Both Robin and Kevin make good and valid points regarding the problems confronting any new author who hasn’t done his or her homework. The vultures who hide among legitimate agents, publishers and others in the community are many and are adept at concealment. Authors with low levels of tolerance toward legitimate criticism are another factor which affects all of us. Some things can be helped, others cannot.
My concerns are these: instead of trying to control the problems we all perceive with, for example, lists of “approved” publishers or “approved” agents, why not bend greater efforts to alert and advise new authors as to how the game is played with aggressively marketed workshop sessions? While responding to questions at presentations that “New York publishers insist new work come via agents,” why isn’t more attention paid to discussing good and poor contract language? Why don’t we offer and promote sessions on exactly what an author who self-publishes faces regarding distribution?
Joint ventures in which two or more parties invest in the possible success of a book are a perfectly acceptable business model, so long as everyone understands the limitations and responsibilities of each party to the contract. Has a small bookseller ever explained to a room full of authors what the real and hidden costs are to accept books on consignment? Or to set up yet another account? What decisions must a bookseller make when one of their wholesalers demands an increase in minimum book orders from , say $50 to $400?
Yes, I am aware that professional organizations like EPIC post acceptable contract language on their web site. What I am suggesting, however, is that passive resistance to evil is not acceptable. I think organizations like MWA, RWA, Sisters in Crime and IBS and trade associations like ABA as well as many others ought to mount aggressive educational campaigns to reveal to new authors and others, just what the business is all about.
I’d like to see a business track designed for new authors at Malice, at Bouchercon, at Left Coast Crime, to name just a few. For far too long, it seems to me, the publishing business, in all its facets, has just been going along with practices developed over years of neglect rather than with proactive profit-centric attitudes. Better books, better agenting and editing, better distribution can only result in better literacy and more profits for everybody.