Another week and another publisher closing down.
On Facebook I’ve seen an incredible amount of debate as to why the publisher closed. Did they not move with the times? Were their prices too high? Did Amazon’s ferocious grip on selling books drive them out? Did they fall down on marketing? Were they too big/old? We they destroyed by KU? Was it because of self publishing?
I can’t speak for what happened at Loose Id, but I should imagine it was a combination of all of those things.
The market has changed so much in the seven years I’ve been writing. It used to be that you sent a manuscript to a publisher; they edited it, gave you a cover, did a bit of marketing, and you were seen because so many people visited that publisher site.
Now the ‘majority' of people go to Amazon see the top 100 and buy from there. (note, majority doesn't include everyone; some people still look at Publisher lists and buy direct).
It used to be that a couple of sexy images with your book in them would constitute marketing, and be enough for people to see your book and to buy it. No need to create discussion groups, or form relationships with people to boost you. Used to be that putting your cover in a magazine, or highlight you at a convention was enough to get a buzz about your books. Then published GLBTQ books went from several hundred, to thousands, to more.
Marketing is all about the author, it is the author’s responsibility to market themselves harder than a publisher would. A publisher cannot market you as much as you can yourself.
I recall my first conversations with Totally Bound (Entwined/Pride/Whatever). They promised the earth, and it all sounded so good. A microsite for my books, where they would invest time in working on my brand. Solidly edited books that would have no faults. Cover Art that would wow people. Mentions in magazines. Interviews. The ability to put my books up on the Zon as pre-orders. You name it and I was promised it, and I must say though, that the cover art they supplied me with was always gorgeous. For me, it was the only thing they did right.
And so I went to them with a couple of my old Silver books and a brand new series, the Ellery Mountain books, oh and End Street with Amber of course.
And Crooked Tree Ranch (edited a week or so before release), with no marketing back up at all apart from a lovely cover, no microsite, no interviews, no push, nothing. Easy money for them, a disappointment from me and the beginning of the end for my time with them. They lost me, my Montana series, and any future books.
Think about it, they could have had my new Wyoming series, my Christmas books, my standalones, hell, me and VL might have even put our Hockey books there.
But what could they do for me that I couldn’t do for myself?
I’m LUCKY, I know this, and I am not saying for one minute everyone who wants to write gives up their job and locks themselves in a room to write. I am a full time writer, with the time to work on marketing, and writing more books, and spending time with readers.
Others have full time jobs, and writing is extra, they don’t want the hassle or indeed the cost of editing, or cover art, or the expenses of marketing, and a publisher is their best route.
Problem is, so many of us have control over what we do and end up self publishing, and Publishers lose us. Is that the fault of the self publishers? Is it Amazon’s fault? Or did the publishers not move with the times?
Let's just look at price.
My new Christmas book is a dollar less than I would normally charge, simply because it’s kind of a Christmas gift for readers. It’s £2.99 (and for up to 50k I normally charge 3.99). You won't see a publisher putting books out at an aggressive price, because they can’t. They have staff, buildings maybe, all kinds of overheads.
But $7 for a 50k book? It doesn’t matter your opinion on devaluing our work by charging less (that is another blog for another time), unless that author is an auto buy for you, would you take the chance on a new $7 book from an author you didn't know?
I worry that publishers are depending too much on their big names bringing in enough to cover the books that maybe don’t sell as well.
And what happens if your big names leave? Or they write a book that doesn’t sell? Where will a publisher find their next big name?
It’s getting less and less likely that the next ‘big thing' in this market will come from a publisher.
Because that new writer, who markets themselves, prices themselves decently, has a positive and sunny presence on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms, makes connections and friendships with existing authors, markets themselves every day… they will inevitably up self publishing when they see the publishers aren’t doing enough for them.
I’m not calling publishers dinosaurs. I’m not saying they should all pack up and go home. There is a strong need for publishers in this delicate ecosystem of publishing. For newbies, for us old guys, for limited innovation, for taking the stress and cost of publishing away from the new author. For selling your books to audio or translating them. That is their place.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it is up to the author what avenue they choose, the one that feels best for them, self-publishing, going with a publisher, or a hybrid of both.
The cost of a quality product is enormous. The market is changing daily.
And I don’t agree that it is *The fault of self publishers* or *Amazon’s fault*. I honestly think publishing companies are struggling to give authors and readers what they really need. 🙁