When you think of the publishing industry, what comes to mind? From sharply dressed erudites busily chipping away at the day’s work in cramped offices to high-profile industry professionals engaged in heated debate seated around a large oval table in a sky rise office complex, traditional publishing has been inspiring the fantasy of literary enthusiasts for well over a hundred years. These are fun daydreams that we have all created in our minds at one point or another but the reality is that only the top 15% and above will ever experience them firsthand. Why is that and how can it be remedied? Today we’ll be discussing many of the pitfalls that typically resound throughout the industry and what HIP is doing to fix them. Read on to learn more!
There are many, many advantages to taking a traditional route when it comes to having a book published. The issue is that you have to pay dearly for them. In this article, you will learn why so many authors are turning to small presses and self-publishing to “break in” to the industry and why a small press may be right for you.
The list of common headaches for an author signing with a large house is long and disenchanting. Up first are the dismal royalty rates. When you sign with a large publishing house, you do so with the understanding that if your book doesn’t perform well in the market then you’ll hardly be paid at all save for any advance you’re given. Even with a decently sized advance, you’ll still have to earn it out! You can learn more about royalties in this article entitled Royalties and You.
It’s no secret that traditional publishing takes time. I mean a lot of time. On average, for a 300-page novel, you’d be looking at a timetable spanning anywhere from 6 months to a year and sometimes longer! The reason for this is that your book will be bounced around to multiple teams of people working to make it more marketable. For instance, your book may spend a month or three with Editing, then bounce over to Design for a few months. From there it will find its way to the Marketing department. All of this while simultaneously waiting to jump through hoops of approval from the big-wigs. These things take so much time that it slowly dissipates any initial excitement a prospective author experiences.
Another issue authors are likely to face is that they will have little to no help truly marketing their book. Sure, these large publishers have a marketing department but it may surprise you how little marketing they really do. These departments spend quite a lot of time attempting to secure deals with wholesalers who will place your book with large distributors and chain bookstores. But what about getting readers to actually pick your book up off of the shelf? I wouldn’t count on it. When a large house signs an author, they do so selectively by making sure that your book will sell not based on its merit as a work, but rather by banking on the fact that your own popularity will sell the book for them. When did exemplary literature become for-profit alone?
In my above-referenced fantasies, you may recall the image of well-dressed clever people clacking away at keyboards. This represents the life of an average book industry worker and is a telling notion of exactly what your book will amount to in the hands of a large publisher. It’s a job! A passionless team makes for a dispassionate product and a dispassionate product always lacks authenticity. The last thing you want is for the people working on your book to reduce their task to a job that must be completed in a timely manner. How boring does that sound? Your team should be excited, eager, and zealous! Everyone who touches your book in development should be excited to go to work and take part in developing something they love!
Contracts. Contracts, contracts, contracts. Don’t get me started about bloody contracts. Big house contracts are extortionate, suppressive, and restrictive. And in many cases, (If the publisher has their way) you’ll be robbed. 8% net sales? That’s a joke but it is what it is. When most of the profits for your book go to making out paychecks to 50 different people, what’s left for the publisher? Easy, it’s the other 20% of what you should be making.
“You can’t do this,” they say.
“You can’t do that.”
“I need you to change this.” They tell you.
As a general rule, a publisher's contract is designed to benefit the publisher. Not you. A warning; Be careful what you sign. Read every contract carefully and never be afraid to say no to a bad deal. You’ll know one when you see it. If you can’t tell someone to go to hell then you can’t negotiate.
Speaking of things you sign away, what about creative influence? Well, you can forget about that. When you give up your rights to a work, contractually speaking, you have no say in what is done with it. You sacrifice the spirit of what was for the hope of what could be. When your rights are stripped you lose control of your destiny so it's important to have a firm grasp of exactly what it is that a prospective publisher plans to do with your work. God only knows I’ve heard so many horror stories about good literature that was gutted hollow by the very people who purported to foster and share a book with the world.
On top of everything mentioned here, you would generally have to be well-established or extremely lucky to score a deal that the Big Five level. Indeed, occasionally an author will uncharacteristically fly out of the left field and take the reading community by storm but this is rare. It happens maybe once a year and I would argue that it’s a bid for the future intentionally made by large publishers to be able to say they represent all authors equally. These authors provide a fresh flow of material they use to score year-over-year profits. In addition, this helps to keep other authors inspired by the idea that they could be that one-in-a-million author. It’s a method of control. Nothing more.
Now imagine being one of these authors who is subject to the dog and pony show that is traditional publishing. You have all of these things to contend with but there is no alternative that allows an author to be truly known. You will be smothered, repressed, molded, robbed, rejected a thousand times, crushed under the weight of countless edits and rewrites, all the while, being told by literally everyone that if you just do one more thing - make one more sacrifice, then maybe you’ll be successful.
And then you would consider yourself lucky to have the privilege of a slow death by a thousand cuts. You’re not a martyr. You’re a victim. Anyone who thinks this is okay is a victim.
No more. You are the future. The stories you tell will mold the thoughts of future generations for as long as we have future generations. Your fantasies are your labor of love. They connect the past to the future in the only real way that matters. Every day that I wake up, I wake up in a nightmare in which the best stories are never told. Here’s how Huntsville Independent is going to fix that one step at a time.
HIP is a small press. HIP will always be a small press. In the event that total company workload surpasses what is required to complete a current project, subsidiary imprints will be established and assigned a Senior Editor who will manage new projects and will function under HIP’s umbrella using the same strategies to complete projects promptly and consistently with Huntsville Independent’s values. This ensures there will always be fewer people to pay, putting more money in you, the author’s pocket. Smaller teams of dedicated people working on your project means that workflow moves smoothly between departments and development affairs consume less time. Professionals will be hand selected for your book based on interest and specialty, ensuring that the entire team is passionate and committed to bringing your project to life.
HIP is prideful of its ability to devote a larger budget to advertising and marketing by recycling a percentage of profits from a given project back into commercialization efforts to spread the word about your book. How can you sell a product without propaganda? Additionally, Our contract is the axle upon which every bookish gear turns. It is designed from square one to protect our authors and their interests. Our contract includes much higher royalties than industry standards, an unconditional buyout clause for anyone who wants out, a specific reversion clause for returning rights to authors, and comprehensive detail for every aspect of the partnership leaving no uncertainties for authors. You should never feel robbed or extorted by your publisher. Legalized but criminal behavior is still criminal behavior. Settle for nothing less than the best.
These days, an author needs to be established before being traditionally published with a large house. They need proof of future sales. Not at HIP. Every manuscript that rolls through our office is given equal consideration, based not on trends or popularity but on the merit of the work itself. Period.
Finally, here at HIP our authors have all the creative freedom in the world. Not only do we foster an author's original concept of what their book should be, we work closely with our authors to ensure that our final product is something they feel is authentic to their original intentions. This is your story. Not mine. This is exactly the way it should be.
Things aren’t the way they used to be. The industry has changed. The world has changed, but publishing has remained the same. It’s time we made a change for the better, together. This will not be easy. But it will be right. Though HIP has no mission statement, we have a philosophy for how we conduct business in the form of our responsibility statement. It can be found recited here as well as on the front page of this website. We stand by our statement and wish at this time to send a message to greedy and crooked publishers. HIP is coming for you. Thank you for taking the time to read this article-turned-rant. If you enjoyed it, please consider sharing it with your friends. As always, have a pleasant week!
AS A LEADER IN ETHICAL PUBLICATION, IT IS HUNTSVILLE INDEPENDENT'S RESPONSIBILITY TO METICULOUSLY UNDERWRITE THE FUTURE OF STORYTELLING IN A WAY THAT ALLOWS OUR AUTHORS TO SUSTAIN THEMSELVES ON THEIR GIFT ALONE. WE ARE OBLIGATED TO SUPPORT WRITERS EVERYWHERE WITH THE TOOLS NEEDED TO FURTHER THEIR CAREERS. HIP WILL PROVIDE SERVICES AND PRODUCTS FOR WRITERS AT FAIR PRICES. LIABILITY FOR OUR FUTURE PERCHES ON NO LONELY SHOULDER. AUTHORS AND PUBLISHERS MUST WORK TOGETHER TO BUILD A LIBRARY MADE OF DREAMS.
This article was brought to you by Huntsville Independent Press, a premiere traditional publishing house servicing southeastern US writers in any way we can. If you enjoyed this piece or found it helpful, please consider donating to our house @ $HIPHuntsville on Cashapp or by using the GoFundMe link found on the Support Us page. All donations go straight to author advances first and business expenses only. In that order. Together we will build a fair-to-authors company with ethical practice and a supportive passion for the art of the written word. Thank you so very much for your time!