The Schmooze Factor

Oh, my gosh!!  I’ve finally figured out why I’m not more successful as a writer/published author.  I SUCK at self-promotion, marketing, hype, networking and outright lying.  Writing a good or even a great book isn’t enough.  In fact, you don’t have to write a good or great book.  Write any old book.  Any way you want.  But as long as you know the right people, schmooze with other “successful” authors, get an in with an agent or editor, suck up to the publishing house marketing department, looks like we’ve got a bestseller on our hands.

I always thought my local newspaper had a love for self-published authors.  If you’re legitimately published, even through a small press, it’s like pulling teeth to get coverage in this newspaper.  Even to do that, apparently, you have to “know” somebody or your minor publishing success (where a publisher paid YOU for your book) is not news.

Today my husband began reading me the highlights about yet another local self-published author.  I got on my high-horse rant until I looked at the article.  This author wrote the article.  About himself and his self-published book.  Complete with a photo of him in an exotic locale.  Oh, I thought, that’s all I need to get newspaper coverage locally.  First I must self-publish a book.  Then visit the pyramids of Egypt or get a shot of myself climbing Mount Everest.  Then I write an article about my publishing “experience.”  Send it along with the photo and the cover of my book to the newspaper for their “Community” section.  And I’m a shoe-in. 

Oh, wait.  No, I’m not.  I haven’t sucked up to the editor.  I don’t even know the editor.  I need to network.  I need an introduction by a mutual friend.  I need to schmooze.  Heck.  I got excited for nothing.

This author also knew an extremely successful and well-known author who “reviewed the book and wrote a supportive blurb.”  I’m sure that didn’t hurt.

This author attended a conference where he was delighted to discover his writing was well received.  Yes, I’m sure it was…because there’s a strong possibility that he paid money to attend that conference.  Organizations often hold conferences to make money from those attending.  They’d like the attendees to return year after year.  That’s why submissions are often “well-received.”

He goes on to say that everyone who read the unpublished manuscript enjoyed it.  Did they? Did they really?  How much do you want to bet that the people who read it were his family and friends?  Even if they hated it, it’s unlikely they’d tell him so.  And evidently agents and advance/royalty-paying publishing houses didn’t enjoy it as much as everyone else who read it did.

I shouldn’t mock such wide-eyed optimism and enthusiasm, should I?  Just call me old, cynical, jaded and jealous.  I was wide-eyed and optimistic about my future writing success, too.  A hundred or so rejections ago. 

I’m not wide-eyed and naïve, any more.  I have my eyes open and I think I have a pretty good handle on how the world of publishing works.  Lacking the schmooze factor will always detract from my career path.

I’ll always have an issue with self-publishing, too.  But if you can make it work, more power to you.   

(For those of you who don’t know, the term “self-publishing” means an author paid a publisher to get a book in print.   The publisher has no stake in the book’s success and makes its money from the the author’s initial payment and also from the author buying copies of his own books.  Eventually, usually after a certain number of books are sold, the books do become available through retail outlets.)

In a traditional publishing scenario, a publishing house pays the author an up-front monetary advance ranging from a few hundred to thousands of dollars and also pays the author a certain percentage of every book sold (royalties).  The author does not put up any money to get the book in print.

4 Comments:

  1. >>(For those of you who don’t know, the term “self-publishing” means an author paid a publisher to get a book in print. The publisher has no stake in the book’s success and makes its money from the the author’s initial payment and also from the author buying copies of his own books. Eventually, usually after a certain number of books are sold, the books do become available through retail outlets.)<<

    Two BIG mistakes:

    (1) When an author pays a publisher to get a book in print, the author is engaging in "vanity publishing," not "self-publishing." A real self-publisher is a person who tries to make money by selling books to readers. Vanity publishers are companies that make most of their money by selling services to naive writers, not by selling books to readers. The books are often ugly, error-filled and overpriced — and very few copies are sold.

    Just as no one can eat lunch for you, no other person or company can self-publish for you. The words just don't make sense.

    OTOH, a "real" self-publisher establishes a business, hires editors and designers, purchases photography, owns ISBNS, obtains LCCNs and copyrights, chooses a printer, and promotes the books.

    That's very different from paying for the services of a vanity publisher.

    (2) With either vanity publishing or self-publishing, books are not available at retail outlets "after a certain number of books are sold." Books are immediately available from online booksellers such as Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and Target.com. Self-pubbed and vanity-pubbed books are very seldom stocked by bricks-and-mortar booksellers.

    Michael N. Marcus
    — president of the Independent Self-Publishers Alliance, http://www.independentselfpublishers.org
    — author of "Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press," http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661742
    — author of "Stories I'd Tell My Children (but maybe not until they're adults)," coming 4/1/10. http://www.silversandsbooks.com/storiesbookinfo.html
    http://BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com

  2. Well, Michael, this seems like semantics to me. The term “self-published” is widely used to mean what I said it means. iUniverse and the like, whether you refer to them as vanity publishers or self-publishers, the upshot is the same, in my opinion. Neither PAY the author to the publish the book. The AUTHOR bears the expense of getting the book into production, and perhaps, eventually, onto the shelves or into the mainstream markets. At least this is what I’ve been told by writers who’ve published their books with them. But you perhaps are more of an expert than I am, so I bow to your greater knowledge. Thanks for commenting.

  3. There’s no need to bow, but semantics are critical in a business where the end product is a collection of words.

    Many “real” self-publishers have protested the use of the self-publishing term by vanity publishers, and there was an online fury with over a dozen published protest comments when Publishers Weekly applied the term to mega-vanity Author Solutions.

    Michael N. Marcus
    — president of the Independent Self-Publishers Alliance, http://www.independentselfpublishers.org
    — author of “Become a Real Self-Publisher: Don’t be a Victim of a Vanity Press,” http://www.amazon.com/dp/0981661742
    — author of “Stories I’d Tell My Children (but maybe not until they’re adults),” coming 4/1/10. http://www.silversandsbooks.com/storiesbookinfo.html
    http://BookMakingBlog.blogspot.com
    http://www.SilverSandsBooks.com

  4. This could get exhausting. I’ve seen too many books published by either vanity presses or self-publishers that were just plain bad. Both poorly written and poorly edited. My point remains if you can’t get someone in the publishing industry to pay you SOMETHING for your work, there’s probably a good reason for that. However, if you’re writing for a narrow niche market, then vanity or self-publishing may be your best and possibly your only avenue to publication.

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