Monday, August 5, 2013

How trad publishing is like broadcast news.

Yes, all right, I'm posting a day late this week. I was out of town last week, attempting to wrap up some stuff at my mother's old house (which I may blog about at some point, once I can write about it without needing to throttle someone -- look for that post in about twenty years, I think); with stop-and-go traffic, my daughter Kitty and I didn't get home until 10:00 last night. And I still had laundry to do. So the blog post got pushed to today.  Sorry about that.

To help us all calm down, here's a picture I took on one of our first days at my mom's house. People tend to think of Indiana as nothing but corn and cows -- okay, and the Indy 500 -- but a sliver of the northwestern corner of the state has frontage on Lake Michigan, and that's the part of Indiana that I'm from.  Kitty and I took a break from sorting stuff at Mom's one night and walked down to the lake to see the sunset. I got this shot with the camera on my phone as the sun was just touching the water.

Some folks are getting amazing shots from the lakefront near the Michigan City lighthouse of buildings in the Chicago Loop. (Chicago is 35 miles from Michigan City if you go straight across the lake.) Alas, either it was too hazy or my camera wasn't good enough -- we could see the buildings as shadows on the horizon, but I couldn't get them in a shot.  Ah well.

Anyway...calm thoughts and cleansing breaths.  And then we can get all riled up again.

Last week, I wrote about how many women of a certain age are going the indie author route, and speculated as to why that was so. Kathryn Treat asked me in the comments what my own reasons were for going indie at this time of my life, and as my response to her lengthened, I realized I ought to just do a post on it.

To understand my reasoning, it helps to know a little bit about the business of broadcasting.  And the first thing you need to know is that almost nobody you hear or see on your local news broadcast is getting a fabulous salary.  The money is concentrated in the hands of the owners (which today probably consists of the shareholders of a large corporation), the sales staff, and a few stars.  In radio, that usually means the guys you hear during morning and afternoon drive-time, which are the most lucrative dayparts for advertising sales.  In TV news, it would likely be the anchors.  Behind these folks are the reporters, editors, producers, videographers and writers, as well as office staffers who never make it on the air, and trust me when I say that they are not making much. During salary negotiations for my current day job as a legal secretary at a big DC law firm, HR asked me how much I'd made when I worked as a tape editor at Mutual/NBC Radio News. I screwed up my courage and was honest with them, even though I was worried they would refuse to match it.  Not only did they match it, but on my first anniversary I received a 13 percent raise -- to bring me up to the market average for legal secretaries. Yes, that's right, folks! You can make more as a secretary than you can in the glamorous world of network radio.

The word "glamorous" is key.  Station owners are able to keep salaries low because of the coolness factor of working in broadcasting. In essence, you're getting paid partly in prestige. And if you complain about the size of your paycheck, management may well remind you that if you no longer want your job, there are hundreds of people out there who would take it in a heartbeat -- because it's so cool to work in radio.

Contrast that, if you will, with the world of traditional publishing.  Who's making all the money? The stockholders, of course, and the C-level managers (CEO, CFO, etc.), and the big stars who get lucky and sell tons of books.  But midlist authors are equivalent to the reporters, videographers and writers in a broadcast newsroom: they provide the bulk of the content, but they're getting paid partly in prestige.  And just like in broadcasting, traditional publishers have a slush pile full of eager wannabes to pick from when a midlist author gets cranky about her pathetic royalty checks.

Once I figured that out, my interest in chasing a traditional publishing contract waned rapidly.

And too, my kids are grown, and I'm about six years from early retirement.  I have the time now to write, and many of the skills (it turns out) to make a go of self-publishing.  And so here we are.

Before I stop, I'm pleased to announce that the first chapter of Seized is included in First Chapters.  This book is a compilation of the first chapters of 22 books by indie authors.  Some of us are bestsellers, some are award winners, and all of us have been Indies Unlimited minions at one time or another. 

Several of the books represented here have been Rursday Reads. If you've been wondering whether to give one a try, now's your chance to check out a meatier sample than you would get with the "look inside" feature.  And it's only 99 cents. Such a deal!

One more thing: Annealed goes free at Amazon this week from Thursday through Saturday. If you haven't yet collected the set, now might be a good time. Just sayin'.

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