Showing posts with label simon and schuster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label simon and schuster. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 12

Hugh Howey's Awesome Deal With Simon & Schuster And The Importance Of Agents

Hugh Howey's Awesome Deal With Simon & Schuster And The Importance Of Agents

Today I was spoiled for choice concerning topics to write about.

Hugh Howey broke the news about his terrific deal with Simon & Schuster.

Also Dean Wesley Smith has been having some interesting discussions over on his blog about agents and--since Hugh's terrific deal was landed with the help of his agent--I thought, in an odd sort of way, the two stories go together.

Hugh Howey's Awesome Deal With Simon & Schuster

Hugh Howey, bestselling author of Wool, has landed a breathtakingly good deal with Simon & Schuster. The bones of the deal are as follows:

- Hugh Howey retains control over ebook pricing and will continue to sell ebooks online.
- Simon & Schuster publishes paper copies of Wool--both hardback and paperback--and (of course) distributes them to traditional brick and mortar bookstores.

Congratulations Hugh Howey!

Here is what Hugh wrote about it:
In March, Simon and Schuster is releasing a print edition of WOOL here in the United States, and I couldn’t be more excited. This deal is all about the new publishing paradigm. There are no clauses limiting what I can write and how quickly I can release. I keep control over the ebooks, which means the prices will stay where they are. ... You’ll finally get a print edition with the utmost in quality and design.
Simon and Schuster is also doing a simultaneous paperback and hardback release. This is just a whole bunch of firsts! I'd encourage you to read Hugh Howey's post in full: Luddites, Rejoice!

Hugh Howey also made a 13 minute video in which he talks more in depth about his publishing journey and how this deal came about. Fascinating and highly recommended.

Agents And The Independent Author

One of the things Hugh Howey mentions in his video (Announcement Time!) is the role his agent, Kristen Nelson, played in landing his deal with Simon & Schuster. And not only that deal, his movie deal with Ridley Scott as well. Hugh Howey said that these deals would never have happened without his agent's help (this is my own transcription):
[W]e're talking about a book that's only been out since January and in that time we've had some incredible things happen.

One of the first of which was hearing from Kristen Nelson in the middle of the night who ... I'd already told some agents I didn't think it made sense to go with an agent, I was happy doing things the way that I was and she convinced me, "Hey, let's explore foreign rights, let's amp up the Hollywood push," both of which have been ... I mean, Ridley Scott and 20 countries later she's proven herself, everything she said has come true.
It seems like Hugh Howey feels that Kristen Nelson more than earned her commission!

Let's think about that for a minute.

Dean Wesley Smith has published two (excellent!) articles in a row about agents (See: A Side Note About Agents and One More Agent Question). Dean and a number of authors have been vocal in their opinions that, these days, authors do not need agents.

In fact, Dean feels that, for most authors, agents hurt your writing career more than they help it. Dean writes:

Agents are no longer needed in this new world of publishing for most writers.

I don't disagree with Dean. How could I? He, Kris Rusch, Laura Resnick and a number of other full-time writers have horror story after horror story involving their former agents. Everything from fiscal mismanagement (author's money not remitted to him, incorrect amount of money remitted, etc.) to neglecting to pass along offers (offers from publishers, movie people, and so on) to the author.

On the other hand, there are some authors who praise their agents. Hugo award winner, Jim C. Hines for instance. Jim has stated publicly that he is happy with his agent. He writes:
[T]here seems to be an assumption ... that I’m blindly sticking with a system that’s screwing me over, that I haven’t seriously considered or researched other publishing options, and so on. I would like to reassure people that this is not the case. I read my contracts, both U.S. and foreign. I review my royalty checks and statements, and I ask my agent about anything that looks odd. (Often he beats me too it, sending me royalty spreadsheets with a note that he thinks some numbers look off, and he’s following up with the publisher.) (In Which Others Worry About the State of my Career)

Does An Indie Author Need An Agent?

It could be that while many, perhaps even most, agents are a hinderance to a writer's career, this is not always the case.

It seems that for certain things: offering one's book for auction, pursuing a movie deal, and so on, having an agent can make sense financially.

Could Hugh Howey have done, himself, everything his agent did for him? Possibly. But chances are he wouldn't have had as much time to write. And chances are he wouldn't have gotten the movie contract or the publishing contract with Simon & Schuster, as quickly.

Also, let's face it, some writers loath the business side of writing. If they could find an agent who was both skilled and honest they would gladly pay them to handle rustling up movie deals and the like.

Perhaps in the beginning, before the writer has hit it big, they don't need an agent. But, afterward, when things like movie rights and deals with large US publishers are being discussed, then having a savvy agent can be an asset.

But, still, the writer is left with the daunting task of finding an agent both skilled and honest.

Other articles you might like:

- Turning Off Your Inner Editor
- Guy Kawasaki Writes The Definitive Book On Self Publishing: APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur: How To Publish A Book
- The Dark Art of Critiquing, Part 2: Formulating A Critique

Photo credit: "My little ladybird" by jonespointfilm under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Thursday, November 29

Simon & Schuster's Archway Publishing: Is It Ethical?

Simon & Schuster's Archway Publishing: Is It Ethical?

The Dream

When I was a kid I had a dream. I wanted to tell stories. Great stories. Stories other people would listen to with bated breath, leaning forward to hear whether the hero would escape the deadly clutches of the monster.

Or something like that. When I was a kid there probably would have been a fairy somewhere in the mix.

Penguin Publishing was part of that dream. (Yes, I was an odd child.)

To my young imagination, Penguin was special. It was like heaven, but for stories. It was where stories got to go if they were very, very, good. I didn't even think about getting paid for my stories, my goal was just to create something awesome enough that, one day, Penguin would want to publish it.

It never occurred to me writing was a business--but then I was eight and I hadn't yet grasped the whole need-money-to-live thing.

When I grew up--well, I don't think I've grown up, I just got taller and older--I understood about needing money, but I still thought the folks at Penguin--as well the rest of the Big 6 publishers--were special. I thought they did what they did for the love of books, of stories, of that great vague amorphous category called literature.

I no longer think that.

The Big-6 are BUSINESSES pure and simple and, as such, are tasked with making money.


Making money, not publishing stories (heaven-worthy or otherwise) is their bottom line.

So why does it shock and dishearten me when yet another publisher goes to the dark side of publishing?

(To my mind, a publisher goes to the dark side when it tries to make money, not from selling stories, but off of authors. Money should flow to the author, not the other way around.)

Simon & Schuster's Archway Publishing

Here's what started my thoughts in this direction. Recently Simon & Schuster formed a partnership with Author House and created their own self-publishing portal, Archway Publishing. (See: Simon & Schuster Partners With Author House To Create Archway Publishing)

I had a conversation with a friend yesterday--we left friends, although barely--in which he shrugged and said, "Well, if Simon & Schuster thinks they can make money off authors, why shouldn't they?"

Thunderstruck at his defense of Simon & Schuster, I spluttered that publishers shouldn't make money from authors, they should make it from sales of books (something to do with the whole publisher thing).

But, once again, my friend shrugged and said, "As long as Simon & Schuster is making money, and it's legal, why should they care? Buyer beware."

I glared at him and wished I had a retort, but I didn't.

Is "ethical business" a contradiction in terms? And, even if it is, don't we want the people who publish our stories to CARE something about writers? I mean, it's not outrageous to suggest a business should treat its client base with respect.

Is it?

The Hook

One reason Simon & Schuster's creation of Archway Publishing bothers me is that new writers will take Simon & Schuster's close association with Archway as indicating endorsement. As in, "If you publish through Archway you'll have a better chance, one day, of being published by us."

It invites new writers to think of Archway as an (expensive) initiation experience, a testing ground to see if their story has what it takes. (By the way, publishing your story yourself on, say, Amazon would do the same thing; if you're shy, you could use a pen name and not tell anyone. If it doesn't sell, keep writing till one does. Show me a professional writer and I'll show you someone mule-stubborn.)

This perception is helped by statements such as this one, found in a FAQ on Archway's site:
[W]e will alert Simon & Schuster to Archway Publishing titles that perform well in the market. Simon & Schuster is always on the lookout for fresh, new voices and they recognize a wealth of talent in Archway authors.
But it doesn't stop there. Simon & Schuster will be referring any unsolicited manuscripts they receive to the Archway program. Writer Beware Blogs writes:
There's also this disturbing tidbit in PW's coverage of the launch: "S&S will refer authors who submit unsolicited manuscripts to the Archway program." I didn't find this in other news coverage, and I'm hoping it's not true--or if it is true, that S&S will re-think it. Such referrals are seriously questionable, since authors who receive them are likely to give them more weight because they come from a respected publisher. (Archway Publishing: Simon & Schuster Adds a Self-Publishing Division)
How is that not taking advantage of new writers? Imagine this:
You've finished your first manuscript, it's a 240,000 word paranormal novel set in the wild west. As you mail off your carefully worded query letter the butterflies in your stomach feel more like elephants doing the tango. Afterward, you joke with your friends and say things like, "Oh, well, I thought I'd start at the top".

Then, after obsessing about it for a month, you get a letter from Simon & Schuster. As you hold it you think: This could be it! Your hands shake so hard it takes a minute to get the envelope open. The white notepaper inside is a blur at first, then you read: Simon & Schuster has referred your manuscript to another publisher!
If that were me several years ago I would have started doing the (highly embarrassing) Scooby dance.

It sounds great, doesn't it? Simon & Schuster has referred your manuscript to another publisher. They believe in it. They believe in you!

That's quite the hook, especially for someone craving affirmation the way a drowning person craves air.

Money Should Always Flow Toward The Author

Archway Publishing doesn't just charge authors between $1,599 and $14,999 to  publish their manuscripts, they also take a hefty royalty. According to
Archway will pay an ebook royalty of 50 percent of net sales, so if an ebook is distributed to Kindle, for example, an Archway author would receive 50 percent of the sale minus Amazon’s 30 percent fee. (Simon & Schuster launches self-publishing arm with Author Solutions)
I wouldn't be as upset about Archway Publishing if it just charged outrageous sums for helping writers publish their work but gave them 100% of their royalties, at least for ebooks.

I know some writers don't want to do everything themselves, and that's perfectly fine. Many businesses help with things like line editing, cover art, formatting, uploading, and so on, and they charge a flat fee for services rendered. Bookbaby for instance. This is fine.

Imagine your neighbor is selling his house. Imagine he pays someone $30 to mow his lawn and then, on top of that, gives them 50% of the money from the sale of his house. Wouldn't you be flabbergasted? I would! Then why give royalties to the person who formats and uploads a manuscript?

Do Publishers See Writers As Marks?

What do you think? Am I overreacting? I can hold my opinions passionately, but I'm open to other points of view.

What do you think about Simon & Schuster's partnership with Author Solutions? What should the bottom line be for publishers? Making money? They're businesses so it's not unreasonable, but then where do writers fit in? Where do stories fit in? (For Dean Wesley Smith's perspective on Archway Publishing, click here: New Way For Uninformed Writers to Spend Money.)

Perhaps I'm looking at this the the wrong way. Even if making money is the bottom line for a publisher, shouldn't that mandate treating writers well? After all, no writers, no stories. I'd like to see publishers turn a profit then!

... hopefully self-aware androids are a long way off.

Other articles you might like:

- Jim Butcher's Advice For New Writers: Write Every Day
- Using Pinterest To Help Build Your Fictional Worlds
- How To Record Your Own Audiobook: Setting Up A Home Studio

Photo credit: "There is always a bigger fish" by floodllama under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Tuesday, November 27

Simon & Schuster Partners With Author House To Create Archway Publishing

Simon & Schuster Creates A Self-Publishing Portal

Just today Simon & Schuster announced it's partnering with Author Solutions to create Archway Publishing.
[Archway Publishing] will focus on self-published fiction, nonfiction, business and children's books. Digital technology has helped lead to the proliferation of self-published books, with Sylvia Day and Amanda Hocking among those becoming bestselling authors.
Archway will offer a range of services to budding authors beginning at $1,599.
Archway will offer a range of services, from a basic $1,599 package that includes "editorial assessment" and "cover copy review" to a $24,999 "Outreach" program for business books that features an "author profile video" and a reception at BookExpo America, the industry's annual national convention.

Why this is NOT good news for authors

I wrote about 1,000 words on this subject and then came across Carla King's article on Penguin's purchase of Author Solutions earlier this year: Why Self-Publishers Should Care That Penguin Bought Author Solutions. Yes, the article is about Penguin rather than Simon & Schuster but the same objections apply. Carla writes:
Smashwords founder Mark Coker is a longtime critic of Author Solutions, pointing out in his blog that they make more money from selling services to authors than selling authors' books: "Author Solutions is one of the companies that put the 'V' in vanity.  Author Solutions earns two-thirds or more of their income selling services and books to authors, not selling authors' books to readers ..."
Add to that Jane Friedman's comments:
Jane Friedman, in her Writer Unboxed blog, notes that ASI's acquisitions are "appearing more and more like a huge scramble to squeeze a few more profitable dollars out of a service that is no longer needed, that is incredibly overpriced when compared to the new and growing competition, and has less to recommend it with each passing day ..."
In my view this isn't a win for self-publishers, this is just another shark in already crowded waters.

Writer beware.

Other articles you might like:

- Editing: Make Sure Your Story's Bones Are Strong
- 11 Steps To Edit Your Manuscript. Edit Ruthlessly & Kill Your Darlings
- NaNoWriMo: The Homestretch & Kindling The Will To Write

Reference links:

- Writer Beware: The Return Of The Vanity Press
- Indie Authors: Don't Give Anyone Ownership Of Your Work
- Snake Oil Salesmen And The Indie Author
- Why Self-Publishers Should Care That Penguin Bought Author Solutions
- How a Traditional Publisher Could Harm a Writer's Career
- A Step-By-Step Guide to U.S. Copyright Registration for Self-Publishers
- Bookbaby: Get published Now! (Bookbaby does NOT take a royalty)

Photo credit: "Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)" by mikebaird under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Wednesday, May 9

Murder One by Robert Dugoni now $1.99 for two weeks

Robert Dugoni
Robert Dugoni

I first met Robert Dugoni at the Surrey International Writers' Conference and decided that if he was half as good as a writer as he was as a speaker I was going to love his books.

He is and I do.

Being poor, though, I must confess I've taken most of his books out of the library so I was exited to hear about a special deal his publisher, Simon & Schuster, is running. For the next two weeks, until May 22, Murder One is going to be on sale for $1.99. At that price even I can afford to buy it!

Here are links to the venues where Murder One is on sale at the promotional price:

- Page of links at Simon & Schuster

- Murder One at
- Murder One at Barnes & Noble
- Murder One at iTunes

I'm not sure if the promotional price has kicked in at all the stores, but when I checked just now Barnes & Noble and iTunes, they did have the book on sale for $1.99.

Apparently this discounted price is part of a promotion for Dugoni's new book, The Conviction, that's coming out June 12, 2012.

By the way, the sale began May 8, 2012 so it should last until May 22, 2012.


Saturday, March 10

The Justice Department and Agency Pricing

The Justice Department has warned Apple Inc. and five of the biggest U.S. publishers that it plans to sue them for allegedly colluding to raise the price of electronic books .... [1]
-- The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2012, by Thomas Catan & Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg.
The US publishers in question are:

When I read this I started hearing Chris Isaak's song, "Baby I did a bad bad thing." I know, I'm strange.

What could this mean for writers? Well, for starters, lower prices for books.

The real question is: would cheaper books be good, or bad, for writers? I don't think there's a clear cut answer. If I was published by one of the publishers in the above list -- and keep in mind that these are amoung the biggest publishers in North America -- I would be worried that I would find it harder to get my books accepted and that I would earn less for the books that were. On the other hand, if I was published by an epublisher like Samhain, I don't see how this would affect me.

Last year at a writer's conference I had the pleasure of dining with one of the editors at Samhain. She mentioned that, unlike many other publishers, Samhain has been experiencing growth. In fact, a few months ago, she had been an editor at another well-known publisher, one who was known for print books, and one who was currently in a financial slump.

I think that the future is bright, and will remain so, for people -- writers included -- who are willing and able to embrace change and work with the old ways of doing things while accepting the new.

Thanks for reading!

1. The Wall Street Journal, March 9, 2012, by Thomas Catan & Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg

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Monday, January 17

Paranormal stories are still selling

Paranormal stories are still selling. According to, Simon & Schuster bought the rights to three paranormal thrillers by debut author Sarah Alderson. Yay Sarah! Congratulations.

Editorial director Venetia Gosling had this to say:

Hunting Lila is a slick romantic thriller, with great sexual tension and a gorgeous hero, as well as a fantastically page-turning plot. It’s a really commercial read, from a talented and highly promotable debut author, and we’ve already had a huge amount of international interest. We’re delighted to welcome Sarah to our list and urge you to keep an eye out for this great new talent!”