Re-thinking the Publisher/Author Partnership

publishing bingo

Robert Miller, president and publisher of HarperStudio, advocates his ideas in the article Re-thinking the Publisher/Author Partnership, as a reaction to M.J. Rose’s editorial Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid from the previous week

Miller applauds Rose’s stance in involving authors in the marketing of books, but disagrees with her proposed solution of having authors “paid a higher royalty in exchange for their marketing efforts”. This is because he believes that the author is equally responsible for making full effort in marketing as the publisher, but it is difficult (if possible at all) to translate the “effort” into corresponding share of profit (if there is any). Consequently, the authors and publishers will not find this solution very plausible. With the vision to establish a “sustainable publisher/author relationships”, Miller takes a step further and suggests that publishers and authors be “equal partners” and share profits equally. This possibly tackles the aforementioned issue of calculating effort, and builds up responsibility on both sides.

While Miller’s suggestion of a fifty-fifty share has received some positive feedbacks, I do not see how it can work out so ideally, at least in the short term. One paradox in this proposal of adjusting publisher/author relationship is that most authors have a limited understanding of the publishing business, and it is the publishers who will suffer most financially if the books fail. I do sympathise with the authors who work whole-heartedly on their books, and I agree that they should receive the share that they truly deserve. While the industry certainly needs to rebalance the publisher/author partnership in order to motivate all practitioners, we will probably need to modify the contract case by case when it comes down to doing business.

Image Credit: Shmuel/Flickr


6 thoughts on “Re-thinking the Publisher/Author Partnership”

  1. My novel, “Return to Circa ’96,” won the 2005 Utah Original Writing Competition. I got $1,000…and learned by trial and error that getting even an award-winning book published takes re-writing, editing, and getting feedback from readers and other writers. It was rejected by more than a dozen publishers over the years, but my attitude has always been: “Hey! I’ve been thrown out of better bars than this!” 🙂

    It has taken 9 years, but my first novel will finally be published in February, 2015. I’m not quitting my day job working at the library, but I do think I’m getting the hang of this. I’m only 62 years old, looking forward to publishing again, and hoping that the next book won’t take so long.

    As winner of the 2014 Kenneth Patchen Award for Innovative Novel, I get $1,000…and 50% of profits from sales of the book. To me, that seems a pretty sweet deal.

    However, marketing is entirely up to me and that too, seems fair. (It’s a fringe press run by a fellow writer and teacher, working in his spare time–see below.) I started a blog, and I’ve been visiting independent bookstores and public libraries in Utah and Washington, passing out flyers promoting my product–just as any self-respecting salesman should. My father was a traveling salesman, too. I’m proud to be carrying on a family tradition.

    One final thought: Mark Twain was the original great American global traveling self-promoting creative writer. It’s Showbiz, baby! If you don’t enjoy the journey, maybe you’re in the wrong line of work.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. INteresting topic, and thoughtful comments. I think authors naturally promote their books after they’ve gone to the effort to get them published. If they promote, and the publisher promotes, and the book still doesn’t go anywhere, then … It’s a hard pill to swallow. Maybe it will be popular in 100 years. 🙂


  3. Thought-provoking! I played the bingo game with my indie-author/author-publisher/self-publisher (choose your preferred term) hat on. I answered agree/disagree. I found with many that of them it was a yes/no situation.
    For example,
    ‘Libraries are different’ – yes, but compared to what – different from bookshops but similar also as they are both book outlets.

    ‘I don’t have time for social media’ – yes and no. I don’t have unlimited time for social media, but I view the appropriately limited time spent networking, supporting other authors, writing my blog, to be wise investments of my time as regards flagging up the existence of my writing.

    ‘I wrote it, so I get to control how you read it’ – No, not directly. If my writing is having the desired (by me) effect on the reader, great. I’ve created a chemistry, a relationship, a sort of alchemy between my words and the readers reactions. Wow! That’s what art is. If I don’t, it could be it’s nobody’s fault and it’s a mismatch of supplier and consumer, or I’ve failed in my mission to connect.

    Writers, like most artists can be a wee bit precious. But we need to be realistic too. If we want to get our work out there to a wide audience we need help. We need help from others who also have a living to earn. We are no more hard done by than musicians, artists and movie makers. And by this I mean the lesser known folk, the ‘jobbing-artists’, if you like, in all these categories – not your Stones, Spielbergs, or Warhols (giving my age away with these examples). In some ways we’re privileged. It’s never been so easy to publish and sell your writing. As far as I’m aware visual artists can only dream of equivalent production methods and channels of distribution.

    Writing is hard work, but the world does not owe us a living. Publishing is a business. It has to make money. Trust and cooperation are what are needed. If signing up with a publisher isn’t for you, then go it alone. But whatever you do, be prepared to roll up those sleeves and graft for your art.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for your insightful comment, Anne! Yes I do share lots of your views on the profession of writing and publishing…… Publishing itself is indeed a business, but still at one level it carries the mission/responsibility of recognizing genuine contribution to human civilization, and cost-benefit can’t always be the one and only criterion with which we use to judge the value of a book. I do believe that there is a balance somewhere……
      Publishers, like authors, can be dreamers, and dreamers keep dreaming 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I don’t understand the bingo board: am I frightfully dense ?
    You’ve read my rant about my publishers and their attitude to marketing my book: something that wasn’t in it is the fact that they specifically asked me NOT to get involved in marketing it !!! I ignored them.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The publisher may lose the game in the short term if a book fails but it’s the author’s name and future, career that loses in the long run if that same book fails.

    If the publisher is looking at the $2000 that is the average allocated to promote and publicize an author as the loss, the royalties paid an author are so low a percentage that the author normally suffers a greater loss because of time involved in marketing and publicity taken on themselves as well as any advertising spots they choose to pay for to promote their novels.

    I’m insulted that this publisher thinks they lose more than an author if a book fails. The author suffers the book. The publisher simply moves on to another author in their quarry.

    Liked by 1 person

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