Friday, April 20, 2012

A publisher's dilemma

So I’ve had an internal debate for some time now about publishing my own work with AKP or going with another small press. Honestly, the thought of trying to get an agent and subbing to bigger presses hasn’t crossed my mind in some time. At least, not since a year ago when I began working with Angelic Knight Press and getting to know more small press owners and staff. I love the feel of small presses. Sure we don’t always have the biggest marketing budgets, we can’t offer advance royalties, and we don’t meet the criteria for some of the awards. But I love the feel of small presses. I love that the owners know each of the writers personally. I love that, as an editor, I get to know more about my author than whether they have a good grasp of grammar. I know where they want their book to go. I know their hopes and dreams. I love working with the art director to ensure that we make the book come to life the way the author imagined it. I love the hometown feel of a small press and I love the fact that we’ve started banding together to help each other out. Basically- I love my job and my company and nearly everyone I work with.

What I don’t love is finger pointers or name callers or drama. And sure, you’re going to have that with every job, but more so with creative jobs where it’s your baby those folks are talking about. And I don’t understand all the in-fighting. Why do we need to point fingers and call each other out and get into pissing contests? Can’t we all succeed? But I digress. Recently, I saw a conversation where a newly minted small press owner disparaged other small presses who publish the work of their owner or staff. He called them Vanity Presses and said that he would never do that, his authors deserved better.

 My first instinct was not a nice one and thankfully cooler heads prevailed and talked me into putting that shank down. (JK. Kind of.) Well, I took it to my small press society and of course I knew what their opinions would be. Nearly all of them publish works by the owner/s and/or staff. (Do villagers and pitchforks give you enough of a picture?) This person had just alienated a large portion of the people who could have been most beneficial to him. Then I thought about his words and decided to take it to the people who mattered the most- our authors. Today I emailed them all and let them know the question. They came back with overwhelming support for the press and here is just a sampling of their answers-

‘I have seen many presses set up this way, and I don't think less of them. As a matter of fact, Helen Rossman, the CEO of my first publisher, Medallion Media Group, publishes quite a bit of her work through her press. They are doing quite well in the industry and continue to grow and expand. I think people who try to "make specific rules" about this are simply looking for ways to build themselves up.’ ~ Cindy Keen Reynders

‘In a word, no! What difference could it possibly make if it is an anthology, carefully edited and scrutinized in the most careful manner and happens to include other work, say by the publisher? That is just silly and argumentative to me.’~ Carole Gill

‘So no, I don't care about the publishing of your own stuff in the least. If it was getting shown preference in acceptance, or if releases from you or Blaze were getting moved ahead of the schedule or getting more marketing attention than other books, I would. But just throwing in a great story that fits an anthology or publishing your own novel wouldn't bother me in the least. Your quality will help you stand out, and I don't think that putting out your own stuff would change it in the least. Besides, you're working your ass off on your company. Why send a great story to a competitor over something like this?’~ Bryan Hall

‘Y'know, the way I look at it is that it's the owners' press, and they can do what they want to with it, and if authors feel somehow "belittled," then they ought to be able to pinpoint the reason--as in is the owners' writing so substandard that no other press would touch it--and be able to justify that position. If this is not the case and the writing is up to par, then I don't see a problem.’~ Carson Buckingham

There are so many more, but I won’t include them all. Just suffice it to say that not one author came back to me and said that they felt belittled or treated unfairly. I don’t think the readers really care much either, so who exactly does this issue matter to? One of our writers put it succinctly when he said that the only people who care about such things are the elitists out there. The other writers and publishers who think they’re doing a better job or holding on to old standards. Well, it’s a new day peeps and it’s time to get with the program.

In the end, I decided I will go ahead with the plans to publish my short story collection with AKP. And later on my novella. Why? Because I trust us. I know our commitment to quality. I know that the same people, who read all the other subs, will read my sub as well. If it’s crap, I’ll get called on it. And if it’s not, and it gets the green light? It will be edited by the same editors that I work with and trust. The cover art will be done by our brilliant cover artist. And the royalty split will be the same I offer all of our authors. With the Press’ cut going right back into the business as it should. Why would I go with another press when I trust mine? Why would I give up creative control? Why would I give up money?

I suppose the argument could be made that I need the validation of being accepted elsewhere. But I already have that validation. I’ve had stories published with other presses and publications. I’ve had another press interested in the novella. That’s enough validation for me. The ending validation will come from the same place it would have- even if I published through someone else- the readers and reviewers.

And let me ask you this- how would publishing through your own press be any different than self-publishing? Except the readers are guaranteed the work published through the press has been edited well and formatted correctly. That’s a win for the readers.

And since the gentleman in question has self- pubbed a work or two, I might remind him that while you’re out gathering stones, you might bear in mind your own glass abode.


RL.Treadway said...

I never saw the need of validation beyond the ones I'm trying to reach - that is the reader. I know when I suck and when I don't. heh. Secondly? Yep - darn sure straight I'll call you up on any booboo's, sister! :p

Armand said...

Great post, I know we talked about this privately and I agreew hole-heartedly with your comments.

As an author, I've had quite a few of my stories published elsewhere, so I know I'm doing soemthing right.

As a publisher, I hold my books up to the same standards because I want allof Rymfire Book's releases to be amazing. I've never had anyone call me out on it because it only helps all of us in the long run.

I think a new player in the game (and especially one who actually DID publish his first book with his press, btw) should relax and stop alienating others... just sayin'


Blaze McRob said...

Thinking like this has changed my mind as well. My only personal concerns for my own books and stories lie in the sheer number I have to put out, the time frame I'm looking at, the fact the Press is sooo busy, and a ton of personal issues. Obviously, for me to try and do with my tales what I want to do before the end of the year, in particular October and December, would cause a bit of eyebrow raising.

That's what I get for being a writing fool!


Tim Baker said...

The entire publishing industry is in a constant state of flux right now. It will probably be another five years before it even begins to level off into a "predictable" endeavor.
That is why I don't see anything wrong with an author publishing his work through his own company. What's the difference?
Those who criticize him/her are missing the big picture. If the work is sub-standard not only will he be hurting himself - he'll be damaging the reputation of his company and most likely wind up out of business.
Natural selection.
The publishing industry is going through puberty right now and things are changing all of the time - but in the end quality work will survive as it always has...regardless of who owns the company.

Jezri said...

Nothing wrong with it. There are some Indie publishing presses that were set up with the express purpose of publishing their own work, but so what? I publish myself and list the Publisher as Jezri's Nightmares, which is my blog and not a true publishing company. With the exception of my husband's collection, I've never published anyone elses, nor do I care to. As to any publishing companyn that publishes others, as well as themselves, so what? I don't see the problem. I know with Angelic Knight Press, you and Blaze hold yourselves to the same standards you do the other authors, submitting your work and either being accepted or rejected. A vanity Press has no such standards, publishing anyone that can come up with the money to publish. The guy seems to ahve a superiority complex and is his problem and his proble alone.

Cindy Keen Reynders said...

I, too, am loving this small press feel and the "family" atmosphere. We are all out to help one another and grow creatively. I'm in total agreement with what everyone has said. There is an exciting future ahead for all of us! For those individuals who don't see the bright opportunities waiting on the horizon, see you later!