Monday, September 03, 2007

E-Publishing and the Wearing of Hats

Things really are buzzing in the epublishing blogverse right now. Dear Author has written a lengthy and interesting post to which there are some equally lengthy and interesting comments.

I would like to pull out one particularly remark to expand upon: Does the publisher have his or her own books in the catalog and how many?

Many publishers are also authors with their own press. But the order in which these professions are listed is extraordinarily important. It is far harder and more demanding to be a successful e-publisher than to be a successful e-author. Signing up with an author who is also a publisher is probably a bad idea--to be a good publisher they need to be a publisher first. And signing up with a failed author who started a publisher mainly to distribute their own books is almost always disastrous.

How can you tell? PPs (primarily publishers) release other people's books first, more often and on the same terms as their own. PPs make sure their authors know the pen names they use. PPs write well enough that they raise the bar rather than lower it. PPs welcome questions and, when in doubt, make their own books second class citizens in favor of outside authors' books. The very top epublishers do have owners and editors who also write for the press but it is a conflict of interests that requires monitoring, management and transparency.

I have personally have stuck my foot right in it by asking authors who are also owners to dish the goss on a press, and asked questions on "author-only" e-lists where owners were present under their pen names--only to recieve scolding emails direct from the powers-that-be. In the incestuous world of epublishing this is going to happen to a lot of people. PPs understand the moment it starts to happen, pull all their hats out of the closet and provide all the information the author wants. A considerate owner or editor might choose not to join the author e-list to make it a safe 'author only' zone so that the authors can bring issues to the publisher in their own time and only after full and frank discussions.

As a final point the idea that an erotic writer must keep that utterly secret to get any respect as a publisher (as mentioned in the comments at dearauthor) strikes me as overly cautious at best and disingenuous at worse. We sign contracts with our real name, address and tax ID number--a full list of the publisher's pen names doesn't seem like too much to ask in return.

Enough authors have been embarrassed by not having the full picture that there are already lists of publisher's and editor's 'secret identities' being passed around on the down low. Many things become a problem only because they seem to be hidden and are so assumed to be illicit. Having picked up books by some of my publishers who openly shared their pen names I can say it raised my opinion of them to find that despite being "also an author" they are very good authors indeed.


Jennifer McKenzie said...

Great post Emily. Think the ones this applies to will listen?

veinglory said...

The only one who listens to me is the dog, and that's not all the time either.

Erastes said...

Thanks for posting this, Emily - it needed to be said.

Anonymous said...


I completely agree with you. But please, please, tell me where on earth a owner has time to be an author also?

Sheesh, I barely have time to eat, how do they find the time to run the company AND write?

Dark Eden Press

Anonymous said...

There is no time, not from where I stand. Since taking over the day to day operations of a romance ePub, my writing productivity has sharply decreased. If I do manage to find the balance that will allow me to write again, however, I plan to return to my first love, mystery.

For now and the indeterminate future, however, my interests lie in making my house a success.

Kathryn Lively

veinglory said...

Lord knows I wouldn't try to be a publisher. My two attempts even to be an editor were utter disasters.

Anonymous said...

Hello Kathryn,

I cant imagine that you get any writing done honestly. Sleep, do you sleep? If you still have time to sleep then I must be doing something wrong lol


Anonymous said...

My writing time has become my sleep time now. :)

Kat @ Phaze