A note to my own readers: I’m sorry for the delay in responding to your questions regarding this matter. I’ve been down with the flu and am just recovering. If after reading this response to the post, you still have questions, please feel free to send them.
I’ve read some of the comments on Nick’s blog and would most sincerely recommend that a deep breath can be a great thing–deep enough to remember objectives are best reached through actions taken with dignity and grace. Remember, writers are not the only people involved here. There are other reputations at stake, and all deserve equal respect. I sincerely believe that all parties want to ferret out reliable facts so that everyone has accurate information. That is in everyone’s best interests. To that end, here are my comments, which unfortunately couldn’t be posted on that blog due to length restrictions. Tried to be succinct, but you guys had a lot of points I needed to cover.
Regarding: Writers are Such Easy Prey, posted on Live Journal @ the following URL:
Nick, I commend you for wanting to protect writers and make them aware of potential challenges. I’ve spent a lot of time in the last 20 years doing exactly that by mentoring over 2000 of them in my Aids4Writers program and through other writing groups and venues, drawing heavily on personal experience (published 21 novels [enjoyed some bestsellers and a fair number of awards] with major publishers, contracted another 3, and sold 3 nonfiction books via small presses, MFA in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in Theocentric Business and Ethics). Your post has raised some questions among my readers and so I’ve done some investigative work on the matter and I thought I’d share some insights on what I’ve learned about Medallion Press.
They are an independent press. Advances are IMHO small, but they are better advances than I’ve seen some authors take with at least three of the five largest publishers in this country. I know authors with the big 5 who have signed contracts for no advance, $1000 or $1500 and received no promotion or publicity on their books–no marketing budget assigned. In too many cases, a 100% sell thru of the print run still gave the author no possibility of earning out the advance and getting any royalties. Please note: not all authors want to draw an advance. And some authors want to structure that advance differently because it is more advantageous for them for tax purposes. When we see across the board numbers, we often don’t get those little gems of info and they skew our perception of what we’re seeing–or think we’re seeing.
I failed to find anyone Medallion Press paid less than a $1000 advance. I know several authors who write for Medallion (as well as for one of the big 5) and they failed to find anyone paid less than $1000 advance. Now, I just checked your blog to see if an author might have posted who contradicted that. Didn’t find any contradiction but I did see MP’s VP’s post. So now we have it on solid authority that they haven’t paid less than $1000 advance.
The MP authors with whom I’ve conferred are representative of authors from across the imprints published. They all have received promotional/publicity assistance on their books. Ads in PW, which cost a tidy sum, are common, as are ads in RT and other consumer and trade magazines. MP does bring authors to BEA–a perk very few authors receive with large publishers) unless they’re at the top of the NYT/USA lists.
With the big 5, many authors don’t get ads on their novels. Some who do get group ads, where the publisher is promoting their book and half a dozen others. In the case of the ad you referenced, it’s beneficial for all of us to remember that writers are also readers, so MP noting that they’re open for submissions in conjunction with advertising a book isn’t out in left field. Over the years, I’ve seen it many times. They are hitting a segment of their target with both the ad and the submissions call.
What that means in budgetary terms is that the cost of the ad isn’t wholly assigned to the novel, only half. And that leaves half to invest elsewhere and gain more exposure for the book. In a Reconciliation, the author would see that the normal cost (to a publisher) ad rate is reduced on that book. Sure you know that, but some reading this might not, so I thought I’d better be clear. A Reconciliation is a full accounting within the publisher of the entire investment on a given project. It shows all expenses, everything connected with the book. A Reconciliation to Print is a full accounting within the publisher of every copy printed and the disposition of every copy. (Think of it as a separate Quicken or bank account for each book that discloses everything that goes on with that book.) Anyway, sharing costs is like splitting a check at the restaurant–you can eat out twice for the same money. As an author, I wouldn’t object to the submissions’ call because I’d know I was getting additional exposure for my novel elsewhere. Some might feel differently–and if they do, they should consult their editor (and review their contract to be certain on this point. In many of my contracts what can and can’t be advertised in my books is stipulated) and discuss their opposition. I’ve worked with seven publishers–several of the big 5 and a small press (which puts out significantly fewer titles per year than an independent press) and have never had an editor blow off or ignore any opposition I’ve discussed with them. Did I always prevail? No, but I understood their rationale better and got a bigger picture. In this case, I don’t think the author had any problems with the ad.
After investigating this, I see a couple things with regard to Medallion Press that I think are significant points.
1. This is an independent press and not a small press and MP belongs to the right associations and is involved with the right organizations. These orgs set standards, have minimum requirements and don’t “recognize” those publishers who don’t make the cut. Medallion Press made the cut. This is significant especially considering RWA, the largest writing org in the world, is involved. Minimum requirements have been met and exceeded. That’s good news for authors.
2. They’ve surpassed the biggest challenge for both independent and small presses: distribution. You and I both know, Nick, that it doesn’t matter how great a book is, or how much someone spends to promote it, if the book isn’t available, it can’t sell. This has been a killer for independent and small presses forever. Well, I did a little digging and learned (website) that Medallion has done something only 2% of those publishers who apply have managed to do: they got IPG distribution. That’s global distribution. Extremely important and more good news for MP authors. Says a lot for MP’s reputation in the industry, too. That two percent success rate says IPG is extremely protective of its own reputation. Bringing in the independent MP, well, that says a lot about how IPG views MP.
3. In reality, MP has NO backlist. NONE. They’ve kept every book published available–front-list status. Nick, this is definitely a benefit to authors. Often an author doesn’t hit until their 4th or 5th book. If the author’s backlist is available for purchase, the author often makes more money on those early books after they hit than they did when they were released. (Think Grisham, and what his backlist has done since day one. Nora Roberts. Danielle Steele. There are many, many others.) Having the books available indefinitely affords the author the opportunity to continue to earn from those books. So many publishers make the initial print run and then will not go back to press until they receive secondary orders for 5,000 books. Consolidated orders. That’s tricky and often by then the peak window of opportunity is shot and the author must wait for a second novel’s release to spur sales on the first. Even then it can be difficult to get consolidated orders because of retailer’s budgetary considerations and other factors.
4. The MP authors are happy. Authors are never happy when with publishers they feel are treating them unfairly. Historically, they bolt. Checking out Medallion’s list, they’ve got a lot of repeat authors–authors doing multiple books for them. When authors stay put, there’s usually good reason.
5. There was a challenge with an editor and that challenge has been resolved. It created problems for the current staff and owner but they’re on the back side of it now and the authors are “very, very happy” with the current staff and the way things are going. Apparently, as well as personal access to the editor, MP has an email loop with its authors where any author may ask anything at any time and the appropriate staff member will respond to the group. Personally, I think this open communication is brilliant PR. I don’t know of any other publisher who does this. I also think it stems the flow of a lot of misinformation, gossip and assumptions, and other things of that nature that cost everyone time, energy and money. So my hat’s off to MP on that one.
6. Quill nominee, Reviewer’s Choice Award, more award-winning books and authors. Very interesting. Speaks to quality products, and the covers are excellent. Excellent covers are NOT cheap. (Artists sometimes earn more than authors on covers.) Interesting. Interesting. I see several of their authors write for two houses: one of the Big 5 and MP–but I’ve noticed one specifically. Her MP book made the list. Excellent! The book definitely got a push–and apparently, a well-placed one. So MP has list potential. More good news for authors.
Anyway, I thought I would share my findings with you. The facts stated are easily verifiable on the net, should you care (or feel the need) to double-check. For the record, I don’t write for Medallion and I don’t have anything submitted to them–though in light of these findings I’d have no hesitation in submitting. I just thought that you and those writers you want to protect might find the information useful and to respond to questions I’ve been asked by those I mentor.
You know, Nick, something has become increasingly clear to me in going through this investigative work. Authors really are going to have to do their homework and get smart on independent presses because major shifts in publishing are occurring that insist on it. The big 5 are tied to bottom lines in a way that doesn’t give their editors much breathing room to grow authors. More and more they’re forced into putting out books they know are going to hit, or believe with all the benefit of their experience and expertise are going to hit. That has to be so difficult for these editors who, let’s face it, love books and would love to buy and sell only books they love. But it’s not just about what they love; can’t be. Has to also be about what they can sell. That’s big business.
It does leave a void, and that’s where independent presses like Medallion Press, and small presses are so valuable. They’re publishing books that have broad appeal but also appeal to niche markets, publishing out-of-the-box books, growing authors, doing all of those things that the industry relied on what’s become the big 5 to do–before so many consolidations and mergers took place. Authors really do need to slow down and research so they know the publisher. None of us should hang the future of our works on second or third-hand information. We work too hard for that, and it’s not fair to the publishers either. If they work hard to be straight, fair and decent, then writers should recognize it.
Yes, there are some publishers out there that authors would best serve themselves by avoiding. But I found no evidence of any nature that Medallion Press should be one of them. It’s one of the good independent presses–which is what my research revealed to me and I’m now sharing.
Continued success, Nick.