Thursday, January 31, 2013

Wyatt-MacKenzie Celebrates 15 Years of Publishing

Wyatt-MacKenzie is celebrating our fifteenth year of publishing in 2013!

Considering 2012 was excruciatingly volatile in the publishing world, we're happy to still be standing. Whenever possible, I've watched the industry news, read the articles, and viewed the videos of famous writers "figuring out" how to publish and "making new pathways" and I laugh as my stomach churns.

While this isn't particularly celebratory, here are some things which irked me recently, having experienced what I have over the last 15 years...

#1 Lying Hybrid Lions
This asshole (self-proclaimed) thinks he created a brand new model of publishing. He "discovered" Perseus—the major book distributor we used from 2001-2005. Claiming to turn the publishing world upside down with authors getting the lion's share and having their books in bookstores (like this is the top goal), he: 1.) Avoids mentioning the cash outlay for offest printing (and continued reprints) let alone editing, packaging, printing and publicity; 2.) Fails to note that books will only be in bookstores for 2-3 months and will then be returned; 3.) Has not yet seen the year-end result of these efforts after returns, shipping, and extra print runs to keep the book "in stock" with his major publicity efforts. It would be interesting to see how he felt about the lion's share when he realized after the lion had to extend a 55% discount plus give the distributor 15%, and then pay for returns and shipping . . . I bet, if he was "efficient" and did not go into the hole, he'd discover the lion would have made about 7.5% of retail IF he was lucky. I feel like a broken record, telling writers that their goal should not be to get onto the shelves in bookstores, but rather onto the bookshelves of readers. Big difference.

#2 Flying the Book Banned banner
This whiner (yea, I called him that) made a big huff because Barnes and Noble "banned" his Amazon-published book (under their traditional publishing wing). Besides the wrong use of "banned," the benefit of being in BandN does not outweigh the publicity he soaked up not being in BandN. Haha. In 2005 we paid $1500 for one of our books to be displayed on the endcaps of 121 Barnes and Noble stores across the country. Even this ungodly extra expense disappeared into the -$30,000 black hole of returns. It's not so special being there.

#3 Author Collectives
Jane Friedman (I admire Jane immensely) suggested an "author collective" in this piece. Our Mom Writer's Publishing Co-Op from 2005-2007 was my own little experiment with 24 mom writers. This was before social media, so we had a Yahoo Group doing just what Jane suggests, and more. The forum: a.) Gave the newbies a venue to complain about the industry and how unfair every step of the process was; b.) Gave authors a place to brag about successes, thus saddening the ones complaining in a; c.) To help avoid b, I thought the co-op could share 15% of all our royalties, but when the top authors made big publicity splashes and the distributor ordered thousands more of their books, only to later return them, no one wanted to share 15% of the negative with me. Jokes aside, I loved the experience with the co-op, all of our authors were incredible, smart moms, and I created my Imprint Program learning what writers want and need most on their publishing journey.

#4 Politics and Publishing
As the volatile Presidential election unfolded, the publishing industry imploded. Major publishing houses dove into the vanity-publishing cess pool, charging authors lots of money for services (and outsourcing the work overseas) with the false hope that by paying them, you could sell enough books to have them take you on traditionally. Meanwhile, all of the writers paying for services are declaring they were published by XYZ Major Publisher. It's sadly hypocritical. My biggest heartbreak over the years is still when an agent made one of our authors completely wipe Wyatt-MacKenzie off of her resume and act like her first book (we "saved" from a publisher which went under) never existed. The industry politics at the time dictated that indie publishers were not on par with the major houses and it would be impossible for an agent to land a major deal if the author had any indie on her. Haha. And now look, they have become worse than what they used to protest.

#5 Pay to Diss-play Fake Social Media Platforms
Another frustrating moment was realizing there was a trend of people purchasing their platform—buying Facebook Likes and Twitter Followers. So now, when I see someone with thousands of likes or follows, I question if they are legit. We have a very small number of followers, but I've personally spoken to, helped, or published every one of them. I want to believe quality outshines quantity, but the perception of platform-size may not match. This does, however, make me very sympathetic, and trusting, of authors with smaller social media numbers.

#6 The So-Called Million-Dollar Book, Oh Wait.
For years I've watched those good-ole boys who suck the money out of writers by the tens of thousands at their pompous conferences and publishing/publicity summits—charging a bloody fortune to tell you all the things you can do, but don't do anything for you. These are the same ones that talk about publishing "Million Dollar Books" which, in reality, include revenue from upsells to other products, consulting, and conferences. But then I realized, my book has been somewhat responsible for generating a million dollars* for Wyatt-MacKenzie! *This would be gross, not net, and it has been over the last seven years since the pre-release of the book–not so mind-blowing when you do the math, haha. I knew when I was planning A BOOK IS BORN it would act as my "business card," as Robert Allen liked to refer to books. I've sent the digital copy to every person I have spoken to, emailed with, or who just happened to ask. The book has served as the best qualifier, preparation, and expectation-checker I could ever give to anyone who might work with us. Here it is, if you're interested (it's a bit dated, but still holds true all these years later): 

Let the Celebrations continue...
I still love publishing. I didn't post this after I first wrote it, knowing it was a bit whiny on my part . . . but after revisiting it, I laughed. What better way to celebrate 15 years in this insane industry than with a little rant?