Monday, June 6, 2011

As the Page Turns

I work for a small press that publishes books about Asia. We take chances on unknown writers, edit them carefully, pay them a lump sum, and put their words into beautiful trade paperback editions that have weight and substance. We keep our titles in print and we pay for sales reps to present our books across the United States and Canada. So far none of our books have made a profit for us, but we continue to publish books that we believe are well-written and well-illustrated.

We should be an author's dream, right? Wrong.

This is what I hear from writers:

1) What! No royalties????

2) What! You only pay that much for a manuscript?

3) What! You don't have sales reps in the UK? South America? Cambodia?

4) What! You expect me to rewrite my blog pieces so they will make a coherent and logical book?

5) What! You won't send me on a nationwide book tour?

6) What! You expect me to revise my work?

7) What! You've deleted my prose in this spot?

8) What! You don't have a marketing department?

These are direct quotes except for the two words that usually follow What...

And in answer to these heartfelt cries of anguish, I have a brief reply:

Self-publish as an e-book. Consider print-on-demand and consignment sales. Take two aspirin and don't call me in the morning.

I am a writer. I've also been a bookseller at a store that is known to be one of America's best. I buy books for pleasure reading. I work for this small press and I am published by it too. I have covered just about every inch of this waterfront, which by the way, is not dead yet.

I have friends who were published by major houses, were paid a lot of money, and now have books that are out of print. I have friends who were published by major houses as paperback originals and saw their words put on grainy paper with cheap, curling covers. For me, it means a lot for my books to stay alive and to look as though they are worth more than a damn to the business that brought them into the world.

But that's me--and I am clearly an idealist. I still believe in books as physical objects that deserve respect. But that respect has to come from all sides of the publishing spectrum. It's not are not Prince Charming on that white horse, out to make every dream come true. But if we work together, we can make your book come true--in a way that makes everybody proud. Probably not rich or famous but proud to say, "See that book? That's mine."


Paul Salvette said...


I'm trying to learn more about the publishing houses for English language books focusing on Asia. Do you happen to publish fiction?

janet brown said...

Hi Paul,
I'm going to email you--check your spam filter tomorrow,okay?