Monthly archives for August, 2010

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: You Can Only Sell What’s Hot

This myth kills careers, this myth stops thousands and thousands of book sales, this myth destroys careers.

And it’s just stupid, even though the myth seems to have a logical base in publishing.

Out of the mouth of top professionals this myth spouts all the time in one form or another, and usually with the best of intentions. And it has for as long as I have been in this business.

But lately, with the advent of the slush-reading lower-level agents, this myth has taken on deadly consequences for many writers. Why? Because they believe it.

So as I do in these chapters, let me take a look at the origin of this myth first.

Actually, the origin is simple. It came about because editors and agents and publishers want to make an easy sale.

Yes, editors sell books as well. They sell a book they love to their publisher, they sell the book to a sales force, and they ultimately are responsible for selling a book to readers. Books that are different, that don’t fit in what has been done before, are very, very difficult sales for editors and publishers and always have been.

And it has been proven that if a reader likes a certain type of book, they will look for that type of book.

Now remember, publishers need so many books per month in this churn of book lists, so they have to find books to buy, and when they can find an easy-sell book, it makes their job easier.

And it’s human nature to want to have your job be easier.

Of course, easy-sell books are usually pretty flat. (Not always, but usually.) They are often following a trend. The books tend to do little if anything new, which is why they are easy sells. Another book bought by a more gutsy editor has already paved the way. Easy-sell books are also easy to promote. “If you liked ‘X Book’ you’re going to love ‘X Book Same.'” Easy sell.

Now understand, I wrote a ton of easy-sell books. Media books such as Star Trek have a pretty set audience a publisher can depend on. So when Pocket Books came to me to write some Star Trek novels, they knew exactly what the book would sell and so did I. Easy, no thought on the publisher’s part. What was a hard-sell book(s) was Star Trek: Strange New Worlds. It took John Ordover years of fighting to get that series going and the fact that Pocket Books kept it going for ten years was not because of sales, but reasons of relationships with readers and Paramount.

Interestingly enough, over the history of publishing, the really monster books, the ones that people talk about and remember for decades, were not easy-sell books. Often they would have fifty or more rejections before finding an editor willing to work for the book and a publisher took a chance. Then when the book became a hit it was called new and fresh and readers loved it.

And then that fresh idea, fresh book would spawn (like a bad horror movie) thousands of “easy sell” books. But no one has made much of a long career writing only easy-sell books, because the target just keeps moving. One day one topic is hot, the next day the next topic is hot. As a writer, if you try to chase that “hot topic easy sell” thinking, you are lost in short order.

But then comes editors and agents sitting on panels at writer’s conferences telling new writers what they are looking for, what’s selling, what isn’t selling. In all honest truth, as an editor, I didn’t know what I wanted to buy until I read it.

And as an editor for Star Trek: Strange New Worlds for ten years, I constantly told writers I hated the character “Q” from Next Generation. But I always ended up buying a “Q” story because some writer wrote one so well, with such a fun twist, that I couldn’t not buy it.

Attempting to write what is hot isn’t a new trend. It has been around since the beginning of this business. And the myth that you need to write what is hot, what is selling is as deadly today as it was fifty years ago.

So why is this myth so deadly?

The answer to that question is back in the writer’s office. Each writer is different. Every chapter in this book I have been pounding that simple fact home.

Every writer is different.

And what makes your books interesting to readers is YOU. I have also warned about taking the YOU out of your work over and over in these chapters as well. You can’t see or hear your voice because to you it sounds dull because you hear it all the time.

And your ideas might seem dull because guess why? They are yours. They are as unique as you are, as how you write the ideas down.

But then you go trying to imitate some other writer, try to write what is “hot” because some editor or agent told you that is what is selling. So what do you do? You take the YOU out of your work and it becomes mundane and just like everything else and won’t sell.

A SIMPLE RULE: In fiction, sameness and dullness do not sell.

Yet when a new writer hears an editor or agent tell them what they are “looking for” in books, the young writer goes home and attempts to imitate the book the editor said they are looking for. They create nothing unique, nothing new, nothing of themselves. They write the same boring old crap that has already been done to death.

So How Do You Solve This Problem?

Simple: Kick all the editor and agent voices out of your writing office and write what makes you passionate or angry or excited. Or as Stephen King has said, “Write what scares hell out of you.”

Some basic guidelines on how to do this:

1) Never talk about your story with anyone ahead of time. Their ideas, unless you are very experienced, will twist the story into partially their story.

2) For heaven’s sake, never, ever let anyone read a work-in-progress. Totally stupid on so many levels I can’t even begin to address. If you want to collaborate, make sure you have a collaboration agreement, otherwise, keep your work to yourself until finished.

3) Never think of markets or selling when writing. Enjoy the process of writing and creating story. When the story is finished, then have someone read it and tell you what you wrote and then market it.

4) Follow Heinlein’s Rules, especially #3 about never rewriting. In other words, fix mistakes and then mail it and trust your own voice, your own work. Never rewrite to anyone’s suggestions, especially a workshop. (And never use the word “polish” in front of me. When you take a unique piece of work and polish it, you make it look like all the others.)

5) When an editor says they are looking for a certain type of book, ignore it. They are just trying to be helpful to all the new writers looking for shortcuts to getting published. There are no shortcuts. When agents say what they think will sell to editors, just laugh. They have less of a clue what will sell than anyone in the business bar none.

6) Get passionate and protective of what you write. It’s your voice, your work, for heaven’s sake, grow a backbone and stand up for it. Sure, in the first million words you are going to need all sorts of help with craft and storytelling issues. Go learn that and take it in and study and practice and get feedback. But don’t rewrite it beyond fixing typos and mistakes. When you write a story or novel, trust yourself and mail it. Protect it from all who want you to write what they think you should have written.

So, in summary, I am telling you flatly and bluntly to ignore any advice from any person about what is selling, what is hot, what you should write.

Write your own stories.

And if you do write your own stories and believe in them and mail them to editors, you may be the next big thing and then thousands and thousands of writers will be trying to imitate you.

And they will fail, because there is only one of you.


Copyright 2010 Dean Wesley Smith
Because of the new world and technology, my magic bakery got a lot more valuable lately. This is now part of my inventory in my bakery. (Confused on that, read the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing post about making money with writing.) I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated. Once this book is done, I will send you a copy. The donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it. Every week or so I will be adding a new chapter on the myths and sacred cows of publishing. Stay tuned. Upcoming are chapters on bestsellers, losing control of your writing, having it made, speed equals making money, more on agents, and so much more. This business has a lot of myths. An entire book full.

Thanks, Dean

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Special Chapter…A Top Agent Answers

Yesterday  I got a nice note from Joshua Bilmes about these chapters.

As I have said before, I knew some top agents were reading these chapters and I hoped that a few of them would take the lead in some changes that need to happen. I did not know Joshua was one of the agents stopping by.

Now, understand, I am not saying everyone should run to Joshua here, so please don’t take his courage to speak out on these topics as a sign you can all flood him with submissions. I’m sure Joshua has a full list and finds new clients in his own fashion.

But I can say this: In all my years of being in publishing, I haven’t heard a cross word about Joshua, and I know he’s one of the old style top agents working who really believes in taking care of his clients. And I have always enjoyed Joshua’s company personally over the last two decades.

Okay, that said, now go read the post on Joshua’s blog about these chapters, then come back. Read it first before going any farther.

Okay, let me talk about a few of Joshua’s comments one at a time, again thanking him for the nice comments about these chapters and also his fairness and thought. I will try to do the same and only allow the same in the comments section. No horror stories in this discussion, just discussion, all right, gang?

Now, granted, in some of these Cows posts I felt a little angry about some story or some event that happened to a friend, and also Laura and I would be pretty harsh in the comments at times talking about agents in general and forgetting to exclude the good ones. But let me be clear right here, there are top, honest agents like Joshua, who are great people and do some writers great jobs. Not all top agents are good for everyone, and not all top agents are honest. But a large number of agents are like Joshua, a top agent who is honest and hardworking.

And also, remember, both Laura and I have said over and over that the agent model is a fine model if you understand what you are walking into and handle it as a boss and with saneness of business practice. And we have been clear that every writer is different. We just want writers to take control of their own careers. So keep that in mind, even though at times when looking back over these agent chapters, there may seem to be slanted anti-agent. They are not, just anti-stupid-practice.

Now to some of Joshua’s great points.

1) Joshua said: “One of the posts talks about the “hundreds and hundreds” of scam literary agents. Which would be almost all of them.”

Well, no, not really. At one point a year-or-so ago I tried to do a rough count of the number of agents I could just find names for from all the agents inside William Morris all the way down to the single agent agencies and I stopped counting when I hit 500. And I didn’t begin to find them all. (And come to think about it, I forgot to look in the back of the Writer’s Digest magazine, the place where many scams hang out.)

At one writer’s conference I attended, there were 32 agents on the guest list. So I have a hard time believing that one-sixth of all agents were at that one conference that weekend. Not likely. I would wager that RWA has a tally of just romance agents that number in the hundreds and hundreds. So I stand by my statement that there could be a couple hundred scam agents out there. Easily. There are a huge number of writers.

2) Joshua said: “But perhaps as important, the posts often have enough of a kernel of real truth which is good and valuable and important for people to know, that I don’t think anyone should just dismiss what Dean has to say out of hand.”

Thanks, that is very much appreciated coming from a top agent such as Joshua. And he pointed out a number of places he agree with basic concepts of what I was talking about. Again appreciated. And also he said nice comments about the workshops and Kris and Pulphouse. I’m just glad some people remember Pulphouse. (grin)

3) Joshua said: “And for all the good points Dean makes, his underlying dislike of literary agents blinds him to the fact that the community of arts and letters and culture is as a whole a better place for writers where more writers make more money than they would otherwise.”

I agree with the second part about how writing is a wonderful place and the culture is a wonderful place. I agree completely.

I just disagree that I have an underlying dislike of agents. I actually don’t (even though at times I’m sure it sounded that way with me trying too hard to shout out a point). I have had three top agents in my career, all did me a great job. I had zero issue.

However, having that good experience has given me the ability to sit back without emotion and watch the practices of agents in dealing with hundreds of other writers around me, including my wife and many young professionals who have come through our workshops. And it is that observation that got me going on the practices of the bad agents. And the new breed of agents coming in who think they are the boss and control writers.

Laura Resnick on the other hand has had only few good experiences with agents, so we made a great tag team at times. And I’m sure we sounded strident at times, but honestly, we both hope to just inform writers so that they can make decisions, whatever that decision may be.

Now, granted, for me, there are some practices about the agents in general I have come to hate, such as the practice of handling all the money and paperwork before the writer sees it. If that one practice alone was somehow changed, (which I understand it will never be and the reasons why) most scam agents would vanish. And that would help even more the community of the arts that I love so much, and clearly, Joshua does as well.

So my strident attitude about a few practices made it seem like I dislike agents in general. I don’t, not in the slightest, at least the top ones, the honest ones such as Joshua. I loathe with a passion anyone who will take advantage of a young writer’s dreams to make money. And the lower scum agents and book doctors do just that. And a few of those scum have well-know agencies that draw in and cater to the young writers.

4) Joshua said: “Would the world be better if we all did our own appliance repairs, hemming, and taxes? Of course not. And the world wouldn’t be better for writers without literary agents. Most authors I know just aren’t, at heart, Dean Wesley Smith.”

Oh, trust me, I would never want anyone to have my career. I think Kris just shuddered at the idea that there would be more than one of me. She has enough trouble with just me. (grin)

And trust me, I do understand that most writers need a ton of help. It is why we teach the workshops Joshua mentioned. And thus why I have never said that agents should be shut out of the process. I have told writers to do one of three things: Get help from an agent, a literary lawyer, or do it yourself. Very few writers, as Joshua said, will have the ability to do it themselves, especially early on in a career.

I do worry about the agent model in the coming changes in publishing, but that’s another topic.

5) Joshua said: “They (many writers) don’t have his skill and talent and passion for adding so much of the agent skill set to their own repertoire. They want to write and let somebody else handle the negotiations and the paperwork and keep track of the markets here and abroad and the many other tasks that fall to competent literary agents, and in the totality of things authors are better for having a good agent do the agenting, while they do the writing. Dean is strongly DIY on this topic, thus he writes with a negative undercurrent so fierce that it drowns what could be a more constructive message.”

Well, frighteningly enough, I’m going to agree with this point. To a degree. I have been forcefully advocating a belief system that states “The writer must learn the business they are going to work in.” So yes, I have pushed the Do It Yourself mentality maybe too far at times. Granted.

But sadly, those of us who have been around for twenty years and more are the writers who learned the business, and over the years I’ve watched hundreds of writers, many of them my friends, drop away because they didn’t want to learn it. I’m not saying that writers need to be me, or Laura, or Nora Roberts, or James Patterson, or any of the other writers who know this business. You can have a fine ten-book (or so) career with someone taking care of you. Happens all the time. But if you plan on a long career, you have better start learning everything you can, including the agent’s job, from day one. You don’t have to do the agent’s job, just know what they are doing so you can understand and be in control of your own work. That is my belief system, I freely admit.

Joshua is famous for taking top care of his writers in thousands of ways. It’s what makes him such a top agent, actually, because does exactly as he describes.

But my rebuttal has two points to it.

#1) How do writers, who don’t want to learn, who just want to write and not learn the business where their money is coming from, find a top agent like Joshua and how do they tell apart an agent like Joshua and a scam agent in the Bernie Madoff mode without learning? Seems that luck for them has to play a huge part, and I believe in being prepared because luck favors the prepared.

#2) What happens to all the clients who are being taken care of by an agent when the agent gets hurt or retires or leaves and those writers are left with no real understanding of the business and no one to take care of them? I have seen that happen far too many times already to writers, even before this current business climate of publishing. And what normally happens is that the writer’s careers are done.

So on this one point I’m going to have to take issue. I believe that if I go to an auto mechanic, sure I don’t expect to know what they are doing down to the detail. But if I own and run the garage the auto mechanic works in, I damned well better know what my employee is doing. That’s just common business sense. And that’s my belief system. Writers own the work and hire the agent.

What Joshua is describing is someone who wants to have a business, but knows nothing about it and has no time or desire to learn it, so hires others to run and make decisions about the business. Sure, writing is an art, but when the art is done and created, the writer needs to become a business person.

Anyone who expects to make hundreds of thousands of dollars, maybe millions over a career, and not learn and understand the business they are in is just asking for problems (in my opinion).

So I’m not letting writers off the hook on that one. If your goal is to be the top in your field, then I disagree with Joshua. A writer should expect to have to do the learning. And fine, hire good help, but learn the business and have no expectation that you will be taken care of your entire life.

I just thank heavens my doctor doesn’t think that way. (grin) Or the guy who owns the garage where I take my car.

Again, I want to thank Joshua Bilmes for the great comments and for giving another side of this. And I agree, I think it would be wonderful as time allows to have great discussions about some of these points. I hope Joshua and I can do that. I would love to keep learning from him.

Thanks, Joshua!

(Again, folks, comments are welcome, but keep them civil and no agent horror stories in this one. Discussion time now.)

The New World of Publishing: Books Are No Longer Produce

What in the world do I mean books were produce? Well, they have been. And before you go shouting at me because I just insulted your golden book and said it was a banana, let me try to explain what I mean.

For a long time, since about the time of the First World War, the release of a book has been treated as an event. The book would have a set release date, and all the push and promotion would be aimed at selling as many copies as possible in the first week or few weeks of the release date. (Bestseller lists are built on velocity of sales, meaning how many books sell in one week, not how many books have sold overall.)

For a number of decades up until the 1960s, with a moderate number of books being produced, this never really caused many problems. Authors’ backlists stayed in print and readers could find new copies of books to buy long after their release date.

Then about thirty plus years ago this started to change until finally the book as event reached seriously large status with the release of the last three Harry Potter books.

In the last twenty years, publishers with computer tracking and stores with computer tracking took the importance of book as event a little too far. Books that were what are called “Word of Mouth” books, or slow builds, never really stood a chance in this thinking. If you didn’t find a book in the first week or the first month, look in a used bookstore or lately in a used store online to find it. Because no regular store would still have it.

And author backlists were a thing of the past unless you were a brand name bestseller.


Now, understand, in a grocery store, produce is put out to be sold quickly and then is replaced before it spoils.

Over the last twenty plus years publishers and bookstores put out books and then yanked them quickly as if a book would spoil in a week or two. They treated books exactly the same as produce. And guess what, just as with produce in a grocery story, if a book didn’t sell, it was tossed away, destroyed.

This practice has become so bad that often a book will be deemed out of print within a month of the release date because it didn’t have the orders the sales force was expecting. Or it didn’t have the number of projected sales in the first week or so. Of course, it won’t officially go out of print until all the warehouse stock is gone, but it will have a do-not-reprint order on the book from almost week one.

But the one thing modern publishers and big bookstore have forgotten:

Books don’t spoil.

So why exactly did this mentality come about? Shelf space and a huge number of books being produced, that’s why. To meet their bottom lines and pay the huge overhead of New York, publishers have to churn out a lot of books. And for decades the number of books being published has gone up.

And that shelf space in stores has become a premium, paid for by publishers with a lot of extra money being paid if a store will just put the book near the front door for a few days. Or on the shelf end cap. All common and all focused on the idea that a book has a very, very short life.

But books don’t spoil.

And readers don’t read under pressure.

—Often a reader will find an author’s book in a used store years and years after it was first published and then want more of that author’s work.

—Often a book or a series will have a slow build. It takes time for word-of-mouth on a series or a book to be spread, which used to be the top way a book would build to a bestseller list before twenty years ago. But with publishers thinking of books as produce, by the time a word-of-mouth build can happen, the readers can’t find the book. It’s out of print if it didn’t sell well. And it certainly isn’t taking up any shelf space in a bookstore, so even if it is in print, a reader has to special order it.

For example, Bantam Books put my wife’s 4th book of her popular Fey series out of print almost instantly, yet continued to publish #5-7 over the next three years. And of course, readers blamed Kris for not being able to find the 4th book in the series. Stupid on Bantam’s part, since the series was growing, but the company killed it. No logical reason other than thinking that books were produce and #4 didn’t hit some unknown number somewhere in some computer.

(Note: Great news. Kris again controls the rights to all seven of the Fey books and WMG Publishing will be reissuing them in both electronic format and trade paper editions right up to the day that Kris releases the new 8th book of the Fey, the first book in the Places of Power series next summer. Thats right, all seven of the Fey books and a new one will all be available at the same time. That has all of us Fey fans excited. Watch her site for details.)

What Has Changed in this New World of Publishing?

For New York traditional publishing, nothing at all has changed. Nothing.

Let me say that again. Nothing. The way I described books being treated two years ago is how a book is treated today and there isn’t a thing an author can do to change that if you sell your book to New York traditional publishing.

But then from seemingly out of the blue comes this wonderful new world of electronic publishing and easy and cheap print-on-demand publishing that anyone can now access. But that alone would not have been enough to make any real changes. Writers have been able to publish their own books for decades.

The big change is with the readers and the electronics available to the readers. With Kindles and iPads and the other epub book devices and smart phones, readers in this new world are quickly becoming used to getting a book NOW!

If a reader hears of a new author they want to read, or finish a book they liked by an author, they go to their computer or their Kindle or their iPad or their smart phone and look to see what the author has available. And if it happens to be a book in the same series they liked, they buy it instantly for their Kindle or iPad or Sony Reader or order they order it at once over and other places in the paper format to be delivered in a day or so.

Readers who never ever thought of books as produce are now being allowed to find authors and books easier with this new world of electronic communication and reading. And that’s what has changed.

Wow, as you might imagine, this is this messing with the minds of the fine and fairly smart folks in traditional publishing. When you have had all your focus, your entire business model built on selling produce, changing to selling something that doesn’t ever spoil is difficult to imagine at best.

Changing any large business model is difficult. Changing it fast is almost impossible.

And right now the changes are happening so fast, it’s hard for just about anyone to keep up. But the problem is that the changes are NOT happening inside of publishing. They are happening outside of publishing, in the distribution and electronics world. And there lies the problem. It’s the readers who have suddenly forced this change.

I call large publishers huge cruise ships, cutting through the sea at top speed. They have only had to make minor course corrections for almost one hundred years now. Suddenly there are all kinds of problems ahead and big ships at full speed do not change course quickly. This thinking of books as produce is the main reason they cannot change quickly.

Everything they do, their deadlines, their sales force, their printing schedules, their promotion, their warehousing, everything is set to having a book hit suddenly and then vanish, to be replaced by another and another and another.

This is called the “churn” in the publishing business.

It’s this “churn” of one book after another that makes a publisher money in the margin. It is how every single aspect of their companies are set up. Their business model is set on the churn.

Now comes electronic publishing and reading into this mix and churn doesn’t work. Books don’t spoil. But traditional publishers can’t imagine a business model without the churn, so for the longest time, traditional publishers have fought to do one of two things.

1) Keep the books they are publishing out of electronic versions to preserve the value of their more expensive hardbacks.

2) Delay or price very high the electronic books to also not compete against their hardbacks.

In essence, they have been treating electronic books just like their paper produce books. And that thinking is just flat wrong, which is why so many smart people are saying that traditional publishing is in trouble.

Books don’t spoil.

Over the last six months, traditional publishing is losing both fights. Readers are just flat demanding the books either be reasonably priced or they are not going to buy them.

So that rebellion by readers causes another set of problems inside traditional publishing. The readers won’t buy expensive electronic books, so the feedback loop in traditional publishing is that electronic books don’t sell well.

And the authors who see the minor royalties from electronic books on their statements coming through from their publisher or from silly places like Fictionwise say that electronic books aren’t worth the fight. And thus authors who are steeped in the traditional publishing route think all this electronic publishing is just all hype and are ignoring it.

To those inside traditional publishing, the data (the sacred sales number) just isn’t there yet because they still think that every book is produce, thus it must be priced high to return the correct investment over the correct time.

But take out the time factor (the produce factor) and the accounting becomes different, very different. Instead of saying a book must make back its entire investment in two months, imagine accounting that says a book can earn money for twenty years, growing in sales every year.

A completely different business model.

So if you wonder why you don’t see quicker movement on all this from New York and why New York published electronic books are often priced over $9.99, now you know. There is a nasty feedback loop working for them at the moment.

And so to a degree, I believe that traditional New York publishing is going to have a very bumpy road in the next few years and that many of the large ships of publishing aren’t even trying to turn yet. Oh, oh… They all won’t hit icebergs and go down as some are saying, but there is going to be a lot of damage as the old produce model is replaced slowly.

Books don’t spoil.

So what’s happening outside of traditional publishing?

Basically, a huge wave is happening. Many, many authors are figuring this new model out. Many, many small publishers are figuring this out, publishers who can turn their ships quickly. Many small publishers are springing into life to fill this void with a new business model and help writers.

I have almost 150 SOLD short stories and my wife has a bunch more than that. What has happened to these stories in the past? They were treated like produce, of course. They were published in a certain issue of a magazine or an anthology and then the book or magazine issue became a relic sitting on a dusty shelf. The story, which was not produce, was basically for all intents and purposes, gone, inside a product thought of as produce.

Notice, I just brought back from the dead a number of my stories here on my web site and electronically through the new start-up company WMG Publishing. Kris is doing the same. Stories not seen outside of a used bookstore in decades are now coming to a brand new group of readers.

Is this good for authors? Oh, my, what a stupid question I just asked, huh? This is a gold mine for authors. Readers can now find my work, not just the new stuff that’s out this week, but all my work. By this time next year I hope to have every story I still think is worthwhile up and available. Stories that have not earned me a penny in twenty years are now earning regular money.

And I am finding new readers.

I will also republish a bunch of my novels. And Kris is doing the same. As I said earlier, not only can all the fans of the Fey books get them this fall and winter in both electronic and trade paper editions, but it is now worthwhile for Kris, after over a decade, to finally write the next three Fey novels, the Places of Power series. Without this new world of reader-driven publishing, no New York traditional produce publisher would touch the series because to them it had already spoiled and been tossed away.

But then, traditional New York publishers have been ignoring how readers really read and find book and new authors and new series for decades now. To readers, books were never produce. They were always something to be found and discovered and read when the time was right for the reader.

Electronic publishing and the new model for smaller publishers is finally treating books like readers want them to be treated. Readers need to be able to find any book they want at any time of the day or night.

Books are not produce to be tossed away because they didn’t sell quickly enough. And finally the New World of Publishing allows that to happen.

And as an old time writer, I haven’t been this excited in thirty years about writing new stuff. It’s a great time to be a writer. Finally our work will no longer be treated as produce and any reader who wants to find a story will be able to find it. Even twenty or thirty years from now.

And eventually, after a lot of turmoil, New York traditional publishing will be forced to change its business model and realize one simple fact:

Books don’t spoil.


Copyright 2010 Dean Wesley Smith
Because of the new world and technology, my magic bakery full of my writing got a lot more valuable lately and this article is now part of the inventory of that bakery.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

Even if you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this along to others who might get some help from it.

Thanks, Dean

The New World of Publishing: Introduction

For almost a year now in the book chapters of Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing I’ve been pounding on some of the problems I see with traditional publishing and the myths that writers have to deal with. I still have a number of chapters to go in that series, but I felt it was time to start this new topic.

Over the last two years, publishing has been starting into a radical shift, a move that for the first few months I just ignored. Michael Stackpole, a friend of mine, had been shouting at a lot of us to wake up for years ahead of that, but I was slow to the alarm clock to be honest.

Now understand, I had a book hit #1 on the electronic bestseller list done by Peanut Press in 2000 and even have an award on my shelf proving it. I thought the entire thing stupid in 2000 and my feelings didn’t change in the slightest until 18 months ago. Remember that in the year 2000 I had been hearing and ignoring all the talk about electronic publishing being the next big thing for ten years. It was old news in 1995 let alone in 2000 and I thought of it as just people constantly shouting “The sky is falling.”

One editor said to me in 2000 about me being #1 on the electronic bestseller list was like being the best hockey player in Equador. He was right. Another editor in 1995 complained to me that she was spending 80% of her time in meetings talking about electronic publishing that only accounted for less than one tenth of one percent of all sales at that time.

And during those years up until 18 months ago, when someone asked what I thought of electronic publishing, my answer was always, “Some day electronic publishing will be a nice source of extra money for writers like audio books are.”

Oh, wow, was I wrong on that. And right at the same time. But like everyone else, I just didn’t know how I was wrong or right.

About 18 months ago I realized that maybe, just maybe, with introduction of the Kindle, the time had finally arrived that everyone had been shouting about for over twenty years. I decided to pull my old head out of the sand and look around, and what I saw scared hell out of me because, to be honest, I flat didn’t understand a great deal of it.

My first desire to was to go back and jam my head down into the sand. I know the traditional publishing system and I know it pretty well, having been a publisher, an editor, and a writer now for thirty years. The new world I didn’t even understand most of the terms and what all those letters meant. You know, HTML, DRAM, and so on and so on.

So 18 months ago my wife Kristine Kathryn Rusch and I met for dinner with two of the top young writers who know computers and this coming new world, Michael Totten, a freelance Mideast writer and blogger and Scott William Carter the short story writer and published young adult novelist. And after three hours I came away from that meeting even more frightened, but at the same time energized and hungry to learn.

Now, as all my friends will tell you, when I get focused on learning something, just get out of my way. I learn it, I question it, I test it, I don’t believe the test, I learn more, I test that, I try it a different way, I test it again, and again and then eventually I know more about something than most people around me.

I have been doing that now for 18 solid months with electronic publishing, with a daily focus at it and the new world of publishing and the impact it might have on traditional publishing. And I don’t plan on stopping that chase anytime soon. I am a long ways from knowing everything about what is happening with publishing, but I am now willing to talk here about different subjects concerning this brave new world of publishing and see if this group mind around here can help us all move forward.

Yes, I have been following Michael A Stackpole’s posts (, and yes I have been following J.A. Konrath’s posts, and a hundred other blogs and people working the different sides of publishing and the impact of the electronic or epub publishing and POD publishing on it. And I have been reading publishing financial reports and stock reports and sales figures and so much more. As I said, when I want to know something I am a vacuum cleaner for information with far too much suction.

At the moment, here is what I can say firmly.

1) No one knows where this is headed. If they claim they do, ignore them. They will be proven wrong in about three minutes.

2) Things are changing by the day. In all my years in publishing, there has never been a time when events that have a huge impact on publishing happen daily.

For example the big event in the last few days (as I write this in the first week of August 2010) for authors is Amazon opening up the Amazon UK Kindle store to all books with the correct rights that are being sold on Amazon US. One moment I have nothing but a few Star Trek books being sold in the UK, the next moment I have twenty-some of my short stories that have been recently put up by WMG Publishing. And more going up every day.

3) Major traditional publishing will not go away. But it will be changed and changed drastically. Those of you who have the ego to think that New York publishing is ignoring all this are being silly. New York is run by humans who know this business better than anyone, and they see what’s happening. But the problem for many of them is that they are captains on large ships, and large ships do not turn quickly. Right now things are changing quickly.

Also remember that for New York, this has been a case of “the sky is falling” for twenty years. It’s hard to suddenly believe that after that long something actually is now happening.

At lunch today with a group of professional writers, we were using examples of two major corporations who had to deal with massive changes. Kodak and NetFlix. Kodak saw the changes coming and in many ways were innovators of some new products, but couldn’t move their large company fast enough to save it. NetFlix knew it had a service that would be short lived and planned from the beginning for the coming change. Time will tell if they make it, but they seem to be out ahead just fine.

Some New York publishers will be able to change course fast enough, others won’t.

Changes and how to adapt as writers.

Honestly, at the moment I would say if you find yourself attached to a set way of doing something, almost in myth-like firmness, step back and take a deep breath. Again, right now in publishing, everything is changing. You need to be open to new ideas and not be like I was 18 months ago, with my head firmly planted deep in the sand and my focus only in one direction.

I honestly can’t believe how fast things are changing. For decades it seemed that in publishing change was slow. Then one moment everything went into fast forward.

Last fall Kris and I taught a workshop on marketing. That same titled workshop will be very, very different this fall. We’ve added in workshops called New Technologies and How to Be Your Own Literary Agent and Money Management and so on, because all of these new technologies that are impacting publishing are also opening up new cash streams to writers. Hundreds of new cash streams, actually.

And we will talk about these new cash streams in different posts in the future.

But for example, did you know that it is now easy for a writer to sell their own work overseas to overseas publishers in translation rights? What caused that change? E-mail and internet and author web sites.

Did you know that it is now frighteningly easy for a writer taking their own work out with their own publishing company to get into all the major bookstores? And library distributors. And so much more. In other words, an author with some knowledge can now get the same market penetration a major publisher can get. And get the publisher’s profit share as well. Will all authors want to do this? Of course not. We’ll talk about it in future chapters of this.

And so on and so on. Lots and lots of topics and I am open for suggestions for more.

In ending this first introduction chapter, let me talk for a moment about the real wonderful value of this new change. And I will talk about this much more later.

Writers can write what we want!!!!!

This new change now allows a writer to sit down and write the story they want to write, no matter the trends in New York, no matter the tightness of a market, no matter what some agent thinks will sell or won’t sell.

For decades I have been telling new writers to just write what they want to write, what makes them passionate, what makes them angry, what makes them happy. But often, in the real world of traditional publishing, those passionate books would not sell or be labeled “hard sells” and end up in drawers and the writer discouraged.

No more. Writers now have a lot of different ways for readers to find and discover their work beyond traditional publishing routes. And more opening up by the day.

So I stand by what I have told writers for decades now. Write what you love, what makes you passionate or angry. And when you are done, then we can talk about this new world and how to find readers for your work, either with traditional publishing or without.

Wow, is this stuff fun. Welcome to The New World of Publishing. Let’s talk.

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: You Must Give Your Money to an Agent First

The myth is simple: All your money must first go to an agent before you can have it.

Oh, wow, is this myth buried deep in this business, so deep that no writer thinks of questioning it, often even after having an agent take money from them.

I’m going to do what I often do in these chapters, and that’s build the history first of why this myth came about and why it is so strong, then build a solution. So hang on for the ride and try to hold the anger down until you have read all the way to the end.


In the beginning, meaning way back when agents started into publishing from the theater and movie industry, agents lived in New York City and writers sometimes didn’t. The writers who did live in New York would never think of having their agent paid first, and most didn’t need an agent and didn’t use one. But those writers outside of New York had their agent drop off manuscripts in editor’s offices and pick up the check, then the agent would mail part of the check to the client and keep the 10% fee. The agents knew the editors personally and it was a very small business.

All that was fine, a practice that started when agents picked up checks. Some writers questioned it and some didn’t right up into the late 1960s when publishers started bringing in the large computers to do payroll and keep track of checks. In the early 1970’s a few publishers starting noting that for some of the larger agencies they had to cut more than one check. They figured it would just be easier to write the agent one check and let the agent divide it between all of his clients.

(This no longer applies today with modern computers and internet banking.)

And thus in the early 1970s, about the point I was coming into the business, the practice became solid. But also remember in that time period, the standard belief was that you and your agent were “married” and trust me, you knew your agent. You had spent a lot of time with your agent and you were friends. So this system worked right up until the early 1990’s.

By that point the writers were hiring agents out of books, on a quick meeting at a writer’s conference, or simply because some person with a business card said they were an agent and the young writer got all excited. Scams and theft of writer’s money became almost the norm at this point and continues to this day.

And writers don’t know about most of it or care. 95% of all writers don’t even ask for rejections, or sign their own overseas contracts, or even see them, or bother to check royalty statements enough to even notice that for some odd reason the numbers don’t match up. Or the statements stopped coming. Agents know this about writers. Trust me. And the scam ones take advantage of it in every way they can.

Then things got even worse if that was possible. In the mid-to-late 1990’s writers started signing contracts with publishers that had inserted in it (by the agent without writer permission) an agency clause forcing the publisher to pay the agent first on all matters concerning the contracts. Did one writer’s group object? Of course not. And even though completely unenforceable, these agency clauses now try to hold the rights past the termination of the contract. And writers believe them.

And we all signed them, me included.

Now remember some facts:

1) Agents are not regulated or schooled or trained. Anyone can become an agent.

2) Writers are hiring strangers posing as agents to handle sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money without even a simple background check.

3) Most writers don’t bother to check the paperwork their agent sends them on any money payout.

4) Agents get all the paperwork FIRST before the writer on the money and thus don’t have to pass it along. Some writers are stupid enough to go so far as even give an agent power of attorney to sign documents. (That’s so far past stupid I gasp at the scale of ignorance.)

That’s the situation as it stands now.

Examples of How This Turns Ugly

Example: Writer has a nice selling book in North America, didn’t sell overseas rights. Agent phones one day and says “Sold German rights for 5,000 E.U..”

Actually the offer was 7,000, but somewhere along the way you were only told 5,000. Agents keep the rest plus 20% of the 5,000. How can this happen? More ways than you ever want to think about. And it happens all the time.

Example: Writers makes nice sale to Germany, royalties to be paid twice a year. No statements ever make it to the writer. Writer has no way of knowing if there was any more payments in Germany or not. And go ahead, demand those statements from your agent and see how far you get. And the excuses and “reasons” the agent doesn’t have them. Go ahead, I dare you.

Example: A book in the States is earning out and running royalties starting on the third statement, but you only saw the first two statements and don’t know it had checks attached to the third one because the agent kept the money and didn’t bother to tell you. And you don’t think to check because most writers are very, very bad at business and filing and don’t track the payments or book sales. Not all, just most writers. And if you have told the agent you want all the paperwork, and then demanded it, they won’t try this one on you.

I could go on, but the scams are far, far too numerous to list, often done by agents with top reputations and top clients.

For example, did you know a major agency with top clients holds everyone’s money as standard practice for seven days? Now, for those of you who understand accounting, this is called “the float” and this major agency as policy holds sometimes millions in this float account for a week, collecting the interest. Not much at the moment, but when interest was 10% it was a ton of money they earned off their client’s money. Again, a scam and major bestsellers let them get away with this. Not kidding.


Answer: Your agent gets all the paperwork and all statements and all money before you see it.

That’s the problem. Plain and simple.


From this moment on, with every contract, you do the following simple steps.

YOU replace the agency clause in your contract with a clause that does two things. The new clause needs to state clearly:

1) All payments will be split 15% to agent of record and 85% to you, listing the address of both.

2) All paperwork and royalty statements will be sent to both you and your agent, or if the publisher balks at the extra expense, the paperwork is sent to you and you forward a copy to your agent.

Problem solved.

A simple and easy solution. You sign your own contract, you simply talk with the editor and insert that clause instead of the agency clause. Do that with all overseas contracts as well. (The contracts must be in your own language, so don’t let an agent tell you otherwise. If the agent pushes that you must do it their way, that is a sure sign of a scam going on. Contracts under international copyright agreements are always in the language of the author. Get them and read them carefully.)

If your agent objects to this overall or say they can’t do it that way, you have someone who is invested in scamming you and taking your money so fire them instantly. And I do mean instantly. You are giving them their 15% directly from the publisher in the contract. They don’t need your money as well, do they? They have NO valid reason to handle your money.

(And agents, if you really are reputable, there’s no reason to continue this practice. You start changing it. If agents as a group start changing this, it will soon become clear which agents are the scams and which agents are solid and honest. But until agents start changing this for all of their clients, it will be up to the writers.)

Will any writer do this?

No. (Or very few.) Too simple. And all writers are too afraid of their agents, and thus the agents who have no regulations or training but all the writer’s money will keep scamming the writers. It is a sad fact of life.

And right now I can hear hundreds of writers with agents thinking, “Luckily my agent isn’t doing that to me.”


You have given them all the paperwork that comes with your money from publishers and all the money FIRST. Do you really know what a royalty statement looks like exactly from Bantam? How simple is it for an agent to make up a false one? Duh..

And so many, many other ways of doing it.

The fact is that YOU DON’T KNOW as long as you are letting perfect strangers touch your money first and all the paperwork with that money. And you can’t know.

Wake up, writers!

This is one Sacred Cow of Publishing that needs to be killed about a million times and then buried as a deep, ugly part of the past of this business.

But sadly, it’s not going to happen. Why? Because agents want to keep the money they are skimming and scamming and writers are too afraid of agents to object.

With luck, this new publishing industry that is going to emerge in the next ten years won’t include many agents, and writers can start coming to their collective senses.

Until then, we writers should change our names to “marks” because that’s what con artists call those they take money from. And we are the best marks ever invented. We willingly in a contract agree to send the con artist all of our money and the paperwork with it.

Luckily Bernie Madoff didn’t know about this. He would have been the best agent ever and he’d still be working and out of jail.


Copyright 2010 Dean Wesley Smith
Because of the new world and technology, my magic bakery got a lot more valuable lately. This is now part of my inventory in my bakery. (Confused on that, read the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing post about making money with writing.) I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated. Once this book is done, I will send you a copy. The donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it. Every week or so I will be adding a new chapter on the myths and sacred cows of publishing. Stay tuned. Upcoming are chapters on bestsellers, losing control of your writing, having it made, speed equals making money, more on agents, and so much more. This business has a lot of myths. An entire book full.

Thanks, Dean

Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing: Editors are Evil Myth

Off and on for years I’ve been hearing from newer writers that editors were evil, that they didn’t want to send their manuscripts to editors to be butchered, that they wanted an agent to help protect their work. As a former editor, I mostly just ignored this because it was so absurd.

But now comes along electronic publishing where writers can go directly to readers with their work and suddenly this “evil editor” myth is coming in strong as an excuse to not mail anything to New York or any major publication. And I said excuse, because there is no reality in this myth at all. None.


The truth: 99% of major publishing editors are very, very nice people. They love books, they love helping create books, they are good at corporation politics, they don’t get paid enough, they work seven days a week, and the only editing they do with an author is to fix mistakes and help the author make the book they wanted to write more of what the author wanted. Editors are the most underrated, underpaid workers in all of publishing.

So, where to even begin on this myth that editors are evil? Maybe at the beginning, the origin of the myth and why it has been growing.


In school we all heard about those famous editors of the past who helped major writers like Fitzgerald and Hemingway get their work into shape. So right out of the block we are all afraid of editors for not only that reason, but a hundred other reasons. They have the key to publication in their hands. They seem powerful and all-knowing from a distance. They don’t seem human to new writers, they seem like gods. All perception problems that lead to the following reasons for the myth of “evil editor.”

1) FEAR.

Writers have this fear of rejection which makes no logical sense at all. Editors can’t hurt you, won’t come to your home with a gun, and won’t write rejection letters like Snoopy got in the Peanuts cartoons. The worse editors do is not respond, the second worse is that they send a form rejection along. From there it’s all up.

But baseless fear controls all young writers, so instead of taking a chance that their work might get rejected, which it will because we all get rejected, they make up things like “I don’t want anyone butchering my sacred words or my sacred story.” Thus the young writers don’t have to confront their own fear of rejection. Easier to not mail something with an excuse than it is to take a chance and mail it.

Also, fear of publication does this a great deal as well, even though that sounds odd. Many, many writers are deathly afraid of having someone like their work because they know how easy and fun it was to write. The new writer didn’t struggle over it enough like they were taught was important in college. So therefore the story must be bad and if an editor bought it the writer would be exposed for a fraud. So it’s easier to make up an evil editor excuse and not mail the story.


For some reason a lot of new writers think that an editor’s job is to train them to write, and to mark up their manuscripts in red pens like their high school teacher did. They don’t want that, so instead they start thinking of editors as evil.

Does in reality your manuscript get marked up? Yup, copy edits and slight editing that you have the ability to say no to every change, unlike high school. Go back to many other chapters in this book to remind yourself that writers are in control of their own work. There will be marks on your manuscript for your approval. 99% of the marks are either moving to a house style or catching a mistake you missed. Sometimes you get a bad copy edit, but not enough to cause this myth. The evil editor myth comes from writers hating their English teacher and thinking that editors are the same. They are not.


Book doctors, whom you can hire, are for the most part a scam. (There are a couple with hearts in the right place who really want to help writers, but very few.) There is one New York agent right now telling new writers who come to him to hire his wife for a ton of money as a book doctor. Scam. Book doctors do exist, but they are hired by New York publishers to help get an already bought book into shape with the agreement of the author. These are normally nonfiction books. Most of the real professional book doctors are former editors with major houses. You don’t know who they are and you couldn’t afford them.

The problem comes in with the fact that new writers only see the scams. And these scam book doctors call themselves EDITORS. And some of them are horrid. (I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard a new writer say “Oh, I hired an editor to help me and fix my book.” Shudder….)

So this myth has built from those horrid book doctors who do mark up manuscripts like an English teacher because that is all they know how to do. They wouldn’t understand a good story if it bit them, so they have to pay attention to only the words.

Stay away from those types at all costs!!!! They are not editors. Editors work for major publishers. You can’t hire them.


The slush-reading agent who wants writers to rewrite before mailing a book is more than likely the biggest source of the increase in this myth in the last ten years. We’ve talked about horror stories of some writers rewriting a dozen times for an agent. Now trust me, thinking of your agent as your editor is a quick way to death of career and will certainly drive this myth that editors are evil. Editors who work for major publishers are great people. Some agents, on the other hand, are truly evil and scam artists. Never confuse the two for any reason.


For those of you who have never seen the inside of a major editor’s office in New York, let me give you a quick tour.

Editors and senior editors’ offices are often small, not more than about four paces deep and two or three paces wide. Shelves on both sides and a desk and one chair. Assistant editors and associate editors often sit outside in the hall at a desk or in a nearby cubicle. Executive editors have larger offices, but not much, and publishers have larger offices. Books and art are stacked everywhere in the halls and offices, along with piles and piles and piles of paper, mostly manuscripts in one stage or another.

What is a senior editor’s job? Simply put, to produce every month a list of books. Senior editors are at least in charge of one imprint list. The list can be from three to six books per month. So each editor has between 36 and 72 books a year, plus a number of others on other lists that they also buy for. The editor is usually buying two years out, so double that number, and then don’t forget the books already published that are in some stage of promotion. A normal editor can handle 200 plus book titles a year when you add it all up, depending on the house and company and imprint.

An editor’s day is filled with dealing with the art department, with the sales department, with the managing editor, with cover copy, meetings with the publisher, answering mail and email, massive numbers of phone calls, and so much more. Editors seldom, if ever, have time to read in their office. They read at home or on the subway going home or to work. They read on weekends.

In other words, if your image of an editor was what you have seen from Hollywood, with the big offices, the clean desks, the one manuscript sitting on top of the desk waiting to be read, you are sadly lost in a bad myth. Editors’ offices and the area around them are beehives of activity among piles and piles of paper and books and art.

The editors I know who have lasted for years thrive in this corporate craziness. And they do it for the love of taking a book that they have found and helping it get to thousands of readers that they hope will love it as well.

Editors don’t get paid enough. They sit in far, far too many hours of meetings. But when one of their writers show up in town, they do get to use the corporate credit card for lunch, often the only time they can afford to go to a new or nice restaurant.

Editors love and hate working with writers at the same time. They love working with the writers who act professionally and are clear on the process of helping a book become a better book in the writer’s vision. They hate working with writers who haven’t bothered to learn any business, who are lost in egos, or who think that the editor works for them.

It’s working with that type of clueless writer that makes editors sometimes rather work with an agent. At least the agent will usually be professional and understand how the business works. But if you are a clear-thinking writer who knows the realities of the publishing business, the editors would much rather work with you directly than through a third party. Less chance of screw-ups that way.

Editors do their best to protect writers, sometimes too much so. They are deathly afraid of giving a writer bad news for some reason I have yet to figure out.


The publisher of course. Their job, their paycheck, depends on making sure the books sell, that the publisher gets what the publisher needs in profits for the imprint. When faced with buying a book they love, the editor must then turn to a profit-and-loss statement, boiling down the book into numbers of projected sales that both the publisher and sales force have to agree with.

But that said, the editor is also working for the writer.

Editor love the book or they wouldn’t be trying to buy it. They are going to have to spend up to two years on the book in a thousand details and meetings about the book. The editor, while working for the publisher, is your champion inside the publishing house. The editor on a day-to-day level will push and promote and work for you and your book.

So editors are in a tough spot. They get paid by, and report to, the publisher. But they are the champion of the writer who is on the other side of the contract.

When this works the best, which is about 95% of the time, is when the writer and the publisher and the editor are all working together for one purpose and one goal and everyone understands they are working together.

A publishing contract isn’t a line in the sand between two warring parties. A contract is an agreement of partnership to work together.

So editors work for publishers, sure. But they are also your representative in the thousands of details that it takes to get a book published and promoted through the traditional system. They are your champion. But you need to understand their job to help them help you even more.


The problem is that writers believe they don’t have to learn the publishing business, so therefore really can’t help much in the publishing process and are always surprised when something goes wrong. And trust me, if you have more than ten books published, at some point something will go wrong in some stage of the process. Too many hundreds of steps for it not to happen.

And when you really learn the business and how it works, you will be surprised that even more things don’t go wrong.

At Pulphouse we called certain books “books from hell.” Why? Because it seemed that if something could go wrong, it would go wrong on that book. Nothing to do with the author or the book, just the karma of mistakes and problems happening that seem to pile on one book. About one in twenty books turned into a book from hell.

So something goes wrong and the editor knows you are an uninformed, myth-bound writer. The editor is afraid to tell you. If you have an agent, the editor might tell the agent, but chances are neither of them will tell you and if you discover the problem later, you’ll be angry. Why won’t the agent or editor tell you? Because you don’t understand publishing and will be angry. So for the editor and agent, it’s just better to hope you don’t find out.

Writers who do know publishing and business are usually told at once when there is a problem and can often help with a solution, because again, everyone is on the same side. But your editor has to know you are aware of how publishing works and want to be a part of the process when appropriate. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I helped editors write sales copy and promotion material for my book because they knew I understood what they needed.

But it’s the uninformed writers who get angry and yell and give editors the “evil editor” label when something goes wrong. And then wonder why editors are afraid to tell writers things in general. The last thing an editor needs is to be yelled at by the person they are trying to help. “No good deed goes unpunished.” Editors feel very, very slighted when they have put their jobs on the line for a writer and then the writer out of ignorance yells at them.


If you are one of the writers who thinks this myth is true, go get personal help. That’s the only solution I have on this one. The belief is coming from fear of rejection, fear of success, or complete lack of knowledge of a business you claim you want to work in. For any of those reasons, you need help and education, and just self-publishing your own work won’t solve your problem. Thinking of editors as evil is just a symptom of a much worse problem that will eventually bite you no matter how your work gets published.

Well, that was blunt.

If you look back over all the chapters I’ve done in this book, I always say that editors are the best, the hardest working, the lowest paid part of this business. I tell writers to not listen to how to be a writer from editors, since that’s not their business. But I defend editors completely.

Have I had some bad editors over the years in the fifty plus editors I have worked with? One. And he was a great guy, just not my style of editor. Are there editors I hate in publishing who I haven’t worked with? Yes, one. But that’s because he and I are on different sides of a major belief system. I’m sure he doesn’t much like me either, but not because I’m a stupid writer. He doesn’t like me because I challenge him outside of editing in other issues. Yet I have never told anyone to stay away from him as an editor.

I have been around hundreds and hundreds of editors over the years, worked in book publishing with almost fifty of them on books and countless short fiction editors. I am their greatest supporter and I have never heard of an editor hurting a writer intentionally. Ever. Mistakes happen in publishing. Some are head-shaking stupid, and one editor who worked with Kris on a book was so stupid, he made huge mistakes, got fired and is an agent now. But to this day I doubt anything he did was purposeful.

There are no evil editors. Editing seems to attract the kind of person who loves reading, loves books, and loves helping good books get into print for readers to find. It is a really tough job. If you think editors are evil for some reason or another, go find help. It might be the best thing you do for yourself personally.

And if you won’t find help, I would suggest you keep your opinion on this one to yourself. Spouting such a stupid myth just makes you look like an idiot. There are no evil editors, just ignorant writers.

Well, that was blunt again.


Copyright 2010 Dean Wesley Smith
Because of the new world and technology, my magic bakery got a lot more valuable lately. This is now part of my inventory in my bakery. (Confused on that, read the Killing the Sacred Cows of Publishing post about making money with writing.) I’m giving you this small slice as a sample. I’m giving you a taste, but not selling any of the pie.

If you feel this helped you in any way, toss a tip into the tip jar on the way out of the Magic Bakery.

And I would like to thank all the fine folks who have donated. Once this book is done, I will send you a copy. The donations and the comments both after the posts and privately are really keeping me going on this. Thanks!

If you can’t afford to donate, please feel free to pass this chapter along to others who might get some help from it. Every week or so I will be adding a new chapter on the myths and sacred cows of publishing. Stay tuned. Upcoming are chapters on bestsellers, losing control of your writing, having it made, speed equals making money, more on agents, and so much more. This business has a lot of myths. An entire book full.

Thanks, Dean

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Just click on the image to go to the bundles.

2015 new books and the books in the 2014 bundle. Get all 25 for $25.00!

2015 Books!!!

2014 Books!!!

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Smith’s Monthly Subscriptions

Smith's Monthly, an original fiction magazine featuring every month a full novel, short fiction, serial adventures, and nonfiction now available for subscriptions.

And twenty-four of them now exist... Amazing, huh? And hard to hold. Here I am holding the first five...

$6.99 electronic and $12.99 trade paper editions are available at your local bookseller. All paper subscription copies are signed. For more information, just click on the cover.


Online Workshop Schedule

These are the starting dates of upcoming online workshops. Limited to twelve writers. All have openings unless I say closed below. For sign-up and more information about each workshop, click the Online Workshop tab at the top of the page.

Class #51… Dec 7th … Advanced Depth
Class #52… Dec 7th … Character Voice/Setting
Class #53… Dec 7th … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #54… Dec 7th … Ideas into Stories
Class #55… Dec 8th … Character Development
Class #56… Dec 8th … Depth in Writing
Class #57… Dec 8th … Plotting With Depth
Class #58… Dec 9th … Designing Covers
Class #59… Dec 9th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #60… Dec 9th … Designing Book Interiors

Class #1… Jan 4th … Pitches and Blurbs
Class #2… Jan 4th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #3… Jan 4th … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #4… Jan 4th … Plotting With Depth
Class #5… Jan 5th … Character Development
Class #6… Jan 5th … Depth in Writing
Class #7… Jan 5th … Designing Book Interiors
Class #8… Jan 6th … Cliffhangers
Class #9… Jan 6th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #10.. Jan 6th … Advanced Depth

Class #11… Feb 1st … Advanced Depth
Class #12… Feb 1st … Character Voice/Setting
Class #13… Feb 1st … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #14… Feb 1st … Ideas into Stories
Class #15… Feb 2nd … Character Development
Class #16… Feb 2nd … Depth in Writing
Class #17… Feb 2nd … Plotting With Depth
Class #18… Feb 3rd … Designing Covers
Class #19… Feb 3rd … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #20… Feb 3rd … How to Write Science Fiction

Class #21… Mar 7th … Pitches and Blurbs
Class #22… Mar 7th … How to Write Thrillers
Class #23… Mar 7th … Adding Suspense to Your Writing
Class #24… Mar 7th … Plotting With Depth
Class #25… Mar 8th … Character Development
Class #26… Mar 8th … Depth in Writing
Class #27… Mar 8th … Making a Career
Class #28… Mar 9th … Cliffhangers
Class #29… Mar 9th … Pacing Your Novel
Class #30... Mar 9th … Advanced Depth
Sign-up and more information under Online Workshops tab at the top of the page.

Classic Workshops

You can sign up for these and start at any point. They are the regular workshops, only you don't send in the homework and you can take them as fast or as slow as you would like.

They are half the price of a regular six week workshop.

Classic Workshops offered.

Making a Living... Classic
Productivity... Classic
Discoverability... Classic
Writing in Series... Classic
Genre Structure... Classic

Lecture Series

More information on these lectures under the Lecture Series Tab above.

#1... Heinlein's Rules... Dean Wesley Smith 15 videos... $75.00

#2... Read Like a Writer... Kristine Kathryn Rusch... 8 videos... $50.00

#3... How to Write a Short Story: The Basics... Kristine Kathryn Rusch.... 7 videos... $50.00

#4... Writer's Block and Procrastination... Dean Wesley Smith... 8 videos... $50.00

#5... Carving Time Out for Your Writing... Dean Wesley Smith.... 8 videos... $50.00

#6... How to Research for Fiction Writers... Kristine Kathryn Rusch.... 14 videos... $75.00

#7... Pen Names: Help With the Decision... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#8... Motivation: Starting Easier and Writing More... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#9... Practice: The Attitude and Methods of Practice in Fiction... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#10... Master Plot Formula: How and Why It Works Today... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#11... Prolific Lecture: How to Become a Prolific Fiction Writer... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#12... The Stages of a Fiction Writer: How to Know Where You Are In Learning and How To Move Upward... Dean Wesley Smith.... 11 videos... $50.00

#13... Starting Writing. Or Restarting Your Writing... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#14... Endings: How to Write Them and Understand What Makes a Good Ending... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#15... Audio Narration Lecture... Jane Kennedy.... 9 audio lectures... $50.00

#16... Your Writing as an Investment Lecture... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#17... How to Get Your Books into Bookstores Lecture... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#18... How to Think Like a Science Fiction Writer Lecture... Kristine Kathryn Rusch....11 videos... $50.00

#19... Why Some Books Sell More Than Other Books... Dean Wesley Smith.... 9 videos... $50.00

#20... How to Write a Page Turning Novel or Story: Basics and Tricks ... Dean Wesley Smith.... 8 videos... $50.00

#21... The Basics of Designing Science Fiction Covers ... Allyson Longueira .... 8 videos... $50.00

#22... The Basics of Designing Mystery, Cozy, or Thriller Covers ... Allyson Longueira .... 8 videos... $50.00

#23... Paying the Price: A Working Writer's Mindset ... Dean Wesley Smith.... 10 videos... $50.00

#24... Writing into the Dark: The Tricks and Methods of Writing Without an Outline... Dean Wesley Smith... 12 videos... $50.00

#25... Reviews: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly... Dean Wesley Smith... 10 videos... $50.00

#26... Organization... Allyson Longueira... 8 videos... $50.00

#27... Confidence... Dean Wesley Smith... 10 videos... $50.00

#28... Stories to Novels... Dean Wesley Smith... 9 videos... $50.00

My Publisher

WMG Publishing Inc. is now my major publisher of all my coming novels, collections, and short stories.

Support This Blog On Patreon

I now have a Patreon page with some nifty rewards for your monthly support.

Just click on the image to go to my new Patreon page.