The first step is admitting you have a problem…

Well, it sure seems Diane Pershing pissed a lot of writers (serious about their careers) right the fuck off. Here’s two words for the clueless RWA members out there wondering why random ePublished authors online are upset and attacking RWA’s current stance on ePublishing. Duct tape! No seriously, if your own president and chief instigator insults an entire industry it sorta happens that people get pissed off and sitting around saying “being angry is uncalled for and rude” does not help matters and makes you look like a tool. Negating people’s feelings tends to do that.

Anyway, me being Teddypig and very much NOT a cheerleader in many respects I find myself going back to Deidre Knight’s original rebuttal and looking at it from the side of those who might not agree that ePublishing is all that great for authors. In fact she even brings up a perfect example of a gotcha.

So since I tend to be more than sympathetic to writers who are ePublished and this site is about eBooks can I play “Diane’s Advocate” and take the opposite side of the argument for a minute? Maybe by doing this we can start a conversation that makes more sense than “neener neener neener I gotz the power bitches!”. The point of this discussion is about writers looking for “author friendly” venues and not ePublishers exactly.

RWA & Triskelion Publishing: Oh SHIT!: Remember when RWA did recognize ePublishers? Yeah, that worked out well and I think it is a good example of why the RWA needs to be cautious recognizing specific ePublishers. Because they could not just slap a “seal of approval” on a qualifying ePublisher and walk away. Obviously things could change and financial meltdowns could occur very quickly. The words “conflict resolution” comes to mind in this matter. Because if you want to know the down and dirty you have to get your hands in the mud.

There is tons of information from 2007 about The Great Triskelion Publishing Fiasco so I will try to just point out the highlights. Here and Here and Here and finally Here. It is very much a cautionary tale for writers looking at ePublishing and getting the facts.

Teddypig & Ellora’s Cave: GOTCHA!: So let’s then talk about the elephant in the room. Notice Deidre Knight used in her example Ellora’s Cave and you probably heard me cringing from over here. Samhain is a Top ePublisher and is on my list of Top ePublishers but Ellora’s Cave sure is missing. Probably because I listen when people like J.C. Wilder and Cheyenne McCray and Lauren Dane and Mary Winter say things I am sure are important to all writers and thus showing a company that is not how we say “author friendly”.

I am not saying that writing for Ellora’s Cave will not make you good money because that seems to be a proven fact but what I am saying is that does not make them a Top ePublisher in my opinion and it could very possibly wind up being a situation of a short term benefit with long term problems depending on the contract you signed. Just my opinion here based on what noted experienced authors have said in black in white that anyone can go and read.

My final question to you guys???: How can writers or a writer organization be selective in what “author friendly” ePublishers to recognize? A set of “industry standards” might help there Angela. BUT… there are none. Well, at least none that I can find.

It would so help me with my own list of Top ePublishers that I have on the blog here. I stick my neck out posting that list because I listen to writers and review products from these companies and read other blogs, reviews, and comments made. It takes a little work so far but I feel comfortable and even conservative in what I do down to why New Concepts Publishing or Torquere Press (AKA Where’s Waldo?) are not on my list either. It is not perfect or even scientific though because I am talking to writers and I could make mistakes or miss something.

So there are my concerns about ePublishing with as little bias as I can muster. I think these things (Like contracts and industry standards and author friendly environments vs money etc etc etc)  should be talked about here and elsewhere and I hope they continue to be talked about. So feel free to yell at me for saying this it’s OK.

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"Pride & RWA Precedence: The Devil’s Advocate" by TeddyPig was published on June 25th, 2009 and is listed in eBook Commentary, RWA.

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Comments on "Pride & RWA Precedence: The Devil’s Advocate": 21 Comments

  1. Barbara Sheridan wrote,

    Maybe it’s me but I am *this close* to screaming the next time I see the term “author friendly”..

    Having TPTB in a company be pleasant folks is a nice perk, but when it comes down to it the important thing is for them to be business savvy above all else.

    Developing a thriving customer base takes some time but to be “officially recognized” if TPTB at XYZ Pub are competent in terms of prior experience in the publishing field and how they run their own business,(including opening financial status) that may be a the place to begin setting the standards so writers don’t have to cringe at the thought of giving a leser known company a try.

    Since publishing experience and business savvy alone can’t carry it all in terms of future success, I’d also like to see some measure of general editing competency in the mix to judge companies. However, I don’t know exactly how that could be put in place especially for new companies without product out there to be read & reviewed.

  2. TeddyPig wrote,

    Hell, pleasant would be nice I agree but I am just framing this more on the level of professional business behavior at the bare minimum. *cough*Jaid Black*cough*

  3. Barbara Sheridan wrote,

    I agree. Professional behavior is what needs to be the focus.

    I suppose that’s why the “author friendly” term bugs me. I’ve been around since dinosaur days and it never fails that newer writers who squee all over about how wonderful and “author friendly” their new publisher is tend to be the same ones moaning later in the game when the non-business oriented friendly company goes bust.

  4. K. Z. Snow wrote,

    Barbara, I don’t take (or use) the term “author friendly” as a synonym for “run by nice people.” I think of it as indicating a group of qualities that any professional writer would find desirable in a publisher, e.g., fair contract terms, editorial competence, management accessibility and openness, professionally courteous communication, good customer service, etc.

    That said, there are problems with having individual authors speak up on this issue.

    The first one is the subjectivity of our publishing experiences. I, for example, might have significant and well-justified gripes with a company that others find admirable…or virtually none with a company that others find substandard.

    Second, we do have to be concerned about repercussions. Authorial outspokenness is generally not valued in the e-publishing community. Certain companies take umbrage mighty quickly, and they show it in ways that could damage careers.

    So, yes, it would be wonderful if an objective set of criteria existed, but I simply don’t see how that’s possible — or how dissenting voices could be heard.

  5. Barbara Sheridan wrote,

    The first one is the subjectivity of our publishing experiences

    I agree, K.Z. There are differences in publishing houses that work for one author but another sees as a deal breaker in weighing future submissions.

    In terms of the RWA issue and recognizing e-publisher and e-authors, I do think the business/publishing background of the principals in any company is something that falls more into the fact than subjectivity category. Surely with that as a starting point we could define successful , professional publishers from those who go into it with less thought and planning.

    I haven’t been with RWA in years but perhaps this is what they’re trying to do by having their $1,000 advance marker.

  6. TeddyPig wrote,

    Right but that’s why I bring up EC. There is money to be made at EC just like some nameless ePublisher handing out $1000.00 like Oprah Winfrey did those cars would mean writers make money. BUT that does not assure they are “author friendly” or will treat the author in a standard business like manner.

  7. veinglory wrote,

    Of course there re dogy epublishers and publishers; life is messy and ambiguous. The whole point is that the RWA is not my mother. They don’t have to pick publishers for authors, that is the author’s job. They just have to stop discriminating on unfair criteria (sexuality, format, method and timing of payment etc) and stop letting paying epublished author members fall through the gaps (e.g. their current competition where ebooks are neither published nor unpublished).

  8. Angela James wrote,

    A set of “industry standards” might help there Angela. BUT… there are none. Well, at least none that I can find. Can you find any for print publishing? Probably not. Why should we create written industry standards and police others? I just want to run our business.

    And seriously, I’m not the queen of epublishing, putting this into play and making them happen ;) I have no doubt there are plenty out there who shudder at the thought!

  9. TeddyPig wrote,

    Sorry Angela. I was thinking along the lines of some ePublishers organization there.

    You just get mentioned because I think you are smart like that.

  10. Angela James wrote,

    Thank you, Teddy.

    And I do have a T-shirt that says “Digital Queen” that someone sent me. I do love that shirt… ;)

  11. Barbara Sheridan wrote,

    Right but that’s why I bring up EC. There is money to be made at EC just like some nameless ePublisher handing out $1000.00 like Oprah Winfrey did those cars would mean writers make money. BUT that does not assure they are “author friendly” or will treat the author in a standard business like manner.

    But as K.Z. brought up first that’s where it becomes subjective. A publisher who has treated me professionally and even been “author friendly” might have been hell incarnate to someone else.

  12. TeddyPig wrote,

    Understood Barbara, which is why I feel I try to be conservative and base it off how many and who are the writers who have something to state clearly and what they are saying. I am not saying an author who is aware of the situation and can work within the lines does not benefit but I also hate the flip side of new writers not knowing problems that were experienced or what those specific issues were.

  13. TeddyPig wrote,

    Emily,

    Then something even more generic like a set of “industry standards” might be the way to go.
    Although I think the once you start looking at that we are back to a small group that meets all the standards.

  14. Barbara Sheridan wrote,

    Although I think the once you start looking at that we are back to a small group that meets all the standards.

    But if those standards are showing an acceptable minimum level of financial stability and publishing experience I dont think that’s a horrible thing.

    By financial stability I don’t mean the 1k advance. I mean stability in general –accurate accounting of sales with detailed royalty statements and enough money in reserve to meet the monthly/quarterly payments due in a timely fashion.

  15. TeddyPig wrote,

    I don’t know exactly what those standards should be.

    My own go beyond money and also look at things like structure and the way they do business like… Do the owners/editors also write and edit their own stuff? Is there a conflict there or is it out in the open?

    Do any of the authors doing business there feel there is a chosen few allowed greater access?

    Is going to print standardized company wide with set parameters?

    Is the contract grabby and are those aspects negotiable?

    Are questions about the publisher and the way it does business encouraged openly on the author loops or discouraged and handled behind closed doors if at all?

  16. Barbara Sheridan wrote,

    I don’t know exactly what those standards should be.

    Me neither, but the other points you brought up:

    My own go beyond money and also look at things like structure and the way they do business like… Do the owners/editors also write and edit their own stuff? Is there a conflict there or is it out in the open?

    Do any of the authors doing business there feel there is a chosen few allowed greater access?

    Is going to print standardized company wide with set parameters?

    Is the contract grabby and are those aspects negotiable?

    Are questions about the publisher and the way it does business encouraged openly on the author loops or discouraged and handled behind closed doors if at all?

    Are far more important that the magical 1k advance. This is the type of stuff RWA should want to see defined in order to recommend publishers as viable markets.

  17. Lauren wrote,

    Here’s my issue – the fact that epublishing exists in a gray area means those publishers are pretty much free to do whatever they want and authors have no recourse if something goes wrong.

    They can, indeed instate criteria to have recognized publishers again. The Trisk disaster came from horribly stupid business choices (lack of reserve against returns). Many small businesses can make mistakes and it doesn’t mean all of epublishing is that way.

    In fact, IMO, that should be part of any process for recognition. Do you have an actual marketing plan? If you have print, what does your contract look like? Because the issues of “out of print” dont’ exist in digital publishing the way they do with traditional publishing, many epubbed authors get screwed on print clauses they can’t get out of even when those rights are not being used. Are royalties paid regularly (quarterly, twice a year, monthly, whatever) and this isn’t as easy to verify of course, but it can be verified. How long have you been in business? I think three years is fair, some will disagree and this is all cloud talk anyway. Etc. It’s not impossible, it just takes some thought and energy and an understanding that no matter what, people will be dissatisfied over something.

    As for favoritism, I’m not bugged by that. Every publishing house has favorites. Usually though, it’s based on something everyone can understand like sales, sometimes not.

    I don’t need author friendly. I need:

    1) MY MONEY on time, paid regularly. I need for there to not be problems every month. I need not to hear excuses every month. Just send me my money. I earned it, the post office is NOT so bad you would have problems every single royalty period.

    2) My questions about my property (my book) to be answered civilly and within a reasonable period of time.

    3) An actual business plan from my publisher. Do they market? How well and to who? How do the authors/books get chosen? Are books made available via a system that works and is reliable? Etc.

    4) A contract that makes sense. Every contract has rights grabs in it. All sorts of stuff. My Harlequin contract is like eleventy pages long. But when my agent asked questions, she was answered quickly and professionally. Even if the answer isn’t what i wanted to hear, I don’t think any author asking a question about a contract term should go ignored unless she’s nuts or something.

    It’s not really a lot to ask.

    I don’t have issues with publisher standards. I do have issues with being told that once epublishing acts just like traditional publishing they’ll be eligible.

    The two models are very successful in their own way and I don’t see why they have to be exactly the same. Get the info out there and let people make educated choices. Give the authors some support if and when things go wrong.

    I hate the idea that all epublishing gets tarred with the same brush. There are good epublishers out there. And I hate that the lack of recognition means those bad epublishers can pretty much act with impugnity because many don’t know better and even when they figure it out, it’s too late because they signed a contract filled with stuff they never realized could harm them later on.

  18. TeddyPig wrote,

    Lauren since you are the second person to bring it up…

    Sorry if “author friendly” was too weak a phrase.

    I was trying to cover those best practices that are priorities to writers in dealing with an ePublisher. Maybe I should have said “author beneficial behavior” or “author supportive” or even “professional courtesy” … I don’t know.

  19. Lauren wrote,

    No, I know what you meant. It’s not a weak phrase at all, I got your meaning and frankly it should be author friendly – as in seeing authors as partners instead of tissues to be used and tossed. An author friendly contract should include reasonable terms and not hidden grabs.

    I think my personal reaction to it comes from being constantly underestimated because I’m a woman and I write romance – that to ask for something author friendly means I’m too contaminated with estrogen to understand “business”

  20. Linda Mooney wrote,

    I hate the idea that all epublishing gets tarred with the same brush. There are good epublishers out there. And I hate that the lack of recognition means those bad epublishers can pretty much act with impugnity because many don’t know better and even when they figure it out, it’s too late because they signed a contract filled with stuff they never realized could harm them later on.

    I have been with bad and with good. Whiskey Creek Press is celebrating their 6th year this year. Red Rose Publishing just had their second birthday. Both treat me with nothing but professionalism and courtesy, and because of that I judge my dealings with other pubs in the same manner.

    Initially I went with several other epubs because I was told that “putting all my eggs in one basket” was not a wise choice. I’ve since discovered that remark is a two-edged sword. Even after doing my homework and checking with a new publisher’s other authors, you’re not guaranteed you or your book will be treated with respect.

  21. TeddyPig wrote,

    “putting all my eggs in one basket”

    Well there are no guarantees in life and we all do the best we can.

    I do recommend this idea of trying out different ePublishers for writers.
    I know several authors I respect who do this and I think it is a wise choice to make.

    Even among the Top ePublishers on my list there are differences. So how do you know what is the best fit or the better editor or the better distribution model or the better sales without trying it out yourself?

    In fact I red flag ePublishers I hear putting clauses into their contracts that limit an author being able to write for another ePublisher or any other Publisher for that matter or in any way discourage such discovery on the writers part.

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