Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Slippery Slope From Paying Authors to Being Paid By Them?



The rise of self publishing has been significant in recent years and what was often derided and dismissed as Vanity publishing is now here and growing. The number of self published titles is growing year on year and they are becoming often as visible as many ‘published’ titles. Its ironic that at a time when publishers are trimming back their lists, getting tighter on advances and generally pushing back on those manuscripts that are many refer to as the ‘slush pile’, the ability to self publish was never easier and more attractive for many aspiring, backlist and forgotten authors.

The challenge for many publishers getting that balance between attracting and harnessing new talent whilst ensuring it doesn’t open its flood gates to the masses of material looking from a publishing home?

Some believe that they have found the answer and instead of ignoring the self publishing businesses that have been happily taking the money off the authors for often little or no return, have instead decide to buy them up.   Earlier Pearson surprised the market in their acquisition of Author Solutions , for a price many believe was over the top.

Now  Simon & Schuster has announced it is to follow the pack and partner with the same US service provider Author Solutions. Author Solutions isn’t new to having publishers knocking on its doors to partner and already has arrangements with Harlequin and Thomas Nelson. This new partnership will create a new entity Archway Publishing which will aim to appeal to authors looking to publish fiction, nonfiction, business or children’s titles. How all these fit into the overall ownership of Pearson is somewhat a mystery to us but no doubt plain to those involved.

So Simon & Schuster will now not pay the authors looking to be published but instead intend to provide a ‘premium service, at a premium price and in fact make from the rise in demand in the market. The majority of Author Solutions revenue comes from author payments not market sales. The 64 dollar question is what value add Simon & Schuster will bring to the table. It is clear that they intend to exploit the authors desire to be published and in so doing some would suggest they have not raised the bar, but lowered it and with it themselves and their reputation.

Whatever is included in the premium package, we are now moving dangerously close to a model which may force many to pay to be published and where publishers no longer take risk, but feed of the aspirations and egos of those less fortunate. How do they distinguish between those they pay and those they make pay them?

Author Solutions will not be using Simon & Schuster resource and like Harlequin and Nelson will not have their name associated with it which again make one question where all this bandwagon is heading?

So are authors merely being exploited and for what end? Some suggest that publishers can monitor the titles and use the pool to spot potential titles. Others would suggest that they could do this anyway and by encouraging this cheaper route to talent spot they are trying to force more aspiring authors to write for little and not ask for more. 

2 comments:

Stuart Aken said...

Publishers have a chance, in this new world of the book, to encourage talent and produce books in POD or ebook form with very little financial risk. So, what do they do? They take the destructive route, encourage vanity writers, and deny an opportunity to real emerging talent. Let's all hope they go the way they deserve and vanish into the dark caves of obscurity as soon as possible.

raesummers said...

A cheaper route to discover talent? I don't think so, since the slush pile cost them nothing but the time of their interns.

A lowering of the overall brand?
Very likely.

Exploiting the gullible?
Definitely!

Aspiring authors need to do their homework before they spend a cent. It is very easy in this brave new world to self-publish at not too great a cost - on your own, without the Big 6 publishers taking a share of the pie!