In December 2021, Berkley Publishing let it be known that they would accept submissions for a limited time directly from authors. With The Admiral’s Wife in good shape at that time, I decided to take the plunge and submit. Over the next few months, I kept checking the link for my submission but there was never any news. So, in early May 2022, I self-published The Admiral’s Wife and since then, it has won three indie awards – very exciting!
Lo and behold, yesterday I heard from Berkley Publishing. You know where this is going, don’t you?
Notice the warm, welcoming tone and professional courtesy. Notice the feedback on why it does not fit their list. (A bit of sarcasm there.) Notice that it has taken 15 months to reply to my query. 15 months!
Do they really expect that in today’s environment, where an indie author can publish as soon as a novel is polished and ready, that authors will wait that long to hear from a publisher? And even if I had waited and been successful, Berkley (or any other publisher) would likely need another 18 months or more before the book was actually released.
Mike Shatzkin, who spent his working life in the publishing industry, recently posted an article: Running a big publishing house is not as much fun as it used to be. He notes two big changes.
One change has to do with where books come from. Mike says that there are now up to a million new titles a year. A MILLION!! In the past, almost all titles came from the publishing industry. Now they come from self-published authors as well as “entities that live in some other world but which can use books to the benefit of their main enterprise.” Much, much more competition.
A second change is how customers find and choose books. As Mike says, and as all authors are acutely aware, it’s no longer just through book retailers and mass merchants like Costco. “Today, it is likely that fewer than 30 percent of physical books are purchased in retail locations. They are transacted for online, as are all ebook sales.”
Under these circumstances, control has shifted from publishers and retailers to readers and authors.
Readers pay little attention to whether a book is traditionally published or self-published. They are looking for a satisfying read and will use mechanisms like Goodreads, bookstagrammers, book bloggers, and other reader hubs for discovery.
Authors who have been traditionally published and then let go by their publishers, can still appeal to their reader base by self-publishing their subsequent books, a reader base that their publisher helped them build. And if their books are good, that reader base will grow. Those same authors can drive additional revenue from their backlists given the availability of e-books and print on demand. Indie authors have a similar opportunity.
Speed to market with a high quality product is where publishing is going. 15 months for a reply doesn’t cut it anymore.
I’m not suggesting that there is anything new in today’s post – but hearing from Berkley made me want to repeat the message.
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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.