The Value of Inexperience Is The Lack Of Tolerance Of Business-As-Usual Bullshit

“Oh, it’s good that you aren’t paying your authors that much,” the professional author told me.  “That way the sale to you doesn’t count and disqualify them for the Campbell Award.”

I didn’t realize how patronizing the comment was until months later.

Which meant she was absolutely right.

I had no idea what I was getting into.  No idea of the complexities, the amount of work… and especially, no idea of the degree of predatory bullshit that existed in publishing.

It hasn’t gotten better.

If anything, it’s gotten worse.  Random Penguin House outright owns Author Solutions, one of the biggest scam vanity publishers out there. F+W Media – you know, Writer’s Digest yes, THOSE folks – have their own crappy vanity press.

Even if you manage to stay away from the vanity press bullshit, you’ve got crappy contests like the Dark Crystal one that are run by huge, supposedly respected names in publishing.  So you go with small presses, right?  They’re small enough that reputation is important… except there is so much information inequality that people still don’t realize that requiring author copies at markup is a bullshit way for publishers to make a profit.

I didn’t know any of that.  I was – and probably still am – one of the well-meaning noobs who doesn’t have a clue of how crappy things are.  And when I get outraged by the complete and utter bullshit perpetrated by people who call themselves “publishers”, so many of my writer friends just shrug and say that’s the way things are.

I am inexperienced and innocent enough that such behavior outrages me.  It upsets me, when people who call themselves “publishers” – just like myself – do horrible exploitative things to authors. When fellow authors, people in the same position as I, look at me sideways because they’ve learned that “publisher” means “bastard who will take advantage of me”.

If I knew all that going in, I might have decided to do something else.

Consider this, for a second.  SIDEKICKS! had a bit of a slump in the second quarter sales – and when you start disbursing royalties in an anthology with twenty people… well, it can get kind of small.

Neal Litherland commented on Facebook about the size of the disbursement, and I apologized:

I have no words because I think I am barely holding up my end of the bargain. I don’t think I’m doing enough, I’m barely meeting the basic levels of human decency, and somehow that’s exemplary.

Perhaps if I was less of a well-meaning innocent, perhaps if I were more experienced, I would be jaded.  I would have outrage fatigue.  I would stop trying to educate people and concentrate on making myself money.  I’d stop pissing off (or at least irritating) people with power and authority and just settle. I am not born to this sort of thing. But a few years ago, I looked around and I didn’t see where anyone else was.

And though I’ve looked back, I haven’t stopped.

As with the last few years, I’ve got a whole series of posts coming up during the week of GenCon.  (2010 had “Pirates, pirates Everywhere”, 2011 had some stuff about scamming and publishers justifying their existence, and 2012 was about Self-Confidence and Self-Doubt.)  This year I’m going to share what I’ve learned about contracts over the course of the week.  Not because I’m a lawyer (I’m not) or I’m a total expert (I’m not) – but because I want to share what I’ve learned.

If you’ve found any of these posts useful, give a listen to Alasdair Stuart read his introduction to SIDEKICKS!

I’m really fond of Alasdair’s work, and I’m fond of this book.  I know how many stories Sarah Hans rejected for this anthology.  I know that a good anthology isn’t just a bunch of stories thrown together, and I think Sarah did a great job with this book.  Alasdair thought so too, and his joy and love for the genre and the stories shines through.
Give it a listen, then check out the book at
And join me next week as we keep learning more so that eventually we won’t have to be outraged any longer.

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