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What You're Owed

A while back, I saw a live stream by a young author who had just landed a book contract. Someone on the live stream asked, "What are you hopeful for?"

His response was, "The publisher paying me what I'm worth."

Mind you, I'm paraphrasing here, but that was the gist of the exchange. When I heard it, I just about put my fist through the monitor.

I can say, without hesitation, that I have spent thousands of dollars producing and promoting my books. While I walked away from the traditional publishing sphere, I don't make any bones about my chances of being published traditionally. I seriously doubt any major publisher would ever pick up my books. At least not now. I didn't want to be in this position but it was the only way I'd ever have a crack at publishing.

The reality is: I didn't want to be here. But here I am, nonetheless.

Being traditionally published would save me a lot of money and frustration (no doubt replacing them with a whole new set of frustrations, but at least it wouldn't be on my own dime). While my first book was a very minor success, and the second book a bigger success than the first, I probably would be further along if I had a publisher paying me an advance. That advance I would 100% roll into promotion (OK, maybe 95%, after an expensive night out), so as further build a fan base. I know full well that my first few books aren't going to put me among the literary greats or give me Rowling's millions (billions?). I need to grow an audience first. Once I get an audience the money will come. This is just the way things work.

But the publisher isn't going to, "pay me what I'm worth." That comes over time. In fact, the publisher wouldn't be paying me anything. The people paying me are my fans. The publisher gets a chunk of that. The agent gets a chunk of that, as well as an entire distribution and promotional infrastructure that's putting my book in front of potential readers, collecting the sales taxes, and so on. I'd be left with a tiny piece. This is the reason why a) really successful authors have published multiple books, and b) they are always trying to grow their audience. More fans equals more money. You get the general idea.

What I think I'm worth has N-O-T-H-I-N-G to do with anything, especially if I've only published one lousy frickin' book.

While I find myself in the uncomfortable position of defending the traditional publishing syndicate, the reality is that books are an expensive and risky business. Publishers take on authors, subsidize their work, pay artists for book covers, pay printers for huge print runs that may never sell, hire people to manage and promote a new release, as well as fund an entire distribution scheme to put that book in front of potential readers. By the time any manuscript is transformed into a book sitting on a bookstore shelf, the publisher has spent MANY THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS to produce a saleable product. All the writer did was pound out and revise a manuscript and maybe go on an interview or two.

Granted, they take a huge chunk of the incoming revenues generated by that book. But, it's either that, or you fund it yourself. And funding it all yourself kinda sucks.

Pardon my French here, but your perceived individual worth doesn't mean dogsh*t.

In the end, it's the fans that dictate how much you'll make, not the publisher. Yeah, maybe you can negotiate a better cut of the royalties, but you'd better have the name and the clout to do that. They are not going to go into the hole, financially, for some entitled, self-absorbed baby who thinks that, because he got someone to publish his book, he's "worth something."

Some of us would gnaw off our left arm to get that kind of recognition and deal. And most of us in the wilds of self-publishing will never get a book deal. Not because we're we don't have the talent. It's merely because we don't fit a demographic or mold. That changes, however, when our sales start to spike but that's another story altogether.

A little humility and gratitude go a long way. Be glad for the things you've received, whether you earned them or not. Because there are lots of people out there (and I'm excluding myself from that group) who do measure up, and are worth more. But they didn't get what you have.

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