A manifesto for author-publisher relations

A manifesto for author-publisher relations

Our first #FutureBook15 response comes from the author Diana Kimpton and it's a deft example of Jones' interest in "a series of ideas, proposals and/or rules to help the business evolve digitally, or change a current direction...challenge conventions, and lock horns with received wisdom." We're glad to present Kimpton's manifesto here and hope you'll consider sending us one. -- Porter Anderson

I get on well with my publisher. I have 100% control over my covers and my marketing. I choose my editor, and I decide my pricing strategy. Best of all, I keep all the profits. Does that sound unbelievable? It’s not. My publisher is me.

Digital technology has made self-publishing a viable alternative to the traditional system, and it’s not just for those who can’t find a publisher. I’m one of an increasing number of authors who have abandoned the submission treadmill in favour of the freedom of producing our own books. And the more we do it, the more we learn about how publishing works and the more we realise that traditional deals are not author-friendly.

It’s noticeable that the topics of discussion in my writers group have changed from “how to submit my manuscript” to “how to format an ebook”. If that keeps happening, publishers will find their slush pile ceases to exist and so will their businesses. If they want to survive in this bright, new world, they need to improve their author-publisher relations, so here are a few suggestions on how to do it.

Recognise that authors are an indispensable part of the publishing business.

We create the books you publish.

Without us, you would have nothing to do.

Start treating us like equal partners and give us a fair share of the profits.

Yes, you pay for editing, cover design, printing and other such costs. But we put in hours and hours of work writing the books before you even start, and we are increasingly expected to do marketing.

Accept that we are intelligent, self-employed business people.

We do not need nurturing – we need information. As a self-publisher, I get daily sales figures. As a traditionally published author, I get royalty statements every 6 months that are already 3 months out of date. That really isn’t good enough in this digital age.

Stop insisting that we must have an agent before we can submit a book to you.

Why should we have to pay 15 percent of our income to an agent, just so you don’t have to pay people to read the slush pile?

Remove the non-competing works clauses from contracts or make them work both ways so you can’t produce a competing work either.

Publishing one of our books shouldn’t give you the right to control the rest of our careers.

Accept time-limited contracts.

Digital production means books never go out of print so rights never revert. That essentially leaves traditional contracts lasting for the full length of copyright: the life of the author plus 70 years. That is ridiculous. I doubt if any non-publishing contracts last that long.

It’s 25 years since my first book was published and, in that time, I’ve seen the author/publisher relationship become more and more tilted in the publishers’ favour. Now digital technology has put power back in the authors’ hands, that relationship needs to become more balanced.

We're interested in having your "Five-Minute Manifesto" for The Future of the Book Business. In his article, Those magnificent manifestos, The Bookseller editor Philip Jones renews his call for the FutureBook audience to reflect on five years of digital "to challenge the customs we have begun to adopt." The response is so robust that I've extended our deadline for submissions of manifestos to Monday (7th September). See below for details and a list of those published to date. Your statement, preferably no more than 500 words, should be sent to Porter.Anderson@theBookseller.com by 7th September. Please send along a headshot and short bio, as well.

And mark your diary for The FutureBook Conference, 4th December, The Mermaid, London. More details are coming Monday 7th September.

#FutureBook15 manifestos:

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