Right, I've read through the contract and this is the deal.
I send an edited version that's ready to print to the publisher, they will print it as it comes and then put it for sale on their website. It's called Print On Demand, (POD) and it means there'll be no copies in W.H.Smiths shelves to buy at Christmas; or any other high street book store for that matter.
You can only order online.
Ok, I hear you say, so what's the problem with that?
Well, firstly, the online store that counts the most, Amazon, is talking about not stocking any POD books if they're not printed by their inhouse POD printers. Secondly, who in the general public goes to writer websites to buy books? Nobody.
Who, outside of the writing community, has ever heard of or would even dream of going to a writing website anyway. Nobody.
Another bad point is that though the rights are all mine, to do with as I please, the price of the book however is in the hands of the publishers. So I might have a wonderfully packaged book with a cracker of a story in it, and nobody wants to buy it because the publishers have set the price at 25€.
I've sent a mail to the publishing firm and asked them what they're planning to charge. As yet there's been no reply but it is the weekend so I'll be patient.
There are other things to consider too. Although an agent might like the book and take me on, which has happened to other writers on the website, some people see POD as a form of vanity publishing. That means that the book has not been weighed and judged to be financially viable and that an agent and publishing house are not hoping to make money on the back of my talent, (or lack of...?)
There's a definite lack of kudos with vanity publishing in the writing community, but hey, when have I ever worried about what other people think of me?
Well, anyway, I'm in two minds on whether to do it or not. I have to get my book in by 31st october, but why rush it when I can go to Lulu.com, or any other website that deals in POD publishing, and print it when I want to AND have more control over what it costs etc etc etc...
Oh the weight of decision.
On the other hand, I recieve 60% of the royalties and with an agent and publishing house it would only be about 25-30%.
Also my mate The Chief can do all the artwork which will mean free publicity for him.
Thirdly, it is only my first book and I've got to think about what my chances are of actually getting a deal. It would be nice to see it in print just to get the whole sorry story behind me, I'm fed up of the whole Division of the Damned circus at the moment.
I have other geese to fry as they say in Uganda.
Just to put the publishing industry into perspective, this is the last rejection leter I recieved from a very good agent who I was holding a candle for:
Dear Mr Jones
As promised, I have finally had a chance to read your material – I do apologise for the delay. I can see the imagination at work here, but I can’t honestly say I loved it. After fifteen years in publishing before setting up the agency, I'm all too aware how difficult it is to get a publisher interested in a new writer, so I feel that I do have to love my clients' work - personally and professionally - to do the best possible job. If I don't feel that strongly, I'm the wrong agent. Publishing is a notoriously subjective business, and every new author needs both an agent and an editor who do love their work. It's hellishly difficult getting the bookselling chains to take a new novelist seriously, so that initial enthusiasm is vital.
There is nothing specific I can point at – it’s perfectly okay. But the entry level for a new novelist now is 'special', not 'good'. This is partially because sales and marketing directors have so much more power than they did ten years ago. If they don't believe they will be able to sell a first novel into W H Smiths and the rest of the bookselling trade in numbers, they'll block the editor from acquiring it in many companies. A senior editor told me a few weeks ago that even if he loved an author's writing, he wouldn't make an offer until the book that was submitted to him was 100% right for the market - he has just acquired an author whose previous four novels he (and everyone else in London) had turned down despite liking them a great deal. Thus, I have to believe the writers I take on are truly wonderful, or it's pointless submitting them. If an author’s prose doesn’t set me on fire, first and foremost, I say no, as do editors in this situation. Most UK editors see around thirty books every week and only take on one or two debut novels over an entire year.
FYI, I've taken on about forty writers as clients and turned down well over 4,000, so far...I know it can be as difficult to get an agent as it is to be taken on by a publisher. You just have to keep plugging away.
All best wishes for the future, and by the way I am about to head off on business until the evening on the 30th. Once again, apologies for not coming back more quickly.
The Good Agent
Well peeps, that's the story. Do I do it or not.
Print it and move on or rewrite the beginning and try for a deal in the traditional manner?
I've got to think about it.
I welcome your comments and suggestions.