This is only natural. Especially now that publishing has evolved more rapidly than most people would have imagined, given the rise of self-publishing as a viable alternative to traditional publishing.
And traditional publishing itself is changing. Advances for books are, in general, much smaller than before. And the quality control that used to be one of the things that publishers prided themselves on, particularly in comparison to the editorial quality of many self-published books, has suffered, mainly due to shrinking pools of editors as a result of cost-cutting at publishing houses. Anyone who’s picked up a traditionally published book in the last couple of years will have noticed that copyediting is often very sloppy, and that spelling or grammatical errors are more common than they used to be.
Despite a common perception that publishing used to be a gentlemanly field, with people upholding a literary heritage and treating each other with old-fashioned courtesy, publishing has always been a difficult industry. It’s really about profits that are hard to come by rather than artistic or intellectual legacies that are carefully nurtured.
My colleagues and I have worked with thousands of published authors, and their biggest complaint has been that they didn’t understand the world they were entering into. Most of them were never told beforehand (or afterward by their publishers) that their investments of time and money would be far greater than the money generated through their book sales.
The truth is, with the exception of a select few authors, there has never been a lot of money to be made from writing books. And publishers know this. It’s a volume business, with low margins. For most traditional publishers, authors are commodities (as are books) to be sold for as much money as they can get while trying to squeeze profits out of the costs of materials. For many authors, this is a brutal reality check. But once you know what you’re up against, you can prepare yourself, and even succeed.
In our next post, we’ll continue to look at the current state of and the future of publishing.
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