What is wrong with US Publishers? And are US women really ‘different’?

Once again, please welcome Australian Bestselling Author Colin Falconer to Write It Forward. Thanks for coming Colin and sharing with us about The Naked Husband.

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The Naked Husband

Available at Barnes and Noble for Nook

The Naked Husband’s success in Australia has been somewhat bittersweet. Of course I wanted to be a bestseller, but this book, as mentioned before, is out of my usual genre and was in fact, that manuscript, that was never to see the light of day. The timing of the books release was unfortunate since the number one book at the time was the Da Vinci Code. Dan Brown’s books (they republished his back list at the same time – they’d just been pulped a couple of months before) were the only books keeping me off the number one spot in Australia.

When my New York agent (a smart and lovely woman who agented some massive names in the business) read the book, she emailed me and thanked me for giving her such a fantastic book to read and represent.

You can bet I poured a large bourbon after reading that email. My hands shook, the ice clinked in the glass, the full monty.

But a couple of months later, when I had lunch with her in New York, she told me she was depressed and saddened by the state of the industry. ‘I cannot understand why they all rejected it. They say American women are different.’ Different how? Why wouldn’t US women (and readers in general) be able to relate to this story?

I have always thought there is something desperately flawed about a creative industry that is not creative. They didn’t want my book, I believe, because there was nothing else like it out there at the time. They had no recent precedent. They couldn’t wrap it up in a genre and market it.

I saw a cartoon in The New Yorker about that time. It was an accountant talking to the publisher and saying: ‘I’ve got it! From now on we’ll only publish bestsellers!’

Only it isn’t a joke. With the increasing corporatization of publishing, the bean counters took over. But unfortunately there is no spreadsheet formula that can tell you what book is going to become a bestseller.

So they invented one.

For too long publishers – and Hollywood, but that’s no business of mine – have driven the car by looking in the rear vision mirror. Many bought books they could point to and say: ‘Well we bought it/ promoted it because it was just like that one that went gangbusters last year.’

Remember all those freaking Geisha books after Anthony Grey’s book? All those endless Templar books after Da Vinci Code?

For God’s sake, this is books. This is ideas. This is argument. This is love and hate. This is stories. This is readers.

Not the frigging fashion industry.

But it’s still happening. The MO seems to be: you get a horse, you wait for it to die, then you flog it. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example; Knopf Doubleday’s Vintage Books shelled out a seven-figure sum for the three-part series after it went to number 3 on Amazon. Now other publishers are also running to the front of the parade pretending they are leading it.

A company called Clandestine Classics are writing “missing scenes” of bondage and “explosive sex” into the original works of Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a man with a good fortune is in need of a good spanking.

And yes, they are going to work up the gay relationship between Holmes and Watson. I do not want to be there for that. First Bert and Ernie … is nothing sacred?

Even Jason Rekulak, the editor of the bestselling Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, is upset about this latest misstep. “It’s ridiculous,” he said. “That’s the opposite of what those books were about, (they are) all about anticipation and mystery and things left unsaid.”

Really? Like zombies, you mean?

Even as they worked the undead into a Regency social comedy of manners, he says “we were trying to stay true to what Jane Austen’s intentions were.”

I’m pretty damned sure her intentions weren’t to introduce flesh eating corpses into to story of the Gilbert sisters.

But look, I shouldn’t be upset. The current climate is probably a good time to publish The Naked Husband. My New York agent would have had a field day. “It’s got sex and a toxic relationship, just like 50 Shades of Grey!’ And as long as she got the FSOG word in before they hung up the phone, we’d have been in like Flynn.

To quote one of the emails I receive regularly about the book: “I DONT KNOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH U.S. PUBLISHERS, BUT FYI I HAVE BOUGHT THE MAJORITY OF YOUR BOOKS STRAIGHT FROM AUSTRALIA OR ENGLAND THRU AMAZON, AND THAT IS THE BEAUTY OF AMAZON!!!”

It is indeed.

It is also the beauty of Nook First, who snatched up The Naked Husband as soon as they saw it. The truly fantastic thing is the emergence of new online publishers like Bob Mayer and Jen Talty at Cool Gus. They’re not gatekeepers. They don’t think they’re God.

They think the readers are God. Which is as it should be.

And therein lies the difference. 

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Thanks for coming to WIF Colin!

About Jen Talty

Publishing Consultant, Author of Romantic Suspense and Co-Creator of Cool Gus Publishing with NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer.

Posted on October 9, 2012, in Cool Gus Publishing, Guest Blogger and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Great Interview, Bob, as usual. It is alternately daunting, to a fiction writer whose stories aren’t mash-ups; and also encouraging that there are channels out there that appreciate unique work. The reported state of US Publishers is sad, but I suppose in this current economy, reducing risk is a high priority. Art thrives in flush economic times.

  2. “Now other publishers are also running to the front of the parade pretending they are leading it.”

    What a true statement. The industry behaves like a snake swallowing its own tail, a situation that does not bode well for its future. But we, as writers, are so thankful for the voices out there, reminding us of our other options. Wonderful post, Mr. Falconer. And thank you, Bob and Jen, for having him here today!

  3. What you describe about the adult fiction industry happens SO much in YA – perhaps even more so. I mean, after Twilight they put ‘Dark Romance’ into bookstores next to ‘Teen’, and then stuffed it full of books with black and red covers, all about paranormal relationships. That’s when I started reading adult books – and I was about twelve. Because there was no variety provided for people my age. (The library fines were a real pain.)
    I guess they think teens are only going to want to read books their friends are reading, so they won’t publish anything completely ‘out there’. In fact, the opposite is true.

  4. Yep – I almost always listened to “people who knew” who told me, “You’ve got to say it’s like the Stephanie Plum books”. Well, it’s not and I’ll still get my paranormal, middle-aged female amateur sleuth mystery published…by ME. So there! Thanks, Colin, for the blog….

  5. Thank you for this post. I have to say, those mash-ups of Jane Austen’s stories with bondage sex? Just not interested. They barely exist for me and whenever someone mentions them I cringe. There is one exception though – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I really thought that was inspired storytelling.

    I am glad that publishing books is now in the hands of authors and that readers decide what to read – which is as it should be.

  6. This is exactly why I and many others have gone the self publishing route. (No, it’s not dirty words. I have my books professionally edited.) I am a new author with two books published and another to come out in Dec. 2012. This would never have been possible if I had chosen traditional publishing. Rather than my time being spent writing novels, it would have been taken up composing query letters, finding an agent, waiting for rejections, etc.

    Instead, I have two books released so far in 2012 and if I meet MY (not someone else’s) deadline will release a third. I don’t have to worry about someone in some large city deciding that readers will or won’t like my work. My books are receiving four and five star reviews. I control all aspects of my books and retain all rights to them. No, they will not appear on brick and mortar store shelves of the few corporate bookstores. My sales will be mostly through Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and the other ebook stores who get their digital content through Smashwords.com. Barnesandnoble.com even carries the print versions from Createspace.

    People have asked me if a traditional publishing house offered to take my books if I would do that. I think at the moment my answer would be no. Since they only want copies of bestsellers mine definitely don’t fit that mold.

  1. Pingback: What is wrong with US Publishers? And are US women really ‘different’? | book publishing | Scoop.it

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