Many authors believe once they get their book accepted by a literary agent – and then incredibly they go on to gain a deal with a mainstream publisher – that their worries will be over. But in fact many authors struggle to get their books properly known, meaning they never become properly successful, and feel their publisher could have done much more to push it forward…
These are the findings of a major survey of professional authors, which has revealed serious levels of dissatisfaction with traditional publishers. One third of authors report that they were not consulted about marketing plans.
Asked about marketing campaigns, 38.7% of authors chose the answer, ‘What marketing campaign? I never noticed one.’ Almost one-half of authors (45.8%) say that their publisher has never asked them for feedback. When asked, ‘With your next book, if some other publisher offered you the same advance as your current one, would you move to the new house or stay where you are?’, just 37.3% of authors chose, ‘I’d stay.’ That implies about two-thirds of authors would prefer to move to a new publisher – or think hard about doing so.
The survey was commissioned by The Writers’ Workshop, an editorial consultancy. 323 authors responded. Those authors were generally much-published, typically by major publishing houses. The survey benefitted from the assistance of the Society of Authors, the Crime Writers Association, the Romantic Novelists Association and many others. And it is believed to be the the largest recent survey of its kind.
Harry Bingham, head of The Writers’ Workshop and himself an author, commented, ‘These results don’t surprise me, but they are sad. Authors want to love their publishers but there are key respects in which publishers are making that hard. Authors are underwhelmed by marketing that is too often ineffective. And standards of communication are miserable right across the industry.’
‘The problem with marketing is perhaps that publishers have not yet successfully migrated their marketing efforts to an increasingly digital world. As for the lack of communication, there is simply no excuse available. Publishers should seek to find out if their authors are happy and, if they’re not, they should seek to fix any problems. At the moment, our survey shows that only 1 in 5 authors is properly consulted.’
Other key stats included the following. Authors generally rated publishers excellent (43.9%) or good (30.5%) on editorial matters and either excellent (47.4%) or good (33.4%) on copyediting and proofreading. Still on the positive end of things, authors were generally highly (57.5%) or somewhat (35.5%) satisfied with cover design. Only 41% of authors achieved advances in excess of GBP5,000 (a finding which confirms the picture of a 2007 ALCS study).
Asked about whether their publisher consulted with them on marketing, only 19.7% of authors said that they had been ‘closely involved’. The other responses included ‘I was consulted, but my involvement was marginal’ (31.3%), and ‘There was no attempt at consultation’ (33%).
Asked whether they would ever consider cutting out their publisher altogether in favour of e-publishing, only 26.0% of authors responded, ‘No, I would always want a publisher to guide me.’
The full dataset, and a longer commentary from Harry Bingham, has been released on The Writers’ Workshop’s blog: www.writersworkshop.co.uk
About Harry Bingham
Harry runs The Writers’ Workshop and is also the author of various books, one of which (HOW TO WRITE) is being published right now (Bloomsbury, 24 May). Another (TALKING TO THE DEAD) is being published by Orion on 21 June.
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