The Business Rusch: Traditional Publishing and Its Suppliers

The Business Rusch: Traditional Publishing & Its Suppliers

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

 My posts over the past few weeks have elicited quite a few comments, in person, in e-mail and in the comments section, that go like this: “How can traditional publishers treat writers like that? This is clearly a sign of a decaying business.”

Naw. It’s a sign that writers still don’t understand how they fit in the traditional publishing model.

In a post two weeks ago, I talked about the ways that writers’ books get mishandled. I mentioned the American publication of my novel Hitler’s Angel (for the full sad story, click here), and I mentioned several other missteps.

Since I wrote that piece, I read an excellent article in the October 2011 issue of Vanity Fair by Keith Gessen, the founder of n + 1, about his long-time friend Chad Harbach, and the amazing publishing success story—before publication—of Harbach’s The Art of Fielding. Gessen uses this story to examine publishing today, and he does an excellent job.

In the article, he writes this:

“As for how much money you [the editor] ought really to plunk down on a book, there are some guides you can use. Nielsen BookScan, which tracks sales of individual books at about three-quarters of the bookselling cash registers across the country, can tell you how much an author’s last book sold—this is her ‘sales track,’ and it gives you some idea of how well her next book might sell. But it can be the wrong idea. Emma Donoghue had published six novels before her 2010 Room, the two most recent of which ‘BookScan’ at 1,852 and 1,119, respectively, in hardcover in the U.S. Room has sold more than half a million in hardcover and digital and is still going. If it’s the writer’s first book and she has no sales track, you can come up with similar-seeming books (‘comp titles’) and see how many copies they sold. But this is precision masquerading as insight. No two books are the same book, and no two authors are the same author. The fact is: no one has any idea how many copies of a book will sell.

Let me repeat that conclusion for those of you who can’t handle big blocks of text on your computer:

“No two books are the same book, and no two authors are the same author. The fact is: no one has any idea how many copies of a book will sell.”

Add to it all the missteps he mentions in his article. For example, he briefly mentions two books, one from Houghton-Mifflin and one from Random House, books that received good advances, whose entire publishing team left the company, the books were orphaned, and they tanked, much like the book by Yvonne Thornton that I mentioned in the blog post three weeks ago.

These missteps are common. So common that Gessen continually reminds the reader, “Of course, the story I’ve been telling of The Art of Fielding is not typical.”

The story is not typical in a good way. At some point, everything went right for The Art of Fielding. More common are books—and authors—for whom things go wrong.

So how can a business not just survive but thrive when it treats writers this way?

Simple, really. Publishing companies aren’t in the business of treating writers well or even treating an individual book well. They’re in the business of publishing books.

Gessen writes: “It’s hard for writers to believe, but publishing is a big business. It’s not the oil business or the auto business or even the cell phone business, but total book sales in the United States last year [2010] were $13.9 billion—and twice that if you include textbooks and other educational material….

“The vast majority of publishers’ revenue (100 percent in the case of Little, Brown) is from the sale of books and subsidiary rights to books: for the moment, publishers have no other way to make money. They sell books. They do make money. That’s the point of publishing.”

Note there’s nothing here about coddling authors, nothing about how the missteps hurt the business.

Because the missteps don’t hurt the overall business.

So, in 1997, St. Martin’s Press really screwed up my novel Hitler’s Angel. An editor got fired over that. I lost months of work to some company screw up. This publisher lost enough money on that and the editor’s other mistakes to fire him.

Generally, when a book misses for a publishing company, everyone shrugs and moves on. Because these kinds of losses are built into the bottom line.

Let’s look at it this way: Picture a large grocery store. Now imagine how many products fill the aisles. Every day, when a customer walks into the store, she sees promotions—ads, coupons, front of the store displays, and sometimes, free tastes of merchandise.

Sometimes those promotions work. Often they don’t.

Do you think the grocery store manager cares when a promotion fails? Sure, in a “Well, let’s not do that again” kinda way. The manager has so many other products in the store that he can swallow a bad daily or weekly promotion provided he doesn’t have too many of them.

Usually those bad promotions are offset by the good promotions. Yeah, maybe that artichoke promotion didn’t work, but the Diet Coke promotion brought in dozens of extra customers, hundreds in revenue, and generally brought up the company’s bottom line for the day or the week.

That’s how publishing works. They put time and money behind all of their books. Some books get the front of the store promotions. Some books get advertising. Some books fail. Some books succeed. The company jettisons the failures and goes with the successes.

That’s the only way you can run a business based on taste. The business must have a lot of product to overcome the uncertainty factor.

So yes, I’ve been treated poorly by publishing companies. I’ve been treated well. I’ve had promotions go very well. I’ve had promotions go awry.

Even though I’m a very prolific writer, I have a small amount of product compared to every major publishing house I’ve worked with. In fact, if you compare my entire product line with one month of theirs, I still come up short.

I am the publishing house’s supplier. I give them product so that they can market it, nothing more.

It’s no different than the relationship the local orchard has with a grocery store. The orchard provides apples that the store puts out for sale. The store might even do some promotion. It gives the orchard a bit of retail space, which costs the store money. In return, the store hopes to make a few pennies off the sale of each apple. But the store has more than one variety of apple, from more than one supplier.

If our local orchard’s apples don’t sell or don’t sell enough to pay for their retail footprint, then the store no longer orders from the orchard. The fact that the store has pulled out of the local apple business might devastate the orchard, but the store will be there the next year.  In fact, the store will find another source of apples or maybe it’ll fill that little bit of retail space with locally grown cherries.

It’s a loss to the store, sure, but it’s a shruggable loss. A small one. An oops. Not something devastating.

Devastating occurs when everything in the produce section is old or spoiled, the shelves in the rest of the store have expired merchandise, and the meat is gray. That’s a total system failure, and it rarely happens in the large grocery stores, because they have ordering systems, revenue tracking systems, and stocking systems that prevent it.

Writers usually only have one book on the stands at a time.  And if the traditional publisher mistreats that one book, for whatever reason—a bad hire, a terrible cover, a failure in shipping—then the writer is devastated. Some writers have quit the business because of it.

Before the advent of indie-publishing, a lot of writers couldn’t sell another book after a devastating loss on an earlier book. (Those writers apparently were too egotistical or too dumb to change their bylines.)  One mistake, and a writer lost a year or more revenue.

One mistake and a traditional publisher doesn’t even notice.

So, writers: If you want to stay in traditional publishing, stop viewing the world in a writer-centric way. Expect things to go wrong. Plan for it. Try to prevent it by paying attention. Sometimes your editor gets fired and no one takes his place, which means no one in house is shepherding that book. Sometimes the line gets cut, so there no longer is money to promote your book. Watch the trades so you know what’s happening as or before it happens. Don’t be surprised like so many writers are.

When things go right, compliment everyone. When you find a copy editor you like, get her name and request her next time. When you get extra support from the sales force, say thank you. And then smile to yourself, because things are going well for you. Enjoy it.

Because there are a lot of people working on your traditionally published book. Many things can go wrong when there are so many hands in the pie. You can’t supervise from afar, but you can watch.

And you can write the next book.

Because really, the secret to publishing—whether you’re a writer or a publishing house, whether you’re in traditional publishing or independent publishing—is to have a lot of product. Diversify, diversify, diversify.

Don’t put all of your hopes on one book. Don’t even put them all on one genre. Write a lot. Always improve, and always look toward the next project.

That’s what traditional publishing houses do. No matter how poorly they treat individual writers, the  houses have managed to be around and  make money for decades. Traditional publishing is going to survive this change because they understand how important it is to have a lot of product.

You need to have the same understanding.

And step back. Stop contemplating your navel. Viewing the world from your writerly poor-poor-pitiful-me perspective is part of the problem. The moment you put a book on the market—whether it’s in the mail to a traditional publishing house or posted through Kindle’s Direct Publishing program—you’ve entered an international business. You’re on an international stage.

Recognize that and behave accordingly.

Yep, traditional publishing will treat you badly at one point or another. If you stay in the business long enough, traditional publishing will also treat you well.

Take your fragile ego out of the equation and realize that once your book is out there, you’re no longer a sensitive artist. You are a supplier, like thousands of other suppliers.

You have your own business to run. The more you treat it like a business, the more you focus on the international aspect of it all, the better off you’ll be.

No matter what route to publication that you chose.

I chose to write this blog every week on publishing instead of writing some words of fiction. My fiction sells all over the world. And now, thanks to the power of the internet, folks from all over the world also read this blog. Just because it’s on my website doesn’t mean it’s a little local publication.

I provide a lot of free content on this website, but I don’t look at the blogs as freebies. That’s because this blog is something I would not do if it weren’t for you readers commenting, sharing stories and links and e-mails, and of course, donating to keep it alive.

If you’ve learned anything from the blog or find that it helps you, please leave a tip on the way out. Thanks.

Click Here To Go To PayPal

“The Business Rusch: Traditional Publishing & Its Suppliers” copyright 2011 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 

 

 

 

 

Send to Kindle

44 Comments

  1. Brilliant, Kris. That’s all I am going to say.

    Brilliant and thank you.

    Writers who do not find and read your blog regularly are missing out on the best advice out there.

    Reply
  2. Hello Kris,

    Thanks for this post. It’s very good to be reminded of the focus on treating writing as a business and that as a writer I am a supplier who needs to offer a variety of products. I’m working on all of that. Between your post and Dean’s post, I have plenty to digest.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Teri & Shaun. :-)

      Reply
  3. I left my job at the bookstore for a couple of reasons and one of the reasons was the Publishers. They are mistreating their Authors who are not big names and spamming us with the same drivel from the same Authors. I have found countless Authors who I loooove to read because I refuse to read the Nora Roberts, James Patterson’s, the Danielle Steel’s, etc….The Publisher will dictate to the bookstore who you promote. You will give these Authors 30% off and promote them on your “Best Seller’s List” even though they are NOT Best Sellers. JR Ward, Christine Feehan, Kelley Armstrong, etc…are Best Sellers but they rarely if ever go on the 30% “Best Seller” wall. Why I wonder? They outsold a lot of the “Best Sellers”. I found it to be deceptive and couldn’t support this anymore.

    Then Canadians were getting ripped off and once again it’s because of the Publishers. They were using every excuse imaginable to state that they had to mark up Canadian prices by 40% for various reasons even though our dollar was at par or close for over 12 months. Now the Publishers simply don’t print the US prices on our books but I know that we are still being marked up. $16.99 US and $19.99 Canadian? Still? Now I purchase just ebooks…they caught on! Prices went from $6.99 to $8.99 and $9.99. To make it better..the bi Publishers will not allow discounts. I purchase from Kobo books…go see how few books can use a discount. I have over 50 books on my to-buy list when they will offer a reasonable price. Read the note….Due to “Publishers restrictions.”

    In the end…a lot of amazing and talented Authors will not get the recognition/promotion/attention because of the Publishers. Is it fair – no. Authors need to promote themselves and that takes a lot of time away from writing sadly.

    Done with my rant about Publishers…sorry lol

    Reply
    • Terri, the reason some people got the promotions and others didn’t is money, pure and simple. The publishers paid to have certain authors in the promotion. Honestly, Christine Feehan & JR Ward were doing well without the promotion, so the publishers didn’t want to cut into the profit margin. Every endcap, every point-of-purchase slot in every bookstore, Walmart, grocery store, etc, is paid for by the publisher.

      Like you, I dislike some of the pricing schemes, particularly pricing the ebook higher than the hardcover (or at the hardcover level). I really watch pricing when I order my e-books and fight hard not to pay more than $10 per book–and I’m an author. Still, as a reader, I want my e-books to be affordable. I’ll pay extra for a hardcover that will remain on my shelf.

      Reply
  4. “Don’t put all of your hopes on one book. Don’t even put them all on one genre. Write a lot. Always improve, and always look toward the next project.”

    This goes against so much of the advice I used to get: find a niche, specialize, target a core audience, etc. But what you suggest fits me so much better. I’ve written science fiction, fantasy, romance, Westerns, mystery, thriller and literary fiction. I’ve written for young adults and for grown-ups. All of it was fun to write, and I didn’t give a damn what the rules said. I may never break big, whether as an independent publisher or through trad publishing, but I’ll die knowing I did what I dreamed of. My only regret is that I will never have enough time to write down all the stories I come up with.

    Reply
    • Exactly, Sarah. I feel the same way. I will never have a chance to write everything I want to write. I can’t live long enough.:-) That said, my advice is counter to what you hear because if you climb into a niche you are (theoretically) easier to sell for people who have never read your book. Oh, that’s Sarah, she writes western vampires or whatever. It has nothing to do with your art and everything to do with their lazy sales techniques.

      That said, I should add that I use pen names to help readers. I get gross and graphic and funny and scary and dark with the Rusch name. But I never ever get scary or dark or gross with Grayson. Nelscott is noir, with almost no humor at all. So I’m branding on my own–to make it easier for readers to figure out what I want. But I’m the one making the choices.

      Reply
  5. Shoot. The comment poster ate my quote. Here it is again with the quote in, um, quotes.

    “Because the missteps don’t hurt the overall business.”

    Untrue. It certainly does hurt the business. Whether or not a company expects such things and builds them into the bottom line is not the point. A company that does not take those missteps will be better off than a company that does.
    And likening such treatment of authors or major mistakes to advertising is in my opinion a poor metaphor. A better one would be an employee in the grocery store that constantly stacks the wine cases too high, causing them to fall (or other forms of incompetence that hurt the bottom line). Sure, a wise company will work that into their end-of-year projections, but the wise manager/owner will work to root out such problems, to minimize them, so that they end up with a better store, less product loss, and so on.

    Reply
    • Ah, Bradley. I answered your first post, not your second. The comment poster thingie is acting up today. :-) Yes, you’re right. Missteps do hurt the overall business. But not one-tenth as drastically as you’re saying. You’re discussing a calamity. A failed book is not a calamity to the publisher–they have too much product for that. It’s just a mistake. Too many mistakes from one section of the company and everyone in that section loses their jobs. But publishing tolerates a lot of mistakes, more than most businesses.

      Also, there are some spectacular companies out there that care about every book from the top to the bottom. Some imprints of major publishers are the same. But most major publishers only see your book as a widget. If one widget doesn’t work, they just replace with another. Hard to accept, but true. Those publishers, btw, usually have the most product and are the largest publishers. The smaller ones have less tolerance for error built into their bottom line.

      Reply
  6. Short but important info. A necessary dose of reality. Sent a PayPal tip.

    Reply
    • Thank you for both the comment and the donation, Laer.

      Reply
    • Btw, I thanked Rebecca for her donation today, but the e-mail bounced back to me. So here’s a formal thank you. I hope you bop back and see it.

      Reply
  7. I took your use of the word “missteps” as being from the writer’s perspective. That is, in many cases, they aren’t actually missteps from a business point of view.

    A business which can accurately estimate the real cost of such missteps may well conclude that letting such things happen doesn’t hurt them.

    Here’s an extreme example: there was a guy who had a small business selling super cheap glasses over the internet. He discovered that if he did such a bad job of customer service, that his customers went on the internet and railed against him, his SEO ranking went up, and his sales went up. Nothing he had done in business had ever boosted his sales the way being a complete jerk did.

    For someone trying to run an honest business which depends on customer loyalty, yes, customer service mistakes would destroy the business. But for someone who didn’t care about his reputation or serving the customer, what started as mistakes became a profitable practice. (And it is, unfortunately, a relatively common practice on the internet.)

    Anyway, back to Kris’ post: Thank you for posting this. It’s really important for writers to understand that when you’re telling stories about horrible things publishers have done, you aren’t actually bashing publishing. You’re just letting them know the reality.

    I think an awful lot of writers — both indies and anti-indies — look at publishing with emotion. Publishing is good or evil. And as a result, neither side actually hears the truth. Publishing is a business. It is what it is. And writers shouldn’t cling to publishing with the idea that all their troubles will be over. If they want to succeed, and survive, they need to be just as savvy as those who want to self-publish.

    Reply
    • Exactly, Camille. Thanks. :-)

      Reply
  8. I read your blog a lot but have never really commented, so I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the time you take to inform other writers about the publishing industry — both self and traditional. I also like that you don’t make it sound either/or. I’ve been ridiculed a lot for wanting to try out self publishing before I try traditional, and I’ve been ridiculed a lot for even wanting to try traditional at all, so it’s nice to see some logic in all of this.

    Your grocery store comparison also makes it a lot easier to imagine the publishing industry. For some reason, that puts things into perspective, or at least helps me gain a different viewpoint.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Elisa. I’m glad the comparison helps. The other thing to remember about a grocery store is that the product must cycle through and change. What you see in the store today will be different than what you saw in August. The same in publishing. To make a profit, publishers must always have new product–and so must bookstores. I saw that quite clearly when a local used bookstore owner took over our only new bookstore. Nice man that he was, he refused to strip books and send back returns. So as his inventory got older and older, his customers went away. They knew they wouldn’t find new books–which was the point of the store. So that part is important too, and I forgot to mention it.

      Reply
  9. Great post, Kris. I read all your business posts and think you are doing a great service to writers by writing and posting your experiences.

    I ran a small press for a few years, with the philosophy that we would be kind and generous to authors. That we would put out high quality novels in hardcover and trade paperback formats. The hardcovers were offset printed and bound in the traditional way (not POD) and cost us tens of thousands to print. Each book counted as we didn’t have so many titles that we could afford to lose money on *any* of them. We did well for a few years, and then had a great book sell poorly… through nobody’s fault… it happens I guess.

    We couldn’t absorb the loss and keep putting out books so we went out of business (although we’re actually coming out of that now — the resurgence of ebooks may mean we can start to publish books again.)

    My main point from all this is to say that it most definitely does behoove writers to gain as much knowledge of the entire publishing *business* as possible. Sometimes a book just fails to earn out. Even if the book is good. Even if the publicity and the marketing is done well. If we’d had more titles and been more diverse (like you’re advising writers to be) it’s likely we could have absorbed the loss and moved on.

    I plan to take that to heart as I get back on this particular horse. :)

    Reply
    • Yeah, Jak, those of us who’ve toiled in publishing using our own dollars… At Pulphouse, we wanted to be writer friendly as well, and we designed a contract that was. Unfortunately, it ended up costing the company millions in the end because we didn’t have enough rights to resell when the business itself got into trouble in a recession lo these 20 years ago now. Live and learn and understand why some things happen the way they do. Dean & I try to advise new publishers when we can, mostly in a “don’t do it our way” kinda thing or by telling them to avoid the mistakes we made. Most don’t listen to us at all, in fact, very few take us up on the offer. Then they remake the same mistakes. Which is, I think, one of the reasons I do the blog. I’m glad folks are listening. I have no idea how many are turning away and plugging their ears. But the ones who are listening are listening intently–and I hope they get benefit from it.

      Reply
  10. Thank you again, Kris. Reading your blog is a must-do for me every Thursday. I gain so much from you, and the discussions that follow (it’s like taking an online class!)

    Reply
  11. Another great article on the business.

    We are definitely listening and reading and learning, Kris! Thank you so much for doing these blogs. I always try to point people your way to see the light and yet people still refuse to open their eyes and see. It’s like that saying that sometimes, you just can’t reason someone out of something they were never reasoned inTO.

    It’s got to be maddening to see these myths and beliefs hold a lot of writers hostage to being taken advantage of and then training publishers to treat all writers this way.

    That said…I love that if traditional publishing treats writers as suppliers of produce (to steal a leaf from Dean’s screeds), Amazon, Smashwords, and other online distributors/bookstores treat writers as suppliers of nonperishable goods, since their business model is more like a giant magical vending machine-storefront, with a much better percentage of profit for the suppliers. :)

    Reply
    • Sam, I love that analogy. Non-perishable goods works. :-)

      Reply
  12. Slightly off topic, but the idea that you should write everything that you want to and then just brand the results makes so much more sense than trying to restrict yourself to one genre. Thank you! I will consider pen names, instead of trying to figure out how to fit all my different interests under a single umbrella.

    Reply
    • Your readers will appreciate it too, Alex, so long as you keep the pen names “open,” meaning they can find you if they want to. That way, they know what they’re getting. :-)

      Reply
  13. Nice writeup. I’m glad to know I made the right choice when I finally eschewed the whole publishing run and decided to do things for myself.

    Reply
    • Thanks, Lauryn & Stephen.

      Reply
  14. Don’t put all of your hopes on one book. Don’t even put them all on one genre.

    Already have two novellas up and will have the third in that fantasy series uploaded sometime next week.

    As for going into different genres, I never really contemplated that until 1) I saw the amount of money this one guy on Reddit said he’s making by uploading 80-some shorts/novelettes/novellas – in a genre he doesn’t normally write in, under a pen name and 2)I realized that some of what I read (and like) is a combo of 2 different genres: SF and mystery, etc.

    So…I decided, why not have more fun in between the fantasy that I love to write? I really like romantic comedies, I’ve selected a pen name, and I’ve got 3 ideas, with the first idea coming together (almost done with the rough draft). And I’m having a blast getting creative with this particular story. I’m hoping to have all 3 short (probably novelettes) up by the end of this year.

    And I just wanted to let you know how much I’m enjoying your Retrieval Artist series. Currently reading the 2nd one, Extremes. I’m hoping to read all of them in the next few months.

    Reply
    • It all sounds wonderful, Nancy. Glad you’re having fun. I think that’s the most important thing for writers. We have a great job: we should enjoy it. And thanks too for letting me know you’re enjoying the Retrieval Artist series. Much appreciated. :-)

      Reply
  15. Great comparison. Grocery stores rent the shelf-space, so various providers jockey for the “ideal” positioning for their products, too.
    We’re all trying to get our books on the good shelves to get noticed by consumers.
    Big publishers can afford to rent more shelf space, but with the improvements to self-pubbing, they’re not the only renters in town anymore.
    And with internet sales, the “store” itself and how it’s organized is changing. Online, it’s not the big-fish-shelf-renter who can hog visual attention. As a reader, I can bypass the fancy displays in favor of recommended titles and the “Those who liked this might like that” suggestions very easily.
    Thanks for your blog.

    Reply
    • Good points, Elizabeth. Online stores have always had a lot of trouble figuring out the best display space because, unlike brick & mortar stores, we don’t have to “walk” past the display to get to what we want. We can bypass the displays with a single click.

      Reply
  16. If I was a millionaire and unmarried*, I would marry both you and Dean just so you could bathe in the buckets of money you would get from me in the inevitable** divorce: I love both of you that much.

    Well, to be fair, I love the work you guys are doing so much. Its like watching, over and over again, Brody shove the tank into Jaws’ mouth and shooting it, until, unexpectedly, the Death Star blows up.

    You guys are going to get medals for this, at least in the odd and twisted landscape of my mind.

    *and a weird sort of bigamist.
    **I’m intolerable in anything other than small doses. And the small doses aren’t even that fun.

    Reply
    • LOL, Paul. Thanks, I think. :-)

      Reply
  17. Businesses can and do prosper by abusing and destroying their suppliers.

    Wal-Mart is a prime example. Their model is to find a new supplier, often a small one, and place massive orders with them. The supplier may simply self-destruct (as many businesses do) trying to grow rapidly to meet demand. If so, Wal-Mart just finds another supplier in that category, which is worst-case for Wal-Mart.

    Best case is the company survives growth, but is now dependent on Wal-Mart orders to survive. Wal-Mart demands price cuts. The company can’t lose Wal-Mart’s account, so they cut margins or find a way to do it cheaper. Wal-Mart is so big, there usually aren’t any other potential customers who could take up the slack, so there’s no way out for the supplier. This cycle typically repeats until the supplier can’t sustain itself and implodes.

    Then Wal-Mart finds another supplier for similar products and repeats.

    In Wal-Mart’s case, this only worked for so long, as they’ve literally run out of suppliers in many product categories.

    The situation with publishing and authors is, or at least was, similar. Writers had no way out, and New York was almost too big to say no to. And once you were hooked on advances, you had little choice but to scramble for the next one, no matter how much smaller it was, or what terrible terms were offered as part of the package.

    The difference being that until indie publishing came along, there was almost no chance publishing would EVER run out of eager suppliers. The supply was so much greater than demand, and so consistently replaced, they could kick writers to the curb with impunity.

    Even with indie publishing and clear alternatives for writers available, it STILL isn’t clear that publishing has an inexhaustible supply of writers. So long as they can hide behind the myth of “real” books, and if they can compete with indies on any combination of myth/price/quality/marketing, then they have a pretty good chance of “business as usual.” If writers as a whole wise up though, they could have issues. I do not care to bet on this race.

    Reply
    • Good points, Steve. It will be interesting to watch all of this change play out.

      Reply
  18. “Your readers will appreciate it too, Alex, so long as you keep the pen names “open,” meaning they can find you if they want to. That way, they know what they’re getting.”
    Kris, I’d love you to elaborate on this a little more – I always thought pen names should be kept secret, as in: “Egad, he’s writing erotic fantasy AND serial killer thrillers? How could that work? He MUST suck in one of those genres!”

    Also: Lauryn Christopher said:
    “Thank you again, Kris. Reading your blog is a must-do for me every Thursday. I gain so much from you, and the discussions that follow (it’s like taking an online class!)”
    Couldn’t agree more! Your and Deans blog in itself are fantastic value but the discussions add even more!

    Reply
    • Frank, you might want to keep some secret, but readers know that writers use other names. And readers will chose. I just got a review on one of my Retrieval Artist books from a reader who said the book was so powerful that it disturbed her and she won’t read any more RA novels, even though she likes my work. I can relate to this. If I read something dark before bed, I get nightmares, so I’m careful to choose lighter books for that reading slot. If you have pen names, it’s an easy way to differentiate. And the readers will follow if they want to read everything, but if they only want to read the dark stuff, then they’ll stick with that name. It won’t hurt, and it will probably help.

      And thanks for the nice words. :-)

      Reply
  19. Regarding the pen names, I’m probably not the only beginning writer who’d love to read a whole blog of yours concerning this topic.

    I’d already be content if Dean would write one.

    (That was a joke. Haha. But seriously, I’d guess both of you have a similar opinion on this, so either will be great. Probably fits better into Deans New World series)

    Reply
    • Good point, Frank. Hmmmm…

      Reply
  20. An actor got a small, one-line role (“I recommend the Red Delicious, they’re on sale.”) in a big action picture, playing the produce manager of a supermarket that gets taken over by terrorists, necessitating the heroic rescue efforts of an all-star S.W.A.T. team.

    When asked what the movie was about, the actor remarked, “Its about a guy who sells apples and…”

    We all live in egocentric universes.

    Even grocers.

    Todd

    Reply
    • LOL, Todd. :-)

      Reply
  21. “I always thought pen names should be kept secret.”

    The writer Nora Roberts, under that name, is the queen of romance novels. As J. D. Robb, she writes hard-edged detective fiction set in the next century. This makes perfect marketing sense: she has established each of those names as a “brand”, so her readers will not be confused. She does not want a police procedural fan picking up a book of hers only to discover that it’s a Celtic fantasy romance set in the 12th century or some such. And there’s no secrecy about it: the cover of most of her J. D. Robb novels says “Nora Roberts writing as J. D. Robb”. Similarly, you will find Stephen King’s early novels advertised as “Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman”.

    I write under a couple of psuedonyms for the same reason: I don’t want my Western fans to be annoyed when they find out the book they bought from me is a young adult novel set on the Moon fifty years from now. I don’t “keep it secret” that I write under different names, but I’m not well enough known right now to bother putting “Sarah Stegall writing as XX” on the cover of a book, because who would care?

    Someday, though. Someday. :>

    Reply
  22. Just bought ‘Hitler`s Angel’ from Amazon.co.uk $KINDLE STORe
    Is that good or bad from your point of view?
    Yes I bought the book but it was reduced from£7.99

    Reply
  23. That should read just bought hitlers angel from amazon.co.uk kindle store for £0.99

    Reply
    • Thanks, Stranger. If the promotion brings folks to the novel who wouldn’t have read it otherwise, and that leads them to more of my work, then that’s a good thing. It’s all so new that I have no idea what works or what doesn’t. Thanks for letting me know about the promotion. I was unaware of it.

      Reply
  24. Sarah:

    Good points about brand. I believe it would be unfair to readers (me included) to publish all my titles under one name. But I do not keep any of my names secret. In these days of the internet I do not think it’s realistic to think we can hide our various names. True it has been done in the past (BTW Nora Roberts real name isn’t Nora Roberts ), and in some cases still happens. For example, some writers hide their real name for business reasons which is perfectly legit in my book. But I think you have to start from square one, title one in with the name for that genre, or the cat will literally be out of the bag very quickly.

    In this new world of publishing my approach has been to cross promote my various names so readers who read more than one genre (such as myself) can choose between the various genres I write. My approach goes against a lot of what you read in publishing trade magazines, and on the so called guru websites, but I sell across the genres so why not try it? Time will tell.

    All the best with your writing. I hope it brings you much success.

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Week in Publishing | The IMPire - [...] how most authors don’t seem to understand their place in the trade publishing business. You’re a supplier, and small …

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>