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Book Publishing Model


I’ve read 2 very interesting posts from big name authors in the last two days, one from Kim Harrison and one from Larry Correia.

Harrison’s is here, and Larry’s is here.

Harrison’s is about how her latest series flopped and she might have to take some time to rethink and the pen name Kim Harrison may be done for.  And Larry’s is about how book sales in traditional brick and motor bookstores works.

Both very good reads, but more importantly, when read together they paint a picture of the publishing world.

After Harrison’s post on Facebook were hundreds of comments from fans.  I’m one of them.  I love her Hollows series, and was one of the people who just couldn’t get into The Drafter.  Not my cup of tea.  Since it flopped, she was saying the Kim Harrison name might be done.  I was shocked at the number of fans who were saying just get your rights back for that book and publish it indie.


Again, I love Harrison, and if she can manage that, she very obviously should.  The trademark she has built around that pen name should not die just because 1 book failed to live up to her rep.

But I think the fans were underestimating the publishing houses.  I obviously can not speak to Harrison’s contract since I haven’t seen it, but if it were that easy to get your rights back and just go it alone, everyone who didn’t do great in their first sales would.

Now, all of this is hearsay, don’t take my word for it.  But based upon what I’ve read and the many many lectures from my author friends and their marketing people, this is what I’ve gleaned.

When you get a publishing deal, you sign a contract and the house gets the rights to your book for the next (however many years the contract says, I think it used to be 10 years), and they put it out (this is where Larry’s post comes in to describe distribution a bit) and if the book doesn’t do well in that initial push and stuff isn’t reordered, it just gets shoved in a warehouse and the author never earns out their advance because they had one shot.  And then the publishing house doesn’t pick up their second book.  (Usually contracts also include a right of first refusal.)

Now, this has always been my friends describing new authors.  I have never heard of this happening to an established one, especially one with as big a name as Harrison.  That doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  The book flops, the bookstores send it back for a refund, and the publishing house doesn’t pick up your next one.  That doesn’t mean they give that first one back to you.

With e-books it’s a little better, because you don’t have to worry about the books getting onto shelves or copies being sent back in bulk, but the publisher still is looking at numbers to see how well you did.

Now, I don’t know why Harrison’s name would go extinct, I have a few guesses that I’m not going to say because I don’t want to get sued 🙂 but if she’s saying that’s a possibility, I believe her.

Hope this gives you all a little more insight into the publishing world and an idea as to why a lot of us have decided to go indie instead of navigating those waters.

(By the way, if you like my posts, you might like my fiction. check me out at my author page on Amazon.)

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