Ruminations Part 6 – Professionalize this, Buddy

My first rumination can be found at Ruminations Part I – “Your eyes are completely healed”
My second at Ruminations Part 2 – Numbers lead to informed decisions
Rumination Part 3-1 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 1
Rumination Part 3-2 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 2
Rumination Part 3-3 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 3 – I Take a “Writing the Other” class
Rumination Part 3-4 is Ruminations Part 3 – Sensitivity Readers, Part 4 – Is your character POC or POM?
Ruminations Part 4 is Ruminations Part 4 – I can’t talk to women anymore
Ruminations Part 5 is Ruminations Part 5 – Joseph Carrabis (was/could be/might have been) (Personal Pronouns in Fun and Earnest)

Long, long ago I read Robert Silverberg’s NightWings and loved it. I reread it in college, again in my thirties, in my fifties, and it’s on my shelf for yet another read as I type this.

My latest version has a new introduction by Silverberg and is the genesis of this rumination.

Personal Setbacks
Silverberg mentions some personal losses in his new introduction; his house caught fire and he lost many works in progress (this was in the 1960s. “Backup” was a carbon copy you kept in another room). He sent an editor a rough version of NightWings. Silverberg lived in New York City, the editor’s offices were in New York City, people knew each other in the NYC science fiction/fantasy writing community, and the editor, knowing Silverberg’s situation, offered him LOTS of money for the rough draft.

…it was the sort of favor that one professional would automatically grant another in a time of crisis.

Silverberg describes it as “…the sort of favor that one professional would automatically grant another in a time of crisis.”

Wow. I can’t imagine that happening today. I can imagine helping someone out but buying an unfinished product for a staggering amount (500$US sticks in my mind. Five-hundred dollars US is a staggering amount in today’s sf/f market unless you’re a name author and the story’s solicited. Back then it was…well…staggering). Silverberg offers this editor’s generosity allowed him to pay rent, buy food, and basically function for a month or so.

The editor also suggested Silverberg’s uncompleted manuscript was actually one section of a larger work and offered him 500$US more for each of an as yet unwritten previous and last section, three in all, 1,500$US.

Back in the late 1960s.

…arranged to have the completed work published by them in book form.

Silverberg considered, took the money, then went to a publisher with an outline and the still rough draft section, and got an advance on a book consisting of all three sections. He writes he “…arranged to have the completed work published by them in book form.”

Again, Wow.

Can’t imagine that happening today.

Probably because I’m not in any such community, also because it’s no longer the 1960s, and most assuredly because I’m not Robert Silverberg.

But it got me wondering
Does such kindness, such community exist in today’s publishing world?

Not from stories lots of authors tell me. The editor mentioned above could have purchased several stories with that 1,500$US. He could have filled a few issues of the magazine he edited.

He did a friend a favor.

I’ve had publishers and editors threaten me, insult me, attempt to con me, trivialize my work, offer ambiguous contracts, … And I’m not the only one. I hear such horror stories repeatedly.

The stories of kindness and graciousness are fewer to find.

I know a Cozy author who had a Big5 contract, five or six books in her series out and on store shelves. The publisher assigned her a new editor. The new editor didn’t like Cozies, hence didn’t put in any work on my friend’s titles. Their interactions went from irritating to hostile.

From a Big5?

Whatever happened to business ethics? Whatever happened to professionalism? Whatever happened to community?

The Augmented Man‘s original indie-publisher dropped the book before the contract expired. I got an email on a Friday evening at the beginning of the holiday buying season. I had a marketing strategy in place. They never told me they were going to drop the book. They pulled it from all outlets. People couldn’t get it if they wanted to. That indie-publisher wasn’t a publisher so much as they were a marketing sales organization; they were in the business of selling marketing schemes to hopeful authors, not publishing books. One of their authors told me she spent 9,000$US on their marketing schemes and sold 200 copies. Total.

Within a week another publisher who knew about The Augmented Man came forward and offered to pick it up. It’s doing 10-100x better than with the previous publisher (based on Amazon rank) and I’ve never been asked to contribute a penny.

The good ones are out there
Publishers and editors doing good by their writers and authors are out there. I’ve mentioned before that the increase in indie-writers drew predators as noted in Ruminations Part 2 – Numbers lead to informed decisions and elsewhere on this blog.

But you have to go looking. Anybody standing on a mountaintop proclaiming how wonderful they are isn’t.

Talk to other authors. Now that the world is opening up, go to cons specifically to meet other authors and learn their stories (aside from what they’ve written in a book), their successes and failures, share your experiences.

Basically, be prepared. There are wolves among the sheep.

And they’re professional wolves. Not professional publishers.