This topic has been playing -swirling around- in the back of my mind for a while now. I generally consider myself as someone with a bit of publishing knowledge. Definitely more than your average Joe off the street. But there are still things of course that I as solely a reader don’t know. Some things I prefer that way. (And even think it should be thus.) Others… I think it’s good to know.
And obviously these aren’t really secrets – but give me a break here – I have fun with the subjects (if/when I can), and the tags. Cuz that’s how I roll here at ALBTALBS. And… it’s more interesting. We all know that matters, so there’s no point in being disingenuous and pretending otherwise. It’s almost like a secret though, much of this list, considering the lack of awareness/knowledge out there.
For example, it wasn’t until 2010 I learned the switch from paperback (trade or mass market) to hardcover was a publisher decision. It makes sense when you look at it from a business perspective, but prior to a conversation with Shiloh Walker I thought the author decided or at least had a say. (It was the time when a number of big series were going hard cover – the Psy/Changeling books, Shannon McKenna, JR Ward… I know I’m missing some.) I have to mention that because this was something I knew before other people who do have a lot of publishing savvy. My one gold star.
Anyway, Larissa Ione also seems to get … well, a lot of interesting characters from real life who make assumptions about publishing. And her part in it. So… I figured this would be a good place to start and hopefully clear some things up. She’s really nice about it and speaks in general terms. That’s because she’s a professional. (I don’t have to be like that. ;))
Who knows. It might become a sort of feature here. (Wouldn’t that be fun?) 😀 And uh – if it wasn’t clear, the purple text is always me. And the black is from the guests. Because… black is professional, and… purple isn’t?
People are always asking me what authors and publishers have control over when it comes to all aspects of publishing, so when my buddy Limecello asked me to write a post about it, I happily agreed. So if you’ve ever wondered how much input authors have over their covers or how much control we have over release dates, this post is for you!
Here we go…
PEN NAMES: I’m often asked if authors have to take a pen name/change their name. The answer is…sometimes. My Demonica/LOD publisher didn’t ask me to take a pen name, but my ACRO publisher did because I was writing with Stephanie Tyler, and they wanted a single name to publish us under. There are a lot of reasons a publisher might ask an author to take a new name. For example, an author is going to publish books in another genre, the author isn’t doing well under their current name, or a publishing house wants a name that’s more genre-centric.
COVERS: The amount of input an author has in regards to their cover varies from publisher to publisher and author to author. Some publishers ask for art sheets, and then the author doesn’t see the finished product until it’s up on Amazon. Other publishers will show the author the mockup and get an opinion before finalizing. Ultimately though, the publisher gets the final say in the cover.
RELEASE DATES: Most authors have absolutely no say in when a book releases. You can ask for a certain timeframe, but for the most part, the publisher will schedule a book for when they think the timing is best.
EDITING: I have to admit, I sometimes get frustrated when I see comments about a book that amounts to, “Where was her editor????” Because here’s the thing; some authors don’t get edited. Yup, it’s true. There are authors who actually demand no editing in their contracts or who simply won’t do them. Personally, I don’t understand that, because I freely admit that I need it. Not only that, but I’m nowhere near big enough as an author to demand something like that. My publisher would laugh at me. Also, some publishing houses are notorious for light or no edits, and others are known to be heavy on edits. Others sit in the middle. Same with editors.
AUDIO BOOKS: People often ask me if I’m going to have any/all of my books made into audiobooks (and who I’m going to get to do the voice.) The truth is that my publishers own the audio rights, so it’s up to them to decide if putting my books into audio format will be worthwhile. It’s a financial decision on their part, and I have no say in the matter. In some circumstances, authors own the rights, and they can then sell or contract out the rights in order to have their books made in audio. Mind you, this isn’t exactly easy. If done on your own, it’s expensive. If you want an audio publisher to do it, they must want it. They won’t take just anything.
SIMULTANEOUS DIGITAL/PRINT RELEASE DATES: This is an issue that has given me the most grief in my publishing career. Why? Because for a long time, my print books released on the last Tuesday of a month, while the digital book released on the first day of the following month. Generally, that meant a 2-3 day lag between the print and digital editions of the same book. But when the print book was released on a special, earlier Tuesday, there could be up to two weeks delay before the digital edition released. The hate mail and harassment from readers was, shall we say, soul-sucking. Okay, so why does this happen? I can tell you that it’s not because publishers want readers to buy the print books instead of digital books. Publishers and authors make slightly more money on the digital books, so why would they want to discourage readers from buying them? They don’t. The problem has been with legalities within the company — internal contracts that need (and may still need) to be changed. Publishing is slow, and every change has to go through multiple channels, multiple lawyers, and multiple countries if the publisher is international. So yes, publishers are working on this, and some have already made the change. Yay!
PRICING: This is another one of those things that authors have extremely little control over unless they are self-published. Behind the scenes, we do have conversations with our publishers over special offers, ebook pricing, etc., but what it comes down to is that the publisher makes the final decision. And please don’t think that pricing isn’t a concern for authors. We need to make a living off our work, but we also want to reach readers with reasonably priced books. Stephanie Tyler and I recently were able to convince our Sydney Croft publisher to decrease the price of our ACRO ebooks to less than the print price, which, at some retailers, was lower than the digital price. Our print books are now trade paperback priced (around $15) and our ebook editions are now between $7.99 and $8.99). We’d have liked to go lower, but it’s better than nothing. (*I didn’t know that! Awesome – and go you and Stephanie! This reader thanks you!)
NAME SIZE ON COVERS: Yes, people actually criticize authors for having big heads if the authors “are now making their names bigger than the title.” Trust me, while seeing your name grow larger and larger on book covers makes you giddy, authors don’t make that decision. The publisher does, based on sales.
GEO-RESTRICTION: This issue is a close second when it comes to the amount of angry email I’ve gotten over the years (right behind the simultaneous digital/print release dates.) First of all, what is geo-restriction? It’s when digital versions of books aren’t available in certain countries. Now, contrary to popular belief, publishers aren’t the ones doing the restricting. Publishers want to sell books. They aren’t conspiring to keep anyone from reading ebooks. So…why does this happen? To summarize: International Trade Laws. Publishers can’t sell ebooks in countries where they have not been able to sell the rights to particular books. Why? Because if a country has a physical book publisher, most likely that publisher needs to buy the rights to produce and distribute the books so that they are the ones making the money instead of the U.S. publisher. This is why ebook-exclusive publishers can sell their books internationally — they don’t have the publisher-equivalent in other countries, and if they do, the publisher popped up after the internet legalities were all in place. So, you ask, why doesn’t an author keep the foreign rights and make the books available herself? Good question. But the answer is complicated. First of all, it’s not always easy to keep the rights. The publisher will fight HARD, and it can be a deal-breaker. But let’s say that an author does manage to keep the foreign rights. Now the author herself has to sell the rights to publishers in other countries. He or she can’t just snap her fingers and put books into bookstores or into ebook format in other countries. Not unless he/she self-publishes, which you can’t do with a book whose domestic rights belong to a publisher (though I suppose it’s possible to wrangle the digital rights away from a publisher, but we’re talking a major deal-breaker here, most likely.) So, in short, this is a complicated issue, and it’s going to take time to work out as the world adjusts to an internet marketplace.
THE MOVE TO HARDCOVER: Moving to hardcover from mass-market paperback is the dream of many authors…or at least, it used to be. Now the move is full of more uncertainty than ever, and authors who move to hardcover run the risk of losing readers who either can’t afford to buy the more expensive book or who think the author is trying to screw the reader. The truth is that authors have absolutely no say in whether or not their books are printed in hardcover. The publisher makes the decision based on sales, marketing plans, author popularity with a worldwide audience, etc.
TITLES: In my experience, the author has a lot of input into book titles. Oh, the publisher might not like anything you suggest because you suck at titles (I might be talking about me here,) but titles tend to be a team effort. Lots of brainstorming happens until everyone agrees on a title. At least, this has been my experience, and most authors I know have had the same. (*Interjecting here, I think this has to do with publisher – or… I
knowhear that that at Harlequin author input isn’t as imperative/key to titles.)
MOVIES/TV SHOWS: The question I think I get most is, “Are you going to make your books into movies?” Man, I WISH! But the thing is, authors can’t just “make movies.” A Hollywood-type person with lots of contacts and money has to be interested. Then they have to acquire the rights to the books, and at that point, lots of negotiation happens. VERY rarely does the author have any say in the script, casting, etc. So yes, I’d love for my books to be made into movies or a TV show, but I just can’t seem to get Spielberg on the line! *g* (*Also, I want to say/I believe that, even if a book is optioned it doesn’t mean it definitely will be made into a movie. Still, just being optioned is a big deal!)
Okay, I think that’s it for now. Hope that answers some questions for you, and thanks to Lime for having me!
That answered tons of questions. I already knew authors had little to no input on certain things, but you answered questions about Hardcover books and Pricing that I didn’t know.
Really informative post, Larissa, thanks! There are two series that I buy without fail whenever a new one is released. Both steadily rose from $7 each to now $15 each. They’re what I call “wallet-killers”. Sometimes, the cost is enough I can’t buy it when it comes out, and that irks me a great deal.
It’s a shame when people say nasty things to authors about stuff out of their control!
I used to work for a printing company and everyone always assumed we received the big books as the printer which was also a fallacy.
Thanks for sharing!
Loved this post – thanks for sharing, Larissa! Also a lot of interesting changes to come (I hope) with ebook pricing, etc. 😀
What an awesome post. Thank you, Larissa, for all the interesting information.
Although I would never write to an author and complain about anything, I have to admit to wondering why some author’s names are so large on a cover. I’ve never thought it was because they have a big ego or anything; I’ve just been curious. Besides, I’ve come across a book or two where I’ve thought the author’s name was part of the title because it’s been all squished together with the same font, same text color, etc., making it look like all one title.
As for release dates, I just don’t understand why people would get so ticked off. I mean, like anything else, a release date is advertised. So if all I was interested in was an ebook copy, all I would worry about is when the ebook would be released, not when other formats release. So those that only want ebooks may have to wait a little longer. What’s the big deal? I say they need to have some patience! 😀
Thanks for coming by, everyone! Glad I could clear some things up! And thanks for having me, Lime!