Yog's Law--veinglory

Saturday, March 01, 2008


James D MacDonald coined Yog's Law: Money Flows Toward the Writer. The point of the law mainly being to help novice writers avoid scammers that charge money to publish a book.

In the traditional publishing model, books go from the writer to the reader and money goes from the reader to the writer. The publisher basically facilitiates the transaction. On either side of the publisher the agent and the distributor might play further intermediate roles. The driving force of the supply chain is the desire of the readers for the book. Traditional publishing is a pull economy. It only works when this desirefor the book is present or evokable in a readership.

Now there are a number of 'push' situations where the author steps in from the terminus of the chain and partially or entirely takes over the role of publisher. This happens whenever the author financially supports any activity that drives the book towards the reader. That certainly includes any part other than writer in producing the print-ready manuscript, putting the manuscript into print or distribution.

Now, my opinion is that there is nothing wrong with being a traditional 'pull' author, or being an 'push' author-slash-publisher of some kind, be it co-op, subsidy or any other bill- or fee-paying scenario. I would, however, maintain that the difference between the two is not trivial and the distinction should not be blurred.

There are two reasons for this. One is that 'pull' supply chains are more effortless. If there is no reader demand they tend not to work at all--if there is they tend to possess certain privileges that extend beyond not putting your hand in your pocket. The degree to which this is true depends somewhat on format, as small, e-format presses reqire very little 'pull' to get going but also generate proportionately modest amounts of cash in most cases. The thing is that adding any 'push' to the supply chain reduces the amount of 'pull' required for a viable chain. In the case of a small e-publisher it requires very little 'push' to remove the need for there to be any 'pull' at all. Thus the ebook writer asked to pay a fee should immediately wonder whether this press accesses any significant readership at all, and seek out evidence of sales figures. The absence of fees is the only native evidence of the existence of a readership at all, and that applies only to publishers that have been open long enough for the lack of 'pull' to have lead to the collapse of the publisher. [edited to add: I hope I made myself clear here but have received at least one email that suggests otherwise.]

The second matter is that some authors are good at writing, but they suck at any publishing-type role and should avoid taking it on. That would include me, in case you were wondering. That is why I write about self-publishing only from the point of view of a reader.

In terms of EREC, I am debating over the issue of fee-charging presses. What exactly consititutes a fee? Are there any areas where paying money to a publisher be it compulsary, voluntary (solicited or upon request), or necessary to secure a certain benefit or option, is okay? Should charging a fee add a simple $! to the listing, or drop a press straight into the smoke or even not recommended category? Any input appreciated.

10 comments:

kirsten saell 7:21 PM  

I agree. With epresses and their relatively small production costs, it seems difficult to justify any charging of fees to authors. Especially when some (I won't name names) epublishers don't seem to spring for decent editing or covers, either. It's almost a situation I would tolerate in a print publisher more than and epublisher, although either way it makes me feel squicky.

As an author, you have to ask yourself what your goals are. If it's just to "be published", well, whatever. But if you want your books to be read by people willing to shell out dollars for them, you might have to be more choosy. Or take more time to hone your craft until one of the better pubs wants you.

Diana Castilleja 9:45 PM  

Honestly this was one of the first distinct laws/rules/warnings I heard. And it makes sense.

Like Kirsten said, if you only want a physical copy of your "baby" and the point of continuing it as a business is moot, then go for it, but if an author is really working to be published, charges or fees shouldn't even be an issue for them. The only one I had considered was the printer charge for higher distribution through retailers like Amazon, but now the publisher's I'm working with have taken that as an overhead issue. If they hadn't, I still would have considered it strongly before going for or not.

FWIW, only a fraction of authors, print or e-pub make their own investments back annually, much less an above poverty line income. I don't include the best sellers in that, but the remainder far outweight those successes.

I don't believe in charges back to the author. It's that simple.

Kayleigh Jamison 12:15 AM  

In terms of EREC, I am debating over the issue of fee-charging presses. What exactly consititutes a fee?

ANY out-of-pocket costs to the author would constitute a fee IMO. Now, I know there are a number of presses that allow the author to pay up front for printing, then have an increased royalty for the author until they are reimbursed for the fee.

I have mixed feelings about that one. Some books simply do not sell in ebook format (and I'm not going to get into speculations on what books and why). The publisher can't afford to send the book to print without making ebook sales, and ebook sales aren't happening. Maybe it'll make a killing in print. Maybe - MAYBE - in that scenario it's okay, if the author can earn the fronted cost back. It's a risk, but that's part of the business.

Are there any areas where paying money to a publisher be it compulsary, voluntary (solicited or upon request), or necessary to secure a certain benefit or option, is okay?

See above for my one grey area but otherwise I say no. Unless the publisher is an outright vanity/subsidy. Some people are quite happy going that route. It's their work, they can certainly do what they want with it. I believe some times people don't realize, however, that traditional publishers don't charge fees to the author.

Should charging a fee add a simple $! to the listing, or drop a press straight into the smoke or even not recommended category?

I'd say it depends upon how the publisher presents itself. That's really my biggest beef in the whole mess. Publishers who hold themselves out to be traditional and then smack the author with fees once they're on the inside doesn't sit well with me. So long as the author knows what they are getting into before they sign the contract, I'd say give 'em a $!. Ones that have hidden fees deserve to be in the smoke or not recommended categories.

Teddy Pig 2:34 AM  

I'd say it depends upon how the publisher presents itself. That's really my biggest beef in the whole mess. Publishers who hold themselves out to be traditional and then smack the author with fees once they're on the inside doesn't sit well with me. So long as the author knows what they are getting into before they sign the contract, I'd say give 'em a $!. Ones that have hidden fees deserve to be in the smoke or not recommended categories.

I would agree with this exception in theory if I have not seen over and over again companies misrepresenting what they are.

I look at it plainly.
It is the difference between someone's hobby and someone's business.

In order for anyone to make an informed choice the same set of standards have to be met the same way by all the players.

This is my problem even with Piers site is that he does not maintain separate listings of who does the whole shooting match and who does only select pieces of the typical ePublishers business.


If the company does not cover the cost of editing internally I want to know because they should not be in the same line-up with other companies that meet that standard.

If the company does not cover the cost of packaging (Cover art) internally I want to know because they should not be in the same line-up with other companies that meet that standard.

If the company does not cover the cost of printing internally or allows/suggests their authors to use something like Lulu or Amazon I want to know because they should not be in the same line-up with other companies that meet that standard.

In regards to printing, if the company does not use a distributor taking full returns I want to know because they should not be in the same line-up with other companies that meet that standard.

If the company does not cover the cost of promotion internally I want to know because they should not be in the same line-up with other companies that meet that standard.

When you start nitpicking exceptions in order to include this or that friends company then I have to ask the nasty questions.

If the company can not afford to take the book in question to print then why the hell did they publish it in eBook in the first place?
Where are their standards for what eBooks their name goes on and why the hell is it so low?

If the company can not afford to to take books to print without some funding from the author why are they not simply only asking for eBook rights and doing only eBooks?

Once you get a clear picture of who falls in a solid set of standards like I have just described then it would be simple has buying a few eBooks to figure who has the best editors or cover artists etc etc and who you would feel comfortable working with.

I bet you it is mostly the companies that fall outside of the current standards of a Loose-Id or Samhain that are providing the continued drama of court proceedings and writer horror stories and red font entries on Pier's site we see constantly.

I wish someone would simply identify those companies meeting the accepted standards of the top ePublishers which might be unfair but life is unfair and presenting a go to list that should be looked at as viable in ePublishing would be a priceless service.

Angelia Sparrow 9:15 AM  

Teddy, I don't know of any house that does publicity for midlist authors.

If you're Stephen King you get a fully paid book tour.

If you're Bryan Smith with Tor, you pay your own hotel and meals at SF conventions where you're a guest. You also pay your own dealer table fees and flog your own paperback. (Smith wrote _The Freakshow_ which is really excellent)

So far, I've seen no difference between big NY publishers and Ellora's Cave, Torquere or any other e-pub/small press on promotion.

Teddy Pig 9:27 AM  

No, I said promotion.... like in are they getting catalogs out to traditional book stores for their print books, advertising, selling through Fictionwise or Amazon Kindle or Sony eBook Stores that type of thing.

Offering all the latest eBook formats sorta falls into this. In other words keeping an eye on on the latest technology platforms that can help sell your eBook by getting your name out there.

Jennifer McKenzie 9:27 AM  

No one will agree with this take but it's my opinion only.
Specifically, I submitted to Whiskey Creek Press with full knowledge that IF I wanted a print book, I was going to pay a "set up" fee. Frankly, I liked that idea. It gave ME control over whether my book was in print or not. There was no surprises for me. The choice was mine to make as an author and I wanted to have that option. It gave me all the control that is in self publishing but I didn't have to do worry about the editing or the artwork or the epublishing aspect.
It's not for everyone, but it worked for me. Unfortunately, due to the changes in WCP contracts (which addressed the concerns about the "vanity" press label) I have to sell a huge volume of ebooks (and I probably won't) before I can go to print.
*shrugs* In my opinion, this took the print option out of my hands. I'm not complaining. The readers will decide who goes to print now.
Again, I know I'm a lone voice in the wilderness about this.

Emily Veinglory 12:46 PM  

I am not sure what you mean about print being a surprise. ceratainly you can't end up in print without signing away print right. But some places don't give any clear advice as to which books end up in print. And I do have a problem with that. No matter what criteria are used they should be overt IMHO.

Kayleigh Jamison 4:42 PM  

No one will agree with this take but it's my opinion only.
Specifically, I submitted to Whiskey Creek Press with full knowledge that IF I wanted a print book, I was going to pay a "set up" fee. Frankly, I liked that idea. It gave ME control over whether my book was in print or not.


Actually, I do agree with you. Not that I'm a fan of an author having to pay ANY fees, but because you knew about it up front. WCP/T had that information right on their submissions page (I've heard they are changing that policy though, so I'm not sure if they still do). You went in eyes wide open, and that's fine.

It's the publishers that ask for e and print rights, then tell you once you've signed, "well, if you want print you have to pay." THAT is wrong.

I am not sure what you mean about print being a surprise. ceratainly you can't end up in print without signing away print right. But some places don't give any clear advice as to which books end up in print. And I do have a problem with that.

Well, there were allegations a little while ago (on Karen's blog there was a thread, for one) about WCPT putting books into print without telling the author, and not paying any royalties to the author on those books.

Teddy Pig 7:33 PM  

One of the authors totally peeved at Whiskey Creek Press stated he had signed the contract with them but had decided not to pay the printing fee even though the contract gave Whiskey Creek the print rights. He figured no fee, no print.

Anyway he said they went ahead and printed the book and from what I could tell from the various discussions I guess the press handled this by taking out the fee before paying the royalties on the print run to the author .

Anyway, waaaay to strange for me.

Why ask for print rights in the contract and not guarantee print?

Then the whole deciding to go to print without informing the author?

Anyway the fact the guy was complaining so openly only means I'll never deal with Whiskey Creek Press.

It also supports my statement that it's the companies not meeting typical ePublishing standards that cause MOST of the issues.

I do not need to be dealing with some back room part time people who handle business contracts like menus for ordering takeout.

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