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From the authors:

  • You don’t get very far by being hostile or confrontational with publishers. You get more if you’re nice, calm, and logical.

  • One author writes everything down she wants to say and stays unemotional when she does speak to editors.

  • Publishing is a business looking to bottom line. Authors need to look at the bottom line, too. Plenty of people who are self-publishing are beating their old contract advances.

  • One author felt there are adversarial difference between publishers and authors, and she sometimes feels we are not respected as business women. We deserve to have things explained in a businesslike manner.

  • One agent explained to authors why they fail—smart ones listen, others blame publishers. It all starts with the books. Great writing equals great success.

  • The squeaky wheel does get the grease, but the author has to be diplomatic, and realize where you are on the totem pole and act accordingly. This agent wants to back a client request up with sales. New author with no sales record? All bets are off.

  • The author should always look wonderful. Let the agent be the bitch.

  • One agent went so far as to say publishers work on assumption that authors can’t take the truth and went on to add, be aggressive, and be professional. Know that big authors will get answers first. But being a professional makes it easier for you to be dealt with.

Return on investment (ROI) came into the discussion. Several panel members felt this should be at the top of every negotiation point. Agents and authors should be talking about ROI in career terms. One author wondered if her publisher dropped her because she wasn’t worth the ROI? And if so why didn’t they just tell her that rather than have her work on more proposals only to be rejected?

Can a pen name can help a lagging career? One author went with pen name and was not successful. One has no pen name, but was asked if she would be willing to take pen name. One uses own name, and one uses a pen name to republish backlist.

Advice from the agents: if you are self publishing, it won’t matter. In traditional publishing it might matter if you take a pen name, but a comeback may not be easy. It used to be that an author’s track record was an issue because of distribution. Now distribution isn’t an issue so much. What’s more important than a pseudonym is to reinvent yourself as a writer. Authors should get through their anger, change things they can and let go of what they cannot change.

Should an author say no to royalties on net in print and ebooks? Panel responses ranged from “what’s wrong with net?” to “you can’t turn down a net royalty because it’s the only royalty being offered on ebooks. The problem is earnings can be based on anything." One agent said it should be easy to define what net is during contract negotiations.

In the new online driven world where distribution is less, when do you decide to stop submitting a particular book and do it yourself? One author had a book her agent said couldn’t be marketed and is leaning towards selfpubbing it. One said if you are not willing to change something, you need to make the decision to put it up on your own if you believe in it. One very successful indie author had a plan for an entire series, knowing she would self-publish it. Writers who do so have to take a leap and hire the right people—editors, cover artist, etc. Do it right to make the best books you’ve ever done. Ultimate success comes when you have connected series and you control every aspect of it from day one.

According to one of the agents, self-publishing is an exciting world right now. However, he thinks most people don’t make big money doing it. One million in sales is the exception. An author still needs to look at the reasons why agents and editors are not pursuing that book. One agent said rejections tell you something. Listen to your feedback. Several agents on the panel have digital programs to bridge the gap and help their authors navigate through the self-publishing waters.

What is the most significant thing traditional publishers can offer authors? According to the editors, the answer is teamwork, collaboration, and more paths to success than ever before. One editor stated that not everyone wants to run a small business and that we have things to learn from each other. One editor pointed out that the successful indie author has a team working for her. Keep in mind that if you are selfpublishing you are acting as a publisher. There are so many choices you can make as an author. Be smart, and do your homework. Pick the choice that’s best for you.

Tracey Lyons has been writing romances for over 20 years. Published in book length romantic fiction, her most recent releases include Mountain Jewel, a #1 bestseller Samhain Retro Romance historical. Her Women of Surprise historical romance series is soon to reissued in paperback and digital by Avalon Books/Amazon publishing. Tracey also writes contemporary women’s fiction romance under the name Tracey Sorel. You can learn more about those books by visiting www.traceysorel.com or www.traceylyons.com.

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