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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Monday mumblings

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


It's Monday, so I'll be all over the place as per usual:

The DI team is here today so I may have to cut this short and pick up again later.

First up is a web site that was brought to my attention over the weekend. Author's Market is a slick loking little site to remind authors that they should "never spend any money on getting published." Then it gotes on to tell you to never trust "experts," especially those horrid folks who write Fantasy and Science Fiction. They're not real writers, don'tcha know! And don't forget the number one bit of advice - you're not an author, you're a salesman! Go out and push those books. Sell, sell, sell!

Does this mantra sound familiar? It's from none other than PublishAmerica, the same fine folks who brought you Night Travels of the Elven Vampire.

I've been on about this company for some time. If you really want to see what people are saying, check out the boards at Absolute Write. The Never-Ending PublishAmerica Thread should be required reading for anyone who is considering not only this company, but any of the companies that do Publish On Demand (POD).

Again I say that POD in and of itself is not a bad thing, and there are companies (Lulu is one that comes to mind) that are very upfront about what you get for your money. There are also some very good reasons to go the POD route. The most compelling reason in my mind is when you have a book that is intended for a very small audience. Perhaps you're a lecturer and want to produce a book to go along with your course. Maybe you have a family history. Hey, maybe you just want to put your photos in a book. These are all good reasons, and as long as you go in with your eyes wide open you won't get ripped off.

It's the people who promise the moon and stars and deliver a burnt-out lightbulb that make my blood boil. I should mention in all fairness that some people have had some good experiences with PublishAmerica. Again, I suspect those are people who went in with their eyes wide open and knew exactly what they were getting. Too many people go into this sort of thing with a wide-eyed dream of being a published author and end up with a badly-produced book that won't be stocked on bookstore shelves.

If you want to get a book published, ask these questions of your publisher:

Do you get paid, or do you pay? (A "symbolic" advance doesn't count.)

Does your publisher send catalogs to booksellers? Do they take out ads for your book? Do they send out review copies without your having to request they do so?

Do they edit your book at no charge? I'm not talking about running your book through a spell checker. A good editor will probably suggest a fair number of changes from spelling and grammar to tightening up the story. And guess what? That's part of the service!

Will your book be available in your local book store? Can the store order copies for a signing? Is your book returnable? What is the discount? Generally, bookstores get a 40% discount and unsold copies may be returned for credit. This is how bookstores make their money. If your book sells for $10, they pay $6.

Is your book priced competitively? Would you pay $15 for a paperback novel that's a little more than 100 pages? In most circumstances, no.

Do you get author's copies? Does the publisher ask you for a list of family and friends to market the book to? Do they make you buy copies? (This is not to be confused with the practice of publishers offering books at a discount to authors when their books go out of print.)

Think about that. When you publish though a regular publisher, you get an advance. The publisher takes care of the copyright. They take care of distribution. They do advertising. Small presses don't have the resources of the big boys, but they'll still pay you and edit your book at no extra charge, not to mention that any bookstore can order their books. If you can't get published by the big boys, then look at small presses. You might just find a niche, and if the book is a success a larger publisher might lap it up. And how much will you have spent?

Don't get me wrong: We all market our books. We go to conventions, we spend money on promotion. But it would all be a worthless effort if our publihsers didn't get the book into bookstores.

The bottom line is, do your homework before you sign.

I've got to take the DI team out on a shopping trip, so more later.

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Filed under: Writing            
2/13/2006 11:01:00 AM
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