The Falling Domino

I posted this back in October, but I felt it worth dragging out as a reminder of how the “me too!” attitude can create a tidal wave to NoWhere’sVille.


It usually goes something like this:

Domino #1:   New publisher with no appearance of previous publishing experience, opens their doors for business. Authors jump in with questions about new publisher. Excitement ensues. “Yay! Fresh meat! Can’t wait to query.”

Domino #2:  Author adds undying enthusiasm:

I published with them and couldn’t be happier with the editing, cover design etc. They are professional and their editing is top notch. I recommend them. Since they’re new, they don’t do advances or promote much, but they’re totally legit  and were really nice.

More excitement ensues. “Yay! Fresh meat! Can’t wait to query.”

Domino #3:  Publisher receives LOTS of queries. Everyone lives happily after.

Ok, that’s in a perfect world. Here is the reality:

Falling Domino #1:  The happy happy joy joy author has no previous publishing experience, so they’re not a reliable gauge to how legit or professional the new publisher is. “Great editing” compared to what? Since they’ve never been professionally edited before, or even published, they aren’t in a position to know whether the editing was off-the-charts amazing or woefully undercooked. This is the first falling domino.

Are you willing to trust an unreliable source?

Falling Domino #2:  Happy happy joy joy author comes back some time later broken and disheartened. Sales were nonexistent and book was panned as being poorly edited. Those royalties dancing in her head remain a pipe dream. Other authors chime in about no sales, no promotion, bad editing. Publisher goes from being “nice, great editing, terrific covers” to something the beagle dragged in from the creek. These are the other dominoes who stood next in line.

And They All Fall Down:  Publisher struggles for a year or two, spends what little money they had, and goes belly up…taking all their authors’ books with them. Much crying ensues…thus the last falling domino.

Suggestion:  Consider the source when someone gushes over their new publisher who has no track record. Is that source a well-published author, or a debut newbie who knows nothing of the industry and can’t recognize a good publisher from the beagle’s nose?

I scan the various writer sites and forums and see the same thing over and over; one person sounds the klaxon about their new publisher and everyone rushes to jump on the bandwagon. Just because someone is all gooey thrilled about their publisher doesn’t mean they know what they’re talking about. A gooey-thrilly experience compared to what?

The Gift of Time:  Rather than racing to be one of the first in line to query a new publisher, stand back and let everyone else lumber ahead. It takes about two years or less for a new publisher to crater , so it’s a good idea to stand a good distance away in order to avoid being a domino.

There’s no hard and fast rule that an publisher needs to be a former editor from Random House. There are plenty of very successful publishers whose principals had no experience. But they had something else going for them – they learned the industry, set up a solid business model that has a healthy financial balance, and they established very good distribution.

They focus on a specific genre and work to form relationships with their intended market. They have good editors who know how to stroke the very best out of a good story – and you know this because you bought several of their books.

Their books garner reviews from established review sites.

You’ve seen them in the stores.

In short – you wait it out. And you do this because you honor your hard work and yourself too much to give your first rights away to someone who could end up abusing them. It’s better to remain unpublished than published badly. I have a collection of war stories that bear this out time and time again.

Protect yourself/Honor Yourself

– Don’t be a domino, rushing to stand next to someone else who may have no idea what they’re talking about.

– Consider the source – are they informed opinions, or simply gushy because they don’t know any better?

– Thoroughly check out the new publisher.

– Give the new publisher time – a year or two – to prove themselves worthy of your book.

– Ask lots of questions.

– Talk to informed sources – I can’t think of anyone better than Vic Strauss and The Absolute Write Water Cooler. And of course…this blog.

One Response to The Falling Domino

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    And if the publisher makes any comment on their web site about sympathizing about how hard it is to get your book published – run.

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