The publishing business has been changing by leaps and bounds in recent years as the electronic media forms become vastly more acceptable than they were a few short years ago. No longer the “poor relation” of traditional print, eBooks account for millions upon millions of books sold each year now. BUT, with the lightning speed with which books can be created and released to the public, have we chosen to forego quality for quantity and quick recognition? (The answer to that would be a resounding YES, by the way.)
There’s a shift beginning in the industry after a few years of “no rules” being the general rule. It’s slow, but it’s definitely starting to make itself felt. So, let’s have a look at some of that change. In recent years many people with little to nothing for experience and knowledge of publishing have been rushing to deliver their books to online publishers. Hey, it couldn’t really be any easier, could it? All you need is a computer, a word processing program, and an email address. Who needs prior experience to write a story, after all?
Well, for those who are real/natural writers, there IS a whole lot more to it. My personal experience of the industry at this point in time is somewhat jaded, and with good reason. The internet is the most amazing marvel of the 21st century, but with the new technology has come a lot of really dark and nasty. Authors who attack other authors, congregate in online forums to trash their peers and publishers the moment things don’t go their way, authors who have zero conscience about lying, cheating, and using to get where they want to be. I’ve watched one author attack his publisher with such vehemence that the publisher considered shutting down rather than fight the misplaced ego and arrogance of the author. Realistically, this moderately talented writer would have been blacklisted and shunned twenty-five years ago for the shit he pulled. All things considered, that’s what should have happened here. However, the one thing that’s guaranteed in all this is the internet itself never really forgets, and if you attack other authors, and your publishers, it will always be there…search engines have better memories than elephants, so think carefully before you put it out there, because it will come back to haunt you–probably when you want it least.
Apart from business sense, the appalling lack of basic manners is another serious issue many new “authors” appear to suffer from. So many call themselves authors, then prove they can’t be bothered to even read the publisher’s website before submitting. There is a format each publishing house outlines, and a time frame in which you can expect to be notified of an editorial decision about acceptance or rejection. Instead of reading these things, ask any publisher how often they get manuscripts that are in no standardized format at all, never mind one complying with their guidelines. Some will tell you submissions have even come in the form of a link to the work–as though the acquisitions editor of ANY publishing house has time to track down someone’s work because they were too lazy to submit it properly. If the author doesn’t give a damn, why should the publisher?
Of course, there are those who know nothing about general protocols, and once rejected ask for explanations. Bad move there, because one of the things that never changes is asking for reasons. If the editor sees promise, he or she may take the time to explain the decision that’s been made. If not, asking will only get you listed as someone who isn’t professional, and it’s unlikely you’ll be welcome to submit again.
There are rules. If you don’t know them, learn them. Courtesy will allow you some leeway, but if your ego and/or arrogance puts you in a position where you think you can make demands, then you’re already failing. What too many writers fail to realize these days is that the publisher is the employer, and the author is the employee. One doesn’t do well without the other, but as it happens in most businesses, you still don’t tell your boss how you plan to do your job.
Professionals recognize that there is no perfect book. Editors, good ones, are a serious writer’s best friend, not the enemy. Take every opportunity you are given to learn and improve your skills. Frankly, only speaking for myself, I’m sick to death of overblown egos thinking they should have things just the way they want them, and that they’re granting the publisher some special right to publish their work. Really? Get real! Nothing you can bring to the table is so new that it will be golden from the get-go. Get over yourself.
Then there’s the start at the top breed… those authors who think they’re so good, and their book so extraordinary that they can pick and choose the publisher they want. With zero credentials and past sales, why do so many think they can submit to the top of the line publishers. Like most arts, writing is one of those things that requires you earn your reputation, not demand to have it given to you. Dues are still to be paid, and if you’re lucky enough to find a small house that believes in you and will work with you–grab that contract and learn all you can before you think about moving up to the bigger houses.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Check your ego at the door, and learn your craft if you want to be taken seriously. For myself, I’m fed up being asked to open doors, read manuscripts that I’m expected to take to publishers on behalf of the new Shakespeares out there who think they’re too good to have to pay the dues many of us have paid. There is no short track in this business, not if you want to be taken seriously, so suck it up and take a really good look at yourself before you ask someone to do your job for you. Every day in this industry there’s a new lesson to learn–but if you think you already know it all anyway, you’ll never survive… Success and ego are incompatible regardless of what level of publishing you’re approaching. If you don’t learn any other lesson, learn that one, and you might stand a chance of being professional.