Saturday, June 15, 2019

What a great idea...badly executed

It looks like a guy with more means than most set up a publishing company to publish his own book, and then set about legitimising it. Am I too cynical? And even if I am, could this be something to consider anyway?

I can see a lot of authors jumping at the idea of a full salary to write books even if they don’t even publish them, but the system also just seems plain weird (psychometric testing? hedge funds?).

My favorite line in the article is this:
Also a writer, he decided to set up the company after “experiencing the difficulties of writing and publishing a novel”
This is like the query writer who wants to "improve" the incoming query process cause his/her book didn't get any requests for a full manuscript.

Cause yanno, failure is systemic; it has nothing to do with their book.

Even when you know what you're doing, and have funding, starting a publishing company is hard. I've watched a couple people do it and they were smart, savvy, experienced, and didn't try to do too much at first (like offer salaries to writers.) It takes years to make something like this work, and any entrepreneur will tell you that controlling costs is one of the keys. Salaries are a huge, fixed cost.

Victoria Strauss has a long blog post about this company, and some of the red flags.

Any company that wants to own your work better have a solid track record and deep pockets.

You're not cynical; you're smart.
This isn't a terrible idea; it's just aimed badly.

I'd have been a whole lot more intrigued if they'd been trying to solve an actual problem in publishing: lack of diverse voices.

I'd love to see people with great writing chops and not a lot of financial wherewithal get a leg up in this business, particularly those people we need to hear more from.


Claire Bobrow said...

I second the last sentence.

Happy Saturday, all!

Irene Troy said...

This line of the "publisher's" website scares me: "You don’t need to have any previous writing experience, or a degree in English literature. All you need are good ideas, imagination and a passion for storytelling. We’ll do the rest!" No. Just no. I read this as an opportunist taking advantage of naive newbie writers so desperate to see their name in print they willingly sign away the rights to their own work. Just scary.

AJ Blythe said...

The salary part of what he's offering will sadly attract writers. I've seen a lot of authors set up publishing companies to self-publish through (I assume it's to do with tax?) but they don't publish other authors.

How on earth can he pay authors $24k before they actually get anything published (not even thinking about how little their books may make)?

Mind boggles.

DeadSpiderEye said...

From the FAQ
What percentage of the money from sales of their book will authors receive?

Authors will receive fifty per cent after all costs are taken into account i.e. salary, production costs and marketing.

Which equates to a below the line deal, so this guy is definitely looking for fresh talent. If you're thinking of biting you need to research the who, what, why and where of how the expenses are managed and audited, that applies especially to anything that comes under the label 'marketing'.

Elissa M said...

I'm still boggled by the idea that any company can afford to pay salaries to anyone when said company has yet to make any income. It seems totally backwards from any business start-up I've experienced.

And, of course, this company is assuming all its books will be best sellers--or at least be highly profitable. I mean, all those other publishers who don't make huge profits on every book they publish must just be doing it wrong...

KariV said...

My fav part of the article is how writers are selected:

"To earn their place, writers will undergo "a rigorous selection process" which begins with psychometric testing using an algorithm to establish if candidates are suited to the writer’s life"

Um, how is this any different from the "literary lottery" system he created this WHOLE company to try to avoid?

I'd rather have an agent decide I had what it takes than an ALGORITHM!

Kaphri said...

Sadly, many diverse voices are too busy earning a living, taking care of the kids, or simply surviving to have the time to write.

Having a sponsor, like the great artists and musicians of the past--or like this guy seems to offer--would be a wonderful arrangement.

However... Even if he is investing in people's future success, it is a business. He will expect/demand a return on that investment. I wonder how much time he has allowed for that to happen. There can be no guarantee of his portfolio's success. We, as consumers, are not predictable (re: some of the multi-million dollar movie bombs released this season).

And some of those great artists of our past still died penniless, with their magnificent work in the hands of their sponsors.

Panda in Chief said...

Well this fairly boggles the mind!

Do we need to repeat that old saying, "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."

Sigh. I imagine more than one desperate or deluded writer will get caught up in this snare. I await news of lawsuits. (Full employment for lawyers!)

People would be better served by, for instance, following this blog, and putting the work in.

Lennon Faris said...

I thought I was going to be totally against this guy/ idea, but after reading the article, I think I "see" it.

He believes that if you let a talented writer focus 100% of their time on their craft (not worrying about $), and they read/write/edit every day, then their craft will become phenomenal.

I think this is an interesting and somewhat plausible theory.

But the pessimist in me looks at his own book, which I am guessing had a big impact on this idea. Did he put himself through the training he describes? The book only has 3 reviews on GoodReads. I'm guessing it will not bring in much money.

I have a sinking feeling about this ship.

Lennon Faris said...

Also, wanted to add that I do NOT judge the value of most books by the number of reviews they have or the money they make.

But in this particular case, the guy is trying to start a business, and that has to be about money.

Casual-T said...

The idea of receiving a salary for writing (or composing, or painting, etc.) is something most artists would find quite appealing. The patron system worked for Bach, Mozart, da Vinci, and many others. The devil is, however, in the details. After visiting the DML website, and reading the detailed article by Victoria Strauss, I have more questions than answers, and see quite a few red flags (copyright on ideas, not being allowed to work with another publisher for two years, etc.). This, indeed, seems to be a wonderful (old) idea, very badly implemented.

PS: Diversity, I would like to mention, has nothing to do with being “too busy earning a living, taking care of the kids, or simply surviving.” I am about as “un-diverse” as it gets, and do all the above. Excellence should be the only criterion by which one’s work should be judged.