Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Trios: Stories From Publishing's Front Line

I'm planning a short series of contributions from other writers and would welcome your comments.

My plan is to run a series of trios of articles which examine the publication process of specific books from the viewpoints of three of the professionals involved in the books' publication. The obvious three professionals would be the writer, the agent and the editor: but I'd particularly welcome suggestions for contributions from people who work in less obvious areas, like marketing, production, royalties, rights sales, distribution, bookselling or design.

Contributions from all genres are welcome, and from as wide a variety of publishers as possible, from great big conglomerates to the tiniest of micro-presses; I'd be happy, too, to consider stories from self-published and vanity-published authors so long as they've got something interesting to say.

The pieces must inform and entertain, and examine a specific issue that has been overcome or a challenge that was met during the book’s publication process. I don't want puffery or pieces which are overtly promotional, although stories of miserable failure are as welcome as stories of great success. I'll be happy to coordinate the appearance of these pieces with specific dates; and I'd be especially pleased if a free copy or two of the book concerned could be arranged for me to give away to my readers.

If you're a writer, editor, agent or any other publishing professional interested in participating then please email me (my email address is on in the top right-hand corner of my blog): please put "HPRW trio" and your book's title in the subject line to make sure that I don't mistake your message for spam. And if you're not in a position to participate in this series yet, then let me know: are there any particular people, books or aspects of publication that you'd like to see covered here? I can't guarantee to arrange it for you, but I will do my best. And just so you know, I already have several names lined up that I'm really rather excited about.


Anonymous said...

This sounds like an informative and edifying project. I'm eager to read all of it.

I hope you will be able to do this for some publishing done over here in the States. (I wonder how different the process is.) Also, do you think it would be helpful to go to a small, niche press as well as the major blockbusters? Are there any differences in genres? Seems like there is a lot of conventional wisdom and formulae in some genres than there is in "literary" publishing.

Just spewing out ideas. Thanks for the opportunity.

Jane Smith said...

Paul, I've already approached several writers and editors in the UK and the US and asked them to take part, across a range of formats: big commercial houses, independent presses, micropresses and e-publishers. Some have declined, but some have already written their contributions. I hope it'll do well: I think this project has a lot of potential to produce some interesting pieces.

none said...

This sounds great! I would love to hear from British editors and agents especially, as there is so much information out there from the US, and so little from the UK.

Anonymous said...

Excellent idea. I'd love to know about what happens in the immediate aftermath of publication.

How do publishers actually promote a book? What do authors do to promote their work? How quickly do publishers know if they have a success on their hands? How do authors feel when their book is in the shop and they're working (presumably) on the next one?

Many thanks,


kaolin fire said...

Figures I'd find BuffySquirrel here. ;)

@Richie D:

promotion: prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. Not that it does any good... ;) Have I mentioned the flash games I've been building...?


Jane Smith said...

Richie, it's good to see you here again. Thanks for the kind words about this project: I've got a few good publishers lined up to take part already, but could always use a few more. Meanwhile, if you want to know a little more about promotion, you could start here:


Unknown said...

Your site was conspicuously left for me to find by a person who has done everything in his limited power to discredit my meagre literary accomplishments. While I appreciate what you have elaborated on regarding Publish America I would like to go on record as saying Publish America was the only house willing to give an unknown author a chance. I went through 125 rejections from agents and publishers alike; with even a number of them stating that they liked my work but... I became heartily sick of the but... I have never felt pressured from Publish America to purchase more than I might need of my book, "Brooklyn Heat Lasts Forever". If I have a complaint with them it is that they do not have a marketing department working towards our mutual benefit. I have secured a marketing person now- after some abortive attempts with a number of others- and I am hoping to finally see myself on the shelves. My book will speak for me thereafter.I have faith in my work as well as the numerous commentaries of total strangers who claim I am nearly impossible to put down. While it is true I have not seen much in the way of royalties, at least Publish America gave me a chance rather than a view of the backs of their heads. I have fought and won far worse battles than this when my defeat was eagerly anticipated by many who don't have the courage to try themselves. I am negotiating with other publishers about a compilation of short stories which I have nearly finished, however if none of these pan out I will turn willingly to Publish America once more and be just as appreciative for the opportunity as with my first novel. Not all of us have the connections you do, Sir. Kindly keep that in mind. I write because I simply must- or to quote Mr. Dylan, because- "I got a head full of ideas that are drivin' me insane." I'll see myself in print any way I can without shelling out unnecessary fees. At least I'm chasing elusive immortality. That's more than I can say for some...
Christopher A. Lay

Jane Smith said...

Chris, thanks for posting here: my name's Jane and by the way, I'm a woman, not a man.

Right. Onto business. I urge you to consider the following very carefully. None of it is intended to hurt or upset you: merely to inform.

PublishAmerica is a vanity press. You might not want to hear that: but it is. When (I think) Phil Doolan took PA to arbitration a couple of years ago, its own chief of staff agreed in that court that PA made its money from its authors, and not from selling books onto readers. Which makes it a vanity press. There's no doubt.

PA publishes anything that's submitted. It doesn't care about quality: if you have any doubts about that, Google "Atlanta Nights" and "Travis Tea" and see what you come up with.

If you still have doubts, have a look at this link and read as much of it as you can absorb:


Now, if you want to argue this out with me, then you're welcome--although the post I put up today, about reverse-end vanity presses, woudl probably be a better place for us to have that discussion. But please keep your posts a little more en pointe in future, and remember that shorter is better, especially in a tiny little blog like this.

Anonymous said...

Hello Chris,

"a person who has done everything in his limited power to discredit my meagre literary accomplishments. "

It's about you going to Publish America, not about putting YOU down.

"I went through 125 rejections from agents and publishers alike;"

And maybe #126 would have done the trick.

Did you have your book beta-read by other writers? Workshopped? That many rejections means there IS a problem that's keeping it from selling. They're not rejecting YOU, but something about a work that needs fixing.

"I have not seen much in the way of royalties, at least Publish America gave me a chance"

You never will with them, and they give everyone a "chance" if they're breathing and have a credit card. In 10 years NO PA title has ever been on the NYT list, and with their business model none will ever get there, with or without a marketing person.

"I am hoping to finally see myself on the shelves."

That will only happen when you sell to a non-vanity publisher. PA is never going to do that for you. You may be a fantastic writer, but their reputation in the industry is such that no one will order your books.

You're trying to sell your pearl of great price at a garage sale run by a well-known liar and cheat. No one will touch it.

Here's a tip for free from a pro editor: paragraph breaks. They make everything easier to read. If your book looks anything like your post, that could be what's in need of fixing.

Deb said...

@ Chris: many publishers are "willing to give an unknown author a chance." My first publisher was. Everyone who sells, at one time makes that first sale. Were they known beforehand? Obviously not. Your choice to go with PA is your own decision, and no-one else is under either blame or credit.

End of rant.

Jane, I have a reissue coming out in May 2009, of a previously published small press book. I also have an agent, though she didn't find this opportunity; I found it through a friend. If you're interested in hearing my POV, please let me know.

Sharon Maas said...

Hi Jane, it's me, Aruna! Just checking you out at last, and have to admire all you're doing! I'll email you later.

Jane Smith said...

Chris: listen to what Anonymous said, including the bit about paragraph breaks. If I knew who Anonymous was, I'd give her a biscuit for that. She's spot-on.

Moose, I'm sorry: I won't allow comment-spam and so have deleted your comment here. Feel free to have another go only next time, do please add to the conversation: it's so much nicer than just trying to convince everyone to check out your blog.

Debs, could you email me, please? "hprw at tesco dot net". Put HPRW in the subject line or I might mistake you for spam.

And Aruna: my darling. I am so glad to see you here, and thank you for your very kind words. I hope all is well with you, and that your writing continues to flow. Your students are very lucky to have you as their teacher.

Hookline Ed said...

Two years ago we launched the Hookline Novel Competition, open to students and grads of MA writing courses - but importantly, judged by book club readers. Logistically, a big operation, but I love the feedback from readers. Our first winner is Bryony Doran with The China Bird. The competition is now in its 2nd year - read more at www.booklinethinker/hookline.html

Sharon Maas said...

Thank you, Hookline Ed; however, the link is incomplete. Here is the correct link:
Too late for me this year. Maybe 2010?

Tim Atkinson said...

What a fascinating post (and follow-up comments)! I'd be happy to make a contribution from what has been described as the self-publishing perspective (though I'm not sure I agree...). Let me know if you'd like two penn'orth from me.

Philip Sington said...

I'd be happy to contribute, if you were interested. I'm about 4 and a half months from UK (first) publication; so all the editorial/design decisions have been made; but publicity & marketing are still mostly to come (as well as the responses from the market).
I don't know if my agent would participate. Peter Straus runs RCW as well as having a long client list. That said, he does contribute to newspapers occasionally.
A potentially interestign complication is the imminent departure of my editor. As yet, I do not know who will be taking over from him - although that should become clear soon. Being 'orphaned' is a potential nightmare (one I've experienced before), but at least this time I have a better idea what to do about it!

Jane Smith said...

Tim, I'd love to be able to invite you to participate in this series but for obvious reasons I really don't think it would be appropriate, I'm afraid. Please don't think that this is a value-judgement on your writing: far from it--I've read Sally Zigmond's very favourable review of your book, and am sure it's excellent. But still. I'm sorry. Perhaps next time.

Philip, I would be pleased if you'd consider taking part: there's not the same clash with your book as there is with Tim's. Could you email me, please? My current email address is "hprw at tesco dot net": put HPRW in the subject-line so I know you're not a spammer, or I might mislay your email!

Philip Sington said...

Don't know if you received my e-mail, or if it was spam-filtered into the virtual dust-bin of oblivion. If so, let me know and I will try again.
Best wishes,

Jane Henry said...

Hi Jane,

I'm an editor of children's books (I still freelance for Evans) who's also a published writer of women's commercial fiction (my third book is coming out with Avon at Christmas). Not sure if my experience is of use to you, but happy to contribute if you think it helpful.

best wishes
Julia Williams (my real name,not blogging name which is different)

Jane Smith said...

Julia, I'd love to hear from you; do please email me: "hprw at tesco dot net". Put something significant in the subject line, though, or I'll think you're spam.

Jane Smith said...

Apologies for the comment-spam which appeared here just now: I've deleted it, and have switched on the comment moderation feature in an attempt to stop it happening again.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi Jane

Firstly, I would be very grateful if you could email me, please? I can be contacted via my website www.vanessagebbie.com.

Secondly, you have just featured Salt, so I don't know if this is of interest here... but I have just finished a huge project for them, sourcing contributions and editing a text book. Short Circuit, the Salt Publishing Guide to the Art of the Short Story.

Id be happy to natter about it until the cows come home.

Jane Smith said...

Vanessa, I'd love to contact you but am having trouble loading your website: this combination of dial-up and a ropey computer doesn't feel up to much tonight.

If I don't email you then please email me on "hprw at tesco dot net"--I'd love to natter!

Pete said...

Jane, the link in the top right hand corner comes back to this post.

Have you any interest in a post about the Random House v. Rosetta Stone case, in which the US federal court rules for the first time on the definition of First Pub Rights?


londonwritersclub said...

Fantastic idea. I will be in touch with some suggestions. Would you like me to mention this in our Club ezine?

Jane Smith said...

If you could, I'd be very grateful--thank you!

Jenny Woolf said...

Jane, it's some time since anyone posted here so I don't know if this idea is still alive. If it is, I'd be willing to do a post if you want one. My book, "The Mystery of Lewis Carroll" is a thematic biography, published here in the UK by a small house and in the USA by a large one. I'm very happy with the finished product, and am on good terms with both publishers but I did have unexpected difficulties when writing the book and wished I'd known what to expect. (I'd previously self published a book which did well and I had thought I knew all about it. Hm! )

Jenny Woolf

Jane Smith said...

Jenny, I'd be happy to consider a contribution from you. If you could email me on "hprw at tesco dot net" we can work out the details--thank you!