Friday, January 4, 2008

What is it about publishing a book?

I’ve forced myself to dig into the haphazard manuscripts on my desk, because I know I need to get a book out. My newest book is two years old. I left an agent and a couple publishers hanging. My frustration isn’t over writing the book; I do that almost without trying. It’s the business end of the book that puts me off.

For one thing, dealing with contracts and rights to future works (aka ‘slave clause’). For another, the sheer grunt work in assisting with marketing—that, combined with a busy freelance schedule would challenge anybody. And I don’t want to give up the work I do for newspapers, magazines and Web sites. I don’t want to give up the hours I still, for reasons far beyond any logic on earth can explain, devote to writing poetry. I do like to share writing and talking with audiences, so I suppose I can be grateful I don’t find that aspect of promotion drudge work.

The book biz, as many of you have heard me say, sucks. Publishing is so overwhelmingly dominated by a handful of large companies. I admit I like small presses—those where you can sit down face to face with a person who’s at least somewhere near the top of the chain. But the frustration factor here is over sales—small presses just don’t have the bucks to do a lot of promotion. And they won’t get those library orders that products from big publishers automatically get, in part because libraries are hooked on big publishers as are most bookstores.

Still, I work on the books each day, part of a New Year’s resolution to finish the manuscripts by the end of the first quarter. I think most writers love the writing but hate the biz, one of many reasons I haven't rushed to self-publish.


I contributed to the anthology Letters to the World:Poems from the Wom-Po Listserv (Red Hen Press). The book is a diverse collection of essays and poems from poets, some of whom are famous and some of whom aren’t.

Read my latest column for Beneath the Brand, ‘Santa gets busted and a campaign succeeds.’

1 comment:

Patricia said...

Hey Kay,

Enjoyed your blog. Yes, it is the business side of publishing that gets in the way of success for many authors--from the task of writing a book proposal to the foreign concept of promotion. Authorship, as many people find out too late, is not an extension of their writing.

Patricia Fry