Why Do Authors Have to Wreck Everything? (and other bullshit)
I am not one to use my blog to rant and vent. I think I actually said that I would never do that because I want my blog to be a light and fun place to be. Well, something has been bothering me lately and I can’t not say anything anymore. But don’t worry…it’s book related. *g*
This issue I have started a short while ago. I was working on my blog and reading the occasional Tweetdeck pop up window when I noticed people were chatting with a few authors about eBook pricing. This topic intrigued me so I minimized my review and opened Tweetdeck to follow this conversation. I was amazed at some of the things that were being said to the authors involved. The language and the tone the readers were using made me embarrassed for their mammas! Did these tweeters actually think the authors have any say in the pricing of their books and subsequent eBooks? Apparently yes, yes they did, and they were livid about it! What did these authors do when faced with this abuse? They just took it! They listened and even commented back with charm. Let me tell you, I’m usually someone who tries to avoid confrontation, but if I was one of the authors, I would have started saying “What the hell do you want me to do?! I just write the books. I pour my heart and soul into my work but then someone else takes care of the bits and pieces of getting my book out to you. Why are you complaining to me about the price of my book?” I may even have sneaked in a couple colorful words… But then again, if I was an author and I wanted someone to buy and read my stuff ever again, I’d have to be more careful. So with further consideration, I think I would have ended up smiling and nodding like these authors were doing, all the while cracking open a bottle of rum and drinking it straight from the bottle.
Another time, I ran across a Twitter conversation between a few bloggers and an author and the bloggers were complaining that the Advance Review Copies (ARCs) they received from a publisher had a spelling mistake in it and it was hindering their enjoyment of the story which in turn made them want to rate the book lower. SERIOUSLY!? We bloggers should feel honored that we receive ARCs or Review Copies. Do publishers need to send us these books weeks if not months before release date? No. Does it help them with marketing the book? Yes. But do they have an obligation to send these out? No.
Bloggers should think of it this way: When you receive a review copy to read, you are a) receiving it at no monetary cost to you and b) you are receiving it before most of the world. You are holding in your hands something people would knock you down for! And you’re complaining?! It’s even stated, right there on the ARC, that it’s an unfinished copy with possible errors in it! Publishers who are printing these ARCs are not hiding that fact. They are just printing something as quickly as they can so they can get the review book out almost immediately and get the buzz going. And if you are one of the lucky people who get their hands on one of the few copies they send out, you should be ecstatic! That anyone complains about spelling mistakes in these advanced books is just off beam. And what’s worst is complaining about it to the author! Did the author print this advanced book in her basement using out of date printing materials? NO! If it’s bothering you that much, stop requesting review copies and go buy the finished book like everyone else on its release day. Bloggers need to learn to be appreciative that they are one of the few who get to read the book first and to stop whining.
Now if you must bitch and whine and complain about eBooks vs. print or publication dates or foreign edition or spelling mistakes, at least take the time to do it to the person who actually has control over the issues you are so eloquently bitching about. And 99% of the time, your issues lay with the publisher.
In preparation for this rant, I spoke to a few authors to make sure I was getting my facts straight. (Nothing worse than ranting about something then finding out you’re full of shit…) I tell you, I learned a lot! And to help you guys out, I’ve compiled a sort of FAQ list so everyone’s clear on who is responsible for which aspect of publishing and writing. That way if you still feel compelled to complain, you can aim it at the right person. Here we go:
Who is responsible for writing the book: The Author. But there are editors involved and they can strongly suggest the authors change certain things, but ultimately it falls on the author’s shoulders. So when it comes to the content of the book (plot, characters, setting, twists and those damn cliff hangers we love to hate) it’s all on the author. But when it comes to the title, that is usually the publisher and the editor’s doing. Authors usually have little to no say in the title of their book.
Who is responsible for release dates? The publisher. The author has NO say in this matter.
Who is responsible for the cover art? The publisher and art department. Some eAuthors have some flexibility over their covers, and I’m sure authors like Nora Roberts have some little influence too, but generally the author has little to no say in this matter. In fact, some publishers post the cover for an upcoming book before even showing it to the author! This also translates to the title’s font size vs. the author’s name size. If the author’s name is a little larger than the title of the book, that’s not because the author came into the publisher’s office sitting on her high horse demanding that her name be the cover art’s main focus. It’s because the art department decided to “sell” the author instead of the title. That’s it. It’s the art department’s doing. Not the author’s.
Who is responsible for selling Foreign Rights for books and authors’ works? The publisher and their foreign rights department…but sometimes the author. Okay, bear with me as this may get a little complicated. For the most part, when an author sells the rights to his or her book to a publisher, they also sell its foreign rights to the publisher. If that is the case, it is then the publisher’s responsibility to try to sell this book to foreign markets. (And yes, the UK is considered a foreign market even though it’s English speaking) Sometimes though the author decides to keep the foreign rights therefore making selling the translations his or her own responsibility.
BUT whether foreign sales fall on the publisher’s or the author’s shoulders, one thing remains consistent: if no one wants to buy it, it won’t sell. A foreign publisher needs to want to buy the book. And if a publisher in a certain country doesn’t think there is not enough demand for a certain author or book, they won’t look to buy the rights – no matter who is selling them. You can’t make anyone buy something they don’t want.
Same thing applies for audio books. If the demand is not there, they rights won’t sell.
As for foreign eBook Rights and Geographical Territories and Restrictions…well, that’s just a whole n’other batch of complicated crap. (What I’m talking about here is why you are able to buy a certain English eBook in India but not in Japan, etc…) Well, essentially, you are looking at a bunch of agreements and contracts and laws made ages ago between different distributors and publishers in different parts of the world, all over the world. These contracts and laws say “You can sell here but not here and I can sell here but not here and they can sell here but not here.” There are a few worldwide eBook publishers/distributors out there, but if an author has sold his/her rights to the publisher, they no longer hold to rights and therefore can’t approach these companies. But if the author has kept his/her rights, he/she can go ahead and give it a try. But ultimately, it boils down to the same thing as with foreign rights for print editions: You can’t make anyone buy something they don’t want. The author and the publisher could be literally going door to door with their digital books on a flash drive, but if no one is interested, no one will buy it.
Who is responsible for the pricing of both print and eCopies of books? The publisher. The author is as confused as the rest of us when it comes to why their books are priced a certain way and they have no say and no control over this matter. NONE!
Who is responsible in deciding whether or not a print book will also become an eBook and when said eBook will be released? The publisher. The authors have no say in this matter. Once again, it’s the publisher and NOT the author. Pu-bli-sher.
The authors write the books, but once they sign on with a publisher, they entrust their works to their new employers and hope they will do best by it. Do they always agree with what the publisher is doing? No. It’s just like you and your boss. Do you agree with him 100% of the time? Hell no. Can you suggest things to make your work life a little better? Well, yes! Will he listen? Not necessarily, because he is the boss. He looks at the whole picture and not just your little one. He must think of all of the cookies in the jar and not just your favorite ones. The same thing goes for a publisher and an author.
One final little point. Imagine what all your bitching does to these authors. Sure, they can and do relay your messages to their publisher, but what they tell them will most likely fall on partially deaf ears. You are probably thinking “Well, why doesn’t the author just leave that publisher and go somewhere else?” Because they are all the same…and there is usually a little thing called a contract. Again, think of your employment. Would it be easy to leave your job right at this moment and get a new job in the same field receiving the same pay by the end of next week? Most likely not. Same goes with an author. Leaving and complaining will only screw them over…in turn screwing us, the reader, over.
Instead of yelling and calling authors names that would make your daddy blush, we should be thanking them. They have given us hours and hours of entertainment! They have given us characters who have stolen our hearts and worlds to get lost in. They have given us great endings to our crappy days. They have even managed to turn our frowns upside-down. So say thank you to the authors…and when it comes to price or format or release dates, vent to the publishers. Because they are the ones you should be griping to.
p.s. I want to say a big thank you to the authors who helped me out while I was working on this post (especially one in particular, you know who you are). I learned a whole bunch from you. My hope is that this rant will teach others as much as it taught me so they can quit pestering those who are not at fault. *hugs*