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Monday, July 28, 2008

Kiss and Tell in Publishing

This is something I wrote after I was offered my first contract. I hoped to impart some useful information to other writers/authors.

It finally happens. You're offered a contract from an ebook publisher after years of writing, sending queries, receiving rejections. Your heart pounds. Your pulse races. That joyous, euphoric sense of accomplishment makes you want to happy dance in the streets...but you think twice about that idea. Neighbors would surely assume you'd gone insane. Plus, dancing maybe isn't your best skill!

But, hey. You're flying high on that number nine cloud. Years of trying to prove you could achieve the dream of being an author materialized. A message of "This is better than sex" flashes in your head...

Backtrack on that thought. You regain your sanity real quickly. Nope. Even in a slightly insane state, you'd never be able to let that thought linger in your head.

It's amazing how people react to your news. Those that love you, wish you well. Others who "don't read romances" congratulate you with a look of "sorry, I'll never read it". Some wonder why you've gotten published while they're still trying. And the last group seem perplexed by the fact that you've accepted an offer from an electronic publisher.

You enter into a relationship with your publisher. What you can and can't discuss about your contract and your publisher's business binds you together, like a new couple. Hence, kissing and telling becomes your decision and it can't be taken lightly.

Questions accompany all who respond to you. When does your book come out? Can I buy it at a bookstore? How much does it cost? What's your contract like? How much do you get?

You try to answer all questions, although some make you feel a bit uncomfortable. The easy ones have answers that flow unconstrained, simple and to the point.

"No, you can't get this at a bookstore. This is an ebook. You download it to your computer or to an ebook reader." Okay...not so simple to those who haven't the faintest idea what you're talking about. But you smile happily and explain what's involved, and usually the response you get is, "I'll wait until it comes out in print." You accept their response graciously and move on to someone else.

The cost? Will you know before the book's published? Some authors do and some don't. You may have to smile and answer, "I'm not sure right now."

Now the contract questions. Some publishers post their standard contract on their website. Others don't. Still others have a standard contract but each author receives one tailored to their needs, desires, what you both agree to...a specific one detailing your conditions in signing with your publisher. Therefore, there is no standard contract for everyone.

Along with this comes a confidentiality agreement if your publisher has one for you to sign. Basically, you agree not to divulge information about your contract or information passed on by your publisher that's strictly for in-house personnel...staff and authors.

So. How do you answer those questions about your contract? You've already "kissed" your publisher so now there's no "telling" if you've signed that agreement not to reveal information. Your choice is to speak in vague terms. "I have options I may take. I may get my book into print eventually. My publisher holds certain rights to my book." You get the picture. Nothing specifically spelled out.

The last question is asked by some simply out of curiosity. Others ask with a different reason in mind. For the curious ones, once again, you give a vague answer. "Oh, around half of what the book costs." Not an exact truth, but enough to satisfy them.

The ones who ask with that different reason in mind seem to be the same ones who question your sanity in going with an epublisher. You still smile and give your vague answers, but that may not satisfy them. Some groups like Romance Writers of America and individuals who are same-minded about pitting print publishers against epublishers seem to make it their business to expect you to divulge your income. Why? To make them feel vindicated about their stance?

You've kissed, so there's no telling. And, it's really nobody's business what you make. Exceptions are your publisher, the IRS (in the US), and yourself. Outside of those, you'll be gracious in answering the well-meaning curious people, but be leery of the ones trying to downgrade your success. They're the ones you need to ask, "Did you ask your doctor what he makes? How about the engineer at your local phone company? Your son's math teacher?"

Personal experience...Someone not impressed with epublishing (although she hasn't published in years) stated that authors should make enough to live on, inferring an ebook author couldn't compare to a print one. I looked at her and asked, "Do you?" That stopped her train of thought very quickly.

My point to epubbed authors? Kiss your electronic publishing company and tell what you can and want to impart. But smile when you do and always keep a professional profile.

"Strip Poker for Two", by April Ash, will be released 20 August. For details, check www.ellorascave.com or www.aprilash.net.

10 comments:

Molly Daniels said...

Both of my books are in print, and I'm trying to get that 1st e-pub contract. Thanks for the advice:)

Tara W said...

A few years ago I couldn't imagine buying any ebooks. I won a download a few years ago, which led to me buying a ebook reader. I've been hooked every since. I notice that when I go to the book store, I pick up one or two books. When I go to an e-store, I buy 4 or 5 books. I think ebooks are the way to go. The variety and convenience can't be beat.
mizztuts@ bellsouth.net

Molly Daniels said...

Me too, Tara. I'll buy 2 or 3 e-bboks a week, but I'll only go to the bookstore once every couple of months. Or even at Walmart (there is mo B&N or Borders where I live), I'll figure one into the budget maybe twice a year!

Marianne Stephens said...

Molly and Tara,
Thanks for commenting. I had an old Palm Pilot years ago but it was very hard to read books on it (too small). Now I have an ebook reader and love it! Looking for a newer version before going on the "Meet the Authors" cruise since I'll be talking about ebooks.
Molly...good luck getting an e-pub contract...royalties are better!

Booksrforever123 said...

Don't you just hate people that imply something that you should be doing and then when you ask them if they would or could do it, it stops them in their tracks, because they can't. I have a coworker like that so I know where you are coming from and it is annoying as all get out.

Chelle Price said...

Some people think once you publish a book you gain telepathy and know when it will be available, how much it will cost and so forth.
Oh and reading the fine print. Wow. Lessons to be learned if you dont.. even if you have already kissed the publisher and now wished you hadn't.

And for those who ask the question of how much $ ... Do we ask our grandmother when she lost her virginity? NO! Those are question that we do not ask out of respect and because it's not our business.
If you wanna know, write your own dang book. See what you get paid!

I love... LOVE e-books. Download. Put on a flash USB.. and take with you anywhere. No bulk of a book, or hardback to carry. Slip into your purse and off you go. Read it at work, in the car on your laptop or wherever a USB drive is available. What will they think of next!

Kudos to you on your success.. and much more always...

Chelle

Bradnchelleprice@aol.com

Marianne Stephens said...

booksrforever123,
This same person has had a difficult time getting her career going again. I think some bitterness and disappointment made her "rain on my parade" and ask me. I'm certainly not any kind of "threat" to her career, since we don't even write in the came genres.It's too bad because she's a wealth of knowledge on writing, shares that, but has this negative "thing" about ebooks...even though my first book has already gone into a print version.
Can't please everyone.

Marianne Stephens said...

Chelle,
Thanks for your nice comments! Ebooks are the future of publishing and I plan to "go with the flow" even if I run up against unfavorable opinions of others.
No, I don't earn enough to "make a living from my books...but who does when they first start out? I'm happy doing what I'm doing, and figure some day I'll earn more as I continue to write and publish. If going with an epub works for me now, that's what I'll continue to do.
And, I'll have fun getting these stories from parading through my head and hope others enjoy them!

Dena said...

I would rather read print books because I don't have a device for ebooks. I do have some downloaded on my computer and read them, but very slowly because I don't like reading from my computer. I think when the the price goes down on the devices I'll get one, but even then I know I will have a hard time figuring out how to get it to work.

Marianne Stephens said...

Dena,
Ebook readers aren't that hard to work. You download books from a publisher, then put them on your reader (at least that's how mine works). I can change the font size and mine holds up to approx 50 books.
It's great to take on a trip instead of 3 or 4 print books taking up space in my suitcase. And, the reader fits in my purse, or goes in the same bag as my laptop.
I'm looking for a newer model ebook reader right now.

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