Jacqueline George is my guest today. I’m always interested in what an author has to say about the world of publishing. She’s also involved in a book distribution venture: Yellow Silk Dreams.
“You do not have to be in the writing business long before you realize there is one thing the book trade demands from authors. Not literature, not brilliant writing, not even commercial prospects, but exclusivity.
“Even agents are likely to demand that you park your precious manuscript with them for months without letting anyone else look at it. Of course, agents don’t have much stroke, but if a publisher condescends to look at your book, they will absolutely insist they have a free hand with it.
“A free hand to do what, exactly? Why do they need a guarantee of exclusivity before they add your book to their slush pile? They say they do not want to invest time and effort in your manuscript if it might be snatched away before they can secure their position. Fair enough but… time and effort? Oh, come on! We are talking about a lowly paid intern flicking through it, rejecting it if it does not meet the House Standard, and writing a short précis if it might. Doesn’t sound like much time and effort to me. And bear in mind that the author’s prize for getting past this stage is to have their book trapped in an approval maze, passing the secretaries of various august people, any one of whom might wake up with a hang-over and trash it.
“All the same, that sort of exclusivity is polite and genteel. It is when your book is accepted that the claws really come out. Now the default position is ‘All rights in the Universe, for the life of the copyright’. Really – the life of the copyright, which is until the author’s death plus 70 years. You will be in no condition to do anything with your book once the contract expires!
“And universal rights? They want the Bulgarian audio book rights? Forever? What for?
“The standard answer is that publishers need this sort of exclusivity to protect their investment. That is a sound commercial argument. If the publisher is going to spend in advance on promotion and marketing, they need to know only they (and marginally the author) will benefit from the resulting sales.
“This brings in the question of timing. If the publisher runs a marketing campaign, they will achieve peak sales in a year or two, and then numbers will decline to next to nothing as newer books are brought to the public’s attention. What happens then? It is dog-in-the-manger time as the publisher does not care anymore, and the author, who might achieve continuing sales in a small way, has no control over the book. At this point, exclusivity benefits no one.
“I’m not sure if exclusivity is needed for the vast majority of today’s books and publishers. Typically modern authors make all the investment and do all the promotion. Many modern epublishers limit their involvement to displaying the book on their site, and handling the money. I am not sure that is even publishing; probably we should call it distribution.
“Exclusivity is a way of tying up an author and grabbing a lion’s share of the revenue from a book. Fair enough if a publisher is doing his job and selling many times more books than the author would manage by themselves; daylight robbery if the publisher is lazy or forgetful.
“Exclusivity is an asset to me, and anyone who really, really wants a share of it had better come to the table with an equitable deal. Authors are waking up…”
***Who is Jacqueline?Jacqueline lives in the far north of Queensland, Australia, on the shores of the Coral Sea. She has a house built for the tropical climate – on tall stilts and with walls that open to let the breeze blow through.She lives with her husband who is easily managed, and her marmalade cat Rudy who definitely isn’t.
Jacqueline writes romantic stories because she is an unrepentant romantic at heart. But she also loves travelling to interesting places and meeting new people, and they find a place in her stories too.When she is not writing, she is kept busy by her garden which is still maturing. Right now her coconut trees look young and untidy
but come back in five years and they will be towering over the house.And what could be more romantic than a coconut palm?