A glance in the crystal ball
Oh, the good old days. It used to be that publishers would be willing to take on a book, edit it, publicize it, wrap it in a nice-looking cover and push it on booksellers. But in today’s hyper-competitive publishing landscape, with a soft economy and an illiterate public, roles are changing.
“What we hear again and again is that publishers would love to publish books,” says literary agent Amanda Vautour, “but they just can’t afford to.”
Authors, finding publishers unwilling to take on the work of turning their worthless manuscripts into books, are increasingly hiring freelance publishers to do the work for them. “I advise all my authors that their project has to be as close to a finished book as possible before a publisher will take a risk on it,” says Vautour. “Nowadays, that means it has to be edited, designed, printed, hyped and pimped, and preferably on the shelves of major bookstore chains before we approach a publisher.”
“Ideally, the author should arrange coop at Chapters/Indigo. Most publishers are much more willing to at least consider a ‘Heather’s Pick’ than, you know, just some novel stuck back in Fiction and Literature someplace.”
Typical of the new trend is Vancouver author Janet Hackenscribble, whose blockbuster hit Not Bloody Likely was written by a ghostwriter, rewritten by a stream of freelance editors, and publicized by an aggressive campaign of murder and mayhem before finding prominent paid placement for an undisclosed fee at chain bookstores across the country. Just before Christmas last year, following shortlist nominations for the Giller, Writers Trust and Governor General’s awards, Random House picked up Not Bloody Likely. The deal was a lucrative one by today’s standards, with at least half a percent of the discounted sale price going to the author.