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Monday, February 8, 2010

Why Do We Need Publishers?

Please welcome guest blogger Gail Dayton

We don’t, actually.

The world doesn’t NEED publishers any more than we NEED, say, recording companies.

Every person out there who has written a book is welcome to go to Lulu.com or another self-publishing company, upload their book, create cover art, buy an ISBN number, have it typeset, printed and bound, and sell it at whatever bookstores will accept it, or out of the trunk of their car. They can even simply put it into Kindle format and post it at Amazon. There are plenty of companies out there willing to help you get your book into print, whether electronic or hardcopy. This is a legitimate avenue to publication (if you keep ownership of your book and profits, and don’t pay excessive amounts for things that should cost little or nothing—in other words, avoid the vanity presses and go for one that is legitimately a self-publisher) for those who have done their homework and know what they’re doing and why.

But publishers do have a role to play, especially in the world of fiction, and it’s a pretty big one.

First off, publishers employ people to do the other jobs involved in producing a book, once it’s written—those things like editing, creating covers, designing the book (which actually takes a lot of fiddly work, making the ends of the chapters fall right, and the margins work), and then marketing the book. One of the biggest jobs is actually getting the books into the bookstores, despite the advent of ebooks (I love my Sony reader.), because 80% of books sold are still paper copies.

If I had to do all of that myself, I wouldn’t have any time to write the next book. It’s all I can do to take care of my family, work at my very part-time dayjob (eight hours a week, total), promote my books by blogging and such, and write 15 to 25 pages a week.

(PROMO Pause: Oh hey! I have a book out. HEART’S BLOOD is a Victorian steampunk fantasy romance from Tor Paranormal Romance, available anywhere but on Amazon. Unless the MacMillan-Amazon quarrel has lightened up. I’ve received some nice reviews and a Top Pick! from RT —it’s a good book. Promise. :) End of PROMO)

The other big thing publishers do—whether they are small press or the biggest of the bigs—is that they, well, hold auditions.

You know how on American Idol, Simon, Randy, Kara, and this year, a series of guest judges, sit through hundreds of thousands of auditions, listening to people sing? And some of those people really can’t sing. Some are pretty good, but not quite there yet. And some are fabulous.

Some of them have tried out before and didn’t make it, only to come back again (and again) and try again. Some of the returning people still can’t sing. But some have improved, learned how to play to their voice, and they’ve won the “golden ticket.”

A lot of those who are told “No,” don’t want to hear it. They get angry. They want to try again, or sing another song. They might curse at the judges. Or maybe, they go away, and record a song at a local studio and post it on MySpace.

Obviously, I'm published with a New York publisher, but I've been in the trenches. I had books with fly-by-night e-publishers that collapsed. I struggled when my friends sold, and I still sat there, right on the verge. That's the hardest point in the journey--when it comes down to your book and one other, and they buy the other one. I've been there. Everything isn't roses once that first book is sold, either. Contracts get canceled. Options don't get picked up. Stuff happens. Publishing is a tough business--just like any of the arts.

I’m not saying anyone shouldn't self-publish if that's what they want to do, and I'm not saying all those self-published books are on the level of the people who didn’t make the first American Idol cut.

Nor am I saying that only the Big Six publishing houses perform this audition role. Every publisher out there chooses to publish the best books it possibly can, whether they are e-book publishers or small press print publishers or one of the Big Guys.

All I'm saying is that while publishers may have to find different ways of doing business as technology changes, I don’t think they’ll be going the way of the dinosaur.

Gail Dayton currently writes steampunk fantasy romance for Tor Paranormal Romance. She lives on the Texas Gulf Coast with her husband of 30+ years, their youngest son, who will eventually graduate from college, and a granddog.

AWARDS: 2007, 2008 Prism awards for Best Fantasy

Heart's Blood

Master conjurer Grey Carteret regains consciousness in a London gutter next to a concerned street urchin and not far from the body of a man murdered by magic. Some fool is hoping to use murder to raise a demon. Arrested for the crime, Grey must rely on the street urchin for help. But the lad turns out to be a comely lass, and she wants something in exchange.

Pearl Parkin, a gently reared lady struggling to survive in London’s slums, sees magic as a way out of the life she finds herself trapped in. But blackmailing Grey into making her his apprentice has unexpected consequences. As they plunge into the hunt for the murderer, Pearl discovers that the things she once desperately wanted are not as important after all, and that she must risk her blood, her heart and her very life to grasp the love she needs.


Tarot By Arwen said...

Gail, this was a very valuable post. Thanks so much for laying it on the line. I learned from this and that's always a good thing!

By the way? Just finished Heart's Blood last week. LOVED it. Great steampunk romance!

Crystal-Rain Love said...

Great post. Loved the American Idol comparison. Self-publishing can be a good thing if you've honed your writing skills to perfection and are a marketing whiz, but often we think we're better than we really are and need those rejections to help us find what we need to fix. Also, selling 10K+ copies of a book is much easier with a big-name publisher behind it. I'm with 3 small publishers right now and though I love them dearly, I know I won't get anywhere near enough sales to support my family until I sign with a big-name publisher. That's just the sad facts.