If getting your book published makes you feel like a beggar, trunk it instead.


A quick post to share something I’ve been chatting about on Twitter: Here’s John Scalzi shooting down the idea that new writers don’t have the power to negotiate a deal or to demand decent treatment. It’s smart stuff, but I only want to add one thing:

Yeah, Scalzi makes the point that legitimate publishers acquire books because they believe the book has value. That means the writer is not a beggar hoping the publisher will cast a few alms into their bowl, and they’re not a lonely soul moping on the back stairs as the party winds down, still hoping for a pity fuck. They’re makers who have made something of value, and if people[1] aren’t yet treating a book as a thing with some value, then it’s time to write another book.

What’s more, a new writer has advantages over others who have already landed contracts with publishers. It’s easier to break in than to stay in, and that’s a fact. For some writers (me, of course, I’m talking about myself) new books come with a poor sales record attached to them. A writer gets more leverage by being a blank slate than by carrying a few scars. That’s why we sometimes have to start all over again under a new name.

So, if a publisher acts like it’s doing the writer a favor, or that it’s giving the writer to a chance to stick a thumb in the eye of those awful gatekeepers, or that the writer is being given a chance to create a whole new system, those are danger signs. The publisher a writer wants is the one who admires the book enough to treat the author like a business and artistic partner, and who thinks that together they can reach an awful lot of readers.

[1] In this case, “people” covers everyone from agents, editors, reviewers, and those voracious ebook buyers who buy and read a book a day.