Misinformation about publishing

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  1. #1

    Misinformation about publishing

    There's been a bit of a storm in the Twitterverse over the last couple days about the following chart. It's been taken down from some sources, as far as I can tell, but still seems to be out there elsewhere.

    It's part of a larger effort by vanity publishers to spread misinformation about publishing in order to make their own scams seem more attractive. Fairly nasty, so for the record... this is the chart, and my clarifications are below.

    On the Traditional side: "All the rights are with the publisher" is extremely vague. If a publisher tries to buy your actual copyright, they'd better be paying a hell of a lot of money; more often, they're paying for a license to publish your work under a limited set of circumstances (certain area, language, time frame, etc.). The general rule is that publishers should only get the rights they're going to use.

    The royalties amount here is ridiculous. If a publisher is paying 4%-10%, that's almost certainly on cover price, not net. If they're paying royalties on net, the royalties are more likely in the 30%-50% range.

    Advances are paid for new (and therefore non-popular) authors all the time. Advances are generally based on how well the book is expected to sell, and sometimes on how much the publisher has to pay in order to convince the author to sign with them rather than a different company.

    The design of covers and whatever else may be ultimately under the publishers control, but authors are usually part of the process.

    Similarly, authors are heavily involved with editing and most authors are very aware of the power of "stet".

    I honestly don't even know what's meant by "certain minimum orders" in terms of printing and distribution. The publisher prints and distributes as many copies as they think will sell. The author really doesn't have anything to do with this stage of the process. And no reputable publisher has a Minimum purchase requirement for authors. Vanity publishers may, but not real publishers.

    And the PR Supportcategory is often cited, but not really true, in my experience. I'm sure big authors get more support, but I've never worked with a publisher that didn't set up blog tours, interviews, or whatever other promotional tools they could come up with.

    I'd say things are a bit more accurate on the Self-publishingside of the chart, but there are still some peculiarities. For example, I'm not aware of any self-publishing avenues that pay as little as 30% of cover price... possibly the vanity publishers being promoted pay that little? I'm also not sure what the "higher" in "higher costs of editing and services" refers to... higher than what? These things are free with publishers, so any price will therefore be higher, but... is that what's meant? And the case is a bit overstated in the areas of "need to hire an editor" and "all costs are borne by the author" for printing and distribution... editors are advantageous, and if authors want print copies to hand-sell they'll need to cover the costs of printing and shipping, but lots of books, both print and electronic, are sold with no associated costs.

    Anyway - this chart is crap. It's part of a larger pattern of misinformation that's also crap. Don't let yourself be preyed upon by these predatory assholes. Information is power. etc. etc.

  2. #2
    Isn't this really a lesson about checking the source and taking into account agendas? Publish Edge is a resource for self-publishing, I understand, so it doesn't have a whole lot of incentive for representing traditional publishing well, given its business model.

    The figures on royalties may well be bullshit -- its certainly bullshit if they don't specify between cover and NET. The collections I have been in that are based on royalties (and they aren't common in short stories, tbh) have been extremely varied. Personally, I have not worried ever about the percentage so much as how likely I think they are to achieve sales. 4% seems low, especially for a novel, but I can imagine there are some places that only offer that (I presume they got the number from somewhere) and it wouldn't necessarily be a problem to me so long as they have some track record of sales. A high % of 0 is 0. So I'm not sure what validity generalizing royalty rates is? I don't know how to react to that without knowing the sales figure its based on, and the level of work the publisher is putting in to achieving that figure. A high percentage of royalties is meaningless if they're just farting out books onto Kindle and selling nothing.

    As somebody who has lately read and signed a lot of traditional publishing contracts for short-stories (I'm not sure how it works for novels), I can say I never think about those contracts in terms of publishers 'owning rights'. I think of it more like they are buying the use of the story, which is a far more time-limited thing. I mean, reprints are a thing, and the issues with that notwithstanding I can (and with some of my stories, fully intend to) re-purpose the work in the future once those 'rights' have expired as part of self-published collections, which I am absolutely allowed to do.

    I feel like nowadays, with self-publishing, the idea of 'owning rights' is less important -- assuming you don't do something dumb and sign away the rights permanently. So it seems like the statement 'All the rights are with the publisher' while not factually incorrect is sort of spun in a way that is designed to scare people away from traditional publishing.

    Likewise with 'the publisher maintains full control' in regard to editing and cover design -- that's only true for their use of the work, not the use of the work in perpetuity, once the contract expires. I hate at least two of the cover designs on the collections I am in (and am fairly indifferent to the rest) but I'm not all that worried about it because (1) It is only a cover and (2) If/when I decide to re-use the content, once I am legally able to, I can change whatever I want, I can rewrite the whole story if I want to, turn it into a novel, etc etc. It's also worth saying I have not yet once been forced to endure editing I object to. It usually is an improvement. I'm sure there are poor editors out there, but I don't feel they are as common as people like to say. And they always show me their edits to sign off on before implementing so...

    I guess I just feel like this whole issue can be avoided if people stop making judgments about 'Which Is Better' until they have actually tried both and seen where it leads and how they feel about what is presented when, and only when, they get there. The number of people on here and elsewhere who talk with confidence about how one form of publishing is better/worse than the other without having actually published in either format is always weird to me. Like, based on what info? It's usually going to be biased one way or the other and there's no reason to inject tribal loyalty into it. It's not an either/or.
    Last edited by luckyscars; December 21st, 2019 at 10:29 AM.


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