Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Piers Anthony on Publishing

I'm a writer. I live to write fiction, mostly stories and novels, and I feel most truly alive when I'm in a scene I am crafting. There are ways in which my fictive worlds are more real to me than the real world. But a significant aspect of writing is being read. Just as the ultimate desire of the average person is to love and be loved, the desire of a writer is to write and be read. I love writing, whatever the piece. The problem is getting that piece published so that others can read it. 
When I am asked what I don't like about my trade, my answer is “dealing with publishers.” Their choices can seem arbitrary, they may demand pointless or crippling revisions, and they can take months, sometimes years to make up their dull minds. They may make deals, called contracts, which they then may renege on, and if a writer protests, he gets blacklisted. I have been the route. As I like to put it, the average traditional publisher doesn't give half a used fart for the welfare of the average writer. It's the arrogance of power. Publishers, as a general rule, regardless what they say, want only one thing: money, and they have myriad ways of cheating to get it at the author's expense. Publishers are like elephants, writers like mice, and the careless or self-willed writer risks getting stepped on. Elephants, despite folklore, are not afraid of mice; if they notice them at all, they treat them with contempt.
So what's a writer to do? Most just live with it, accepting their assigned role as serfs to the feudal lords. Some loyal serfs can do well, as they get choice assignments. Others try to stand up for themselves. If they don't seen learn better, they get fewer opportunities to be published and may finally fade out. Those who survive can be not better but bitter. I am a bitter survivor, as comments like this one demonstrate. Most of those who blacklisted me are long since out of business, and I suspect some do regret taking me on, but the system remains intact. You have heard of Pyrrhic victories? Pyrrhus was a Greek king who defeated the advancing Romans, but it was so costly that he said ruefully that another such victory would ruin him. Indeed, the Romans eventually overran Greece. Come to think of it, Piers could almost be a contraction of Pyrrhus. I could have been more successful than I have been, had I been a lick-spittle. I have done it my way, and paid the price.
But now there is a new dawn coming after over a century of darkness. Today there are alternatives to traditional print publishing. One of them I helped come into being by investing in Xlibris the self publisher 13 years ago, and seeing it through to becoming an established option; for a fee of about $500 any author can get his book in print. I am no longer associated with Xlibris, and it is not the only reputable self publisher. Another is electronic publishing, which I have tracked for over a decade via my ongoing survey at HiPiers.com. New electronic publishers are appearing all the time, often started by frustrated writers who were balked by traditional print publishers. They are far more open to new writers, and generally more personal and responsive.
What's the downside? Money. While a mass market traditional print author may expect to sell tens of thousands of copies of each title, an electronically published author may sell tens of copies. So this is best done for love rather than for money. Also, as e-publishers become more successful, they also tend to become more arrogant, until like the revolutionary pigs in George Orwell's Animal Farm they become almost indistinguishable from the old order. That's why I run anonymous writer feedback on these publishers. Any writer who speaks out openly is subject to retaliation that can end his career, so anonymity is essential. Yes, some publishers then come after me, trying to silence these reports. Some threaten legal action. But having been the full route, I am now an ornery cuss, and have the will and the means to take it to them, and they know it. None has sued yet. But I do try to be fair, and sometimes the publisher has the right of it, and I have to back off because it is the truth I am after, so writers can know the good as well as the bad. I believe an informed writer is more likely to succeed.

In the last couple of years a phenomenal new option has come into being: self publishing via Amazon's Kindle, with a global exposure. Any writer can post his/her book there and receive 70% of the money from sales. Most don't see a lot, but a few have caught on and become millionaires. My view of Amazon is mixed, but I applaud Kindle, and am now posting my own books there. It really is a different game. So if you are a frustrated writer, check this out. It just might be your ticket to success.


  1. Wow Mr. Anthony this is a great announcement! I'm going to look for your work on KINDLE right now!

  2. Mr. Anthony, I'm a huge longtime fan. Just wanted to say thank you for all the joy you've brought to me and my daughter, Emily.

    I've pubbed 26 books traditionally with half a million books in print, and over the past few months, I've taken my backlist and books that NY couldn't fit into my cozy mystery niche and put them on Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords. The results have been terrific! I'm getting readers I never thought I would for my YA, Fantasy, SF, Suspense, and more, books that NY wouldn't touch because they strayed from their expectations for me. I'm selling over a thousand books a month already, and I smile every time I see those numbers, realizing that books I loved to write are finally being read!

  3. Mr. A, congrats on publishing ebooks on Amazon for the Kindle. Please don't hesitate to do the same for other platforms such as the Barnes and Noble site for their Nook eReader, and Smashwords, which allows you to ePublish in several formats compatible with multiple eReaders.

    And I also urge you to consider carefully your pricing structure. There is a 'sweet spot' for ebook pricing, as proven by authors like J.A. Konrath (who has a great blog you should check out). It's $2.99 for a new full length novel and 99 cents for a short story.

    Remember, an ebook's worth is not determined by it's price, but by it's profit. The number of copies sold. The number of readers reached.

    The $2.99 price point still allows you to earn over $2.00 per ebook (more than you would earn for a new hardback release). It's an intangible product...there are no middlemen who need a cut of the pie like in traditional publishing, so the pricing should reflect that.

    And believe me...no Kindle/Nook reader wants to pay normal hardback or even paperback pricing for an ebook. And we do buy a ton of ebooks...if they are priced appropriately!

    Cheers to you for continuing to write. You've given me much joy over the years as a reader of your stories.

  4. Hi Piers!
    I always appreciate your views on publishing & how you try to help other writers with your honest assessments.

    Glad to see your books on Kindle & Nook. You should do very well due to your huge audience!

  5. Self-publi­shing advantages­:
    1. They can do it in your language thereby understand­ing your publishing needs. For example, www.Palibrio.c­om can publish your literary piece either in English or Spanish.
    2. They will distribute your published hardback or paperback to libraries, events/con­ferences, gift stores, commercial & online bookstores all around the world.
    3. They provide 24/7 full support before, during & after the publishing & marketing of your book designed to ensure that it is kept up-to-date & in the spotlight.
    4. They will keep your book available for printing permanentl­y (Print On Demand) - when & in what quantity they are needed.
    Cheers to the future of publishing­.