Sunday, March 02, 2008

No whining

I had lunch with an agent a few weeks ago who told me about her agency's "no whining" rule for authors. I'm curious as to what the authors out there will think about this: basically, the agent said that authors shouldn't whine about their publishers not doing anything (generally meaning that the publisher is putting and marketing/publicity attention on their books).

The agent wonders if the authors truly feel this way, then why do they continue to submit their work to publishers? Why don't they just self publish? This is what the publisher does for you, at minimum:

1) they edit, copyedit, and proofread your book
2) they design your book
3) they produce your book
4) they put your book in their catalog
5) they sell your book into their distribution channels
6) Oh, and you also get an advance and royalty

According to this agent, anything above and beyond is icing on the cake. Publishers are not obligated to market or publicize your book. But of course it's beneficial to the publisher to sell as many copies of your book as they can, because the publisher benefits as well.

The agent said that their agency works to find marketing and publicity partners to work with the publisher if they feel that it is appropriate (I forgot to ask who pays for this--the author or the agency?).

I've decided to not offer further commentary right now, and instead invite all of you to weigh in. So, what do you think? Agree or disagree? Do you expect more from your publisher?


In other news, I've lost my voice and am finally admitting to myself that I'm sick. Watch out for the nasty bug going around!

18 comments:

christine tripp said...

1) they edit, copyedit, and proofread your book
2) they design your book
3) they produce your book
4) they put your book in their catalog
5) they sell your book into their distribution channels
6) Oh, and you also get an advance and royalty


Gee, when it's put that way, they sound like a really company don't they??? I mean that's awful nice of them to do that for ME. Almost sounds like it's out of the goodness of their hearts:)

Actually the agent is probably right, should the whinning be the artists agents job?

OK, I have that bug too, I'm grumpy but at least my voice is coming back, losing my sexy Lauren Bacal nasal sound.

christine tripp said...

>The agent said that their agency works to find marketing and publicity partners to work with the publisher if they feel that it is appropriate<

oops, didn't really "get" this the first reading. So forget my SA comment about it's the agents job to whine. Now I am also wondering why the agent would spend money on hiring a pub team and if I had an agent and they sent me a bill for this what would I pay for it with?:(
It would be great to find out who does pay for something like that, never had heard of it before.

Daniel Mahoney said...

I think it's in the best interest of the publisher to market the heck out of any book it publishes because they invest ALOT of time and money to publish that book. Every single book they put out should be considered their baby, and they should see to it that it gets as much publicity and marketing as they can give it.

Abigail said...

It's difficult, in this industry, not to get inundated with tales of 'the good old days' when editors had time to work on books with their authors, when publishers paid for book tours, when librarians ruled the market, rather than B&N...

I was just at the NY SCBWI conference, and was struck again by the way the same people who are exhorting us not to whine tend to be those who are happy to reminisce about how it used to be. Is it any wonder we feel like we're getting the short end of the stick?

In general, I'm not a fan of whining, though. The situation we have now is what it is, so we might as well do our part to promote our books, and trust that the pub is doing what it can as well. I think a lot of what is perceived as 'special attention' only comes when a book that is getting the regular marketing treatment happens to strike a chord with the public and the 'viral' thing happens for it. Combo of good book, good promo, good timing.

Mostly guessing, here, but that's my 2 cents.

Abigail

Anonymous said...

Authors continue to submit to publishers because authors don’t want the hassle of being printers and distributors, obviously. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have a right to expect good treatment and hard work from the publishing house with which they’ve entered into a (hopefully) mutually beneficial business relationship. They shouldn’t be asked to ground the knee in gratitude for things like being included in a publisher’s catalogue, for pete’s sake.

Anna Alter said...

I agree that its more productive to take the attitude that the publishing world just is the way it is now, and that is what we have to work with... theres no use in wishing it was a different way or constantly focusing on the negative.

But I find that agent's remark pretty patronizing. It can be really frustrating trying to figure out how get your book out there- if the agents think the publisher isn't responsible for guiding the author, then they should at least give a little guidance themselves, instead of a blanket "stop whining."

christine tripp said...

>I think a lot of what is perceived as 'special attention' only comes when a book that is getting the regular marketing treatment happens to strike a chord with the public and the 'viral' thing happens for it.<

I agree Abigail. Unfortunately I guess it makes good business sense for a publisher to put it's advertising money into a product/book that is earning and has the obvious potential to get even bigger. I suppose the idea is, this winning book will not only earn all it's costs back but will also earn back plus, any and all marketing costs.
Still, I don't think they can expect any less (then whinning, not a word I think suits an author voicing their concerns but...) from an author who has put in at least 3 years of their life into a book that seems to be just thrown to the wind, left to sink or swim on it's own.
Anna, I think the agents words and tone was patronizing as well. What is all this "Your" about. After point 1)(where I'll agree that an Editor is working with YOU on YOUR book) it becomes OUR project as far as I am concerned. In the case of a picture book, would the agent have added another point, "they pay YOUR Illustrator"??
I thought, with both parties profiting from a partnership it should be "our"... and they don't GIVE authors royalies, authors earn them!
I've never had an agent but I would think an author could expect a little more loyalty and proactivity from their rep then what this sounds like. I do realize the agent must also work with the publishers and maintain a good relationship with them but shouldn't their authors needs and concerns come first, being they are also benifiting financiall via that author?

Linda S. Wingerter said...

In this day and age, this is what the author/illustrator does for publishers and agents, at minimum:

1) they make amazingly beautiful and beloved books that take years of full time work for advances that are technically below minimum wage (when you add it all up) on the contractual hope of royalties to make up for it and if they're lucky help pay for that high deductible health insurance.

Anything above and beyond this, (like no whining!) is icing on the cake! No whining costs extra.
:D

Anonymous said...

Think of what authors do FOR publishers. We give them words on which they can build entire businesses from their Manhattan offices. And all publishers have to do is loan us a little money -- against our own royalty income. Ain't we swell? You're welcome!

Anonymous said...

Translation: Agent doesn’t want the hassle of following up with publisher. But keep the commission coming, please!

Daniel Mahoney said...

I think that sums it up perfectly.

alvina said...

Now I feel bad opening up the anonymous agent to this abuse, when he/she doesn't even know I'm posting this and can't defend him/herself. The agent said all this with an emphasis on taking the burden off of the publisher in terms of marketing and publicity, and transferring that to the agency and partners. Sorry if that wasn't clear!

I'll try to expand on this post next Monday...but keep the comments coming.

christine tripp said...

with an emphasis on taking the burden off of the publisher in terms of marketing and publicity, and transferring that to the agency and partners.

Though I did think that was what the publishers marketing dept was for, I had no idea an agency would want to get into all that work and expense. Do agents already do a lot of author/book promotion?? I guess it would be fine, so long as the agency doesn't expect the author to foot a percentage of that marketing bill, with the publisher paying for none of it.
This is assuming the author/illustrator has an agent of course.

Linda S. Wingerter said...

I accept that the industry is what it is, and out of the control of individual agents and editors. I'm only commenting to defend my right to whine.

Your real question of where the task of marketing should fall is an interesting one. It seems odd to me that the company that makes the decisions about manufacturing costs, distribution, print runs, and who have OOP power would expect an outside party to invest in the marketing of that book. Like, all of that should be wrapped into one plan for the life of that book, you'd think?

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be signing up with that agent. With that attitude you'll be nowhere fast!

I've got the flu so I can't handle any more typing.

meghan

Anonymous said...

Writers don't make enough money to also have to publicize their own books. Nor do they have the contacts within publishing to do this even if they knew how.

And agents barely have enough time to slog through all their writers work and send it out, they certainly can't be expected to become PR people on top of it.

So if the "burden" shoudln't be placed on the publisher (to market a book) then whose responsiblilty is it?

sruble said...

Give up whining? Not when it's so much fun!

Kidding.

I do, however, think that authors and illustrators should have the right to voice their concerns (as long as it's done professionally and not actually whiiiiiining). I've heard that authors/illustrators are supposed to let the publicity/marketing dept. know of any thing that they are doing to promote the book, so shouldn't the author/illustrator be able to ask about publicity and/or get some direction or do some brainstorming on how to go it alone if the publisher isn't going to do any? Or ask the agent about it if the agency is going to be taking over the publicity end of things?

It would be interesting to find out if the agent thought that discussing the issue and asking for help is considered whining, or if they mean actual whining (this isn't fair, that stinks, pfffhhht, etc.).

Meghan McAwesome said...

We absolutely don't get paid enough to do it ourselves! Well said.

meghan