Harper Voyager is the global science fiction and fantasy imprint of Harper Collins. They are calling for submissions from all authors between October 1, 2012 and October 14, 2012. The successful authors will have their books edited, published as an ebook and marketed online by Harper Voyager, apparently one a month for the forseeable future. Harper Voyager are also hinting that some books may also be published in print. Authors who are not contacted within 3 months of submission will have to consider themselves unsuccessful.
Those are the facts I gleaned from the Harper Voyager submission guidelines.
The one thing that is missing from the guidelines is any mention of contracts, payments or royalties so until stated otherwise we have to assume that standard publishing industry contracts will apply. That was easy to write but the truth is I have no idea what standard publishing industry contracts actually are or what an author gets out of them. So I did what any netizen would do and asked Google.
My search brought up http://jakonrath.blogspot.com.au/2012/07/harlequin-fail-part-2.html .
This is J.A. Konrath’s blog and in this article he talks about a lawsuit being brought against Harlequin. I don’t want to digress into a general discussion about the business practices of another publisher so if you are interested you can find more information at : http://www.harlequinlawsuit.com/
The reason I’m bringing up the Konrath article is because at one point he is explaining about how authors are paid and uses the following example which may apply to all publishing contracts. “Harlequin has an ebook it lists for $3.99. It sells that to Amazon at a wholesale price of $2.00. The author should make $1.00 for each $3.99 ebook that Amazon sells”. This implies that contracted authors make 50% of the wholesale price of their ebooks.
If the publisher keeps the other 50% then, as there are no printing or distribution costs involved in ebooks, we would have to assume that some of that money is for overheads such as editing and marketing. Now I know that editors have to be paid, along with cover designers etc but I’m a little baffled by just exactly what kind of marketing any publisher can do for ebooks. For print books there are reviews, interviews, book signings etc but online marketing is not the same beast.
When was the last time you came across professional advertising for an ebook? I’m no expert but what little I know about marketing suggests that authors have to do their own. Now I suppose Harper Voyager probably does have a Twitter account, maybe a Facebook presence as well but… honestly? I’ve never looked them up in an effort to find a great new ebook. I have been on the TOR site but I haven’t looked for their recommendations either. So I would really like to know just exactly what kind of online marketing Harper Voyager is capable of performing. Will they be spamming Twitter? Or is there some other avenue I know nothing about?
The reason I am making such a big deal about the marketing aspect of online publishing is that I suspect Harper Voyager will be getting the lion’s share of the benefits.
1. Professional editing
2. Professional cover design
3. Status of being traditionally published, sort of.
4. Possible increase in visibility and author recognition amongst readers.
1. A huge drop in the financial rewards accruing from their ebooks.
If these authors become successful then the benefits will far outweigh the one, obvious disadvantage. However the cynic in me says that out of all these authors only a very few are likely to hit the sweet spot with readers and so only a very few will actually become successful. But what of all the others? The ones who don’t become successful? The ones who end up selling about the same number of books as they would have done if they’d self-published? Clearly the loss of sales income will hurt.
1. A huge pool of new material to pick and choose from.
2. Minimal overheads
3. The possibility that a few of their chosen authors will become successful at which point those successful authors will graduate into print which will be highly profitable for the publisher.
4. A way to make the ebook revolution work for them instead of against them.
1. The headache of reading through a huge slushpile of books that don’t ‘make the grade’, however they define that benchmark.
From a publishing point of view I see this move by Harper Voyager as being very clever indeed. For very little effort they will be able to cherry pick the most profitable new work out there as well as gaining a reputation as being a forward thinking company. If everything works according to plan they will be able to transition into the growing ebook market ahead of the other traditional publishers and that will increase their market share. All at very little cost.
There is however a third group who need to be mentioned here – the unsuccessful authors whose work is rejected by Harper Voyager without even a pink slip. What of them? Will they really be the ones who didn’t make the grade or will at least some of them simply be those who are considered too different, too ‘hard to sell’, even in ebook form?
Part of me sees this Harper Voyager open submission as an opportunity. Another part of me sees it as a trap.
Some months ago I finally stopped sitting on the fence and decided that I wanted to be a self-published indie author. Everything I had learned about traditional publishers was a negative and I was angry at the bean-counter, chase-the-unholy-dollar-at-all-costs mentality of the Big Six publishers. I saw being an indie as a sort of badge of courage. Hell, I saw it as me, striking a teeny, weeny blow against all corporate evil. It was a good feeling. Now I’m conflicted.
If I stick to my guns and follow the plan [hah] to become self-published then am I doing so because it’s the smart thing to do or am I just being a coward and shying away from [likely] rejection? On the other hand if I don’t take the gamble and submit then will I be ignoring a once in a lifetime opportunity?
My gut tells me to stick to my guns but it’s also telling me that I’m a wimp who’s too scared to try and fail. I’d really appreciate your take on this whole thing.
Not so cheerful,