Before even beginning his final post defending traditional publishing, Steve Laube calls part five boring. Personally, I disagree. For people not already involved in the industry, the information presented here is probably the most enlightening in his series.
The publisher’s involvement does not stop once the books hit bookstore (or online) shelves. In fact, the post production part of their jobs may just be what makes it worth giving up more than half of your royalties. Most aspiring authors know their publisher or agent will deal with things like selling and managing foreign rights, but they don’t think about things like IRS laws and multiple state income taxes. Selling your book across state lines apparently adds a lot of complications to your tax return, fyi. Publishers have teams of people dedicated to tracking and verifying sales, standardizing prices across multiple outlets, and accounting for every dollar made by a particular title. On a global scale. Can you imagine trying to do that on your own? I don’t even want to think about it.
Foreign rights are their own legal and logistical nightmare. Did you know you have to sell the English language rights to different countries before they’re allowed to sell the book in their territory? Add to that the translation rights, audio right, movie rights, etc., etc., etc. and you have a puzzle with teeny tiny pieces and no picture to guide you.
What else do these behind-the-scenes teams do? How about protect you from piracy? Steve explains:
I attended a presentation last year on “Digital Initiatives” made by very smart people from Hachette. They discussed their use of “Attributor Monitors” to scour the Internet for illegal versions of their book titles. I was shocked to hear that they discover and send out 1,500 take-down notices to illegal sites, every month (saying, in essence, take the illegal book down from your site, or else). Fifteen hundred! They get better than 99% compliance with the request, worldwide. (It is understandable that they would have that level of trouble since Hachette publishes the Twilight franchise.) I suspect that when a company like Hachette contacts the illegal site with their powerful legal team, the offending site owner is willing to comply. But if you tried to do it on your own, you would be ignored.
Having the power of an experienced legal team behind you can give you a peace of mind you wouldn’t otherwise have in an age where digital piracy is the norm.
However, speaking of digital, that side of the market isn’t all about piracy. It’s also about metadata. For those who don’t know, metadata is one of the ways search engines like Google find you on the web. It’s also how sites like Amazon employ their “you might also like” algorithms. Bad metadata will bury your book in an avalanche of fiction titles–both self and traditionally published–and leave you mired in obscurity. By itself, this isn’t a daunting thing to learn for yourself, but added to all the other tasks ultimately part of the infrastructure of traditional houses and I know it’s something I don’t want to have to do on my own.
After all this, do I still think the traditional model has some major adapting to do if it’s going to succeed in an increasingly digital world? Yes. Am I still going to try to find an agent? Yes. Am I still going to have that agent submit my work to both traditional and indie houses? Yes. If after several books and years of trying that still doesn’t work, will I self-publish? Most likely, yes. Will I ever succeed at any of these? Who knows? Only time will tell.