The future of publishing

Lesbian short story and novel publishers.

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Re: The future of publishing

Postby FranW » 26 Jun 2010, 08:53

audre wrote:Writers write and the publisher decides who gets exposure.
The initial gatekeepers for any publisher decides who gets accepted or rejected and in doing so really massages the expectations of the ultimate reader. As a consequence, manuscripts get crafted to fit the expectations of a particular publishers audience.

That's true, in a way, but it's a bit backwards.

Publishers -- trade/commercial publishers, at least -- exist to make a profit. If they fail to make a profit, they go under. They can only make a profit if they publish what readers want to buy and read. So, in reality, it's readers who decide who gets exposure. The publishers never predicted Harry Potter would be such a hit. They did an initial print run of only a few thousand copies. It was readers who turned it into a demand for millions of copies.

Each publisher has to find its own niche. Harlequin Luna specialises in urban fantasy-romance with strong female characters. Jove publishes historical fantasy romance. Tor specialises in epic fantasy. Baen specialises in military F/SF.

Samhain started out as a romance epress. They had a great editor, great market penetration, great business sense. They did well. They decided to expand into other genres. For a few years they published a fair amount of F/SF, historical, thriller, etc. They found that these genres didn't sell well as ebooks. They also found that "sweet" romances didn't sell as well as erotica/romantica. So they trimmed back to what they found worked for them and solidified their niche. It's how the business works.

However, successful publishers also do take punts, as Samhain did. They try a book in an unclassifiable genre and see if it sinks or swims. Those that swim spawn a new genre. Anne Rice did it with her first vampire book. Jean Auel did it with her first caveman novel.

If lesfic publishers are focusing on romance-with-lots-o'-sex, there's a reason for it. That's what's selling. It costs BSB the same to invest in a Gun Brooke romance or a Gun Brooke space opera, but if the romance outsells the space opera threefold, what do you think they're going to contract from Gun next? (Just using her as a theoretical example; I've no idea how her books sell.)

Any given publisher will decide which authors they will publish, but they don't (usually) have any control over what authors another house will publish. So if Author X's fiction doesn't fit in well with Publisher A, she needs to shop her mss around to publishers who are a better fit with her work.
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Re: The future of publishing

Postby audre » 26 Jun 2010, 09:59

I think we agree about the practicalities of the publishing business. Profit is a good and noble thing. I guess this is a top down or bottom up discussion. Bookshelves are littered with books about the psychology of consumers, selling, etc.

Remember there is a reason that lesbian publishers exist. There was a time when access was a huge deal for the gay and lesbian community. Also, the BSB line is a repudiation of a time when as lesbians we were unnecessarily prudish about sex. Make no mistake BSB's publisher/owner is one of kind. Definitely an alpha personality with a healthy dose of business acumen. Consequently, BSB is driving the lesfic market.
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Re: The future of publishing

Postby FranW » 26 Jun 2010, 10:49

Yes, I'd certainly agree that BSB is the leading lesfic house in terms of both sales and number of authors, and that its owner is an ambitious and skilled businesswoman. I'd also agree that BSB has found and exploited a market niche amongst lesbian readers that wasn't being filled (lesfic romantica), which, not surprisingly, matches what BSB's owner herself writes.

Given that Radclyffe established herself early on as (arguably) the first, and thus the leading, author of lesfic erotic romance, and that she subsequently capitalised on the popularity of her own novels by turning to self-publishing and then expanding into commercial publishing, and that she had the personal financial resources to bankroll a publishing house, BSB's success would've been surprising only if Len Barot had been a completely incompetent businessperson or a completely ignorant moron about the publishing industry -- neither of which, clearly, she is.

So.... Radclyffe wrote erotic lesbian romance, it sold well, the market developed, and now there's a huge (relatively speaking) demand for it. But Len Barot didn't create the market. I'm not trying to withhold credit where credit's due: she found the market, targeted it, and gave it what it wants. But she can't force people to buy books they don't want. So....now, Patty Henderson, who is one of the few lesfic authors to write horror, is moving from self-publishing to -- well, not a trade press, since she's been pretty clear that she's not following the standard commercial publishing paradigm, but anyhow she's adding extra authors to her Black Car imprint. Has Patty found a market for lesbian horror that's underfilled? Will readers gobble up all the horror she can publish, and turn Black Car into the horror equivalent of BSB? Or will Patty find that there just isn't a market for horror, and that the handful of readers who buy lesbian horror won't be enough to support more than Patty and maybe one or two other authors? Only time will tell.
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Re: The future of publishing

Postby audre » 26 Jun 2010, 11:35

Ouch. Plenty of sure things have failed in business/publishing. I don't have any particular feeling one way or the other about Radclyffe aka Len Barot. I simply respect daring and success. As I am sure you know, there is a lot sweat and sacrifice that precedes accomplishment. To suggest that Radclyffe had stacked the deck so to speak is slightly dismissive. Ultimately, you are right that radclyffe saw an opportunity and exploited it to her benefit. So did Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. I feel like I am defending something that needs no defense.

The reference to Patty Henderson and publishing is intriguing. I don't think, as a practical matter, there is as strong market for lesbian horror. As a matter of full disclosure, I am not a fan of horror fiction. Stephen King is not on my bookshelves. But since I respect your opinions, I will give her a read. Maybe lots of hot, sweaty sex would improve the market for lesfic horror. I'm sorry that was a little snarky. I wonder what her business plan looks like.

You didn't respond to my access comment. Does that mean you are conceding the point.
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Re: The future of publishing

Postby FranW » 27 Aug 2010, 11:16

Sorry for the belated reply: I hadn't seen your post till now.

audre wrote: To suggest that Radclyffe had stacked the deck so to speak is slightly dismissive.

I had no intention of suggesting that Radclyffe "stacked the deck". She published, she sold, she was successful, she capitalised on that success by publishing more and selling more. It's just a statement of the chain of events -- no judgement implied.


audre wrote:I don't think, as a practical matter, there is as strong market for lesbian horror.

Neither do I.

audre wrote: But since I respect your opinions, I will give her a read.

I was not aware I had shared an opinion on Patty Henderson. I couldn't, in fact, since I've never read one of her novels.

audre wrote:You didn't respond to my access comment. Does that mean you are conceding the point.

I'm sorry; I lost track of the conversation after all this time! Can you remind me what was your point about access?
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Re: The future of publishing

Postby FranW » 27 Aug 2010, 11:26

Changing the slant of the conversation: It appears that the future of publishing is going to involve folks in the industry finding more and more ways to get more and more authors to pay more and more money for the privilege of being published. Nicholas Kaufmann has flagged on his LiveJournal that the hitherto-respectable Publishers Weekly is joining the screw-the-author bandwagon, following in the footsteps of Kirkus Reviews and Harlequin:
A number of years ago, Kirkus Reviews decided to start scamming writers, particularly self-published ones--or "independently published authors," as Kirkus calls them--with their Kirkus Discoveries program. What Kirkus Discoveries did was charge self-published authors for reviews, then print those book reviews not in the magazine, which enjoys an industry-wide readership, but on a separate webpage that nobody ever visits. Well, nobody except the writers checking to see if they got reviewed, that is.

Last fall, Harlequin decided it was high time they started scamming writers too, so they tried to monetize their slush pile with the Harlequin Horizons pay-to-have-your-rejected-manuscript-published program. They also tried to make writers believe that any HH titles that did well enough would be brought over to Harlequin proper and given a traditional deal. Meanwhile, HH titles would only be available via a special website, not in bookstores. So much for any HH book having a chance to do well, eh? There was an uproar in the publishing world, and Harlequin Horizons changed its name to DellArte Press. That didn't make it any less egregious, but apparently that was enough to make the Romance Writers of America bring Harlequin back into the fold with a kiss on the cheek and an "all is forgiven." Way to look out for your authors, RWA.

So I guess it was only a matter of time before Publishers Weekly, which has been experiencing financial difficulties over the past few years, decided to plug the hole in its budget the same way: on the backs on writers. In particular, self-published writers.

http://nick-kaufmann.livejournal.com/613282.html

PW is one of the biggest professional book review outfits in the world -- they review what books they want, they say what they choose about it, and they put out a widely read magazine featuring those reviews. Now they're willing to put a blurb about vanity-published books into the back of a supplement to this magazine, which no one will read -- if the author pays a "processing fee" of $149.

That's more money than most authors who publish with the likes of PublishAmerica, iUniverse, Author House, etc will earn from their book in total, ever.
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Re: The future of publishing

Postby FranW » 29 Aug 2010, 08:29

And following up on this point, a tidbit from Making Light:

Publisher's Weekly has reported this on their front page:
6-Year-Old Lands 23 Book Deal: What? Yup. A six-year-old UK boy just got a book deal for 23 books. He says he wants to be more famous than J.K. Rowling and Simon Cowell. From the Mirror.

http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs ... dium=email

Yeah. A six year old with a 23 book deal. Sound too good to be true?

A boy of six has won a book deal worth thousands. Leo Hunter was awarded a 23-story contract with an American company after they read his first tale, Me and My Best Friend.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-storie ... -22516916/

The Mirror story lets us know who the publisher is: Strategic Book Publishing. Ah! They're being sued by the state of Florida for deceptive practices. Bobby Fletcher, known in the industry as Bouncing Bobby, is a literary agent who will represent you -- for a fee. Then he'll "sell" your book to the vanity press he owns under another name (Strategic). And they'll publish your book -- for a fee. After, of course, they recommend you to an editing service, owned by Bouncing Bobby under yet another name, and which will charge you -- yes, you guessed it, a fee. Once your book is ready to be published, you'll be referred to a marketing outfit (can you guess where this is going???), whereupon Bobby will get yet more of your money.

Signing a contract with Strategic will cost you about a thousand dollars US. So little Leo's mum must've paid twenty three grand for this "amazing deal".

For the real scoop on Strategic, check out Writer Beware:
http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2010/08/h ... wrong.html
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Re: The future of publishing

Postby ElaineB » 30 Aug 2010, 09:17

OMG!
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Re: The future of publishing

Postby FranW » 05 Jan 2011, 15:03

Oh, this doesn't look good.

Last week, Borders Group Inc (BGP.N) said it was delaying payments to some of its vendors, including book publishers and distributors, as it searches for new financing to avoid violating the terms of its credit agreements early in 2011.

Borders' troubles would spill over into the world of publishers, agents and authors if its more than 600 stores went out of business. Borders' superstores stock well over 100,000 books. Publishers as large as Pearson PLC's Penguin, CBS's Simon & Schuster, Random House and News Corp's HarperCollins could lose between $10 million to $50 million in sales if Borders' goes out of business.

Some smaller publishers could go under.

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE70404820110105
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Re: The future of publishing

Postby ElaineB » 06 Jan 2011, 02:17

Hmm, my BIL (brother in law) works for B&N and heard rumors about Borders buying B&N. Or the other way around. Y'know, if their stupid website would let me cash out the books I choose, they'd be in a lot better shape. I have over $100 in books trapped in my cart with no way to check out.
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