Monday, July 16, 2007
Several times over the last few months I have seen exchanges like these.
A: Have you heard anything bad about Nouvelle publishing?
B: They have been open for seven minutes and don’t disclose who is running the place.
A: So they are all right then?
Repeat after me: Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence. New presses simply haven’t had time to be bad yet. It is easy to assume a new epress will soon become the next Ellora’s Cave or Liquid Silver Books—but the odds are they will actually be the next casualty in the dead market’s list leaving a legacy of acrimony as the surviving staff and writers scuttle in all directions seeking the shelter of other houses. Or, if I am less cynical, they will join the ranks of the fifty or more less scintillating epublishers offering single or double figure sales.
New publishers can be fine if you are after someone keen or who has an approach genuinely lacking in any of the established publishers—and your expectations are in step with what novice houses can be expected to achieve. Most ebooks make most of their money in the first few months--and ebook readers generally shop by publisher. Selling to a new press pretty much guarantees that your book will release before any readership has built up.
How do you know an older publisher is any better? 1) If they have books released that are high quality, well edited and well presented. 2) Available reports suggest not just good sales but report figures and Googling produces readers chatting about their books not just authors and fluff reviewers. 3) A publisher that has already been open for at least two years has a much better chance of stilling being open in two more years.
New presses a good bet if they are run by people who are highly qualified and have successful, directly relevant experience (they have a pedigree), and they apt to repay your leap of faith with long term investment in your career (they are loyal). But I must note—most epublishers treat new and old authors pretty much the same so you could get the same deal without any down side by jumping on the bandwagon later (it's called 'cupboard love').
Am I discriminating against new press? Yes, I am. The simple fact is that a press that had been around a while tends to leave some evidence as to its conduct—good or bad. A new press is like a new puppy, cute and frisky, but more often than not destined to make a few ‘mistakes’. Your book doesn’t need to be one of them.