20 February 2008

What Makes a Published Author?

When I began writing about seven years ago, one of the first things I heard was “Don’t publish with an e-Book publisher. That’s not really getting published.” At first, being a good newbie writer, I simply nodded and made a mental note to remember this sage advice. A year later, I’d dumped the advice and had my first book contracted with an e-Book publisher.

Did I do the right thing? Are there still writers, editors and others who feel that e-publishing isn’t really getting published? Answer: You bet ’cha there are. Having had both e-Books and print books published and, thus, seen both sides of the fence, I disagree with those who don’t believe an e-Book author is a “real author”.

Even with the growth of e-publishing in the world of literature, there are still those who don’t feel a writer is genuinely published until their signature has dried on a contract from one of the big New York publishers like Harlequin or Dorchester. To those people, having a contract and getting paid by an e-publisher doesn’t transform you from writer to published author. In fact, your contract doesn’t mean much more than a contract with a vanity or subsidy publisher.

So, I ask, what makes someone a published author? Here’s my criteria with which you may or may not agree.

A published author is someone who has:

Written and completed a manuscript whether it’s a big book or a short story.
Found a reputable publisher and signed a contract with said publisher.
Money is exchanged from publisher to author either directly or indirectly (via an agent or other representative) in the form of an advance on future sales or simply a percentage of current sales. Please note: The money should flow from the publishing house to the writer and never in the other direction. If a writer has to pay anything to a publisher to have the publisher print their book, then that’s a vanity/subsidy publisher and, in my opinion, no better than anyone having their work copied and bound at Kinko’s. (Again, my humble opinion. And again, you may or may not agree.) Exceptions are, of course, where an author may allow her work to be published without remuneration, but payment should never be made to the publisher.
Royalties, unless excluded as in the above example, must be outlined in the contract and have a timeline for payment. Although an advance may or may not be given, royalties are always paid on sales.
The book is edited by a reputable editor provided by the publisher and cover art is also provided by the publisher. Again, these are to be provided to the author at no cost.
The book is released for sales and available at distribution venues as defined in the contract. Exceptions again may be made for articles in professional magazines or in the educational publishing field.
The book is released either in e-Book or print format, or both.

In my opinion, that is what makes a person a published author.

Of course, an argument can and has been made stating that those writers who use a vanity or subsidy press can call themselves published authors. True, if they ordered and paid for enough copies, those writers could sell their books in one manner or another, either online or in bookstores. But to do so forgets about the work, the effort, the skill and the expertise that an established publisher gives to the work. The vanity or subsidy published author has no real publisher.

In my belief, if the standard of “published author” is lowered to anyone who can type, copy pages and then bind them together (or pay to have the work done), we lose the value associated with being a published author. When anyone and everyone can easily call themselves a published author, what purpose would there be for publishing houses? But for now, for my way of thinking, I’ll stick to the outline I gave above. To become a published author is a wonderful and exciting thing, and I’m proud to call myself a published author.

Beverly Rae – http://www.beverlyrae.com/
Giggle, Gasp & Sigh with a Beverly Rae Romance

eBook at http://tinyurl.com/397k8j
In print at http://tinyurl.com/2zand4 (Amazon.com)

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