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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Writing Wibbles

The last few days have been fascinating, from the standpoint of an indie writer. First, Melissa Bowersock told us about The Editing Myth, where it turns out that traditionally published works might not get that thorough editing that we’ve all assumed they do. When at least sometimes, the reality is they accepted the manuscript verbatim and had zero editorial suggestions.


But we’re not done!

On the heels of that bombshell, the Passive Guy blog ran a post about how a traditionally-published author blogged her own earnings over three years, then took down the post “for contract disclosure reasons.” The Passive Guy concluded with It’s not an iron-clad rule, but some of the worst contracts from an author’s perspective include some sort of prohibition on the author’s discussion of the contract.

By coincidence, Steve Zacharius (the CEO of Kensington, a second-tier publisher in New York) was engaged in a discussion on a different blog, and one of the commenters pointed him to this post. He joined the discussion, and it’s a most fascinating one. In fact, it triggered a second post, Response to Kensington, that garnered even more comments. What was telling: several commenters asked him, repeatedly, to provide a copy of Kensington’s standard boilerplate contract. He refused by using the standard executive tactic: answering as if the question were different (for example, “we don’t disclose specific details of an author’s contract”), and deflected related questions about average advances. Some authors did weigh in with how much they had been offered, figures from $2500 to $50,000.

Other authors complained about trouble getting rights reversions, or lack of editorial feedback (shades of “The Editing Myth”), and Zacharius did respond forthrightly to those people. Someone suggested a survey, where authors could respond anonymously, and he seemed to really like that idea. I really think he has his heart in the right place, but he can’t quite wrap his mind around the idea that authors no longer really need a traditional publisher—at least, not on the traditional terms. He continuously repeats “eBooks are only 30% of the market,” when those stats don’t include indie sales (which Amazon says are 25% of their eBook sales, and that’s a pretty dang big chunk of sales to ignore).

But the you-know-what got real when he accepted a dialog with Joe Konrath, a major cheerleader for indie publishing. This long but fascinating dialog might not be over just yet, and is definitely worth the time to read.

Some people say that reading the comments section of a blog is the way to madness. Not in this case. It’s eye-opening. Go see if I’m right.


  1. The stuff about editing, or the lack thereof, is really shocking to me. My experience so far is with digital-first small press, three of them. With every book at each of these small pubs, I got more editing than what's been discussed in these various posts. Especially the Magic Born books - whoa, now those developmental edits were bracing! LOL. Now, admittedly, at one of those publishers the quality of the editing depended on the editor (I had two leave while my books were there).

    At any rate, this has all been very educational. I just hope all writers are paying attention.

    1. Sonya, that's good to know. I do know of one small press that might do developmental edits, but absolutely no copyediting, and it shows in the final product. Good point about the quality of the editing depending on the editor… I think that would be true just about anywhere.

  2. I didn't read through all of JA Konrath's post,but I did check out Passive Guy's post and comments. Very interesting.

  3. Larry, I think what all of these posts and their comments are showing us is that there's an extremely wide range of editorial care and author's experiences. I wrote my post (The Myth of Editing) simply as a cautionary tale to any authors who might be holding out hope of winning a traditional publishing contract and entering into a warm and cozy relationship with an editor who would polish their book to brilliance. They might be sorely disappointed. And they might not. You just never know.


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