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Discussion Starter #1
Just wondering because it seems like that traditional publishers have become totally dependent on celebrities and celebrity authors/franchises.

I have seen a few places where there is a growing sentiment that newbie authors have virtually no chance to get a publishing deal.  To me it is sad because new authors breathe new life into literature. I know newbies can always go the self-published route but, many don't have the resources to do so properly (i.e. marketing funds).

Mark
 

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Venture out of your echo chamber once in a while.  ;)

New authors have always had almost no chance at a publishing deal, while simultaneously new authors are getting publishing deals all the time.

Just in the last two weeks, Nikki May landed a 7-figure deal including her debut, Jenny Tinghui Zhang got a deal for her debut right out of graduate school, Addison Armstrong got a two book deal, and Steven Lloyd got a deal (not a celebrity, but he was a behind the scenes TV guy.)

And those are just the big flashy novelist deals that make news. There are smaller deals going on all the time too.
 

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This absolutely does seem to be a big problem for a newbie literary writer, in particular. The big publishers rely more and more on the bestsellers, at the exclusion of just about everything else. Literary fiction has always been a tough sell, but it seems now more than ever. Maybe you saw the article in the NY Times last Sunday about the CEO of Penguin Random House. It references the fact that mid-level publishers are basically being run out of business or bought up. The "mid-list" is shrinking and that's where newbies would typically get their start with traditional publishers. Anyway, here's that article if you hadn't seen it:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/19/books/penguin-random-house-madeline-mcintosh.html
 

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Most new authors don't get publishing deals, but that's nothing new. Most new authors have never gotten publishing deals.

But, yes, absolutely, there is still interest in new authors. A formerly-self-published author (Andrea Stewart) signed a six-figure trade-pub deal (https://www.tor.com/2019/12/05/orbit-books-acquires-debut-fantasy-trilogy-from-author-andrea-stewart/) just last year and her first book came out this month and seems to be doing very well.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
There are always going to be the swing for the fences seven figure gambles that kind of making little sense. 

It is the compression of the smaller deals is what I am refering to.

With the pandemic there have many significant rollout delays and I am sure it is affecting the whole ecosystem. Which goes back to the original point...the ones who suffer are the newbies (who choose not to self-publish).

Traditional publishers have read the markets wrong before as to what will sell.

Mark
 

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alhawke said:
I am really jealous and, for some reason, developing a sudden distaste for reading about bloodthirsty unicorns. Ah ... envy.
It's fantastic - who knew unicorns could be carnivores. I'm also a little jelly. :)
 

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New authors are getting deals every day. I have known three personally that have gotten deals in the last year. (Literary, YA, YA.) By the way two of the deals came from a group of twelve authors I am a part of.  Those are pretty good odds.
If you go to twitter and other places where wannabe authors hang out and complain, you are going to hear the negative.
Its the same group of like minded people that post all over social media about unfairness. The same group also looks everywhere else to blame why they have failed to reach their own goal. I would suspect they do the same in all parts of their own lives as well.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
I was surprised to see how many middle grade books already exist about unicorns! Who would have thought?

Kind of funny given the "urban slang" meaning.

Mark



 

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I remember the words of Quentin Tarantino - Sure there are other people out there, but if you do something special, and throw a piece of nitro out there into the crowd, people will notice.
There's a lot of competition out there and not a lot of literary agents or publishers. Things have been and always will be tough in trad publishing.

Just be pleased we now live in an age where ANYone can publish their work on platforms like Kindle. Everyone has an opportunity to put their work out there.
 

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I just know that all my small press and independent publishers are suffering. 80% of them are without sales or reviews--they're not even on the boards. Myself and a few others are leading the packs but we're in poor shape compared to what we used to do. Really poor shape. I still believe the Big-5 are ambulance chasers when they seek out and buy debut authors. Wool, Twilight, 50 Shades had huge appeal and readers before the big houses woke up and smelt the coffee. New authors might be grabbing the golden tickets, but you have to admit that they are far, few and in between. More than ever, I'm researching these huge author deals and discovering the histories of these authors and these books. In one form or another, they have appeal with some kind of track record or platform behind them. Suzy ala The Hunger Games, was already connected up in the industry before she hit it big--and yes, admittedly a great book/series. Look at the story behind The Martian.

It's not the editors or CEO of the publishing house that determines a sale. It's the marketing department, and they nearly, singularly run the entire show. The exception would be a totally breakout novel sold by an A-list agent, where the author had no credits, no fan base, virtually no footprint in the industry. A book that gets six and seven figure deals without that type of support is an extreme outlier, or all the galaxies are inline in their favor.

My agent is hardly getting responses from the Big 5, and it's been one of her, and her fellow agents, biggest complaints. A-list and celebrity authors are dominating and filling the slots, especially with on-going series that seem to have no end. Those are marketing department decisions--strictly business. Admittedly, there are a hell of a lot of goofs with lofty advances and tepid sales, but the vast majority of the previous best-sellers keep the lights on. Again, marketing. Again, business. Which  =  math and numbers, sell-through, production costs, advertising and distribution. These debut block-busting authors MUST appeal in some way (other than a great tome)--they have something else going for them, because the author themselves are a selling point. That's why name branding is so important. Age, gender, race, religion, topical stance and such things all  play into the package. Case in point--Eragon. Hells bells! Christopher was More marketable than the book! If that book had NO campaign (launched by the help of his parents btw) do you think that book would have ever had a chance or gotten the deal that it did? Marketing saw that one coming like a freight train. Kid writes epic fantasy, dresses up the part and visits schools to do readings! The AP wires caught on fire. Marketing realized that half of their job had already been done, it was only necessary to shove the kid and his book into the stratosphere.

The article mentions an uptick in reading and increased sales. Oh yeah? Maybe for Random House, and maybe for certain categories and genres, but how about a huge poll that involves all other publishers great and small? Lets include all trad publishers other than the monsters and see how they stand on that issue. She says that people are tiring of Netflix and resorting to books, whereas I see the opposite across the wider spectrum. Huge movie and game-streaming.

Not to be a Danny Downer here; just saying that there is so, so much more in bringing a book to break-out/best-seller status than just exceptional words on a page. Whenever I hear the old adage, "Write a great book that everyone will want to read and it will sell", I cringe. And I believe  this forum knows what I'm talking about more than any other. Our true masterpieces, our hard-gained brilliance, even, has been squashed so many times it's a wonder we haven't all had massive strokes from elevated blood pressure. When they say that this business is 99.999% rejection, they had us in mind.

Yet, we fight on!


 

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The trad publishing world is a different universe from the one most indie authors live in. I read the linked stories on here (the ones that weren't blocked by a paywall) with passive interest... but I've got an ebook to finish.

Interesting to read about it, though.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
In 2015-16 or so I remember reading articles about how the traditional publishers were moving towards more 7 figures deals and less book deals....i.e.all searching for the "blockbuster" novel.

Around the time, I started looking for a literary agent (I had no idea what self pub was all about at that time).  What I learned fairly quickly was that everyone in the chain was overworked and the system was incapable of properly screening the exponential increases in manuscripts.  The trad publishers had cut editorial staffs so editors were overworked and became totally dependent on literary agents to do the screening of new projects. Literary agents figured out that to make money they needed to create a bidding war and the appearance that there were "few" potential best sellers to drive up the price hence ridiculous sums offered to authors with no track record. How does this occur?

It is all about relationships. The advice I was given was to "make" friends with those in the inner circle of the literary agent world/conference etc...

As pointed out, if you do some real digging about who has gotten the seemingly crazy newbie deals, you find that there is a web of connections that got them on the inside track where most writers can't. There are a couple of local authors (I live in Canada) that have done well (gotten good deals) and both were well connected in the industry before getting their deals. Obviously, you have to have a good manuscript/project/idea.

So there is a lot of press for the 7 figure deals to promote the idea that there is money to be paid in traditional publishing for an author. However, the reality is that there are fewer and fewer newbie deals overall. I know this because people who started looking around the same time I did (4 years ago) are still looking and the metrics they are seeing is that the % of manuscripts finding a literary agent let alone a deal is getting lower and lower.

The challenge for us self-publishers is that we compete with those authors with the 7 figure deals and those with those deals are going to have a marketing power behind them. However, the good news is that I firmly believe that over time, readers will stop caring about whether a novel is traditionally published or not. It ain't happening overnight but, it will get there.

The flip side for those getting deals. You better sell well or else you are finished in the trad side  after and will not a get a second chance. The pressure to sell on your first deal is incredible.

Mark

 

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The big five is becoming more lazy. They want books that sell themselves. If you are a new author with an online platform, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a deal—but if you have a platform that’s big enough for them to notice, then you’d probably make more doing it yourself.

If you are publishing non-fiction, there is still opportunity to find smaller presses that will be interested in your book, but they don’t have high budgets, and your advance will be pretty low (or non-existent).
 

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markpauloleksiw said:
In 2015-16 or so I remember reading articles about how the traditional publishers were moving towards more 7 figures deals and less book deals....i.e.all searching for the "blockbuster" novel.
These articles have been going on since at least the 90s when I started following the trades. (I joined SFWA in 1995 or so when I made my first pro sale.) They've probably been going on longer. This is not in any way new.

What I learned fairly quickly was that everyone in the chain was overworked and the system was incapable of properly screening the exponential increases in manuscripts. The trad publishers had cut editorial staffs so editors were overworked and became totally dependent on literary agents to do the screening of new projects.
The understaffing in regards to reading submissions goes back well past the 90s. Several big publishers have actually reopened to direct/unagented submissions in the last few years after decades of officially (but not absolutely) depending on agents.

Literary agents figured out that to make money they needed to create a bidding war and the appearance that there were "few" potential best sellers to drive up the price hence ridiculous sums offered to authors with no track record.
Sounds like pure negative spin with no basis in evidence. Bidding wars occur because two large publishers believe the same book has significant commercial appeal. It's in the author and agent's best interest to get the best possible deal. It would be a fiduciary failure not to seek out the best deal for the author.

As pointed out, if you do some real digging about who has gotten the seemingly crazy newbie deals, you find that there is a web of connections that got them on the inside track where most writers can't. There are a couple of local authors (I live in Canada) that have done well (gotten good deals) and both were well connected in the industry before getting their deals.
This is how conspiracy theory is built. Make some tenuous connection based on a kernel of truth and a huge swath of supposition.

I know ten authors who had no particular inside knowledge/contacts that couldn't be gained by anyone persistent in pursuing their dream of trade publishing. Networking does help, but that's true of most industries. It's not required, and networking is not synonymous with joining a secret cabal.

I know this because people who started looking around the same time I did (4 years ago) are still looking and the metrics they are seeing is that the % of manuscripts finding a literary agent let alone a deal is getting lower and lower.
Again, most writers looking for agents never get one. It's always been a top 1% cull. This goes back to the 90s at least. What metrics show that it's changed significantly from that recently? And really, how much farther does it have to go? That's lottery odds already.

the good news is that I firmly believe that over time, readers will stop caring about whether a novel is traditionally published or not. It ain't happening overnight but, it will get there.
You're late the the party on this one. Readers already don't care. Put out a quality product at a good price and promote it and you can find an audience that will support you better in many cases than an entry-level deal with a trade.

The flip side for those getting deals. You better sell well or else you are finished in the trad side after and will not a get a second chance. The pressure to sell on your first deal is incredible.
You'll not likely get a second chance with that pen name, but people change pen names all the time and some go on to get additional trade deals. This has been going on since at least the 90s. The precision of sales metrics and their role in buying decisions has increased over the years but it's not solely a recent phenomena.
 

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markpauloleksiw said:
Just wondering because it seems like that traditional publishers have become totally dependent on celebrities and celebrity authors/franchises.

I have seen a few places where there is a growing sentiment that newbie authors have virtually no chance to get a publishing deal. To me it is sad because new authors breathe new life into literature. I know newbies can always go the self-published route but, many don't have the resources to do so properly (i.e. marketing funds).

Mark
you didn't see that publishing deal twitter a few weeks back?

white debut authors are getting six/seven figure deals

tougher for BIPOC but they are looking for diversity esp. after angela thomas etc hit big

as i think j tanner said upstream, follow the twitters of the successful, don't worry about the debbie downers who say it can't be done because they didn't do it

in some genres i would always take a swing for a deal first
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Totally saw the 7 figure deal. There will always be those deals. That book only comes out in 2022...so sit tight for the hype.

But that is an exceptional lottery winning case. The large scale deals get tons of hype so everyone gets excited but, they are outliers.

What is getting squeezed are the middle size to small publishers who cannot keep up with market juggernauts of the big players. Those were the ones who brought newbies to the market and they are slowly being overrun.

Mark

 

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maybe i'm missing your point

you're an outlier if you net 6/7 figures self-pub

your risk of losing time is about the same

your risk of losing a financial investment is massively bigger

all industries are squeezing out the small players, ALL of them, not just publishing, there's no industry on earth that isn't consolidating to put most of the money in the hands of the few
 
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