Thursday, July 28, 2011

Things Are Changing But We Have To Be Careful

We are now in an age of change. There is a huge rise in people reading things electronically. There is a huge rise in people purchasing more and more from the internet instead of simply going to the story. In fact, I heard of a place on NPR recently that women can rent saris online instead of purchasing their own. Wow, what a change the world has gone through.

With that said, I think it is important that we are all very careful, especially in publishing.

Earlier, I made a comment about people just selling out and going with e-pubs and self-pubs. Let me address that. First of all, I am not saying to not do either. All I am saying is that the business takes time and we are all too anxious to make money too fast. There is a definite place for both of these forms of publishing and if people are successful with this model, then I am 100% backing you.

But with that said, I think there is another element of caution when it comes to this shift. That would simply be doing things for the immediate financial concern and not for the long term stability of the author. I am reminded here of a comment that I have heard Deb Werksman from Sourcebooks say time and time again. "I do not buy books, I buy authors." (or something to that effect).

The reason I bring all of this up is I am concerned about many in the publishing industry that are not thinking about the actions they do today and how those actions lead to the things that will occur in the long run. Will pushing for higher rates with some publisher burn a bridge later on when you might need the negotiating room? Will moving to a different business model become a conflict of interest later on when the model or market shifts?

Although (here comes the political side of things) I am a liberal in many things, when it comes to business models, I am a hard core conservative. I believe in the status quo and I believe in making changes only when there is a need.

I will admit, I can see things I do at Greyhaus and see many ways that I can bring in an immediate cash flow. Will I do it? No. Even when I first started the agency, I was thinking about offering (as a side-line) critique services, but I chose not to. Why? Because there were authors that saw this as a conflict of interest. Even though I had a clause in my contract, it wasn't enough. So I didn't run with that plan. The same goes for my Alien Vampire Bunny Contest and my work with the Brenda Novak Auction. This is to help a craft, and not to "make money for Greyhaus."

So with that said, let me re-state the things I believe in here at Greyhaus.
  • I believe there should be no conflict of interest for the agent. It is for this reason I am looking for an agent to publish my own writing.
  • I believe that the agent's prime concern is for the authors they represent.
  • I am firm that I will stick to representing only romance and women's fiction.
  • I believe, as an agent, I will represent only stories I believe in.
  • I believe an that an agent can be a writer, and an agent can do editing, but those lines cannot ever be crossed and there needs to be a clause written into every contract stating those two lines can never be crossed.
  • I believe in the author and I want to do the best for the author. This does not mean I will push for things unrealistic, but I will push for the best in the long run.
  • I believe in my authors and when they want to do projects outside of our agreement, I am 100% backing them but will not be entering into a contractual obligation with the author. This allows Greyhaus authors to write in projects outside of romance and women's fiction as well as writing in the self-publishing market.
There are a lot of great agents, authors and editors out there. I think the world of these people. With that said, I am just concerned that many might be heading down the wrong path.



  1. The only part of this post I have issue with is that you consider e-publishing selling out. E-publishing offers a venue for stories that NY won't publish. They won't pub them because they don't fit into the narrow range of what NY "thinks" will sell. They don't exactly do any market research.

  2. That sounds good on paper. Believe me, I am patient. I am neither trad. pubbed or self pubbed right now. Writers are the most patient people in the world. A friend once had to wait a month to hear back on a job offer and she thought it was a long time. I laughed. (to myself of course)

    The reasons writers, I'm talking good writers that have been at this for a while and have come close, are considering self publishing is that we know publishers are buying less. We hear the stories of low advances, barely selling through - if you do at all - and then not having the erights ever. We realize that with less bookstores and shelf space that trad. pubbed books come and go quickly so our own online marketing is a must, and with a traditional pubbed book we would be putting in just as much work as a self pubbed author and making less per dollar.

    We hear that if your first trad. pubbed book doesn't do well and you don't sell through, your career is dead in the water. At least with self pubbing we can continue to promote. We hear about books that are doing well getting dropped in the middle of the series. We see friends with agents sit for years with nary a sale.

    I know traditional publishers offer a broader distribution but the ebook market is almost separate from that and it is huge. Big enough that writers, many writers, are making pretty good income and will continue to do so as they put more out. I'm talking about great writers here, not the newbies that are trying to take short cuts. And I'm talking about writers who weren't trad. pubbed first.

    The few agents and traditionally pubbed authors willing to address this say it's better for your career long term to traditionally publish. But no one ever explains why. No one shows me how making less money over a longer period of time is better. I do realize that if a book takes off and becomes a true best seller that it is better to trad. publish. But that is not the norm with publishing.

    The writers I know considering self publishing are doing it for their careers, not for the quick money. They've been at this. They are patient. Self publishing doesn't seem any riskier than your first trad.pubbed book flopping. In fact, it seems less risky.

    I realize agents might never address this because maybe there isn't an answer right now. But please don't assume that all writers considering self publishing are doing it for the quick money or lack of patience. We are all thinking about this. And thinking hard. (This is just an honest reply. I'm not upset in any way whatsoever at your post. I just have questions.)

  3. I like your list. It looks like the kind of thing that should hang in a well-done caligraphy on an office wall.

    I see what you're saying about publishing alternatives - how your statements aren't all-inclusive and are your opinion. It's nice to hear a distinct voice weigh in on the matter.

  4. Chris,

    I don't want you to get the impression that writing with e-pubs is selling out. What I often stress is that many authors simply don't have the patience to keep working at the craft. Along the same lines, when you say that NY won't publish it because it doesn't fit into what NY thinks will sell, we have to remember that this is a business. Each publisher has an audience that they know and understand. This means that while your story may be good, if it doesn't fit with what the audience of the publisher that you sent it to, then they will not sign it. This is part of the reason I always stress doing your research and knowing if your story really will fit with the publisher and the current market. The key here also is CURRENT market. You may simply be ahead of your time. so hold on and don't rush it.

  5. Laura,

    Good points. One additional thing to consider here deals with the authors that aren't selling through. We have several factors to consider here. First, is the simple fact that there are indeed many 1 hit wonders out there. If you just can't maintain the pace, your writing will indeed fall short. This has nothing to do with the publishers and has everything to do with the author's writing style. Publishers can't just keep selling stories that don't sell with the hope that "this next time it might be better." This is a business.

    Secondly, I think that many authors, in an attempt to make more money are diving all over the bigger advances. Remember that selling through means going over that advance. I do believe that too often, authors eager to make a ton of cash up front, hurt their chances later on because they have personally raised that bar to a point that might not be reached. Again, we also have to remember that we cannot always blame the publisher for lack of sales. Yes this does happen and I have worked with authors where we dealt with that, but sales depends on readers. If the author doesn't have it, the readers won't buy it.

    Just some things to think about.

  6. I am an Indie author. I self-published my first book in July 2010. At the time, I definitely didn't do it with the thought that I was going to make a quick buck. I was just looking for the chance to get my books out there.

    A year later, have I "ruined my career"? You tell me...I've sold over 50,000 e-books (paid sales, not freebies). I'm pretty happy about that, and I don't regret my decision to go Indie, at all :)

  7. Sandra,

    Good for you! This is exciting to here. Again, I am not saying EVERY author here. There are those that do it well and it looks as if you are one of those individuals. I am simply saying that we have to be careful.

    Once again, congrats on the great career!


  8. Thanks Scott for the reply. I think I would prefer the slow build and get the smaller advance so I could sell through! I do realize how important that is. And yes, sometimes we have no control over how readers will respond. If we could figure that out we'd all be millionaires! :)

    There are success stories with both self published and traditionally published. and vice versa.

    Thanks for being willing to share your opinion.

  9. Scott, I enjoy your blog and your brutal honesty. I have a hard time thought wrapping my head around the concept that epublishing is any less than traditional publishing. A reputable epublisher won't (or shouldn't) put out anything less than fantastic. I just sold my second epub but I knew just because I sold one didn't mean I would sell another. My writing had better improve the more books I write, otherwise I've become a lazy writer and shouldn't be published.

    Thanks for the honesty and making us stand up and think about what's going on. I just hope you don't think that epublishing is any less than traditional publishing.

  10. Good for you!

    It's really depressing to see agents I used to respect selling out by becoming publishers themselves, even if they are well meaning, and hearing about agents who are so busy protecting their own bottom lines that they are screwing the authors they are supposed to be protecting.

    See Kathryn Rusch's blog to see what I'm talking.

  11. Self-publishing is such a difficult thing to address. If you think about it, anyone, talent or no-talent, can write a book and self-publish. That doesn't mean that what they wrote is good - or on the flip side - that what they wrote isn't good. And then there is the question of, who really decides what is good and what isn't?

    I know there are many others out there like me who write because they have a story that needs to be told, and not for the promise of 'big money'. Because really, so many write, and so few hit it big. We can't all be Jodi Picoult or Nicholas Sparks, now can we?

    While I would still buy a book, if interested enough, that was self-published, I would never self-publish myself.

    If we take youtube for example - there are very few Justin Beibers, and a whole lot of Rebecca Blacks. I prefer to wait for a professional to guide me through the publication process and to tell me that yes, my story should be told, and that I did it well.

  12. I have a hard time convincing people that e-publishing and self-publishing are not the same thing. They are absolutely not. The reputable e-publishers use much the same model for publishing as traditional publishers, including book cover design and editing.

    I agree that the publishing world in general is in flux. Writers absolutely could ignore the e-publishing world right now. We could wait until things settle down and we know what's going to happen to the brick-and-mortar bookstores and traditional publishers. Or we could use e-publishing. We can get our work out there in whatever way we can because as writers, that's what we're meant to do, not to let our manuscripts stack up on our desks (or our hard drives) because we can't attract the interest of traditional publishers.

    I don't know what the future holds for publishing. I'm glad you're sticking to your principles, and it's reassuring to know there are professionals like you out there. However, I will never consider e-publishing as selling out, no matter how much I'd love to go the traditional route.

  13. Selling out?

    I´ve tried to sell two manuscripts in Denmark for ten years (proper stuff, just not the next Stieg Larsson), and now I have tried in English for one year. Now I´m fifty, and I decided to do it myself rather than let my children publish my books posthumorously (bad pun intended).

    And I don´t think I´m going to ´make money too fast´ - any small trickle is better than a torrent of rejections from agents because I can´t sell my mystery in one sentence (if I could, I wouldn´t need help anyway).

    So as I see it, the only way agents can stop millions of people from self-publishing un-agented is to take a closer look at their stuff in the first place.