By the way of disclaimer: I have never submitted and got rejected by a publisher – any publisher.
I live and work in New York, whose economy and people benefit from the publishing industry and I have friends who’s best interests coincide with survival and well-being of the publishing industry.
There’s been a lot of talk about the big six publishing houses. Some people have been calling them “the traditional publishing houses.” I think this is not accurate. There is nothing traditional about them. The traditional publishing house would be a struggling business operating on the thinnest of margins and filled with literature lovers who live and breathe putting good books into good people’s hands.
What we have now is six large corporations that as corporations often do, while full of nice, well-wishing people, developed minds of their own.
I’m not for corporate bashing. I work in a corporate world. My LinkedIn page is filled with CEOs, CTOs, and other officers of various corporations. They are good people. It’s just a corporation is considered a separate entity for a reason. It has it’s own agenda, often different from the people that run it. Trust me on this, I can see a lot of my corporate friends nodding their heads at this.
Six large corporations that run what I call non-traditional publishing houses are running scared. The times are changing and it means that someone will die and someone will emerge a victor. At the moment it feels like this victor is not going to be based in New York. In all likelihood it will be based in Seattle or possibly in Mountain View, or both.
Mind you, I’m not quite sure it’s a good thing. But it’s just the way it is. In the process, just like the empowering movements all over the world it will grudgingly empower the people, unless they allow the victor(s) put them in chains again, but that’s a separate topic to discuss.
Now back to the main topic at hand.
I originally wrote parts of this post as a message on Megan Lindholm’s website mixed with the celebratory comments dedicated to her launching her latest book.
If Madame Lindholm graces my site by reading, I apologize once more for the inappropriate venue I chose for my comments.
Here is the post: Live From University Book Store Seattle!!!
What I think Harper did to her is nothing short of criminal. I could be wrong and those were not choices made by Harper USA but by Megan herself. In this case they are still guilty, but the disservice they have done to her was listening to her…
But I don’t think she had much say in those matters.
Here is my list of grievances. It starts with the covers. Take a look at those two lineups:
The Rain Wild Chronicles:
Soldier Son Trilogy:
Do I need to say more?
Now compare it to the covers from the UK edition:
City of Dragons
Lovely isn’t it? And it fits perfectly with the other two:
The Halloween-themed cover for the US edition is just sad… When the cover is displayed as a 70 by 70 pixel thumbnail – you cannot see much at all. To me it looks like a pair of snow peas in front of a pumpkin:
I hear you, my reader. You say, “So what? Those things happen.”
To that I say, “Not when you take 85% of the profits!” I say, “For that amount of money, you’d better be flawless!”
But they didn’t stop there, did they?
I have several eReader-phobic friends who buy paper only. But even they admit that they don’t buy a book unless they read the first chapter online and then they order online too. Where is the “look inside” feature for the new book? It’s not there! They had to purposefully disable it.
Now, the saddest part of the whole ordeal – the price of the eBook edition. They set the price at eye popping $27.99 – the same as the hard cover and then “discounted it” to $18.40…
Compare it to the £4.49 (about seven bucks) it goes for on Amazon.co.uk.
This just boggles the mind. This just sounds like Harper knows that they are going down, and Amazon is killing them, and the are trying to “punish Amazon” by doing this.
The only person they are punishing is Madame Lindholm!
Considered this: the mid-listed self published writer Joe Konrath made $100,000 in the three weeks around Christmas by selling his very popular books for $2.99.
Let’s calculate how much money Robin Hobb (I’m using the pen name here on purpose, as I’m referring to the brand here) would have made if she was selling her books by herself for let’s say $7 and earned %70 of it. If she sells 1 million eBooks in the first year for $7 each – she’d get 4.9 millions. Then she can drop the price to $3.99 and sell another million in the second year earning another 2.793 millions. But most importantly a whole a lot more people will read the book and that’s what most authors want more than money.
What service does Robin Hobb gets from Harper?
Editing? Cover design? Copy-editing? Marketing? Formatting?
She can find people who would that for her for $40 an hour or even for free and they will say “Thank you!” and kiss her feet – is she enjoys that kind of thing…
There is a Roman expression that says, “You can sheer a sheep many times but you can skin it only once.”
Update – 02/18/2012.
The “look inside” feature became available. The price for the eBook “dropped” to $14.99, which is still too high. Look at the tags customers slapped on the book:
outrageous kindle price(9)
publisher price ripoff(7)
too expensive for kindle(6)
9 99 boycott(4)
9 99 boycott outrageous price for a kind…(4)
The cutest part of this is the 9.99 boycott, the book isn’t even $9.99!
In my opinion, the print copy has a slightly more palatable shade of brown but still really weird and it clashes with the rest of the series. It almost sounds like they didn’t want to pay an artist and some intern photo shopped the UK cover. Why brown background? Why? Isn’t this supposed to be a landscape of sorts? Where would you find a landscape of that color? But then again I just started listening to my audio copy (paid with one credit from Audible.com, I earn one by paying $15 every month.) Maybe there something in the novel that describes the golden-brown landscape… But then again why the UK edition has this lovely shade of green?
I have a theory why the eBook got pumpkin color. The printer works off the color scheme called CMYK – Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Key (black) they represent the inks used. If you prepare an image for printing in CMYK and then just convert it to RGB (red, green, blue the screen uses) blindly – it will look all messed up.
You need to have control of the original image and actually specify two color values: one for the screen and another one for the print. Alternatively, you can convert blindly and then search and replace colors to make them look the same on the screen as it was in print. I’m sure there are filters that do this for you as well. I think some graphic designer didn’t do a professional job of converting the image. This is bad, whichever way you look at it.
Okay. The new thing I just noticed.
When you scroll down the listing, you read this editorial review, controlled by the publisher:
“The Soldier Son [trilogy] can be read as a political satire on American military aggression, but on a more personal level it is profoundly perceptive about the challenge faced by the honorable, brave and good. Nevarre is a true hero.”
Pardon my French ladies and gentlemen. What the fuck? Somebody did a cut’n'paste job from the Soldier Son trilogy into this book and didn’t bother to change it?
WTF? WTF? WTF? WTF?
I don’t even want to mention how horrible this editorial review is. I personally know a fifth grader that writes better. What are you guys smoking? Seriously. I want some of that stuff.
This is just sad. I mean sad, sad, sad, sad…
Okay. Steam vented, I’m off to listen to my copy of the book.