Ok, recently on facebook, I’ve been seeing a slew of “Enter this contest, and the winner will get their book published!” type posts. Previously, I’ve seen this sort of thing on Twitter, as well. It’s everywhere, and I’m afraid I just don’t get it.
First off, why would you want to fight to win the right to be published by some small press? What can they offer you? How will your royalties look compared to your other options? How much are they going to invest in promoting YOUR book? These are all questions a writer needs to ask before dumping their hard work out there.
Now, I know that most people still think that there’s “real” publishing and “self” publishing – and that’s it. Well, let me assure you, they’re wrong. If your book is made available for others to read, it’s “real” publishing. Your book is published, your debut rights are gone. No matter how you choose to do it, putting your book out there is the real deal, and if the authenticity of it is what has you hung up, then you’re going about this author thing ALL WRONG!
See, I’m independently published. It’s kinda like being self-published, but with a lot more people, and a complicated plan in place. Notice I didn’t say “good” plan. I said “complicated.” Working with SHP Publishing, we have a hierarchy of order. Books in a series get pushed ahead of books starting a series (or stand alone). Members put their best efforts into their part of the production. From cover designs to editing, I know my team is going to fight for making every book the best it can be. Sometimes that means disagreements happen. Others, it ends up in wild parties as we celebrate a new release. The best part, though, is that we’re a small group.
Currently, we have 3 authors involved. I’m kinda the most prolific, but it’s nice to have other writers to bounce ideas off of when I get stuck. I have an editor that I know, and can contact when I don’t understand her notes. I have a cover artist who knows where I’m going with my books, only cusses at me a little when I demand changes to the art, and produces great marketing images while he’s at it. Then there’s the formatter. Her job is JUST to make the words all pretty on the page. Me? I write.
So yeah, having a publishing team is great. It makes it easier to hire out help, but anyone can do this on their own as a self-published author. There are plenty of contractors who do the exact same things. Its’ work, but so is entering contest after contest, and trying to keep them all straight.
This BIG difference between the “dream” book deal and what most of us get is the advertising. Now, here’s where reality starts to suck. See, publishing houses don’t spend big bucks on all their authors. Usually, there’s one or two books that they bet on, and dump a lot of money into. The rest? Yeah, doesn’t matter if it’s Harper Collins, Random House, or SHP Publishing, we mid-listers get to pay our own way. If you want people to find your book, then you figure out how to market it yourself.
So, remind me again what we get from the “real” publishing deals? 10% royalties instead of 70%? Loss of rights and the inability to make changes later on? Contractual obligations that take us away from writing the next book? All too often, a publishing schedule that is MUCH slower than what a smaller publication can handle (because of the other books in line)? And then, if they’re running a contest for all this?
I’m just thinking, how good would your book have to be in order to win a contest to get published, and then end up being the 1 book that company wants to put money into? Isn’t it more likely that your hard work will be treated like it’s still in the slush pile, and you should be happy that it even got a deal? Could it be possible that the literary landscape is changing so fast that not even the publishing houses can keep up with what’s going on?
In my opinion, my art means enough to me that I’m not going to just throw it away. I work hard to make my books into something I can be proud of. That means they’ll do just fine on their own, and I’m serious enough about my craft to do whatever it takes to make the best book I can. Those contests? I think they’re a scam, and I sure hope that no newbie authors end up regretting their decision to enter one.