I swore I wasn’t going to blog about this mainly because I’ve read a zillion blogs about the subject already, but lately my mind has processed through much of what I’ve read and well, I’m perplexed.
Now I’m definitely not an expert in this field. I only know what I’ve experienced, which isn’t much, but I think I’ve read enough to get a good idea of the big picture. The digital world took the publishing industry by storm providing a grand opportunity for authors to enter the world of publishing by doing it themselves. Not only did they not have to go through the stringent and some times disheartening process of finding an agent and/or publishing company, the self-publishing route offers the author a wider range of liberties with their work and a better cut of the profits. I think at first the Big 6 probably thought it was a phase that would flicker out and disappear. But they were wrong.
I can’t help but to notice the similarities of this scenario with that of the newspaper industry and how the internet, and its instant access to information, practically brought it to its knees. Newspapers, print versions mind you, had withstood the test of radio, TV and cable. The internet was just another competitor that jumped in the ring and newspaper companies figured they would hold out and overcome in the end. They competed against it instead of embracing the opportunities in the beginning. By the time they figured out what was going on, it seemed it was too late to make it work for them. The Big 6 haven’t reached that ledge to jump from yet, but they sure are inching closer.
Right now though, all I’m hearing about is traditional verses self-publishing. Each side has its reasons why you shouldn’t cross over and believe me, I’ve heard some horror stories. Now to me, this choice should just boil down to the preferred method of the author. Do you want to the help of an agent and publishing house or do you want to do it yourself? But apparently this has become somewhat of a monster, full of bad attitudes and finger-pointing. Agents don’t want to deal with whiny, wimpy authors who need too much hand holding and they don’t have time to help that diamond in the rough become a shining jewel. So said authors decide to self publish. Publishing companies don’t like to deal with authors that lean towards self-publishing because it complicates contracts and they have to compete with Amazon.com and others who are taking more than their share of the market. Authors don’t want to deal with agents because agents are mean, rude people who treat them like leaches. Authors don’t want to deal with publishing companies because they aren’t getting a fair share of the profits, they aren’t putting their books on the right shelves, and the contracts are easily sued over. There are definitely issues on both sides of the fence. What I don’t understand is why the reason behind the attitudes.
To me this is a business. And like every business, it needs clients. Publishing companies and agents need authors to write books. Some authors would like publishing companies and agents to help them sell the books, others prefer to do it themselves. All of them need readers, and readers want great books.
My question is why would anyone not treat others with respect and professionalism? I’ve read about authors writing nasty letters to agents/editors/publishing houses because their work was turned down. I’ve read about agents with holier-than-thou attitudes and those that send out over-the-top rude rejection letters. I’ve read about publishing companies suing authors for allegedly breaking contracts by self-publishing other works not even connected to the contract. I read about authors bashing agents and publishing companies in blogs and posts. I’ve read about so many unprofessional acts that I’m truly amazed at this point that someone hasn’t created a reality TV show about it somewhere.
I don’t get it. If you were being treated unfairly, in unprofessional manner, or as if you were the lowest being on the planet by a company you were trying to do business with, would you continue to do business there? If an opportunity arose to do it yourself and get more out of it – wouldn’t you take it after being treated like that? Agents have a ton of clients proposing their works, they do not have to deal with nasty-grams being sent because they felt your writing needed a little more improvement or it just didn’t fit with what they were looking for. Authors have plenty of options for publishing – they don’t need agents/editors/publishing companies who disrespect them – not when they can do it themselves.
It’s a widely known fact that businesses with excellent customer service tend to fare better than those that don’t. Providing a great customer experience to your clients – whether they are readers, agents, editors, publishing companies or authors – is the best way to maintain customers in your base and gain new ones.
I know there will always be people out there that can never be satisfied and those that are ill-willed. However, there are some things we can control. I would like to see agents take the extra step to respond to query letters (even if it’s an auto-reply!), be constructive in their criticism in a professional, tasteful way instead of a “You totally suck, don’t ever attempt to write again” kind of way, and take the opportunity to see the spark of talent and offer direction instead of blowing over them because they don’t have a hugely followed blog or twitter account. I would like to see authors take the advice of agents and editors (without huffs and puffs and arguments over every tiny word) and really work at honing their craft so they can offer the readers with the most stunning work they’ve ever produced. I’d like to see readers give feedback to their favorite authors so that regardless if the book was self-published or traditionally published, those who brought it to fruition can know that their hard work was worth it. And I’d like to see publishing companies take a look at their business plans, and maybe even revamp the way they do things, so that they don’t end up in the same boat as print newspapers. After all, there is a reason you are losing market share and it’s not the fault of the agents or the authors.
But hey, I’m just an aspiring author, potential client, avid reader, and possible self-publisher. What do I know about this business?