Over at Book Angst 101, Mad Max Perkins is publishing a baker's dozen of cautionary tales about authors adventures in the paradise we call publishing.
There are three up so far and each one is eye-opening and at the same time all too familiar. My friend Doug Clegg and I were on the phone talking about them today and we could think of five authors who roughly fit "Keith" and who roughly fit "Richard."
And that was without thinking hard.
I think the worst thing about these tales - at least so far - is that they point out how really in the dark and out of the loop and out of control and how uneducated the authors are. How little information they had going in and how little information they get along the way. How uninvolved they were in the very thing they had spend years and tears creating.
What strikes me over and over is that there is no effort on the part of the publisher or the agent to bring the author into the process and try to work towards success together.
And these stories Max is printing are not unusual. Every single day of the year, every single day, I get at least three letters from published writers asking for some kind of help or advice or just plain information about the publishing/marketing process. And I'm no one, just a loud-mouthed author with a blog.
I don't blame the authors for not knowing what they need to know.
We are not educated in the business of publishing. And until very recently, no one was opening up and being honest about how much authors needed to become savvy business people. Which is a shame. It's not the same talent - to write a novel and market a novel.
In fact in the comments section, one of the authors "Keith" mentions:
Part of my problem was that I failed to educate myself about all of that stuff. Though I do think the system discourages authors from educating themselves. Just look at the way royalty statements or written up. Some of you pointed out that my lack of initiative may have been what got me into this situation in the first place, and I don't deny that I could have done more. I wasn't really even an adult when my first book was published, and I allowed my agent and my publisher to do a lot of things I disagreed with. In hindsight it's perfectly clear that we should have had a better overall plan. And it's clear that I should have put my foot down about certain things. But, hey, I figured the professionals in my life (one of whom I was paying large sums of money to) knew what they were doing. And I refuse to be too hard on myself for thinking that. Afterall, I was a bartender from Seattle, and they had decades of experience in the publishing world. In any case, I'm not whining about my situation, just trying to educate others. I've learned a tremendous amount from this whole process, both about myself and the business, and though I've been tempted at times in this last year to give up, I've finally decided to fight this one out.
So thanks Max for asking the tough questions and posting the tough answers.
I have some questions of my own. I think I'll start with what the hell are the agents doing in these cases? Who is paying them, the writers or the publishers? Are writers so scared of not being able to get another agent that they won't put their agent on the spot? Isn't it an agent's job to get involved in the process not just sell the damn book? When your agent has four other authors at the same house, how hard is he or she going to fight for you when you have a problem? You need to know this stuff. You need to get involved. You cannot sit back and just write the next book unless you are a mega seller and everyone is making so much money off you they dare not screw anything up. Why aren't publishers involving the authors in some of the plans? Don't you think we could help? Are we really that annoying/childish/ineffectual/spoiled that you can't bear to bring us in on the process?
I have more but I'm going to stop now before my blood pressure goes through the roof.