"I’ve chosen to dip my toe in self-publishing because of increasing dissatisfaction with payments, contracts and working practices in traditional publishing," writes author Ian Graham in today's manifesto. And that dissatisfaction plays out in quite a list of points. Graham's explication of these points includes a pattern of payments that may not arrive for 60 or more days. And: "A contract often does not appear until a project is at an advanced stage or even in some cases after all the work has been completed." Three decades he's been at it, he tells us. And now? "I'll certainly be self-publishing again." — Porter Anderson
'I have written and co-written 270 books'
I have been a full-time freelance writer for more than 30 years. In that time I have written and co-written 270 books.
Most were commissioned children’s non-fiction books and graphic novels, but I’ve also written adult trade fiction and non-fiction.
I have just produced my first self-published book. I’ve chosen to dip my toe in self-publishing because of increasing dissatisfaction with payments, contracts and working practices in traditional publishing. If I could make a few suggestions, I would say the following.
To children’s non-fiction publishers and packagers:
Don’t expect a Rolls-Royce product if you’re only prepared to pay for a rusty old Mini.
You get what you pay for. Be realistic about what can be done and the hours we can devote to a project considering the payment you are offering.
Decide what you want before you ask us to start work.
Don’t change a book’s title, number of pages or content after we’ve written the synopsis and/or manuscript.
Don’t expect us to drop everything and work on your project every time you need something.
We are likely to be working for more than one publisher at a time and we need to be able to fit your work in with whatever else we’re doing.
Don’t keep asking for more and more work without any additional payment.
Children’s non-fiction writers are generally paid a very modest flat fee for their work. Every request for extra work that wasn’t in the agreed synopsis without additional payment reduces our hourly rate, which in some cases can fall to less than minimum wage.
Don’t assume that we are happy to work through weekends and holidays.
We like to have down time for family and relaxation as much as anyone else, but it’s amazing how many urgent requests for work arrive without warning by email at 5:30 p.m. on a Friday or immediately before the Easter and Christmas holidays.
Send us a contract before we start work.
Editorial and contracts departments seem to live in different worlds. While editors want work done as fast as humanly possible, contracts departments take their own sweet time. A contract often does not appear until a project is at an advanced stage or even in some cases after all the work has been completed.
Pay us in a reasonable time.
In the real world, invoices often have to be settled within seven days, 30 days at most, but children’s non-fiction writers are rarely paid in less than 60 days and some employers string it out to three months or more.
And to trade publishing:
Take our wishes into account when you’re arranging a book’s marketing campaign.
Some writers are happy to cruise the studios and book fairs promoting themselves and their books, but others lack the necessary personal skills and self-confidence. If a writer doesn’t feel able to do promotional work, don’t ignore their wishes and arrange interviews and personal appearances anyway.
My first experience of self-publishing has been very positive. The learning curve was steep and at times frustrating but also enjoyable and stress-free. I’ll certainly be self-publishing again.
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. 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 Tuesday 8th September.
- A manifesto on working with authors | Ian Graham
- A manifesto on design in publishing | Sophie O'Rourke
- A manifesto for 'smart content' in publishing | Steve Odart
- A manifesto for the future of the book | Tom Abba
- A manifesto for an independent publisher | Bethan James
- A manifesto for reaching readers | Candide Kirk
- A manifesto for editors | John Pettigrew
- A manifesto for author-publisher relations | Diana Kimpton
Main image - iStockphoto: IPGGutenbergUKLtd