Tuesday, July 14, 2009

One Born Every Minute

You know, there really is one born every minute. A sucker, that is. A sap, a gullible individual who should know better, yet still has the rug pulled out from under his/her feet.

It shocks me that authors are still signing contracts at questionable publishing houses. With the advance of the e-reader, the growing recognition of books in the electronic medium, and any number of savvy bloggers out there telling one and all what's what in the publishing world, how are these newbies missing the warning signs?

Granted, I've been around the block a few times. I know what to look for. In fact, just the other day I was scrambling to put together a 5000 word fictional piece for a publisher's contest, only to realize that the publisher didn't have anything in print other than some of the owner's books! Needless to say, I'm saving that story for a rainy day.

Sites like Dear Author, Karen Knows Best and Smart Bitches Trashy Books are just a few blog sites that comment on the down and dirty in romanceland. Authors are so accessible via the Internet that it's not funny. How hard would it be, as a new author, to simply email a few authors at a certain place to determine whether or not to even try subbing there?

Then again, you do need to be wary. A long time ago, I asked an author at New Concepts Publishing what she thought of the place. She praised it up and down, so I kept some of my reserverations about late publishing dates and odd edits to myself. Imagine my suprise years later to find I'd been chatting with one of the owners. Yeah, it pays to be careful. But how many owners of any place can there be? Ask six or seven people, if need be.

Some things to be wary about when submitting to an electronic publisher, in my humble opinion:
  1. They refuse to edit your work. No, you're not that good. They are that bad.
  2. They expect you to pay for cover art. Not legit.
  3. They are not at all flexible on their contracts. (Some folks may not mind this, I do mind this.)
  4. In the two years they've been in business, they have only a handful of authors. Hmm, the owners, maybe?
  5. Crappy covers that look like you made them. Sorry, truth hurts. But bad covers don't sell books.
  6. They won't give you a publishing schedule--denotes disorganization and hurts your ability to promote. Not good.
  7. They change your publishing date without asking or telling you. Whamo, the book suddenly appears. Yeah, it happens. Get out while you still can.
  8. Anytime you speak up on a publishers' author forum, other authors bat you down for asking legitimate questions. Not a good place to be.
  9. Poor book distribution. As in, the publisher is the only company selling your book. No Fictionwise, ARe, Books on Board, Amazon, etc. Unless they're as big as Elloras Cave, you might have a problem.
  10. They've been in business all of ten days. You want to take a chance on them, but there's nothing on their About Us page of their website, other than that they like to read romance books. Um, so do I. But I'm not a publisher.
These are just a few eye openers. Yet I know of a few places up and running, right now, that work as if numbers 1-10 are a mission statement. And they have new authors signing up daily, desperate to see that book published--read, lambs led to slaughter. *sigh*

Writers, I know it's tough. I have to remind myself of this constantly. But publishers should be as happy to have you as you are to have them. You're doing no one a favor by submitting. It's your work, take pride in it. And familiarize yourself with the good and bad in the industry before tripping down the rabbit hole of regret. Trust me, I know of what I speak.

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