Friday, March 11, 2011

But we love you so much we want to keep you forever...

My thoughts go out to those in Japan suffering as a result of the horrific earthquake and subsequent tsunami. My eyes have been opened to the overwhelming impact events like this have on people with an earthquake having hit so close to home in Christchurch in February. I never realised how far reaching the consequences are and how long the trauma could linger. I know I have a blog reader located in Japan and I hope she and her loved ones are safe.

It seems that every time I meet up with a particular writer friend of mine I have a writing epiphany. Last time it was a realisation about how something needed to work in a novel I was writing (although the novel unfortunately still has other issues). This time I pondered the rationale behind publishers who like their authors to be exclusive. I've always struggled with this. 'It is the writer's career, not the publishers,' has been my concern in the past, but yesterday as we talked over a cup of coffee I mused on why a publisher might want to be the sole publisher of someone they welcome in to their fold. If they pass on your work you are not permitted to seek another publisher for that work (unless possibly that work is something they do not publish, like adult or non-fiction). It seems arrogant to say they are the only arbiter of whether your work is appealing/good enough or not. But then if they publish you well and have a reputation for quality work, their reputation depends on your reputation. If you publish elsewhere they have no control over the quality of the publication or its content. If they deny you the opportunity to send your work elsewhere it implies they intend to continue publishing you well in the future. They are building a relationship with you. They care about you. But are the rewards they offer enough?

There may be other arguments for exclusivity. I am sure there are arguments against exclusivity. I am still not sure about the idea myself. I struggle greatly with the idea that a publisher can reject my work on behalf of all publishers. I feel uncomfortable that someone else would effectively control my career. I like to think I have developed a clue about which of my written works cut the mustard. It is in my own best interests not to peddle anything I am not proud of. And readers look for writers they have enjoyed before regardless of who has published them. And anyway (sniff) no one has asked me to be exclusive to them. On the other hand I do not want to be a publishing hussy giving myself to a lot of publishers. That way lies madness and trouble. I guess there are reasons to be flattered if you are in the 'exclusive' position, and loyalty has value if the feeling's mutual.

Correction: Recently I had a two links in a blog post and it turned out they accidently led to the same place. Sorry folks. And as the second one led to some very useful info I am repeating them here. One funny and one handy in a long term kind of way.

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