Publishing, behind the scenes

Now that I’ve got a few people’s attentions with my self-publishing vendetta, this might shed some light on how publishing really works. Mind you, I think that wannabe writers have to really be honest when they’re looking at their 50th MS and their 300th rejection letter, and just admit that they’re mad with the industry as they watch literary abominations make millions. Something’s got to give, and it’s not Harlequin Books sending out rejections with a DellArte reference.

This comes from the Absolute Write forum and was posted back in ’05 by Jenna Glatzer:

1. Acquisitions

Acquisitions editors are in charge of finding new manuscripts/proposals for the publisher. There are a few ways your work may end up in front of an acquisitions editor:

-The slush pile. This is the term for unsolicited manuscripts. If you mail a publisher a manuscript or proposal that they haven’t requested, some of them will just mail it back to you unread. Others will pile it up in their offices until a reader gets around to checking it out. This can take anywhere from days to many months.

-Request from a query. If you send an editor an e-mail or letter about your book, the editor may request sample chapters (a “partial”), the whole manuscript, or (in the case of nonfiction books) a book proposal. Now your work isn’t “unsolicited” anymore– it’s solicited. Solicited work tends to get read faster than unsolicited work, but it can still be several months before you get a decision.

-Through an agent. Your agent can get your work read fast if he/she has any clout. Publishers trust agents to bring in projects that are appropriate and of high quality. Particularly if you write novels, it’s to your benefit to have an agent. Real agents don’t charge you anything upfront– they take a commission from your advance and royalties (15%, usually).

-Recommendation or personal meeting. An author may recommend you to his/her editor, or you might meet the editor at a conference or workshop. This puts you into the “solicited” category.

You don’t need an agent to submit to most publishers.

I have never heard of an editor just mailing someone a contract– the editor will call you or e-mail you to tell you that he or she is interested.

At most publishing houses (except the very smallest), the editor will have to pitch the book at an editorial meeting. The editorial board (or the publisher alone) will say yes or no. The marketing people do their projections to see how much profit they think the publisher could make, and what the budget should look like. They research competing books and figure out how well they sold. They may suggest a new title. Then the editor makes an offer. You or your agent go back and forth negotiating until everyone’s happy. You sign the contract and get the first part of your advance. (Advances are typically paid in 2-4 parts.)

2. Developmental Editing

Now you have an editor. If you sold the book based on a proposal or partial, the editor may advise you about what direction he/she wants the book to take, the word count, etc.

You are NOT expected to hire an editor before you submit your work. You are not expected to pay anyone anything. The editor (hired by the publisher) will work with you, making substantive suggestions. The editor may point out where the plot is getting too hairy or complicated, where things are dragging or getting confusing, a character that needs to be cut or better developed, etc. You work back and forth with the editor until you’re both happy with the substance of the book.

3. Copyediting

Then it goes to the copy editor, who works on grammar, spelling, continuity, fact-checking, etc. You will have a chance to review the copy editor’s work. The copy editor may have several questions for you marked on the manuscript. If you disagree with any of the copyedits, you can mark “stet” next to the copy editor’s marking. (“Stet” means “let it stand.”)

4. Proofs

Then it goes to layout, then proofreading. At this point, your manuscript is laid out just how it will be when it’s printed. The proofreader checks for last-minute typos and formatting errors (A-heads that should be B-heads, widows and orphans, wrong italics, tables in the wrong spot, etc.). You get the proofs (also called galleys/gallies) and this is your last chance to review before the book is printed. If your book cover hasn’t been finalized yet, it should be now.

5. Publicity

Now’s when your publicist should swing into high-gear. You’ve probably already filled out a questionnaire by this point detailing any publicity avenues open to you, your speaking experience, your travel plans, etc. The publicist will write a press release, go over a list of where to send advance review copies (the major trade magazines such as Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Library Journal, etc. get them first), ask you if you want to do local book signings, figure out publications and media venues likely to feature you and make contact, etc.

When people complain that publishers “don’t promote” their books, what they usually mean is that they rarely send authors on tours anymore, and they rarely take out ads in papers, magazines, or TV. Simple reason: They typically don’t pay off. Imagine paying for an author to fly around the country and stay in hotels, only to find that no more than a dozen people show up at these signings. Imagine paying big bucks for an ad and finding that it sells two copies. Much more important are reviews, interviews, speaking engagements, bookstore placement, etc.

Your book’s cover art and description will go into the publisher’s seasonal catalog, which then gets sent out to bookstores and libraries. The distributor’s sales reps pitch the current season’s titles (and any backlist titles that the publisher wants to draw attention to) to the bookstore buyers. The sales reps tell the buyers about any planned publicity– buyers are more likely to order the book if they know it has a big publicity budget or the author has guaranteed media mentions coming up.

The buyer places orders. The publisher decides whether or not to pay for front-of-the-store placement. Those books you see stacked on tables in the front of the store aren’t there by chance– they’re there because the publisher paid for those spots!

The publisher also decides whether to invest in direct mailings (postcards, usually), Amazon promotions, a launch party, etc.

6. Exploiting Other Rights

If the publisher kept these rights, they will attempt to sell the book rights to overseas publishers, book clubs, film companies, etc. You will each get a share of the money. If you kept these rights, you or your agent can work on selling them.

7. And So On

Your publisher may enter your book in contests, put an ad for you in Radio Television Interview Report or similar guest-finder services, bring your book to book fairs, seek out “special sales” (bulk sales to corporations or organizations), offer your book as a giveaway in contests, and other such ongoing promotions. Generally, your publicist will have a limited window of time (3-6 months) when your book is actually on the “top of the pile”– then the publicist needs to concentrate on other books. But even years later, you can still ask the publicist to send someone a review copy, send you flyers to bring to a speaking event, etc.

All the above is based on my experiences. I have written for the following companies, listed in approximate order from smallest to largest: Moo Press, JayJo Books, Mason Crest, Nomad Press, Hunter House, Lyons Press, Adams Media, Andrews McMeel, McGraw-Hill, Penguin Putnam, and Simon & Schuster.

Okay, other published authors and editors, what did I leave out? Anything else you want to add?

This was added by underthecity:

Good communication. Obviously it’s not recommended that you constantly bug your editor, you are normally able to call and/or email during the production process. In the last phase of my recent project, the copyeditor spoke to me on the phone about several points throughout the manuscript.

Author’s copies. Publishers normally offer a set amount of free author’s copies, but the author can request more–and will get it. The author also gets a good discount from the publisher when he wants to buy some copies for himself. Or will sell the author copies against future royalties.

Distribution. Bookstores will stock the book from sea to shining sea. All the author has to do is show up and sign on-hand copies. Even regional and small presses get their books into stores without the author having to do anything.

Aruna says:

If you are published in the UK, your books will be sent all over the world (I don’t know how this works for US authors). I have a “schedule” of where my books are sold, a list of over 100 countreis starting with Andorra and ending with Zimbabwe, including countries such as Israel, Seychelles, Monaco; in fact, every single country in the world EXCEPT USA and Canada!

That is because I would need a separate contract for US and Canadian rights.
Despite this, a few of my books were actually stocked at amazon.com for several years; now they have run out.

Advances. The advance your publisher gives you is an advance on royalties. The amount you get represents the amount your publisher thinks they can make with your book, and is usually at least a few thousand dollars or pounds. Even if your book does not “earn out”, you never have to repay the advance.
A publisher which only pays you one dollar advance is not taking a chance on you. It is telling you that it doesn’t think your book can earn back more than a dollar.

Feel a bit more “in the know”? Hope it helped you with a few things. Sometimes we need to just step back, take a breather, and enjoy scribbling the fanfic. ‘Cause the real deal ain’t comin’ for us any time soon!

A footnote about Jodi Reamer

I really should edit this into my last rant from a few days back. But I think Jodi Viper- uh Reamer, deserves her own entry.

What is an agent? Well an agent is basically an attorney, specifically a commercial litigator. My cousin and his wife are both commercial litigators who work for a firm on Lexington Avenue- a fuckload of money and prestige if you’re lucky to work in that zip code (especially if you’re prostitute). Commercial litigators speak the necessary legalese to draw up contracts and do negotiations. They spend very little time in an actual courtroom.

But believe it or not, they make more money when they go into representation. Actors, singers, dancers, artists, and athletes agents are all attorneys. These agents are real bloodsuckers (pun intended) who are only interested in getting their commission, be it 10%, 15%, or 25% of whatever their client is going to get paid. For 14 years Jodi Reamer has been a part of Writers House, LLC, one of the oldest and most prestigious literary agencies  in the business (located right here in NYC, 21 West 26th Street). If you’re a greenhorn and need a rep, it’s highly recommended, but don’t expect anything. These people are elitists and are only interested in what makes THEM the most money.

She has a couple names besides SMeyer under her belt that I recognize: Bruce Campbell, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a “B” Movie Actor and Jennifer Crusie, Welcome to Temptation. Now if you love The Evil Dead and Brisco County Jr. as much as I do, then you know Brucie is one of the Olympian gods of B-movies. Everybody knows him from something, his movies, short-lived/failed sitcoms, and recurring role on Hercules. His first auto-bio was phenomenal. He was hilarious, honest, self-depreciating, grateful, wistful, and tells it like it is if you’re a wannabe actor or filmmaker. Reamer knew it was an instant sell. Maybe not on the NYT bestsellers list, but a cult hit nonetheless.

Now I know little about Crusie, except Mom bought her book Welcome to Temptation (she likes the romantic crap) and when she was done she let me have a go. Aside from me being sick and laughing a whole bunch, I could see why this too was a sell. Sophie Dempsey is a Mary Sue. Sexually repressed (a string of horrific boyfriends and fucked-up sexcapades), cute, smart as a whip, down-to-earth, and a terrific mother figure she comes into the town Temptation as a screenwriter (couldn’t afford college but so inexplicably gifted) with her hippy-dippy baby sis Amy to film what is tantamount to a soft-core porn flick. In she meets super-de-duper Gary Stu, Phin Tucker. University grad, owner of the town’s bookstore, mayor, major beefcake, and single dad of the cutest little girl who takes to Sophie in an instant. Did I also mention that his former MIL is the richest woman in town who wants to control everything through her ex-SIL and will stop at nothing to keep Sophie and Phin apart? Oh yeah and he practically fucks her right in the living room not 48 hours after meeting her.

Of course WTT was a sell. It parlays to every 25 to 40+ woman who hates herself, because they can identify with Sophie (mostly due to the fact that they’re social failures who typically redirect all the blame on the guy when the “relationship” goes down the shitter). While she has a “personality” it’s bland, and I’m sure every woman has an embarrassing teen sex story to tell. But why in hell would you run screaming from the sexiest thing in town who wants nothing but to chain you to his bed and fuck you through the floor (oh, and that shower “sex scene” was disgusting because who could fuck with all that mildew on the curtain)? The only thing worse than that was Hands: An Erotic Romance by W.H. Bossert, but that was plain insulting (and obviously published through POD).

So if you’re an anti-Twatlighter or a frustrated writer who can’t sell their 44th manuscript for dick, you now have an idea of what you’re up against.

The world has been invaded by idiots. Or were they always here?

How a mistake led to a best-seller

WSJ: The Death of The Slush Pile

Think I'm lying Twifucktards?


For shmeiliarockie…

In case you don’t know who shmeilirockie is go here: http://www.youtube.com/user/shmeiliarockie.

Shmeiliarockie did this brilliant in-depth analysis serial on Twilight entitled, You Are Bella. I’m not quite sure if she’s finished, but her latest post was two days ago, and she looks much better from her last post after the New Moan premiere. Believe me, it’s okay to hit a wall. It’s okay to get frustrated. As someone who has suffered from depression since childhood, I completely empathize with you. Writers are complicated people (I’m one too- in theory at least), but take comfort Stefenie Meyer isn’t complicated. Know why? She isn’t a real writer. She’s a fanfic writer who got extraordinarily lucky, at the right time. Jealous of her financial success? Perfectly normal, especially during these hard times when college grads and students (even drop-outs like me) are wading through a hazy fog, that, according to the Fox Noise Channel, doesn’t really exist.

First off, you hit the stake directly on head stating Twatlight’s success resulted from a financial decision. Every anti and intelligent person knows this. Look at the trends in entertainment today: reality TV is a booming phenomenon. Musicians are prefabricated corporate packages- the Disney teen pop “artists” have an international following, regardless of language or region, the “artists” are carbon copies of one another. Greed is good (subprime mortgage crisis). Instant gratification is necessary (global credit crunch). Updating outdated (and just plain wrong) material is the norm: cover songs, prequels, sequels, and TV/book/game adaptations (this includes AvatarPocahontas with blue people and and smatter of clever CGI). This kills two birds with one stone: 1) hiring writers and directors who will demand all sorts of crazy things (union rights, correct pay, insurance, etc.) and 2) it saves studios money! They already own the rights to the shit and royalties are negotiable. If not, they get dropped (in the case of DVDs: 6 eps. of Scooby Doo, the entire series of Happy Days, the pop/rock soundtrack of Knight Rider, 21 Jump Street, the complete omission of the In Living Color musical parodies, and Quantum Leap just to name a few). Even though logic dictates that fans will be furious and a backlash is probable. Actually, the backlash happened.

But the studios are willing to endure the backlash, despite the fact that DVD sales are becoming their bread and butter. Flexing their muscles is more important than listening to the demands of striking writers.

You also address in YAB that as a fanfic writer and reader the most popular fics are Mary Sues, they get the most reviews and most hits. Mosey over to Fanfiction.net and- for example- click on “Movies”, then scroll down to Miracle. This post-Olys/pre-NHL lock-out ’04 Disney hit based on the Miracle on Ice USA hockey team gold medal victory over the USSR has a nice collection of fics (65 I think- but if you do an independent search there’s roughly 60 more under “Misc. Movies”). So why would a live-action Disney flick have a following like this? Well, it was well written and directed, it starred an A-list actor, and the hockey team was cast with very hot guys who were real hockey players (with the exception of Eddie Cahill). There are fics being written about them today, because the young actors got very little screen time (fuck you Gavin O’Connor). The most popular fics contain Mary Sue heroines that are either one of four things: 1) daughter/stepdaughter/niece/granddaughter of Herb Brooks, Craig Patrick, or Doc Nagobads. 2) A U of M or BU co-ed who gets a job working for the team. 3) A relation (or someone with a relationship) with a Midwest hockey player falls for an East coast hockey player (or vice-versa) playing to the team’s legendary regional rivalry . Or 4) a Russian girl who has a relationship to the Russian hockey team but falls for one of the American players.

What are wrong with these characters? Nothing, intrinsically at least. The fics are very creative, but are poorly researched, poorly edited, and the characters have unbelievable and often tragic backgrounds to provide magnetism and chemistry between them and the hockey player of their choice. But it parlays right to the fangirls. A particularly horrific example is Broken Shards Of Time And Space.

But this is all academic accounting, of course bullfuck like this will be a blockbuster. But here are a few tidbits you might not know about Meyer:

1) Thirty-five agents rejected her before the viper known as Jodi Reamer gave her “manuscript” the gold stamp of merchandising approval.

2) Meyer’s publisher Little, Brown & Co. is owned by Hachette, a French media group (multinational now). They bought LBC in ’06 after they bought out Time Warner Book Group (its original owner), making it the second largest publisher in the world. Why did this happen? Well at the time Time Warner was making a fuckload of bad business decisions. After 9/11 and the Dot.com bust, Time Warner reported a $99 billion dollar loss in ’02. There was also a four year recession (hitting NY pretty hard where Time Warner HQ happens to be located) from 2000-’03. So if my timeline is correct Meyer had to have completed the MS for Twatlight around ’03 (which took 2 months according to her), then found Reamer who shopped it around to different houses eventually landing in LBC which is probably ’04. Now Time Warner has suffered tremendous losses, and its sending out memos to its subsidiaries to buy anything that looks remotely lucrative. LBC isn’t stupid, they know (in the middle of the Harry Potter craze) that trends are shifting, life is getting harder. Escapism is more important than ever. We had a tyrannical president. The war is never ending. People are losing their jobs. Others are getting crazy rich really fast. And the sales of actual copies of books is chicken feed compared to merchandising. They know Twatlight is crap, but it’s the glitzy, pretty people that make emo fangirls (and lonely cougars) swallow it whole. It’s sort of like cutting into a cake with fluffy, sugar-crystallized pink frosting, but instead of lifting out a slice of the richest, thickest devil’s food cake you’d ever seen… it’s nothing more than a cardboard box. A prop, just like Meyer mentions so many goddamn times! Twatlight hits shelves fall of ’05.

So let’s recap: 1) Meyer is a fraud. 2) Creativity is in the toilet. 3) Vapidness is an infectious disease. Case in point: Sharon Lathan. Lathan is a cancer to Pride and Prejudice. There’s little difference between Lathan and Meyer- save one thing: Lathan’s first book was a fanfic. Lathan is a 50-something RN who went to see the ’05 film adaptation of P&P starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFayden. She admitted that she never read an Austen novel. She admitted that she knew nothing about the Regency era. And finally she admitted she didn’t know what P&P was about. What she did know was that Knightley and MacFayden were extremely sexy actors. Well I’ll give her that, one of the requirements to be an actor is to be sexy.

So she went home and pounded out a 54-chapter drivel fest of PG-13 porno entitled, Mr. & Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy: Two Shall Become One. I assume she put it up on FF.net and it had such a following she decided to hawk it on her own via POD (that’s publishing on demand- a scam). I found an original .pdf copy of the drivel on 4shared.com. If you’re masochistic or curious go there and you’ll find it- DON’T spend the money! Sourcebooks, Inc. (a so-called “independent” publisher) swotted her up and her shitpile went to print on ’09. It was so successful, it spawned two sequels: Loving Mr. Darcy: Journeys Beyond Pemberley and My Dearest Mr. Darcy: An Amazing Journey Into Love Everlasting. I didn’t read the other two books (I’m not crazy) BUT honest reviewers confirmed that the timeline was about one year, their fist child was born at the end of the last book, and there was NO character development for the mains.

Sound familiar? No, you’re not seeing things. It’s reality.

Here’s another thing you need to see: AVOID PUBLISHING/PRINT ON DEMAND!! POD is nothing more than taking your unedited, unpolished, unspellchecked manuscript to Kinko’s and printing out several thousand pages for a bunch of copies that could be bound by any print shop. These subsidiaries who may or may not work for legit publishing houses ensure that the author is nothing more than a glorified secretary, in a pool of thousands. The author, in essence, works for the POD company, getting paid staggeringly little for their “creations”. Whatever they sell, they make. It’s like being a telemarketer; you are your own agent, editor, and publicist. As soon as you give your credit card number to pay for printing (a set number of copies of books that will realistically never get beyond friends and family), you have bought a golden ticket to complete creative autonomy on your literary journey!

And pigs will fly.

Unless you are a phenom of a salesperson, POD is a scam. Roughly 20 out of the thousands of POD books that flood the internet get picked up for legit publishing. Zane and Christopher Paolini are often touted as POD champions, the truth of the matter is they got lucky. Zane’s erotica which is targeted to black women met her forum at the right time when black literature was being brought into the mainstream thanks to hip hop being popular with white people. Paolini’s parents were footing the bill for the Eragon printing when the Harry Potter hurricane hit the country. And the rest is history.

And finally to close my rant: how to get published.

I was on my way back from Queens when I met author Christina Britton Conroy (One Man’s Music). I pulled out my copy of Mark Bowden’s Guests of the Ayatollah (this is also being optioned for the big screen like BHD and Killing Pablo) when this petite blonde woman turned around and offered me a bookmark advertising her book. She was sweet and engaging, but what really made me strike up a conversation was that she commented that I was the first person she saw reading a real book all day. So I sucked it up and had to ask her:

“How’d you do it?”

And she said:

“Twenty years, 2 agents, and enough rejection letters to wallpaper my apartment.”

But what truly made me respect her was that she was an editor for a publishing house where the Twatlight MS landed in her office. She called it “charming crap”.

So shmeiliarockie, don’t burn your ass out on the corporate crap NaNoWriMo. It’ll get you nowhere. I tried something similar at Lulu.com, and got told my MS for my helium-filled romance/sex-comedy, Forbidden Fruit was sure-fire publishing material I was ecstatic! Then I put it up on fictionpress.org (FF.net’s original fiction wing) and my beta told me it was a sucky, but good first try at an MS. It was actually my second. My first dark erotic anime-inspired drama, The Glass Coffin, was brushed off by a professional editor who I got in contact with through a professor I befriended. I still have her rejection letter: “You got talent… blah-blah… reminds me of X-Men… blah-blah… sorry kid, you’re just not marketable…”

So now it’s Canada or bust! The lit agents are fewer, the competition’s tougher, but I’m not stressing for a change. Why you ask? Well when it comes to manga-inspired-over-the-top-romantic-dramedy set in a fictional university surrounding its loser, egotistical jerkoff hockey team, I’m actually having fun. Now all I need is to talk to some college hockey players to get the NCAA technobabble straight and I’ll really be set!

Keep your stick on the ice… then bash some Twifucks with it!

P.S. I’ll still be going back to school so I can get a day job. But I have  no intention of paying back the loan if I can’t get a proper one.