Saturday, 12 July 2008

Publishing Misinformation

I’ve worked in publishing for over twenty years now, and in all that time I have been amazed by the huge amount of misinformation about publishing which floats around on the periphery of the industry.

As writers’ websites and message boards have proliferated across the internet, the amount of publishing misinformation has increased on a dramatic scale.

Most of this misinformation seems to spring from the same sources:

  • Novice writers who are convinced that a vast conspiracy exists within publishing, which exists solely to prevent them from being published.
  • Writers who lack the talent or knowledge to secure a commercial publishing deal.
  • Writers who have settled for self-publishing or vanity publishing because of their lack of success, ability or knowledge.
  • The unscrupulous, who choose to take advantage of the aspirations of writers without the talent or knowledge to avoid them.

I strongly advise all writers, no matter how long they’ve been involved in publishing, to double-check their sources before accepting an opinion as fact. Or before dismissing advice that seems, on the face of it, at odds with all they’ve learned. Especially when signing a contract.


Carla said...

So true how a bit of bitterness often compels one to draw his own assumptions, even if there is no substance to back up the views. Well put.

JJ Cooper said...

When you blame, deny or justify, you are not taking accountability for what you produce. If a writer wants to become a professional author, that writer needs to act as a professioanl author from the start.

Understanding the industry through research does not necessarily mean to click on every link and accept what is written at face value. Research needs to go a lot deeper.

One of the advantages of the internet is the additional access to information. A disadvantage is that the type of information may not be accurate on all occasions.

Writing a good book is just one step to getting it on the shelves. Thorough research into agents and/or publishers is another.

I spent a lot of hours researching agents and publishers and learning how it all works. I'm still learning, but like to think I created my own luck to get where I am. Commercial publishers will take on first-time authors.

I delayed signing a two-book deal with my publisher until I was sure we were the right match and that they had the best interests for my career. There's probably a million aspiring authors who think that it was a stupid move. And that's fair because I know how hard it is to break into the industry. It wasn't about the amount of money in the advance, it was about my career as a professional author. I had the opportunity to talk with my new editor and it turns out we are a great match.


Jane Smith said...

Carla, thanks for posting. It's good to see you here.

JJ, you're a lucky man to be able to pick and choose publishers as you describe: but I agree that you've made your own luck by writing a very good book in the first place, and then doing all the right research.

You're right: writers need to take responsibilty for their words and their actions, and realise that research entails more than link-clicking.

I am so looking forward to reading your book. Do you know if/when Interrogated is going to come out in the UK? Or will I have to have it sent to me from across the seas?


Anonymous said...

I would assume the best first source of information is the Writers' and Artists' Yearbook.

Jane Smith said...

E.M., you can't trust writers' guides to tell you who to trust. I don't have this year's copy of the W&AY, but I do have the 2008 Writers' Handbook and there, on pp 16, listed under "UK Publishers" I find Austin & Macauley AND AuthorHouse UK--both of them vanity publishers and therefore, in my view, to be avoided by the serious writer.

I've got a blog post about writers' guides scheduled for appearance soon, which discusses the pitfalls of depending on writers' guides: can't remember when it's going to appear, exactly, but you shouldn't have to wait too long for it.