Thursday, February 16, 2006

Publishers ~ The More the Merrier?

-----Original Message-----
Dear Morgan,
-- When dealing with novels, as opposed to short stories, is having more than one publisher or imprint, a Good thing? Say you find a publisher that really likes your stuff, should you just send everything to them and not bother with another?

Could being associated (in the market's eyes,) with a particular publisher or imprint – cause problems later?

-- Postulating on Publishers
Publishers -- NOT Created Equal.
But that's a GOOD thing!
I see the e-publishing world as kind of like
-- a big Mall.
You have:
  • Massive department stores, like Sears (Extasy Books,) and Dillard’s (Ellora’s Cave)
  • Sophisticated boutiques like Victoria’s Secret (Loose Id,) Abercrombie & Fitch (Amber Quill,) and Diamond Jewelers' (Liquid Silver books)
  • Specialty shops like Hot Topic (Changeling Press,) and Godiva Chocolates (Vintage Romance)
  • Novelty shops like Fredericks of Hollywood (Venus Press,) and The Disney Store (Mundania Press)
  • Trinket kiosks in the aisles, (all the brand new publishers that are still gathering authors and working on establishing their reader-base)
  • A Food Court where people gather to talk and compare, (the many book review sites)
  • And you have people wandering around taking surveys, (all those book/author-themed yahoo groups.)
Just like in any other mall.
The big NY publishers are their own individual malls, each with their own set of little specialty boutiques, known as imprints.
An author with a brand new manuscript is very like a salesman representing a cool new product.
Obviously, the type of product (content,) and its quality (whether or not the author can actually write,) governs what type of buyer it will interest, therefore those same qualities come into account when the salesman (our author,) offers it to a particular shop’s manager (a publishing house’s editor.)
A fast-talking salesman CAN talk a manager into buying something that does not suit their boutique, however, that doesn’t mean the BUYERS will ever purchase it.
A fast-talking farmer that has apples in his baskets may actually get a table at Dilliards, but his sales are going to suck. Should our farmer take his apples to Harris Teeter (or any other grocery store,) his negotiations will not only go smoother, he’ll probably make a killing.
Logically speaking, if your product is in the Right shop, the right buyers will find it, love it, and come back looking for more.
Put it in the Wrong shop and all it will do is gather dust, at least until the sales hit and you are discovered by someone who stepped in on a whim.
The key point here is The BUYER.
  • Some buyers only shop at one place in particular.
  • Some buyers visit every shop and buy a little from each.
  • Some buyers visit certain shops only on particular occasions.
  • Some buyers only visit shops where they know the folks that work there.
  • Some buyers only buy one particular product in one particular shop.
  • Some buyers only buy what's On Sale.
  • Some buyers only buy a specific type of product-- but don't care what shop they find it in.
  • Some buyers blow their entire paycheck every weekend buying here, there, and everywhere.
  • Some buyers only window shop, but tell all their friends about what they saw available, so their friends will buy it, and they borrow it from them later.
There’s just no way to get them ALL.
But there IS a way to get the bulk of the buyers specifically looking for what you have to offer – it’s called: put it in the Shop your buyer is most likely to visit.
Ahem… The RIGHT Publishing house.
Why should someone have more than one publishing house?
-- Because most authors write more than one type of book. Something experimental, or sufficiently different from what has been selling like hot-cakes, may not suit the buyers that normally visit that publishing house.
Just like any other product, books won’t sell if the readers looking for those particular stories don’t go there.
HOWEVER! ~ If you are a popular enough Author you can go ANYWHERE and your readers will come find you – especially if you have a website pointing them in the right direction.
The only disadvantage of one publisher over another is:
Publisher Reputation
If you are a New author Reputation MATTERS. A publishing house with a rep for poor editing can drive away potential buyers.
If you are an Established author you can boost that publisher’s reputation, just by being there. And the publishers know this. If you’re a good seller, you’ll get invitations from every publishing house out there.
Things to take into account when shopping for a Publisher:
  • What kind of stuff does this publisher offer?
    (Will my stuff appeal to their buyers, so that AFTER they buy all the name brands, they’ll buy me too?)
  • Do they specialize in one thing over another?
    (Does my stuff cater to that specialty?)
  • Who are the top selling authors for this publishing house?
    (Can my writing skill compete with theirs?)
  • How much buying traffic does this publisher get?
    (Are they popular enough to have loads of buyers to ensure frequent sales?)
  • Is the contract Reasonable?
    (When do I get my copyrights back, in case this Isn’t the right fit?)
The fastest way to answer all your questions about a particular publisher?
-- BUY that publisher’s top-selling books and READ.
If that's pretty much what you write, then you've found a Perfect Fit!
Morgan Hawke


  1. Great post on this Morgan and the best analogies I've seen. I need to point some other folks at this.

    It took me quite a while to decide just who I'm going to try to sell my WIP to when it's done - and the criteria you used were exactly what I was questioning as I decided!

  2. Very perceptive. You're posts are always thought provoking, I like that.

    As I write for Liquid Silver, I'm interested to see (1) why they're not on your list and (2) where would you put them?

  3. LIQUID SILVER! I Knew I'd forgotten a really good one.

    Specialty boutique, definitely -- like Bath & BodyWorks!

  4. Morgan,

    Helpful information. Thanks for posting. Everytime I read your blog I feel like writing. Immediately if not sooner. LOL

    And now, I feel like publishing too.

    I feel a little more confident about writing two genres and maybe using two names. I wasn't sure before but--

    Thanks again.