It was hard to ignore the overriding sense from all authors attending the recent Bookseller Author Day conference of the desire for greater transparency, regardless of whether you are traditionally published or not. So it is in that spirit that I tell of a conversation this week with a writer whitefox has worked with over the past year, someone without an agent but with a finished manuscript, looking ideally for a traditional publishing partner. Through his own networking, he seems to have found someone potentially interested, a known publisher with many years of output. This publisher has offered him this proposal: they will publish his book, on the understanding that he contributes £9,000 towards the editorial process.
Pause for reflection. This book is almost certainly in need of a robust copyedit and proofread. Fair enough, although this would usually expected to be the acquiring publisher’s part of the deal. That’s what they do, even if there’s no advance against future royalty earnings. And we understand that publishers are increasingly looking to de-risk some of their publishing commitments by asking e.g. companies looking for content marketing to underwrite their production by guaranteeing a buy-back quantity in advance. But suggesting that a massively marked-up cost for “ editorial” work should be a fair exchange for “ publishing “ (for which I’m assuming “ making available “ would be a better description) seems disingenuous at the very least. And not in the spirit of transparency the increasingly blurred world around writers and publishers requires.