Pop the Question
The publishing business has changed a lot. It always was a hard business, highly competitive, but in a different way. The self-publishing business has created a new level of competitiveness, and a new level of author business savvy.
When I was introduced to the party guests, everyone assumed I was self-published. Their questions reflected their understanding of self-publishing, from the consumer’s point of view. When they understood I was an “old-fashioned, traditionally-published” author, the questions changed. They knew less about this side of the business than they realized, because much of what they “know” is misinformation. So, my answers surprised them. All the questions about authors started me thinking about questions authors should ask publishers. Some of my questions may be a surprise to authors who haven’t asked them.
The good thing about the current status for authors is that we have options. We don’t need to jump at the first opportunity to be published, fearing it might be our only chance. Authors who’ve educated and kept up with technology are in a position now to ask questions of their publishers that never needed to be asked before. Today’s publishers don’t market your book. They publish it. Authors are expected to market as if it were their profession, rather than writing. Publishers ask how the author plans to market the book. But authors need to ask about the publisher’s support. Authors must have a website and social media presence. But what about the publisher’s website? What does it look like? How easy is it to purchase books? Are the other books on the site going to help sell yours? Does it reach the market you’ve targeted for your book?
Publishers ask the author who their target audience is, but authors need to ask how a publisher serves that particular audience. Do they use compatible distributors? If you plan to sell to libraries, schools, or any government entity, you need a publisher with generous purchase orders, 90-days in some cases. Does the publisher offer this service? What kind of payment does the publisher take? Will it suit your customers? School librarians can’t use Pay Pal. Do you plan to sell to bookstores? Is this publisher an Amazon promoter? Does he even mention Indies on his website? Now, since we are expected to be the marketer, authors must ask these questions, and expect answers before signing. It’s important to the author who is also the marketer. The business model of a publishing company wasn’t any concern of authors in days past. But the knowledge of the business end is now at the fingertips of authors who learn more about the industry every day, and are expected to be part of the business.
The readers popping the questions were surprised to learn that authors do so much more than write. One guest said she envied me that I could write in my pajamas! In every group, someone asks if I write in my pajamas, and do I “have to” write every day. To those who imagine themselves in a hammock in Key West writing for a distant publisher who handles the business end…sorry to pop your bubble.