What can traditional publishers offer authors to keep them around?

That is the unstated theme of a research report just released under the auspices of Digital Book World, “What Advantages do Traditional Publishers Offer Authors: A Comparison of Traditional and Indie Publishing from the Authors’ Perspective,” authored by Dana Beth Weinberg and Jeremy Greenfield. This is the same Dana Beth Weinberg, Harvard University alumnus and Professor of Sociology at Queens College at CUNY, who produced the very interesting research excerpts already covered in TeleRead, offering some very interesting insights into author attitudes and expectations. Now some of her broader conclusions are presented in full.

“With the stigma diminishing,” the DBW intro explains, self-publishing “has become increasingly attractive to both new and seasoned authors. However, the 2013 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey found that despite the excitement about self-publishing and complaints about traditional publishing, authors held a strong preference to publish with traditional publishers. This report seeks to understand why.”

According to DBW’s information on the unveiling of the report, nearly 10,000 authors took part, including “aspiring authors who had not yet completed or in some cases even started manuscripts as well as seasoned authors with multiple traditionally published and/or self-published books.” The worst news for publishers is that “most of the authors wanted to publish their next book with a traditional publisher. However, authors experiences with traditional publishing seemed to fall short of expectation, and authors were not overall highly satisfied with their experiences.”

That ought to make this report required reading for publishers. There’s just one slight snag: The research report retails for the modest sum of $295.00. I guess at that price, there won’t be too many indie authors ponying up for their own copy to find out what they may already know from their own experience. And some indie publishers might even be driven into bankruptcy by that amount, before they ever get the chance to learn how to attract enough authors to stay above water. It might even be more than many self-published authors will ever make from their labors of love. Still, publishing is a big business, and in some cases, clearly able to pay big bucks for research. Enjoy it, DBW.

5 Comments on What can traditional publishers offer authors to keep them around?

  1. From my many conversations with traditionally published authors I’d say that it is simple enough what writers want.

    They want to be treated as partners instead of particularly stupid cows being led to slaughter.

    They want decent terms on their contracts instead of being the only person in the publishing ecology not to make much money.

    They want honest communication with the publishing company which includes royalty statements that can be read, and they want the money owned them when it owed them.

  2. ” . . . . authors experiences with traditional publishing seemed to fall short of expectation, and authors were not overall highly satisfied with their experiences.”

    Should this be a surprise? These experiences falling short of expectations are not necessarily the fault of traditional publishers. It’s the author’s unrealistic expectations that will let them down in the end. In other words, it’s their own fault.

    As a moderately successful self-published author (over 800,000 copies sold of my print editions), I have had a handful of my books published by legacy publishers. Sure, I have had my issues but traditional publishers are not anything near the villains that many authors make them out to be. This I know. Most authors don’t have the required comprehensive knowledge about the publishing industry and the critical thinking skills to make a fair assessment if publishers are treating authors properly. Most authors also don’t know enough about creative marketing to make their books a success and end up blaming the publisher if their books don’t sell.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 200,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

  3. Old style publishers need to face the fact that self-publishing is now an effective competitor, one that pays better and lets authors do it their way. Publishers will need to bring more to the table.

    Matters will get even more dicey for them if a new speciality develops, one you might call author facilitators. One of the downsides to self-publishing is the fact that writing it yourself means that you’re only jumping into the releasing and publishing end of the process months apart. That makes remember all the quirks of Amazon, Apple and Smashwords difficult, particularly when each is constantly changing.

    A facilitator would be someone who works full-time taking care of the release end of the process, perhaps laying out the book with InDesign and either creating or working with someone to create a cover, then doing all the uploads. Doing it all the time, they’d get very good at the process.

    The one hitch to that is that most outlets for self-publishing assume the author will be doing it all, so that facilitator would need to be a very trustworthy person, since they could direct all those royalties to themselves. It’d be better if there could be an option at Amazon, Apple and the others for a separate account for those who do the uploading that is distinct from the financials.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

  4. @Michael, you make an excellent point about an uploading account. I’d been thinking about hanging out my shingle to do just this, but my biggest stumbling block was handling creating and maintaining the accounts. I don’t really want my clients handing me their financial information, but I also know that when they hire someone to “do it all,” the last thing they want is for me to come back and say, “I’ll do it all, except for dealing with the financial hassles.”

    Plus I have enough client login information to keep track of now with the social media and website management I do. I’m not sure I want to add that many more accounts into my work flow.

  5. My first two novels are indie-published and have sold 10,000 copies each, a significant feat for an indie. I was once under contract with a literary agent, but after two years of rejections (if accepted for publication, it would’ve taken another 12 – 18 months), I eventually decided doing for self was the best way to go. At this point, I have no desire to chase a traditional publisher. However, being a hybrid author is something I would eventually like to become.

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