Good ideas and great intentions ain’t enough

The setting: Overworked and Underpaid Editor is toiling over a manuscript while the beagle lazes in the sunspot that’s shining on Underpaid’s desk. The phone rings.

Overworked and Underpaid Editor: Answer that, willya?

Beagle: Bite me. I’m working on my beagle tan.

Overworked and Underpaid Editor: (swearing under her breath as she reaches for the phone) Why bother, it only brings out more of your freckles. (speaking into the phone) Hullo, this is the land of the oppressed and overtoiled, how may I help you? (listens, then hands the phone over to the beagle) It’s for you. And how many times have I told you not to use the office phone? Use your cellphone, dammit.

Beagle: If I’m gonna use my cellie, then you need to trim my nails. Last night I accidentally dialed the Hot Dachshunds Talk Dirty line. Ever heard a dachshund talk dirty? All they know is the the Oscar Meyer wiener song. (talks into the phone) Beagle here, how may I help you? (the beagle gets excited and jumps off Overworked’s desk.) Yipeee!!!

Overworked and Underpaid Editor: What? Did the Fireman’s Fund send you your Sexy Dalmations calendar?

Beagle: Better than that. I’m taking submissions for my fellow canines to send me recipes for designer chewie bones. So far I have my own – the margarita flavored chewie bone and that hot Rotweiler down the street’s recipe for Frightened Postal Worker chewie bones. And last week, I got the recipe for Gardner In Full Retreat and a tasty recipe that contains nacho cheese and freshly caught rat. De-lish!

Overworked and Underpaid Editor: (considers the possibility that the beagle has finally gone ’round the bend) Um. What are you planning on doing with these designer doggie chewies?

Beagle: Oh, I’m going to sell them and make a fortune. That way I can blow this popscicle stand and follow my bliss and gather up independent wealth. And you, dear Ms. Overpaid and Underworked Editor, can answer your own damn phones.

Overworked and Underpaid Editor: (gritting teeth) That’s overWORKED and underPAID, you rancid fleabag. So, how are you going to distribute and promote these doggie chewies?

Beagle: Eh? Whazzat? Distribution? Promotion? Whaddya mean?

Overworked and Underpaid Editor: I mean, how are you going to get your chewies to market? You’ve collected all these chewie bones, and you need to show them to grocery stores, pet stores, national chains, and the like. So far, all you have is a groovy idea and no way to get them in front of buyers. And you need to consider why they would they buy your chewies if you have no promotion plans. You gotta take out ad space or talk to your fellow fleabags about your chewies in order to create interest. Otherwise you’ll end up with a warehouse full of designer chewies and no demand. Or worse, you’ll get them on the store shelves, but they’ll come back to you because no one knows they exist. Think how totally suck-o-licious it would be to be you – broke and out of business.

Beagle: (growing paler by the second) Oh holy Kibbles ‘n Bits, I’d…I’d…I’d have to come back and live with you.

Overworked and Underpaid Editor: (enjoying the moment) Exactamundo.

Beagle: (choking back a sob) So it’s not enough to have a good idea or great intentions?

Overworked and Underpaid Editor: That is your fuel – the tequila to your margarita, the jam in your jelly doughnut, the cream in your Twinkie. But no, intention and ideas are not enough to make it in this tough world. Being prepared, knowing what the hell you’re doing, and making the right connections to make those dreams into realities are what you need. And that takes money. Lots of it. But…you gotta know how to spend it, and what to spend it on. ‘Tis better to be rich and smart than rich and dumb because the dummy will soon be broke.

And that, gentle authors and authorettes, is what publishers must do as well. It’s not enough to have an infusion of cash if you don’t know how to spend it wisely. We’ve already seen how that ends up, yes? And the reason for this post is that I continue to see this a lot.

And you don’t hook up with someone who has little idea whether the product they bought (your book) is marketable or unworkable – and how they plan on selling it.This takes experience. One does not go into this business with little experience and expect to hang out their shingle and call themselves a publisher, and expect instant success.

And you certainly don’t allow anyone the first print rights on your book unless you KNOW they have proper distribution. I’ve said it a million times, and I’ll say it again: INGRAM AND BAKER & TAYLOR IS NOT THE SAME THING. These are distribution warehouses for libraries and bookstores to order from. They do not have sales people pushing your catalog to the genre buyers of the chains, indie bookstores, and libraries. That is what an indie distributor does.

If your publisher doesn’t have a relationship with an indie distributor or is tied in with another publisher for distribution, your books are going about as far as the beagle’s designer chewies…though I have to admit that the margarita chew has real potential.

And so do you. Choose wisely. Ask questions. Be careful.

3 Responses to Good ideas and great intentions ain’t enough

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    One of the things that can be helpful is to talk to authors. Not the editors, not the PR people. The AUTHORS who have published with these people.

    Ask how much support they got.

    I know one small press that is TINY. They use CreateSpace as their printer…but guess what. They’re at conventions, waving books in front of people’s faces, getting their authors to sign, etc. They don’t have the cash flow to be a full brick and mortar publisher yet, but BOY do they support their writers. So, it’s not always a set of straightforward rules. You can’t say that because somebody doesn’t do print runs, they should be *completely* dismissed. (I am actually hoping one day these people WILL have the cash flow to operate ‘traditionally’…because they have good ideas, good editorial standards and their books simply look awesome).

  2. Thing is, Ninjie, is waving books around at cons is great, but it doesn’t get them into the stores. It’s practically impossible to earn enough money from selling books at cons to ever make the leap to mainstream publishing. I’ve seen publishers try this time and time again. The odds are very much against them, and authors must ask themselves if they’re happy taking that kind of a risk.

    Me? I work too hard on my writing and judging from the hundreds of authors I spoke to at PNWA, they feel the same way.

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