Fri 3 Aug 2012
At the recent Romance Writers’ Association (RWA) convention, Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords – the largest distributor of self-published books, was invited to speak. Since RWA has a long history of being associated with traditionally published authors, inviting Coker to speak was a bit like inviting a lion to lunch.
Coker told the crowd of authors that they should be self-publishing. He listed some of the advantages:
Total control (of the finished product, of price point, of cover, of everything); a much bigger cut of the net; the same marketing that most authors get if they are traditionally published.
He pointed to examples on Apple’s bestseller lists, of self-published authors selling more books and reaping more rewards, sometimes three times that of a Big Six publisher.
“What is the Big Six publisher doing for you?” he asked. With marketing budgets dwindling and bookstores closing, many authors at the conference were asking the same thing.
Then, while the room must have still been quaking, best-selling, Big 6 published author Stephanie Laurens spoke and surprisingly, continued Coker’s theme. Laurens said:
Publishers used to be at the top of the food chain. They hired us. Now, she explained, we are in charge. They work for us, she said, and if we don’t like them, we will go elsewhere.
As Laurens gave that speech, staff from her publishing company sat in the audience. Yes, Laurens had the courage to speak the truth to her colleagues right in front of her publisher. She must have meant what she said. I now have mad respect for Stephanie, whose books I have always enjoyed. As readers of this blog know, I’ve always been heretical enough to believe that the people who created the work should profit the most from it.
The linked piece is from Huffpo and was written by Elise Saxe, a traditionally published author. That author felt better about her status because she spoke with a RWA attendee who’d been cheering, “Screw the Big Six.” Ms. Saxe says she confessed to being traditionally published and the attendee reacted as follows:
The woman’s mouth dropped open, and her eyes grew large. “Really?” she asked. “That’s fantastic. How did you do that? I’ve been trying for ages.”
My blood pressure dropped, and my panic subsided. Staring into her hopeful eyes, her desire to be a Big Six author stamped on her face, I remembered what traditional publishers do so well. They champion an author’s work and provide the best in editorial. They have editors of a caliber that can’t be found anywhere else. Their books are vetted. If you read one of their books, there’s a good chance they are good. They have a reputation.
Hopefully, publishers will catch on to the changes before the authors storm the castle because let me tell you, you don’t want to piss off romance authors.
After all, they are in charge of the happy endings.
I think the authors have already stormed the castle and taken down the walls, but I understand the attendee’s reaction. Any author who was writing before the digital age spent as many – if not more- hours polishing query letters and crying over a stack of rejections. Traditional publication was the only game in town. So many of us were like wallflowers at the ball watching the Prince dance with Cinderella. Do you ever lose that moment? I think not and I think that is what the attendee experienced.
But times have changed and, as Ms. Laurens said, authors are now in charge. The reader is the Prince and every writer gets to be Cinderella when his or her book is purchased and read.
Thanks to my readers for letting me dance so often!