This was the reply an author sent me after I suggested that the more she understood about the industry. Her query was horrendous. She had no clue about who her readership was, she didn’t understand why it was so blamed important to include so many details regarding the plot, was unclear about the genre, no word count – and on and on. It was a typical response from a green author who decided to feel insulted that I dared to critique her rather than realize I was trying to help her.
But understanding the industry doesn’t stop with simply writing a better query letter. It’s also important to your literary future. Understanding how books are sold, what the author’s responsibilities are, readership, promotion,the difference between a print run and what is actually being shipped out, understanding what real distribution means…the more authors know, the better equipped they are to to make decisions that will enhance their success.
But there’s the dark side to learning the industry. At no point in time have there been a plethora of ways in which an author can be screwed:
- Vanity Presses – You have vanity presses who charge gobs of money and justify those fees with lies. It isn’t until the authors get the end product and see how difficult it is to sell their own books without any help that they realize they’ve been had.
- Print on Demand – I’ve talked about them to ad nauseum, and the reason I do is because they wear a lot of camouflage in order to suck in unwary authors. The good ones say up front exactly what they are and what they can and can’t do. A lot of others, the ones that draw my ire, obfuscate and lie about how the industry really works.
- Skank agents – Sadly, there are agents who prey on trusting authors. Just because someone says they are a literary agent doesn’t mean they are a good one, or even an honest one. I’ve seen agents who sell their authors to POD companies. Why? It’s an easy buck. A lot of PODs are author mills, and they need a lot of authors who will order their own books. As such, PODs have a much lower threshold for talent. If an agent sees that an author has a somewhat good platform, they may actually sell some books – in which case said agent would get 15% of the royalties. Not bad for a day’s worth of unethical work.
So to answer my arrogant little friend above, learning the industry IS your job if your intent is to be well published and have a literary future. What are some of the aspects of publishing that you don’t fully understand?