Yes, I Know That is a Dream for Many…

But it is a horrid (and I mean horrid beyond words) path for writers now in 2018.

But Dean, how can you say that? You first published with traditional publishing, right? Yes, I sold my first novel in 1987 and did my last work for them in 2008. I did 106 books (that I can remember) through traditional big-five book publishing. I am pretty convinced that even by my  math, most of that was last century.

Let me repeat that. Last century. You know, dial phones hooked to a wall with cords, no internet, no email. That century.

Yet traditional book publishing hasn’t changed in the slightest from those old dial-up days and writers still want to work with them. Stuns me.

We are almost to 2019 and times do change. I know some of you who had dreams of publishing in traditional big-five publishing have had the dream since last century when they were the only game in town. It is time to change that dream and get moving with your writing. Go buy a smart phone, in other words.

Why tonight on this topic? Because I sadly saw not one, but two comments today from writers with this old thinking. One writer was on their fifth draft and ready to send off the manuscript to an agent after working on it for six years. I wrote about 70 different books in the last six years. Another writer’s comment was that they were on their second rewrite from an agent.

Shudder.

So just to preach to the choir here (for the most part) and maybe make a few people angry who still have the fairy-dust dream of being anointed by a gatekeeper in a windowless office in a big corporation in New York, I thought I would just quickly list eight major reasons to avoid traditional book publishing. (Traditional short fiction publishers are great, for the most part. No issue with them. I am talking big-five book publishers.)

Reason One…

— They take all your copyright for the life of your work, and often will buy your characters and worlds if you are not super careful. You can’t negotiate with them on this, especially if you went begging to them with your tin cup manuscript in your hand.)

Reason Two…

— You need a book agent to deal with them. Book agents really are equal to dial-up phones, or better put, pay phones that take your money and never make a connection. (You got to be really old, meaning you had to live in the 1970s to remember that.)  Book agents will also take your copyright if not careful, and also your money. A very large percentage of them are scams these days.

Reason Three…

— You will make no more sales than you could publishing the book indie, and actually in a few short years your indie sales will pass any possible traditional publishing sales. And you will not be able to trust the traditional publisher’s royalty statements every six months. Their accounting systems are also stuck back in dial-up phone land. Not kidding.

Reason Four…

— They will price your book so high that most fans won’t be able to afford it, and will not get your work out around the world either.

Reason Five…

— Your book is produce to a traditional publisher, meaning that after a month or so they no longer care, to them your book has spoiled, and they will do nothing to promote your book after that point, if they promoted it at all ahead of publication.

Reason Six…

— It takes forever to sell a book to traditional publishing, often if you count the agent time, rewriting time, and publishing time, three to five years from writing the book to it being published. You sell a book tomorrow to traditional and B&N goes down before your book is published, you are done. Chances are your book will never be published, but they will own and keep all the rights to it anyway. (You signed the contract, sorry.)

Reason Seven…

You must write what they want you to write, not what you want to write. And also, you must write slower, do fewer books, and often contracts will keep you from writing for anyone else in any genre and any series. Not kidding.

Reason Eight…

The biggest reason for me. You lose all control of your book. And maybe all of your writing depending on the contract you sign. They put a bad cover on your book, a bad blurb, and give you a bad copyeditor and there is not one thing you can do to change that. Nothing. You have no control at all.

—–

Now, I am sure folks can come up with dozens more reasons to stay away from the big traditional book publishers. But for me I needed to just list these tonight because I sure couldn’t say anything to those poor souls lost in the myth and the rewriting and the desire for fairy dust to be sprinkled on their book by a faceless being in New York.

This really is almost 2019. Too bad so many writers still love dial phones hooked by a long cord to a wall. And heaven help you if you try to hand them a smart phone.