Blogger: Wendy Lawton
I cringe when I see authors sharing inappropriate or proprietary information on social media or with friends. I know many argue for having nothing to hide but in business (and as published authors, we are businesspeople) that “openness” doesn’t work.
Here’s a quick checklist of what not to share and why:
Contract Details— Your contract may or may not have a non-disclosure clause. This means you are legally bound to confidentiality about the terms and details of the contract. Even if your contract does not call for non-disclosure, it is understood that professionals do not share this information.
Amount of Advance and Royalty Rate— I’ve heard writers call for the widespread sharing of author financial details. The reason cited is like the old union arguments of early last century. Solidarity. Openness. Once we know what others are getting we can force publishers to pay fairly. That’s nothing more than nosiness cloaked in fancy rhetoric. Any employee knows, you never share what’s in your pay stub. It’s unprofessional. The same goes for these financial terms on your contract. There is no valid reason to share them since the numbers do not tell the whole story. There are so many elements that go into deciding what is a fair offer– previous sales, strength of book, strength of publisher and on and on. And I’ve heard writers bragging up an advance that is made is made of bogus elements like bonuses. Trying to collect data and make some kind of comparison is like trying to compare apples to oranges to grapes to pears to kumquats to tomatoes. There is no valid reason to ever share this. I cannot think of any way it can help the writer who shares.
Details of Book Just Contracted— It’s tempting to tease with the storyline or share tidbits about the content of your newly contracted book. Don’t do it. Keep it under wraps until the publisher is ready to announce the book or until it goes up on online sites. For all you know, the publisher might feel this book is so hot he’s trying to get it out there before anyone else jumps on the bandwagon. In our industry we are all friends and so we think we can share freely. We lose sight of the fact that we may actually be friendly competitors. Let your publisher lead in when to share details.
Auction Information— If your agent has had multiple interest in a manuscript of yours and has scheduled an auction or is holding an informal bidding session, your job is to zip your lips. It’s so tempting to brag this up a bit. “My agent just called and my book is going to auction. Squee! Please pray.” No. No. No. Do not share a word about this. We work so hard to keep auctions fair but, of course, those taking part in the auction are desperate for information about which publishers are in the running and any other tidbits that can help them formulate their bids. An author with loose lips can sink an auction.
Publisher Interest— In the same way if your agent tells you about publisher interest in a new book, this falls into the what not to share column. Early interest is so very tentative and so fragile. At this point of initial interest the editor is combing your social media sites to find out more about you. If they find themselves discussed on your site they are going to cringe. It’s unprofessional and publishers are always aware that when they link their name with yours, you reflect on them in a roundabout way.
Sales Numbers— Never share your sales numbers, good or bad. Your numbers are only meant for the publishing house, your agent and you. I’ve heard so many silly number brags. Never believe them. Some authors talk about cumulative sales instead of first year sales (which is how we normally talk about numbers). Or they may be sharing anecdotal evidence given off-hand by their marketing team which includes a huge big-box sale (like Walmart or Sam’s). We know that a large percentage of those books usually come back. Or you hear mass market authors cite huge numbers of “books in print.” Mass market publishers print tons of books to get them out there knowing a good many will return unsold. Books in print and books sold are two totally different tallies. And when authors brag up sales numbers they may not mention that they are writing category fiction for houses that direct market those books to long-established lists. Category sales numbers and regular fiction sales numbers are, again, apples to oranges. Bottom line: Don’t do it. Don’t share. And don’t pay attention to any numbers you hear– there are so many ways to tweak statistics that what you hear is meaningless.
Inside Publishing House Info— When you are talking to one of your contacts in your publishing house, he or she may inadvertently let inside information slip. Or may just trust you enough to confide in you. Might be about job changes, direction shifts, new emphasis, anything. They are trusting you with inside information. Don’t share. It’s always tempting to be the one with the inside scoop, but nothing good can come from divulging it.
Disappointing Numbers— I’ve seen countless discouraged authors sharing disappointment via social network. I can’t tell you how dangerous this is. If you are having a tough time getting a foothold as an author share it with your mother, your spouse or a trusted confidant. Do not brand yourself as a failure on social media. Even if it is temporary, the sense that you are not a much-desired author sticks. Info like that takes hold and becomes anecdotal. I’ve heard whispers like, “I always thought she was a bestselling author, but her numbers are terrible. She’s not sure she can get another contract.” News like that is “comforting” to other struggling authors and is repeated over and over. “I’m not the only one. She’s won three Christys and still has terrible sales.” Editors always seem to get wind of it, and pretty soon your agent finds he can’t sell your next book.
Details of Agent/Author Conversations— We talk honestly to you about so many things, always assuming you know our conversation is confidential. But how many times have you seen an author’s status that reads something like this: “Just talked to my agent. It’s so good to hear that blah, blah, blah. . ..” Eek! Don’t do it.
Pre-pub Cover— I know there are two schools of thought here, but at Books & Such we don’t believe in sharing your cover until the reader can click a link and buy the book or pre-order the book. But what about the all important “cover reveal” on social media? Authors believe that it is a way to build excitement for their upcoming book. I maintain that we only have so much brain power. I cannot see a cover three months in advance and maintain an intent-to-buy that long, even if it’s one of my favorite authors. You know what happens when the book comes out? I look at the cover, and it looks vaguely familiar and I think, “I believe I’ve already read that book. It looks way too familiar.”
There. I’ve given you ten things not to share. There are so many others. Authors need to hesitate before posting anything about careers or books– think twice or three times before hitting that “share” button. We want to always be truthful in what we share, but silence is often the wisest choice. Not everything should be shared publicly.
So. . . your turn. Agree? Disagree? What did I leave out?
Social Media for Authors– What NOT to share. Click to Tweet
When silence is the right choice for authors on social media. Click to Tweet
Actually, I cast as much blame on the stewards of the industry. Something I have recently blogged on is that investors don’t buy your product, your brand, your idea or in this case, your book. They buy you. Its hard to accept, but it is true and I can support the idea empirically. I have worked with people who had the better idea but poor bed-side manner – investors run as far from such wild, uncooperative and naive prospects as they can. In business recruiters dig below paperwork and CV’s down to character. It is as true of professional advice – a psychologist client could tell within 5 minutes if a new client was a keeper or should be moved along. So, why does the industry cry after the milk is spilled about what seems like crass, irresponsible and naive behavior. That should have been eliminated and worked out far earlier in the process. My word, how many of them are published and waving around for all to see, whilst the real gems plod along in the shadows of heartbreak. That too was something I saw in formal employment – the most trusted, most dependable workers were often overlooked for the more visible or sexy. I thought only men were guided by visual cues, but it seems to be a widespread blind-spot in far too many, yet, with a bit due diligence (e.g. psychometric testing), these issues can be mitigated. I didn’t go through your list Wendy, just got to 2 or 3 and asked, “why do we need to be told this?” I am sure its a real enough frustration, so I am not having a go at you, I am just bewildered that such things happen in the name of writing and, worse, often in the name of Christian writing – as though it was ever about us at all, which it isn’t and never will be.
I can see your frustration, Peter, but don’t forget that some of these professional guidelines seem to fly in the face of our Christian community mores– be honest, be open, nothing to hide.
Truth– many in the artist community, writers included, have never worked in a professional environment so some of these strictures are new to them.
And when you talk about the responsibility of the industry to vet their prospects, our publishers perform careful due diligence, checking out online persona, etc. But we have an interesting layer between the prospect and the publisher. Agents. They deal with the agent, not the writer. That’s why publishers are so loyal to agents with integrity.
Yeah, how powerful relationships are in these value chains … a good agent is probably worth more than we could ever grasp. Every industry has a rogue element. Thankfully it is normally balanced out by some much salt-of-the-earth. Thanks Wendy. I am not personally frustrated, but throughout my life I have found that where the majority fit in, a minority cause problems for the rest. Oh well, I suppose its something we must live with. My wife put it so well, “the issues raised here are as fundamental as having to tell people not to litter”. Good post anyway.
Thanks for sharing this list, Wendy. For those who have worked in highly competitive fields or jobs with security clearances, all but the last are obviously in the NTK category. Before sharing info, it passes through the “need to know” filter. If there’s no valid NTK, you don’t share. The NTK filter is a valuable anti-gossip concept as well. It’s easy to forget that gossip is listed in Romans right there with envy, malice, deceit, and murder. NTK is part of the filters in the THINK approach to what we speak. Is something true, helpful, inspiring, necessary, and kind? If not, it’s best left unsaid.
I was surprised by the final item, the pre-pub cover. The proper way and timing to build anticipation of a book release is not obvious to me for an unpublished novel. Is “cover reveal” restricted to the image alone or to the back cover copy designed to hook reader interest? When is the right time to start sharing the written hook for a future book?
Carol, using the NTK filter is a good one. My hubby works in that world too. 🙂
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
YES! Security clearances!!
‘NTK’ is a life saver. Literally.
Wendy L Macdonald
Thank you for sharing the THINK approach, Carol. I needed this reminder, and I like using acronyms.
I agree that the NTK filter is a good one. I do work in that world. In that world there are different levels of security clearances however it is best to be safe and behave that everything in regards to your book/contract/etc should be on a NTK.
I like the Need to Know filter. Of course there are writer groups who will press and say that sharing information is NTK so authors can have a better idea about the industry.
As to the cover and back cover copy, authors need to follow their publisher’s guidelines. I think it’s best to keep everything under wraps until the reader can buy the book. (I could be wrong and am open to being convinced.)
I have some standard answers if I’m asked about my salary, They would work for sales and contracts tool
— I’m delighted
— I’m content
— You know how it is (with a smile), it is never enough.
A teacher was offensively asked by a rich snob, “what do you make?” She replied, “I make children into responsible adults, I make children read and love it …. and so on”. When she finished her diatribe she asked him “what do you make of that?’
Love that, Peter.
I like your responses, Shirlee!
Great responses, Shirlee. Shows your professionalism and humble nature. 🙂
When asked inappropriate questions, I used to flash a smile and say, “If I told you, I’d have to kill you.” I don’t use that one anymore since I retired.
Wise and winsome, Shirlee.
I love this. Way to go, Shirlee.
Thanks for the list, you included some things I’d never dream of sharing. Sometimes the less said the better.
Have a great day!
I know. To most writers these would never be a temptation.
James Scott Bell
Wendy, that private conversation we had about your prior felony record remains confidential.
Thanks for the early morning laugh, Jim. 🙂
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
That was funny.
Wendy L Macdonald
Now you can expect a call from the investigator working on Wendy’s security clearance renewal.
*rolls eyes* Jim, Jim, Jim. . .
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
James Bell! You have Wendy SO ruffled, she’s quoting old school Star Trek!!
Too funny?. My son asked me what I was laughing about. I shared your comment …
What about those who self-publish? There are no contracts and they strive for transparency.
Good point, Heather, one I was trying to figure out how to make. I’m a member at Absolute Write, and in the Self Publishing Forum there we share our writing life, including sales numbers, writing progress, cover reveals, etc. It’s not quite so open at a couple of other groups I’m in, but sharing is certainly not taboo at them. I suppose the general public isn’t interested in that, so it’s pretty much writer-to-writer. I suppose my Facebook friends get tired of me getting excited when I sell a book, but it happens so rarely I have trouble constraining myself when it does. Must tone that down.
When you self publish, you are the publisher so what you reveal has to do with what your own “corporate philosophy.” What does it benefit you to share numbers?
I would definitely be careful about letting those numbers define you, especially when you are in a place where numbers are shared as a kind of yardstick. It’s easy to look like a “loser” numbers-wise when compared to the many who tell numbers like fisherman tell fish stories.
Look at your goal. If your goal is to get books into the hands of someone who desperately needs it, every sale is a victory. What do disembodied numbers have to do with it? If your goal is to prove that self-publishing is more viable than traditional publishing then you need to lean on people to collect numbers, looking for that anecdotal evidence to make your case. (But how sad to have that as a goal. It’s not about writing and it’s not about readers– it’s just an insider’s gotcha.)
These suggestions seem like common sense. We should always use discretion when we share things on social media.
*As with gossip, we shouldn’t cloak professional information with the guise of a prayer request.
Great post, Wendy.
“As with gossip, we shouldn’t cloak professional information with the guise of a prayer request.”
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
As much as I would dearly love to give a certain family member a smackdown on Facebook, it would do nothing more than make me look petty.
“But she deserves it!” You say.
Yes, she does. But she’s long past the point at which she would be remotely educated and enlightened by anything I have to say.
So, we walk the high road.
And no, the chances of her seeing this and responding are equal to Kevin Costner reading my work, phoning up Mary Keeley and saying “When can we start filming? And does Jennifer want to pick the cast?”
Although…ya never know…
Love your humor, Jennifer! And yes, ya never know.
It’s those filters that are so important, Jennifer.
…but there’s nothing to stop us from casting annoying people in our stories–suitably disguised, of course–and inflicting them with assorted entertaining adversities.
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
I mean, ahem…rather so…
I did name the villain in my second book after the flaming meanie who broke my heart in 1985. Sadly, the fictional namesake of that certain South Dakotan gets killed off by 9 rattlesnakes…a slow and horrible death compounded by the hot sun, a hero with an obsidian knife, and umm, yeah…sorry Wendy, it was filter schmilter on that one!!
Thank you for this list, Wendy. It is amazing how you’ll run across someone who is so brazen to ask personal questions … like, “What did you pay for your house?” It just stuns you. I would never ask someone that question. Maybe it’s good to already have some general answers prepared mentally for when those few brazen questions come. Maybe just to simply say, “I have to keep that private.”
I’m with you, Shelli. I can’t imagine someone coming right out and asking certain things. Oftentimes, they are people who aren’t even that close to you!
What’s considered rude varies with where you live and where you come from. Rude in the South might be normal in the North and vice versa. Same for East and West. I have a friend from an Asian country who thought it was offensive for someone to ask where he was from. I explained that was a normal American question used to look for points of common interest and experience. It’s one of the first things we ask when we meet anybody. There are folks for whom the house cost question would just be friendly conversation, not nosiness. You can always answer any price question with “Less than it’s worth to me.”
I have a really thick skin so you’d better tell me if you want to offend me. Otherwise, I’m not likely to take offense. That puts me at risk of saying something that would never bother me without realizing someone else might be sensitive about it. You could ask me what my house cost anytime, and I’d tell you without finding it offensive at all. Of course, we built it in 1985, so you’d have to do mental arithmetic to figure out what that meant today. But isn’t math fun?
So true, Carol. Oh, and I wasn’t offended by the question because it came from someone I love who, like you said, happens to be from another country. He’s very blunt, brave, and all of the above … has an amazing testimony. And I do love that about him. He brings me out of my comfort zone. But yeah, growing up in Texas, it’s just crossing a privacy border. ha ha! I’m not sure where I learned that … 🙂 And it’s funny because anyone can look it up on-line today. And I think the closer you grow to the Lord, you abandon much … for the sake of others and yourself. God can use anything to open doors. Even the cost of my house. 🙂
Carol wrote: “I have a really thick skin so you’d better tell me if you want to offend me.”
My favorite type of friend. Someone who believes everything is meant in the best light.
I used to always fall back on the redirect. I’d smile real big as if it were a joke and say, “I can’t believe you just asked me that.”
Jennifer Zarifeh Major
Or they could ask you “Where’s all the Dairy Milk. It was here last night. Or did we eat it all during Dances With Wolves?”
And yeah, that was totally a random thought…
Ha ha! Dairy milk! 🙂 Someone I know is a big milk drinker. 🙂 I’m just going with the random theme. 🙂
Love this, Shelli! My favorite is when someone asks, “How is your book doing?” Translation: “How many copies of your book have your sold?”
Avoid politics, and if a Christian writer, specific criticism of prominent preachers whose style you find offensive. General comments on “love gifts will bring miracles, call with your credit card number!” is fine, but directed criticism is not appropriate for one who has chosen the public life of a writer. “People who live in glass houses”, and so on.
* Avoid criticism of other faiths and lifestyles; as a contracted writer you are also a de facto spokesperson for your publisher, and even a “these opinions are mine alone” disclaimer does not avoid the identification of your comments with the entity that chooses to publish your work.
* Might be best to also avoid your own hot-button issues, for these can make you sound like a zealot and therefore humourless.
Andrew, I’m glad to see you here.
So glad you brought these up, Andrew. Can I give a big amen to these? I cringe at those who waste their breath and social media energy on political issues. You are either preaching to the choir or ticking off half your potential readership who will not change opinions anyway.
And yes on the zealot aspect!
Good to see you here, Andrew.
*And, great points.
Thanks, Wendy. While these guidelines seem common sense to me, it’s helpful to see it laid out as a writer who *hopes* to be in the situation one day when any of this is necessary to know. 🙂 By the point these situations would arise, there’s bound to be so much excitement and relief and impulse to shout “Hey, world, look! I hung on and kept working and here’s what’s finally happening!” But none of it will be long-lived if we don’t treat the process with the same respect we’ve shown up until this point.
Teresa, that reminds me of Matthew 6:5-7, where it mentions if you brag on yourself, then you’ve just received your reward in full. Something like that. Man’s reward instead of God’s. We don’t want to miss out on God’s best for us. It’s a tight-rope balance.
Oh, I love that insight, Shelli.
And those “Hey, look” moments are important. They energize those who are coming behind you. It’s important to celebrate. We just need to keep the details confidential.
I love that, Wendy … it’s okay to celebrate, just keep the details private. 🙂
Thank you for being clear on the inappropriate items/topics to share on social media. I hope my readers, business partners, and industry experts see me as a professional writer. I don’t want to damage a relationship with anyone, especially a business partner. There are unwritten rules in any industry and the more I learn about the writing industry,I’m discovering it is a tight community. Thank you for sharing the guidelines that will enable us to avoid damaging a relationship.
And that’s exactly the reason, to be seen as a professional. I’m encouraged that almost everyone here would never think of doing any of these.
Wendy L Macdonald
Thank you for the sobering heads up, Wendy. I especially liked your reasoning behind not revealing a cover in advance. As writers we need to remember we’re involved in a business; therefore, silence is often the golden choice.
Blessings ~ Wendy Mac
And as to the cover, I’m thinking of what is prudent to get to the actual sale. I may be wrong about this but I know if I hear about a book on NPR while I’m driving that sounds like one I’d like to buy, by the time I get home that intent to buy is lost. (Hopefully not all readers are as recall-challenged as me.)
Amen, amen, amen.
I’d also like to mention that as an author, I am aware that I’m creating a brand. Since I write international suspense, posts about my family and (adult) children and what I’m serving for brunch don’t advance my brand with my readers. But posts about travel to a dangerous place that is a locale in my next book, or my participation in something that relates to a theme in my writing, ARE important because they anchor my life to my work, creating a degree of credibility impossible to garner in any other way.
It’s hard, particularly as a Christian female brought up with a self-image revolving around service to faith, family, and friends, to separate that facet of myself from my brand. But I think it’s important that every author critically analyze what they’re sharing to ensure that they are moving their initiative forward.
Great thoughts, Wendy. Thanks for sharing.
We can learn much from you, NLB! 🙂
Well, Shelli, if that’s the case, it’s only because I’m learning from those who go before me. (And twenty-five years in marketing and advertising also helps.)
Good insight, Norma. But don’t forget, your readers like to see the homey side of you as well. We try to balance our social media persona– part about our “brand,” part giving back with shares and information and part giving insight into who we are.
But a social media philosophy is important, whatever balance you decide on.
Wendy, thank you for defining the social media balance so well.
I run into the ‘what to share’ question daily, in my use of social media, in the context of my own situation.
* The only really valid reason to share ‘crappy health stuff’ is in the service of something bigger, to wit – concrete ways to maintain faith when you feel like God’s abandoned you. So many people say, “You just have to have faith and lean into Jesus…”
* Yes, but HOW? I don’t pretend to have a lot of answers, but there are some specific methodologies that work for me, and with which others have found resonance. To make that valid, and not just the vapourous musings of a self-styled intellectual, sharing personal information seems necessary.
* That’s hard, because sometimes it feels like I’m asking for pity, or worse, am introducing special pleading to engender special treatment. Those are unacceptable; sympathy’s appreciated, as are prayers, but even then, those have a purpose that has to be transfigured in what I write…that prayers are a ‘physical’ thing, and that their positive effects on morale and the buttressing of the soul to face a dreadful tomorrow are anything but theoretical.
* And many thanks for the prayers that have been offered over the last 24 hours. I am not sure how long I will be able to keep this up, but I’ll be here as long as I’m physically able, and have something that (I hope) makes a contribution to t positive whole of this wonderful community.
* And that’s all for today. I’m trashed.
Andrew, you give so much to the community. And don’t forget that online can be a community and sharing your struggles with us, as well as your triumphs honors the community.
You have no idea how many were praying you over the last 24 hours. . .
Wendy, thank you so much. The prayers of my friends are now the main sustainer of faith and strength.
* Please keep them coming, if you could. The crisis continues, and while I have a methodology for stabilization (and it’s working for now), this is more frightening than anything I have faced. I don’t want to die!
Thank you. I’m afraid I’m guilt of a couple of these. Not that I’d ever share publicly, but I have with other authors. So thanks for the insight and the list.
We all share with trusted friends from time to time.
Kathy Boyd Fellure
Have printed out this list for when my dear agent sales my first novel. Now pinned above my writing desk. I will be well-prepared and make her proud. Thank you, Wendy!
Elizabeth Conte Torphy
Well, I promise not to do this when I get to that lucky point! : )
Thanks for the pointers!!!
Forewarned is forearmed, right?
I have two levels of response to probing questions. If it’s someone who has a legitimate reason for asking–say, a newbie writer who’s trying to figure out what to expect–I either answer in general terms or (better) refer them to an authoritative book or blog. I try to be helpful without divulging any secrets.
If someone is just being nosy, I find that a blank look and simple “Why do you ask?” works wonders.
Wendy, I usually ADORE your advice and a LOT of what you say here is dead on. (Don’t broadcast your failures or disappointments, don’t share your early cover concepts….)
I disagree with the inclusion of compensation, advance, and royalty terms in your list however.
Successful businesses and industries all over the world have seen the wisdom in sharing pay rates and open communication about co-worker compensation. Companies and countries all over the globe have long ago figured out that keeping compensation secret only benefits the business, not the employee.
“No valid reason?” Really? There are many valid reasons to share financial terms (as long as you do not violate a NDA.)
If you are not compelled to keep silent with an NDA, there is NOTHING unprofessional about sharing compensation at work or in the publishing arena.
When compensation rates are shared, recent history has shown that rates go up and those contracted (the less powerful in the equation) have more data with which to make decisions.
A healthy industry and company does not need to hide their terms. Of course there are different compensation rates for different types of authors, manuscripts, and situations. But give us credit for understanding that. (If an author is not able to understand that difference terms come with different compensation then THAT is unprofessional and they will be disappointed.)
Again, I agree with most of your list and you are an INVALUABLE voice in our industry, but the Old-School/Old-Fashioned advice to keep our compensation quiet only assists the industry business owners who benefit from our ignorance.
Your fan, Amy
Thanks, Amy, for a thoughtful argument but you haven’t convinced me.
What is the purpose for sharing compensation data? If you believe rates will go up because of shared data you will have to show me how that happens.
The writers with leverage are out of the equation because their compensation is built on their success. So the writers who “have more data with which to make decisions” have no leverage to affect compensation. And, to simplify, if they have no leverage, the only decision they can make is to take an offer or walk away from an offer.
Publishers generally base their offers on metrics they’ve spent years refining. The only way we agents have of bettering the offer is to employ leverage (how much do they want this book) or convince them that their proforma is flawed.
And, a key point, Amy. . . you can’t compare a buyers’ market (publishing) to a sellers’ market (say, Silicon Valley). How we wish we were in a sellers’ market!
The real issue is that the shared data is totally without context and no matter how much data is collected, writers do not have the proprietary information to be able to put that data in context.
But great debate. 🙂 Wouldn’t it be fun to debate this on a panel?
Your point about a buyer’s market really made me think. You are right. First-time authors do not have the luxury of negotiating the way established authors do. But we could work as an industry to give new authors more power.
I would also say that newbie authors often don’t have the representation support (agent) that your clients do. They would not be able to determine the subtleties and vagaries of the negotiating process the way you can. Most of the first-time published authors I have worked with did their own negotiating and it went a little like this: “You want to pay how much? Huh. Okay.”
But sharing advance and royalty rates could do a great service to other authors and our industry by tearing aside a veil of secrecy that KEEPS the power in the hands of the publishers.
Real Estate agents (http://finance.zacks.com/much-big-sale-neighborhood-affect-home-value-1570.html), Tech Employees (http://tech.slashdot.org/story/15/07/23/207251/google-staffers-share-salary-info-with-each-other-management-freaks) and writers (http://www.wired.com/2015/05/im-terrified-tell-people-much-make/)
will tell you that transparency CAN shift and move the balance of power. Simple data IS enough to start to change inequities (based on gender, race or other factors that DO enter into play) and allow us to move the whole industry towards a greater balance between “seller” and “buyer”
I think debating this on a panel would be a HOOT. You have always had such amazing insights and this conversation has really made me re-evaluate several of my original positions.
Amy wrote: “Your point about a buyer’s market really made me think. You are right. First-time authors do not have the luxury of negotiating the way established authors do. But we could work as an industry to give new authors more power.”
Wendy Asks: How? I still don’t see how knowing how much others at different houses get as advances and royalties would help new authors?
Amy said: “I would also say that newbie authors often don’t have the representation support (agent) that your clients do. They would not be able to determine the subtleties and vagaries of the negotiating process the way you can. Most of the first-time published authors I have worked with did their own negotiating and it went a little like this: “You want to pay how much? Huh. Okay.”
Wendy: And that’s pretty much what new authors need to do. It is rare (not impossible but rare) for a new author to get a contract without an agent. Authors need to get an agent to help navigate all this. Yes it’s hard to get an agent but it’s step one. That’s one of the reasons we pour so much of our time into our blog, helping those we do not yet represent.
This blog topic and the interesting variety of comments has entertained and informed me. It makes me realize how I need to frame my answers in better ways. It’s kind of crazy that in this tell all age with the prevalence of social media we are indirectly branding ourselves as losers, winners, braggarts, informed, uninformed, naive, knowledgable, self-promoting . . . and the list goes on. Thanks for the ‘Need To Know’ tip. That’s quite useful. I’ve been in the naive category. Oh my!
“in this tell all age with the prevalence of social media we are indirectly branding ourselves as losers, winners, braggarts, informed, uninformed, naive, knowledgable, self-promoting . . . and the list goes on. ”
Norma, that is quotable. Yes!
Kristen Joy Wilks
Lots of helpful info, thanks so much Wendy. I’m curious, is it all right to share vague info like “had an editor request pages at the writer’s conference last week” or is that also considered unprofessional even through no names or names of houses were given?
Absolutely. I do that all the time. “So happy to have just sold __ number of books in one week.” It’s a fun post– giving thanks, and let’s people celebrate with us.
Thanks for this list Wendy. It is information that is not readily available (I don’t think) and therefore very useful. It’s particularly useful to get a publisher’s and agent’s perspective on the down sides of sharing certain information. Not all of your points would be readily obvious to a prospective author.
Thanks for that.
We live in such a “tell-the-world” society. Divulging all is only a click/tweet/photo away. This is a wise list, Wendy. Or should I say, a list of wisdom. And though the cover-reveal thing is a point that can be argued, I agree with your limited brain-power point. I’d much rather let readers see my cover when they can buy my book.
Isn’t that the truth. How often do you cringe each day and think TMI?
Yes! I recall one author sharing about how much her editor added to the writing and publishing process. I’m a freelance editor, so was interested, especially by her before-and-after examples.
Unfortunately, I was left with the impression the editor was a better writer than the author. And I haven’t bought or read another one of the author’s books since.
On #10 – as a reader, I absolutely agree. I’d take it one step further and say any time you share your book cover, it should be a clickable link to an online retailer so I can buy it. Right. Now.
Authors, have you any idea how many books I haven’t bought in the last six months because the cover wasn’t a clickable link?
Yes, I could have gone to Amazon and looked for it myself, but I don’t (that takes more clicks, more time, and I usually get distracted somewhere between opening the Amazon page and finding your book).
Now there’s a challenge, Iola. And I have to agree. I need something actionable because life is so complicated and it’s too easy to forget if I don’t act when I’m prompted.
I appreciate this. Some are so obvious I’m surprised you needed to mention them, but others surprised me. I’ll be all your points did this to somebody!
As I move forward and do my best to get a book professionally published I’ll keep these in mind.
And you know, Cheri, I never would have mentioned them if I hadn’t seen writers unknowingly sharing. 🙂
Jessi L. Roberts
Very good read.
When it comes to details of the book just contracted, does that mean I shouldn’t put any information about the book online while I’m writing/editing it, or should I just take stuff down if I get the book contracted? I’m trying to build up a bit of a fanbase with art related to the story world and characters, as well as putting a bit of the first chapter on my website. (Currently, I don’t know if these stories are likely to be published traditionally or if I’ll have to self-publish, so I want to see if I can generate some interest in them now.)
When I got a contract offer from a small publisher, I sent the contract to one experienced author who mentors me. (The contract didn’t have a non-disclosure clause in it.) I also talked, not in public, to a few fellow authors. I’d never seen any sort of contract before so I needed help, but the publisher was so small I knew an agent likely would’t go for it. I’m assuming since this wasn’t shared in public, it was probably okay. (If not, what are authors who know very little about contracts supposed to do in these cases?)
You know, Jessi, you bring up good points. I’ve written to a few marketing people in our industry to get their take on this and I will be blogging more about it — I think on December 1st. Tune in and we’ll get a real discussion going. Thanks for making me think some more about this.
Jessi L. Roberts
I’ll be looking forward to learning more about this. I know a lot of young authors now do character interviews, pin images on Pinterest, and that sort of thing.
I wouldn’t apply this automatically to publishing, but I actually think wage and tax information should be shared much more openly. It may be a generational thing (we denizens of the net are used to transparency), or it may be the fact that in so many industries equal work does NOT earn equal pay, but in general I feel that required financial transparency keeps most businesses more honest. Anyway, in my day jobs I’m always quite willing to answer financial questions (how much do you make a month, how much do you pay for rent), and I always appreciate it when others are open, too.
I agree. I’ve spent twenty years working in compensation, and pay secrecy is often hiding gender or other discrimination (often historical and not necessarily deliberate), or is the result of bad management (e.g. the inability to manage performance, or showing favouritism to certain employees based on factors other than performance).
Sometimes pay inequity is only perceived – someone lies about how much they are paid, then everyone else is dissatisfied because they believe they earn less.