8.10.2006

Snicker in your doodles

Dear Miss Snark,

I have an opportunity (perhaps that's too flattering a word?) to have a short story included in an anthology. The problem is, the 'publisher' will be using a POD company to make the books, and 'payment' for the authors is the 'right' to buy the book at wholesale prices, and resell it (probably to friends and family) at retail prices. Shiftier and shiftier, I know...

The thing is, I've always thought it would be fun to try to market a book. And I'd rather write a short story than a novel, if I'm going to market it myself. But is that sort of thinking stupid and ignorant? I suspect it is...I suppose I just need a good tap on the head with one of your lovely stilettos to remind me to stick with real publishers, and avoid PODs.


The problem is not that the "publisher" is using POD. The problem is the publisher has confused "buyers" with "contributors".

Many years ago when Miss Snark was a Keds wearing cherub, her local troop of Girl Sprouts had a cookie drive. Much energy and rallying of troops ensued. Buy a box of cookies for a good cause! Buy a box and teach a Girl Sprout the value of hard work! Well, Miss Snark being young and foolish bought into the whole charade.

Then she went home to Snark Central. Grandmother Snark introduced her to the concept of margin. The Sprout troop kept 10 cents on a four dollar box of cookies. Miss Snark got out her Hello Kitty pencil and did the math. Didn't take her more than a couple minutes (carry the three divide by x) to figure out that she was better off to buy the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies and sell them door to door at a fifty percent mark up.

I tell you this to illustrate that if you think it's fun to market a book why not at least work on something where you have chance of a reasonable reward. If you're going to be selling them to friends and family, compile your own work, print it up at Lulu.com and keep the dough.

Miss Snark will give you a merit badge. And a cookie.

29 comments:

Cynthia Bronco said...

the title alone made me laugh

Anonymous said...

At last! The real arithmetic behind Girl Scout cookies comes to light. I'm tired of people giving me dirty looks because I won't buy them. Aside from the mathematics, I'm bothered by anything that requires a little girl to ring strange doorbells, even if she does it with a group of friends.

Thank you, Miss Snark. I'll send Mr. Clooney right over with a pail of gin.

-- a friend

McKoala said...

Miss Snark wore keds?

Dave Kuzminski said...

Miss Snark was once an urchin minor? In the Girl Sprouts?

I'm sure the Keds must have been stiletto Keds, right?

Sherry Decker said...

Profits and mathematics don't play a part. I buy the cookies. I eat the cookies.

Simon Haynes said...

Re the cookies - give them a 50c donation and tell them it's the equivalent of 5 boxes.
(I can't imagine standing on my own doorstep explaining wholesale margins and markup. No wonder people just buy the cookies.)

Nick said...

I had a friend who got scammed by one of those "contest" anthologies one time. Turns out when she got the book, it had "Volume III" on the spine as well. Everyone who sent in a submission won.

-Nick

HiltonRC said...

Hey, there's an idea for a story. Miss Snark the Girl Sprout roaming the neighborhood in her stilleto Keds, snarking at the ignorant and saving the world from shoddy wholesale margins and markups.

Um, what's the name of that anthology publisher?

HawkOwl said...

Ten cents a box? You did good. This year we got NONE of our Girl Sprouts cookie money, the District took everything. And they're not giving us any funding in return, either. But the worst part is, we didn't find that out until after cookie sales.

But that's not as disturbing as finding out that Miss Snark was once a Girl Sprout...

Maya said...

It's been said before on this blog, but it bears repeating.

POD (print-on-demand) is a printing technology. It is NOT an business model or a type of publisher. It is a technology that permits the printing of one or a dozen books, using a digital file on which the manuscripts are stored until needed. Traditional publishers, electronic publishers AND the subsidy presses (the current PC term for vanity presses) are all using POD technology in various ways.

One of the most interesting recent events was Amazon's press release on May 19 that their purchase of BookSurge was part of "a new Print-on-Demand (POD) program designed to help book publishers sell lower volume book titles through a more economic supply chain."

Translation: Amazon is now offering publishers an inexpensive way to print as few as one copy of a title from their list. No need to warehouse the books while waiting for the occasional order. Amazon will store the digital file, print the book and ship it directly to the customer upon receipt of payment.

Writers need to pay attention to this because it could mean that their books may never have to go out of print. Readers googling might find reference to a book published ten years ago, but still available to be ordered through this technology.

A perfect example of Chris Anderson's "The Long Tail" in practice.

Mallika said...

It's not exactly the same, but this kind of reminds me of the anthologies that Poetry.com throws out every year. Years ago, I'd sent in one of my poems and it was (of course) accepted. Poetry.com kept asking me via letter whether I wanted to buy the $50+ volume that had my poem in it (the total came to around $69, I think, due to shipping all the way to my country -- I'm not sure about the exact price, so if I'm wrong please don't lynch me). By that time I was aware of what Poetry.com was doing, so I didn't give the letters a second thought.

Unbeknownst to me, my boyfriend at the time decided to make it a birthday present and ordered the book. (I'd shown the letter to him but I guess he thought I was just joking about not wanting to pay for something like that.) It was a nice gesture and I appreciated the thought, but I was pretty sad about the money he'd used to buy the book.

Anonymous said...

Child labor. As a varsity football player I was forced to sell, get this, light bulbs. -JTC

BuffySquirrel said...

A friend of mine approached me saying that a board where we were both members (she active, me not so much) needed submissions for an anthology of members' work that she was helping to organise. So I sent them a story that had already been published, knowing that they weren't offering any payment. The anthology was published online and, I later discovered, also offered through lulu. Contributors' copies? Ha ha ha ha. I argued strongly against offering the antho through lulu, got ignored, and then stated openly that I had no intention of buying a copy just to see my story in print. Which I didn't.

We're still friends. But next time, the answer would be "no way". If you can't afford to pay authors, that's one thing, but expecting them to pay YOU--fuck off!

Kim said...

When I was a cheerleader many, many, MANY moons ago, we had to sell chocolate bars and bumper stickers (not together). They rounded up the squad, dumped us in a neighborhood that I'd never seen (before or since - I think it's entirely possible it never really existed, but that's another topic) and left us there for a few hours. No chaperone. No adult. Just a promise they'd come back for us eventually. WTF were they THINKING???

word verfication: xapbfk
sums it up perfectly ;)

Anonymous said...

To the original poster: Why not sell the short story, instead? Research some markets and go for it. All the thrill of marketing your novel with far less aggravation.

Aconite

Akuseru said...

I personally wouldn't do it unless the book I was marketing was entirely my own.

Anonymous said...

POD doesn't mean a vanity press. It simply means Print-On-Deman, or "as needed." Why not use the term "vanity press"? You would be more technically correct.

Sherry Decker said...

"To the original poster: Why not sell the short story, instead? Research some markets and go for it. All the thrill of marketing your novel with far less aggravation. Aconite"

I agree! Does no one else here find the marketing process interesting and exciting? It is very educational, too, reading the submission guidelines from various publishers.

Sal said...

Writers need to pay attention to this because it could mean that their books may never have to go out of print. Readers googling might find reference to a book published ten years ago, but still available to be ordered through this technology.

Richard Curtis had something to say about this. Seems he's happier with POD than he was years back, when I remember him warning that this sort of print-on-demand business model would mean that publishers would have rights to a work forever because authors would never have the rights to a work revert, because a book would never be out-of-print.

River Falls said...

I think I love Grandmother Snark.

Anonymous said...

My sister got suckered in by AmericaHouse with her first book. She marketed it herself (because the POD publishers do nothing). Her computer fax auto-dialed all night, faxing circulars to every Christian bookstore in the country. She ended up being AmericaHouse's second all-time best seller at around 1500 copies.

And she made nothing.

Ryan Field said...

Here's a bit of the real world: There are well known, so-called reputable publishers who buy short stories for anthologies and collections and pay writers 50.00 to 250.00 dollars, plus two free copies, on books that will make them thousands of dollars. These collections are sold in highly commercial markets, from the web to popular book-of-the-month-clubs. The genre is usually erotica (not porn) and the stories are well executed gems for which people pay full retail value.
The editors of these books are almost always industry professionals who have exciting credits. And, to top it off, the two free copies arrive when the book is released, but the check for fifty bucks comes sometimes six months later. Again, these are reputable, well known publishers who are simply following industry standards. It's not POD and it's not considered a scam. It is what it is. Why do writers do this? It's like the old joke where someone asks the guy who shovels elephant shit for the circus why he does it. His reply, "I love show business."

Anonymous said...

Regardless of how the book is printed -- digitally in this case -- the bigger issue is that the publisher isn't even giving contributor copies as compensation. This is just flat out wrong, and if it were me, I wouldn't participate.

On the subject of rights not reverting to the author because the book stays in print. What's the beef? The book is still in print and in theory, still generating sales.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said: On the subject of rights not reverting to the author because the book stays in print. What's the beef? The book is still in print and in theory, still generating sales.

Er, no. What happens is a game of words wherein your book is listed as "in print, but out of stock indefinitely." There are no copies in the warehouses, and the publisher will not be printing more copies. This is, for all intents and purposes, being out of print. Your book is unavailable to consumers, and unless you get the rights back so you can negotiate another deal with someone else, that's how it will remain.

Aconite

Anonymous said...

Could we dispense with the sarcasm?

All the publishing contracts I've seen, and here's a topic that Miss Snark can say something about with authority, have specific definitions of what constitutes out of print. It's been my experience that if there are no copies in any warehouses, then the book is out of print. Under that definition, a digitally printed book is always "out of print" yet paradoxically always available -- if you order it. Curious.

Talia Mana said...

Snark Attack!

Yup I love the title too...

Now what does everyone think of those books you PAY to be in so you can say you're a bestselling author or have co-written a book with some big name author. I know someone who did it and was very proud of himself. I thought it was a scam. HUGE money for the publisher and I think it's a lie to say you're a co-author when all you did is contribute a few hundred words to an anthology

I think the website is wakeupandlive.com but i could be wrong. Surely any reputable publisher/agent would know that you pay to be in it and that there is no "selection" process

-c- said...

"Here's a bit of the real world: There are well known, so-called reputable publishers who buy short stories for anthologies and collections and pay writers 50.00 to 250.00 dollars, plus two free copies, on books that will make them thousands of dollars."

I didn't check your figures, but that does sound like the going rate for a short story in an anthology. Advances for novels are pretty godawful low too. Very few professional writers actually make a living writing fiction yanno (TM).

Ryan Field said...

-c- said: It is the going rate, and this is why most writers need other resources, investments and incomes. Rita Mae Brown used to buy and sell used cars to supplement her living as a writer.
But it does make you tough, and prepares you to "snark" with the best of them.

Ski said...

Heeeeeyyyyy...I wanna merit badge and a cookie...

Rgds.........Ski