Friday, April 24, 2015

War of the Three Hats...

In what is likely a continuing conversation with myself, I've posted a LinkedIn article, commenting on the insightful Why Authors Should Think Like Publishers by Allen Taylor. From the article: 
"You may be a writer, but as soon as you decide to publish your own writing you have also become a publisher. That means you have to think like a publisher. If you are not ready to do that, then you should reconsider the idea of publishing your book. It's not as easy as some people make it appear to be. Here's a simple way to think about what a publisher's job is versus an editor's or a writer's:
A writer crafts a story or manuscript and puts it on paper. An editor reads the manuscript to judge its literary merit and works with the writer to improve it to make it publication-ready. A publisher is responsible for ensuring the process is carried out efficiently while ensuring the writer's manuscript is a reasonable financial risk and maximizes the profit opportunities from the publication of the manuscript.
In other words, as a writer, your job is to ensure you tell the best story you can and to improve the manuscript as much as you can before the editor sees it. As editor, your job is to ensure the manuscript meets all the publisher's specifications and the manuscript is improved to the point of near perfection. As publisher, your job is to manage risk and make money. If you opt to self-publish, whether digitally or in print, then you'll serve in all three of these roles unless you outsource some of it."
 Read the whole article
This description of the three hats that a self-published author may choose to wear is spot on. I would only add that those different jobs, when embodied in a single person, can frequently lead to the same conflicts that one might expect if we were dealing with two separate professionals, the author and publisher—specifically, where the creative process bumps up against rational business goals and requirements.

Learning to edit your own work is hard, but it's a known skill set that can be mastered with time, maturity and determination. Successful publishing is a whole different can of worms.

Successful publishing takes business savvy, intimate market knowledge and an eye for talent. It also entails—like any business endeavor—taking the occasional calculated risk. This becomes apparent when a genre-bending story becomes difficult to pigeonhole, hence much tougher to target market. Most traditional publishers will pass this work by in favor of more reliable commodity fiction. 

So when the creative muse takes an independent author/publisher in the direction of an unconventional genre mashup, things can get tricky. Do you plow ahead with a work that you know is going to be problematic to market? Or do you slip on your publisher's hat, and send the poor author a rejection letter: "Interesting idea, but I have no idea who'll buy it..."?

The creative process demands risk-taking, and very frequently, hell, most frequently, that means failure in the marketplace. Traditional publishers are free to evaluate those risks on the business merits; independent publishers face a more difficult task—to stifle their own creative impulses in hopes of reduced market risk, or to continue chasing the muse over what will likely turn out to be the steep edge of a cliff.

If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

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