Sunday, 4 May 2014

Knowing the industry before you start

Me at 17 - possibly the day I
decided to write short stories!
First, I'm going to give you a bit of background: I started writing a 'novel' at the age of about 14. By the time I reached 17, I'd realised short stories might be a better bet, in terms of publication. My lovely dad bought me a Writer's News/Writing Magazine subscription and I poured over the pages - not only the calls for submission (of which there were many) and competitions, but the articles about what not to do, traps to avoid, how to approach editors. In short, I learned the industry, and I knew that there were people out there who would love to take my money for very little in return.

Skip forward to this week.... 

I read a story in a regional paper (I'm going to be cryptic, because I don't want to identify the writer) about a teenage writer, who I'll call X, who's had her first book published. X has a little bit of dramatic back story, which is why I guess she was featured - plus her age, of course.

The article explained that X wrote her book, showed mother, they sent it to a publisher, forgot about it (note: I have never, ever, ever forgotten that someone somewhere is considering my work) and then were contacted to say the book would be published. The publisher? Author House, a 'self-publishing company' that has a string of complaints against them. Of course they would publish it, you're paying for it!

If you haven't followed the link, or don't know about this company, they have many complaints about editing, sales, and bad advice against them. A lot of the complaints are fairly basic ones, that just a little research would explain in a moment. In short, they take people who have no idea about publishing, tell them they're going to be the next E.L. James, and ask for lots of money in return. (Note: I looked at the Author House website, to confirm packages/prices etc, but the site is down for maintenance.)

The book in the article is a 750 page romance. Yep, seven hundred and fifty pages! So it's pretty safe to assume that this book has been very poorly edited, if it actually saw an editor at all, and she didn't research the genre she was writing. An editor would have also been able to tell her that the story was too long for the market.

I found the book on Amazon to check the price, and while the ebook is under £3, the paperback is £22.95.

I'm not knocking X in the slightest - there are many industries out there that I have no idea about, and would therefore fall prey to scams - I just feel so sorry for her. The reason I wanted to write this post was to maybe warn other people that, while self/indie publishing is the most accessible it's ever been, with so many readers now willing to read books that haven't solely come from the big publishers, there are still traps, pitfalls and scams out there.

X spent two years writing this book, she had a dream, just like I did. I could be very wrong about this whole thing - she might sell well, rise through the Amazon charts, and make a career of writing. And I wish her all the very best.

Is there anything you've learned about publishing that you can share?


30 comments:

  1. Hi Annalisa .. just "be aware" and know what you're doing - and perhaps ask for others' help along the way - people who know some of the routes ... friends who blog etc ..

    Ghastly story ... but such a reminder .. cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The sad part is neither X or her mother seem to know it's a ghastly story yet. But maybe, by being featured in her local paper, she'll get lots of local sales.

      Delete
  2. With anything, you have to know what you are doing before you start doing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Very true, Alex, but writing (or at least publishing) seems to be the one thing at the moment that people think you can just do. Too many debut-author-makes-millions-self-pubbing stories are giving the wrong impression, I think.

      Delete
  3. That is sad. Hopefully, if she's serious about writing, she'll learn from this and know more when she writes the next one.

    ReplyDelete
  4. She is very young, and she has time to learn. I don't expect she will have a good experience with Author House -- they are notorious -- and I hope that she learns from it and moves on instead of getting discouraged.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I could have linked to so many sites that feature problems with them - it's sad so many people are taken in, especially when it's so easy to publish yourself these days.

      Delete
  5. Your words are so true. Research will save you so much problems. I had a brush a while back with a literary agent scam and i should have trusted the research i had done and my gut, but i wanted to be published so bad, i did the stupid thing and signed. I was never published, but i learnt a lesson and now self-publishing is my first choice. I really wish X the best too. She can recover from this and have a great career.

    Welcome back by the way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can understand that feeling of wanting to be published and ignoring all those little doubts. I'm glad you realised the agent was scamming, it means you can move on now.

      Delete
  6. Yeah, at seventeen, I published some poems that "won" honorable mentions... and for just $350 dollars I could immortalize my accomplishments with a plaque featuring my poem. Guess how they made money?

    Publishing is full of these sorts of scams. The dreams are so big. So. Big. Hope might be stronger than logic.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ooh, that's one of the oldest scams - they really like preying on teenagers, don't they? Even Lisa from the Simpsons got scammed that way! I think you're right about hope being stronger than logic though.

      Delete
  7. That is a shame for X because it could discourage her from future good writing (and publishing). It's a tough business. I think for anyone starting out it's good to hook up with a group for critiques, knowledge, etc. That's where I learned a lot about sources, etc.And I'm still learning every day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's much tougher than people realise. I'm always learning too, that's very important!

      Delete
  8. Research is so important to avoid the scams. Sad that people get their hopes and dreams walked all over. I wish X the best too with her writing career.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Research is the key. Writing is the easy bit.

      Delete
  9. This is a worry because even if she realises this isn't a good publishing avenue she might not get her book back. I know someone who had a legal fight to get his first book back from a vanity publisher so he could publish it himself (and they printed it over 20 years ago!) Whatever happens, I hope she can learn from it and move on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hadn't even considered that, Nick. It throws up a whole heap of issues, doesn't it?

      Delete
  10. Yup, a little research can make all the difference!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And befriending other authors to share experience and advice!

      Delete
  11. She might get a few local sales - after all, presumably her family and friends will fork out - but actually holding a book that size would floor me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I know, Liz, it's a huge book to hold!

      Delete
  12. *cough* Author House?! *cough cough cough* Damn I hope she's able to write the book off as learning the trade.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm really stunned the newspaper ran with the article. They all know who the subsidy presses are now. Sadly that might be the end of her career, because if the book is unedited, too long, and just not good, no one will read anything else she writes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It would be such a shame if that happened, which is why I didn't want to identify her in any way.

      Delete
  14. I decided a long time ago that I would never pay to have a book published. (though now I have changed my tune a little. I am all for self-pubbing and paying quality people for edits, covers, etc.) That's different than the vanity presses.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Paying for services you specifically require is very different to paying for false promises and shoddy work - especially when you don't realise they're false and shoddy!

      Delete
  15. This is why I value (beyond all) the online writing community. One can access so much information now, but of course the truth of such things wasn't always so transparent. Bless her, I do hope she can pick herself up and start again, correctly next time. She could easily write under a pseudonym if she feels her name's been tainted by this. No one will know and once she's proved her talent, with a good editor's help etc., then possibility will be restored. :)

    pseudonym

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The online community is amazing - I had no idea how much I would value it when I started my blog a few years ago.

      Delete

Please comment - I love a good chat!