July 17, 2014

Publishing Here’s the Deal

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Bryan had made his way through life playing baseball. He started in Little League, then High School and on to college playing and loving the game all the way. He majored in Sports Management while in college and then got his dream job working for the St Louis AAA team the Memphis Redbirds.

Bryan shared with me how quickly he realized this wasn’t for him. His love for the game was giving way to the realization this was work, a job and not the hobby or the game he loved so well. The Red Birds organization was a business. Although their business was baseball it was strictly business that dealt with profits, deadlines and expectations that needed to be met. It wasn’t what Bryan had bargained for so he left the organization. 

Steve Bradshaw is a member of our writers group. Bradshaw shared how he had written Bluff City Butcher and submitted it to a publisher. It was given a good review but he was asked to get rid of the first three chapters. He refused. Later on he was approached by another publisher who liked his book and asked if he would consider a trilogy. He jumped at the chance and signed the deal for the trilogy. After signing they began work on the book and asked him to get rid of the first three chapters. No problem. He said if they pay you enough money you will do it.

In her autobiography Paula Deen tells how she started as a writer on her own. No agent no publisher, just self-published and paid a fortune for her first print. The cookbooks were stacked on a table at the entrance of her restaurant and were sold to the customers that came and enjoyed her wonderful meals. One of those customers was friends with an agent and suggested she look into publishing Paula Deen’s, The Lady and Sons cookbooks.

The agent made the deal with Deen and then the work began. Deen suddenly became aware of the freedom one has as a self-published author. She was self-edited and of course all her recipes had been written with her usual pinch and dash measurements. None of this would do. Editing was torture for her and her measurements would have to be changed to teaspoons, tablespoons and cups. She said she practically had to rewrite the book.

So what’s the deal? The deal is publishing is a business. It isn’t a non-profit but a capitalistic profit making business. Many authors are so immersed in creativity, which is what we most enjoy, we fail to realize in order to have our book published we must be willing to compromise. We may need to meet their requirements of the genre, the readers, the company and the market.

Like Bryan, you may be met with the realization this is not what you bargained for. I understand and there is always self- publishing. But honestly even there you will want some good advice. Be prepared to draw a line or compromise. Neither is easy, especially when you want your work out there in front of people, and ultimately that is what we all want.         

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