There's no doubt, these times are scary and wildly exciting for writers, especially those who want to self-publish. Young authors rethink the necessity of obtaining a "legacy" contract with a traditional publisher at all, while midlisters flee their publishing houses in droves to publish their books on their own with much better conditions and full control of their rights. If someone hasn't followed the so-called revolution I strongly recommend visiting Joe Konrath's blog A Newbie's Guide to Publishing and reading the older posts.
It's not the revolution I find so astonishing; as an author I'm very grateful for the possibilities Amazon, Smashwords, Apple at al offer. No, it's the way traditional publishers deal with the new empowerment of writers that gets under my skin. Joe Konrath blogged about it day before yesterday and warned hapless writers to sign with Penguin's Book Country. To read the full blog post klick here.
Get that: Someone warns against signing with Penguin.
Now where does that leave us? There's a known and (formerly) respected publisher trying to scam (even more) money from young, hopeful writers. Sounds like a bad joke, right? Upon reading Joe's post I thought "That can't be true. That's their answer to writers' demand for fairer conditions?"
Unfortunately it is, just go and have a look at their page. They're trying to tie authors down with not only a completely audacious fee for formatting and getting their book to the known, free retailers (Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, Smashwords etc), they're also trying to grab royalties for this completely pointless service. Worse than that, the author would sign away certain rights to their work, most likely for a long time, if not ever.
"What's new?" you might ask, and rightly so. It's true that there have always been many companies and publishers trying to scam money from us but never this blatantly. With traditional vanity press one at least got a print book for the money. But paying someone for getting self-formattet and proofed e-books up? To platforms that allow me to upload content for free?
Yeah, thought so.
Writer beware, this is the Wild West and if you're not careful you'll pay money for something that you could easily do yourself or, if you can't, find good people to do your formatting, editing and cover for a flat fee. Don't be afraid to put a bit time and money into your work. Don't rush into things, take your time to learn and compare. That book is yours, and it's worth keeping it that way. Think thrice before signing anything!
For me, this development was the last straw. No big publishing house will ever see a query letter from me, not with things being as they currently are. Let's see how many publishers will follow this perfectly awful example to try and save themselves. And before you rail against me, I'm aware that not every publisher is that bad. I wish those who offer decent deals and work well with their authors all the best and continued success. But if I said "Writer beware!" earlier, I'm now saying "Publishing houses beware!"
We are watching you.
And we see everything.