Friday, May 26, 2006

Favorite hobby horse

Frank Moorhouse wrote in a not-so-recent Australian: "We need adequate, long-term funding of individual writers by arts organisations, publishers and private patronage." It's the "publishers" bit that stirred me to mount one of my favorite hobby horses: writers can only expect long-term funding from a publisher if the writer is prepared to back a publisher in the longer term.

In today's world of agents and big advances, both of which are supposedly both in the writer's best interest, there's little incentive from publishers to back authors in the longer term. And creatively it's usually best for writer's to find a good publishing house and build a relationship and let a relationship be built.

Sometimes writers benefit from a change of publisher but it should be done as part of longer term view not a short term one, and advances are short term - the theory is the writer is only getting earlier what they should be getting as royalties anyway. Advances are but smoke and mirrors.


Sherryl said...

Hmmm I don't see publishers as "funding" writers at all. It's a business relationship, isn't it? At least it seems to be these days. From a writer's point of view, in Australia we have little hope of earning any kind of decent living from our books because the market is not big enough so not enough sales (thank goodness for PLR and ELR).
If I were to write ten, or even five good children's novels in a year, would one publisher publish them all? I doubt it. I've heard several publishers say that Margaret Clark, who is very prolific, is very often competing with herself on the shelves. That's why we have more than one publisher. Sure, it would be great to have one that looked after me, published all my books, spent heaps on publicity, but I'm not what the industry would call an A-list writer. I'm just trying to make a living. So what are my options?

Kelly G said...

I can understand Sherryl's points, and also feel that having long-term relationships between publishers and authors is probably constructive - but should it or can it be monogamous?
Clearly some authors work in different genres or forms and have particular publishers for their picture books/YA fiction/whatever.
But it isn't just anticipated advances that ought to make or break the relationship - it's also about how much effort both parties are willing to put into publicity and marketing, how editorial changes (if any) are negotiated - and like it or not, some of that is simply about people getting on well.

Andrew's black dog blog said...

Thanks Sherryl and Kelly G. I think the relationship between author and publisher is more than a business one. Certainly I hope it was also a creative one. I think authors can earn a living here pretty much as well as anywhere else. With regards to monogamy maybe its a matter of a prime relationship. And maybe some publishers and some authors are better to suited to monogamy. But if we pursue the metaphor I suppose a publisher is looking for a harem from the start anyway.
Also I'm not thinking that we'd be publishing a writer's educational titles for example.