Publishers must be 'transparent' with authors, Missingham tells IPG

Publishers must be 'transparent' with authors, Missingham tells IPG

Sam Missingham, founder of The Empowered Author coaching website, has called on publishers to ensure greater transparency and effective communication with their authors, following research conducted in partnership with the Independent Publishers Guild (IPG).

Speaking on Tuesday (9th March) at the inaugural IPG International Forum in a conversation hosted by author and industry coach Alison Jones, Missingham explained a top priority for publishers should be clarity around the publishing process. 

“We should be trying to be significantly more transparent about how the publishing process works — people do not know how to get published,” she said.

Citing research she conducted in tandem with the IPG, Missingham found only 52% of 122 authors surveyed in February 2021 felt confident they knew how the process worked, even after signing contracts.

After being signed by a publisher, 48% of the authors were given author packs. Missingham suggested author packs could be better utilised to inform writers about deadlines, publisher expectations and the support available to them. She said the packs provide an opportunity to educate authors on marketing and publicity, explaining royalties, demystifying how sales are calculated and explaining specific terminology.

“There is never too much communication in my experience,” she said,  "particularly with new authors".

The survey found only 42% of authors felt publicity and marketing was completely explained to them, while a further 42% said it wasn’t explained well, and 16% were not communicated with regarding it at all. Pre-publication, 59% of authors said their publishers clearly explained every stage to them.

Addressing smaller and independent publishers, Missingham said presses should “build a community around their authors”.

“Authors are surprisingly loyal to indie partners, more so than bigger publishers,” she said.

She advised publishers to suggest authors visit their local bookshops, and equip them with the tools to self-promote, both in person and over social media. According to the survey, 56% of publishers only provided guidance with this on request. Learning to work social media and efficient online marketing, such as newsletters, and encouraging author societies and Facebook chats would build author confidence, Missingham said. 

She added it was very important to “set expectations” for authors. "[They] watch while others are treated better — and they’ve never been told there’s a sort of hierarchy,” she said. “Have an honest conversation, explain what happens after their first book is published." She urged publishers to “improve the efficiency of information” around sales figures, to ensure authors know how well their books are selling, and how this is determined. 

“Even if it’s bad news, authors prefer to hear it,” she said. Touching on author care, she added: "[This] needs to go beyond flowers and booze and lunches — if you want authors to be loyal, there are lots of quick wins but communication, taking care and setting expectations — we have to be open and honest.”