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Not Far Off

I received an email about my analogy regarding the publishing industry. This person took a personal affront to corporate publishing being on the bad side (the Nazi Party). Why? I have no idea. They received one check from Penguin Random House and all of a sudden they believe the publishing company is a benevolent good in the world.

As it turns out a blogger/publishing advisor did some digging and came up with some information that surprised me. David Gaughran, over at Let’s Get Digital, knows far more than I do about the industry. He is also an advocate of indie/self publishing. He makes a living doing it. On his blog he offers solutions to writers who are at wits end with the pittance they are paid for their art, while some suits make mega-moolah off their work (draconian contracts that give the company not only print and digital rights, but also the big cash when they float a script to Hollywood). It’s a dirty little secret that most novels, and a hefty number of nonfiction works, are gauged on the potential of being a movie. It’s not a secret that the author is not reimbursed for the sale, because the contract they signed gives the publisher the rights. So all those vampire novels that made it to the screen made a pretty penny for the publishing company, but not so much the writer. At least her name got out there. The Harry Potter series did well for Rowling, but only because so many of the books sold. As for the films, she did manage to maintain some control and serve as a producer (thanks to book sales). This revelation does not surprise me. Many writers end up complaining about how a movie made a mess of their book, but that’s all they can do. Complain. Big sales= some say. As a research project check out any of your favorite writer’s work that has been adapted to film and read what they have to say about it.

What surprised me is how corporations from those dark days (1930s-40s) are still standing in some form or another. In “Rotten to the Core” Gaughram spells it out, and then he drops this bomb. Penguin Random House is a division of the German media corporation Bertelsmann, and guess what they did? Nazi publishing house. So to that guy, who got the check from Random House… Enjoy the benefits of working with a company that has such a rich history in producing anti-Semitic literature for the fatherland. I’ll stick to small literary journals and attempt to finish something I control from beginning to end.

The more I read about the publishing industry the more I am astounded that it is still around. Writers work on something for an extended period of time, turn it over to a handful of people who then slap it onto paper in mass quantities, attempt to convince a few outlets (very few) to carry the product, and then skim 85-90% off the top for themselves. The agent that brought them the product takes a chunk, and what’s left over the person that produced it finally gets their hands on. Who agrees to that? J.A. Konrath scribbled a good analogy regarding the methods of corporate publishers.

This is not so much a rant against the industry as it is me attempting to work out in my mind what to do next with my work when it is finished. I’m in the home stretch with it, and then I have to do an edit. I am a little dubious about going at it on my own, so I scan lists of agents who work in the genre and outline a decent query. But if all I get in the end is a whopping 10-15%, if that, I should take into consideration who I am dealing with, and why I am even talking to them. I leave you with this thought from America’s favorite frat boy:

“Publishing companies are like schoolyard bullies that can’t even fight well.” Tucker Max




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