't alone! If you're having trouble than chances are a bunch of your author buds are as well. Two, you aren't stupid. We all make mistakes in this business. It happens! :)

Regina Carlysle said...

Promotion is really important for a writer, Laurann and you're right, it's really easy to get carried away. You DON"T want to have one book out and then spend hundred and hundreds of dollars on bullshit to advertise the ONE book and then get your first royalty check and find it's the grand sum of $30. Not smart.

The best thing promo wise a new author can do is get her website up. You're right. It doesn't have to be fancy but you need something. I believe that the most important FIRST for a new author.

Tess MacKall said...

It's an absolute must to talk to writers who have been around for a while before you submit anywhere these days. Publishers crop up like crabgrass all the time.

Once you've signed with them, horror stories can be heard all over the Net too. You never know which new publisher is going to be honest and which isn't.

And it's not just the new publishers either. There are some that have been around a while too. It can be very daunting to have your books literally held by someone with no royalties paid.

I always wonder how some of these publishers who do that can say to an author with a straight face: "well, you had NO sales." The fact is then, why don't you give them the rights to their book back? No sales means the publisher isn't benefiting from the book being there too. So we know why the book stays. There are sales. The author is just not getting a cut.

Same thing happens with editors and cover artists all the time too.

New authors: Please do your research.

Regina Carlysle said...

Serena! Bless ya honey! Hang in there. Write that kickass story! That's the only thing you need to worry about now. Then when you have it ready to go, look at publishers very carefully. Just don't send to the 'red flag' publishers. Ask around. Join some loops. Heck, ask us here!!!! There are five of us, all pubbed with a variety of publishers and we are happy to help.


Also check Piers Anthony's website. He offers a 'report' on various publishers citing those with bad track records.

Regina Carlysle said...

Right, Anne! Mistakes happen. I certainly made one but fortunatly I'm smart and savvy enough to avoid those now. PLUS I have a giant network of friends and we talk, share advise and sometimes horror stories.

C. Zampa said...

Good advice. Being a new writer myself, I'm always appreciative of the widsom of those who are already in the publishing world.

Thanks, Regina, for the timely advice!

Regina Carlysle said...

Exactly, Tess. Something else to keep in mind...with the explosion of ebooks into the market we're going to see more and more of these new publishers spring up. Do they have ANY idea of what they are doing? Who the hell knows? We just have to be sooooo careful.

Regina Carlysle said...

C, just know there are lots and lots of ways to get out there and ask questions.

Joining groups is a good start. Doesn't have to be a group that charges money in dues either (like RWA). Just not necessary. There are free groups on line that can help you hone your craft, groups to help you avoid publishing pitfalls. All kinds of places to go for help.

Natalie Dae said...

I just got a royalty check where I earned under two dollars in SIX MONTHS! I've sold 5 copies (apparently) in just over a year. Add up those 5 buyers, 2 reviewers, and 2 editors, and wow, 9 people have read that book. I won't think about pirates...ARRR.

So, I'm being led to believe a very hot novel is being wasted where it is. I've checked my contract. It states I can have my rights back now with no costs on my part, but I doubt very much the publisher will even acknowledge my certified letter.

Again, I won't think about pirates...

Madison Scott said...

Great points and a post I think we all need to read! It's so scary. You just never. It's so hard because we're all so passionate about our work, but its always in our best interest to research!

Regina Carlysle said...

Something is very very wrong with this, Nat. If the contract time is up you should be able to simply take the book back and send it elsewhere. I'm lucky that my husband is an attorney. He guided me in this. I simply informed them I was taking it back and to please remove the book from their website. When they didn't do it promptly, I wrote them again and threatened legal action. They removed it then.

Regina Carlysle said...

You've got that right, Madison. It's easy to get 'lost in the moment' of that first sale. DON'T. Research and ask around before you sign.

Anny Cook said...

Don't over-estimate how many books you'll sell the first time around.

After all, who are you? And how many total strangers do you know who are just waiting to rush right out and buy your book?

On the promo line...I WOULD suggest a business card with you name and webpage on it. Nooooo phone numbers! There are too many weird ones out there.

Julia Rachel Barrett said...

After my own personal publisher-related headache...No comment - other than to agree with you.

Regina Carlysle said...

Correct Anny. Watch out for high expectations with your first book. It takes time to get your name out there in the public eye. Build a nice backlist, keeping writing. Eventually the sales will come.

And yes...absolutely NO phone numbers or home address. Stalkers and weirdos abound!

Regina Carlysle said...

Yes, Julia, it's just wise to be careful and make sure a publisher is right for YOU.

Desiree Holt said...

I totally agree with everything everyone said. But sometimes even checking around isn;t enough. My first publisher had a lot of authors with credentials, soem of whom I knew personally to quiz about it before submitting, Well, several books later the publisher tanked (I think everyone out there knows the story by now) and all the contracts ended up in the bankruptcy. It was a bitch for all of us to get our rights abck. I'm happy to say all my babies found new homes and are thriving but sometimes something just comes out of nowhere and bites you. The first thing you need to find out is if the publisher knows what they're doing and keeps their promises.

Regina Carlysle said...

Great insight, Desiree and yep, we all know that particular story. It was a sad thing. The truth of the matter is, all we can do is our best and sometimes we just Can't be privvy to all the information about a publisher. We just have to be armed with our BEST information and hope for the best.

Jeanie Johnson said...

Woo hoo! Go on with your bad self Miss Regina! :)

Regina Carlysle said...

Damn Jeannie! I'm sooo bad, I'm GOOD! LOL.

Anonymous said...

To me this is very important, Always make sure you only submit your story to a publisher that not only publishes your genre, but also has editors that knows your genre. My first book was picked up by an erotic E book publisher and my book was non erotic. Their customers didn't buy because it wasn't what they wanted.

I saved, what I think is the most important piece of advice I can give. What ever you write, make it interesting. The biggest sin a writer can make is to bore the reader.

G W Pickle

Regina Carlysle said...

Absolutely GW. In my early days, before I really knew ANYTHING, I subbed things to publishers who weren't buying my genre. Dumb of me but hey, I was soooo green. It's important to study the market and sub to the right places. I mean really...why would you send erotic romance to a YA publisher? I imagine that stuff is done every day.

We need to know the market and who is buying the genres we write. I'm so glad you came by to comment, GW.

Sandra Stixrude said...

I'd also like to chime in here and remind everyone that publishing is a volatile business. A good pub today might not be tomorrow. I've had two pubs pulled out from under me in my travels.

One was a wonderful place where everything worked well but the owner had to close shop for health reasons. Anything can happen. Make sure you know what your next step will be when it does.

Bekki Lynn said...

Where was this post three years ago? lol

Great post, Regina. All I can add is to follow your gut instinct. Like Desiree says, research isn't always going to bring out the answers you need. If a part of you isn't happy once that offer comes in. Decline it. Living with the heartache of not doing so is not healthy.

Anonymous said...

The only thing I can add is, make sure your publisher is in compliance with the law.

No ISBNs for books is a huge clue.