I am proof that publishers love authors

It’s easy to assume that Joseph Konrath is angry at publishers not because he has a legitimate concern with the way they do business but because he suffers from a serious case of a broken heart and hurt pride. It’s easy to assume this because he makes it easy - by running pieces that say less about how Amazon is going to destroy the current publishing industry than they do about how much he hates the Big 6.

If you work for a publishing house, it is not easy reading. At every opportunity, Konrath will drive the knife in a little further – pointing out our past mistakes and revelling in our apparent foolishness. Ok, maybe our actual foolishness: Amazon did see the importance of digital before most publishers when they catapulted the eBook to stardom like some overzealous Simon Cowell. And people (not necessarily publishers themselves) do spend a lot of time bemoaning the state of the industry in the media – he’s also right on that.

Still, these things are hard to stomach when they’re wedged between the vindictive implication that the Big 6 treat authors ‘like shit’, and churlish sentiments like ‘I've spent hours talking to Amazon. And Amazon listened,’

Konrath’s barbs hit me me so deep because I know they’re about as true as they are impartial. I know this because author care relates directly to my job. As online content manager, my job is dedicated to supporting authors in a new way - giving them advice about their online presence if they want it, or doing techy stuff like coding and optimising their content for web if they don’t. I am living, breathing proof of the fact publishers love their authors.

Roles like mine that fall outside the traditional remit of a publishing house production line are becoming more common as publishers adapt to their writers’ needs. In a way this is adding value to our part in the creative process (though I feel our value is pretty self-evident in the months or years of work that go in between a manuscript’s first draft and someone laughing quietly as they read that book on the tube) but more simply they’re important in helping authors navigate a shifting landscape.

Publishers aren’t the only ones who face challenges now: authors have the obstacles of an amorphous readership, evolving formats, and differing judgements from their peers about what they should be doing. Publishers are in a position to help authors express themselves however they choose, and everywhere I see us embracing this opportunity.

We’re partnering with start-ups to deliver their stories in different ways. We’re asking their readers what they like and how they like it, and answering when they ask us questions. We’re proactively discovering new markets for their books. We’re being discerning in how and where we publish to make the most of their material. We’re helping authors talk to their readers directly.

We’ve made some mistakes, sure, but ‘treating authors like shit’ does not feature among them. As a publisher coming across Konrath’s article, all you can do (after the blinding fury has subsided) is shrug, sigh, and get back to work - knowing that there’s blood in our veins yet.

Comments

Konrath

Felice,

Enjoyed your post and linked to it on my blog in an article on the same subject (Konrath).

He makes flailing accusations in much the same way Jeremy Clarkson does - and probably for the same reasons. However you can better appreciate some of his annoyance when you see that Jon Geller, MD of Literary Agent Curtis Brown, has spent today tweeting his favourite manuscript rejection lines.

Take a look, some of them are quite funny, some I've heard before and some even when they're explained I still dont get .

If writers knew in advance that a 'No' would mean getting a one line 'put down' chosen off a list that Geller then shared on Twitter they might be forgiven for thinking he did not value authors.

I'm new to this whole business but I would say traditional Publishing is much under threat from attitudes like this as it ever was from Amazon.

Shrugging

I saw a lot of shrugging as you suggest in over 20 years in traditional publishing.  The fact it's still happening is what's killing it.

I just received my royalty statement from McMillan.  Total eBooks sales for six months of a book that hit the NY Times bestseller list= what I sell on a backlist title on a book that did not hit the list in one day. 

Those are facts.  Understanding the disparity is something not a single agent, editor or publisher has bothered to try to find out.  They still aren't.  Because the feeling I constantly get is that indie authors who are successful have nothing to teach big publishers that are floundering in the very market in which the indie authors are flourishing.

There's a logic there.  We just have to figure out what it is.

What publishers and editors want.

Well said, Felice.  My experience is that publishers are merely business people.  They do not publish books that are not expected to make a profit.  Publishers hire editors, who work directly with authors.  Editors can be an author's best friend and supporter when she/he believes in the work.  Authors who want to be published now have many outlets, especially in this fast-paced, evolutionary business. 

 

Thank you for a different perspective

As an author who is struggling with the decision of where to go next I was very pleased to read this rebuttal. Having read the original post by Konrath I have been going back and forth about whether or not to make a move. I am currently with a small Indy press and doing very well for such a small venue however each day as I work on one of my six manuscripts I find myself struggling with the decision of staying with a known entity or of trying to get into one of the big six. While I yearn to be known I also worry about losing my identity in the process.

www.sherryaburton.com

I read your article and then

I read your article and then googled Joseph Konrath and read his, returning to re-read yours.  I found his to be for the most part just a rant and not informative or helpful.  Thank you for your well thought-out article.  I am glad to see something positive going on between the major publishers and the digital world.  There is no reason why traditional books and digital books cannot coexist together.  There is room for both and plenty of authors and books to go around!

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