The question was raised by an author who's recently been offered a contract, would it make sense to push for hardcover, the thinking being this raises credibility and importance in the eyes of buyers. Sure, if it's a good size run as well, but it'll be more expense for buyers too, so it's a gamble. And hardcover alone doesn't get you the respect you're hoping for.
And as I've been realizing and saying in my last posts, the bigger point we're talking about here is perceptions and assumptions. Manipulating them and creating them and respecting them. If we don't understand them, we won't get anywhere. But if we just accept them and adopt them, we'll stay just as stuck.
It'd be really cool to break down a number of publishing assumptions and dissect the resulting perceptions, or vice versa, but that sounds cumbersome and cerebral. And I'm tired and I want to get moving on the forward motion part of this journey. I'm not impatient, I just want to get going and we can talk about all this on the way.
But above all, I want to be authentic. The troubles we have with perceptions and assumptions are largely about people not being authentic and careful in how they represent things whether it's their own work (in the case of self-promoting authors), their published books (in the case of publishers and agents), or whatever. Duplicity and selfishness tend to rule the day so there's a lot of garbage piled up in the way of trust and the real insights possible when that trust is there. I want to be trustworthy.
I'm not going to say things to improve my "business" and I don't care if people don't agree with me. I listen, most the time but not always, to learn and make sure I'm thinking through all the angles. But ultimately, I answer to a higher purpose. I won't sit here and tell you not to pursue big publishing just so you'll come here and join the tirade against big publishing. That's not my goal and I love the people in big publishing. All I'm saying is that some authors have made it their goal to be published with big publishers and that's dangerous because big publishing is a business and businesses are soulless, so you need to take a few steps back before you get hurt. I'm asking people to let go of getting published and start with the necessary steps first.
This doesn't mean those who have taken the necessary steps of researching, writing, editing, branding, building a network, researching online marketing and building a platform aren't ready or shouldn't pursue big publishing. But they need to divorce their hearts from the process and know that it will likely mean changing a bit to fit into that hole, niche, slot, channel, whatever at the publisher. And believe me, if you're not sure what your slot is on the shelf, it means that's probably not you yet. Figure this out before you go and you'll save yourself a lot of headache.
My "agenda" is largely to be without an agenda here. But as a guiding principle, I will promote the idea that there's a proper time and place for everything–for the writing to sing, you can't be editing and thinking about how you'll market it. Same principle when I see people at conferences taking classes on marketing and branding and such who haven't even finished their manuscript. This should be forbidden and when I'm king, I'll pass the law. But I'm just asking us to think and strategize together, break the steps down, and take them in their due course. Thing is, even if you've had some experience in all the steps, with each book, you have to do them all again, and in the right order, so it'll help to get this clear in your brain no matter where you're at.
At the recent writers conference in Santa Barbara, I met some great people who were right on with this and I could see many of them doing very well in some of the emerging alternative publishing options. But before we go there, we need to ensure everything is where it needs to be with the book and the message, and then with the platform and presentation, so we can ensure nothing is left to chance or changed by big publishing if and when that becomes a possibility.
And the exciting thing is, I'm hearing a lot of people agreeing. So while I keep working on this bigger site, let's keep talking about where we're at in our processes. I'd love to hear some stories, build some community. Also, pretty soon, I'll have a few polls and things to look at on the beta site so you can sound off and tell me what's helpful and what's not. It's all underway, but in the meantime, feel free to chime in and introduce yourself, your project and experience, and maybe an insight or two if you're so inclined.
Oh, and for the record, I told my friend that the risk and the reward of hardcover is that you're betting that more expense will better convey it's value, but other things also work against this perception with buyers, such as the size of the house, the size of the print run, the visibility of the author, and previous publishing history. So while such proof of a publishers' positive belief would be conveyed more strongly with HC, the higher risk the seller is then forced to take mitigates some of that. And if the print run isn't very large, hardcover could undermine it's chances rather than help.