On FutureBook, blogger “Agent Orange” discusses the way manuscript consideration times have ballooned in recent years. Where it used to be a known standard that editors should take only one month to decide whether to offer or reject, now manuscripts can be held for a year or more without the authors hearing anything about them.

While this might have flown in days before the Internet, now authors have social media and can communicate their anger with their publishers to other authors who might then be inclined not to do business with that publisher. And that’s not the worst of it.

One of Amazon’s more brilliant strokes has been the way in which it has made common cause with the internet’s huge authorial community against the ‘legacy’ publishers. Every self publishing success that Amazon helps create seems like one in the eye for publishers to all of those authors out there who feel angry NOT because they were rejected, but because of the WAY they were rejected, or because no one actually bothered to respond at all.

On a related note, The Passive Voice reposts a press release from The Writers’ Workshop discussing the results of a survey the Workshop commissioned to look at authors’ attitudes toward publishers. Only 323 authors responded, so it’s not clear whether the sample can really be considered representative. However, 38.7% of the authors polled said they were unaware of any marketing campaign around their books, and 45.8% said their publisher has never asked them for feedback.

And only 26% of authors said they would never consider self-publishing rather than working with a traditional publisher.

The survey results were not all negative. Many or most authors were satisfied with the technical aspects of how the publisher handled the manuscript—editing, proofreading, cover design. But those are all things that can be hired now—you don’t have to have an editor for them.

So perhaps publishers should start watching their backs—if enough authors get dissatisfied with them, it could be yet another way Amazon is getting set to eat their lunch.


  1. My spouse and I had similar complaints about the publishing and marketing (or lack thereof) of our book by a well-known global publisher. They approached nobody for reviews and seemingly made no effort whatsoever to achieve returns on this item they had invested a great deal of their own money in. It was an eye-opening experience.

    Is it too cynical to suggest that the reasons publishers hold on to manuscripts for so long are a) to see if something better comes in before they commit themselves; and b) in case a competitor has a smash hit with a similar book in the interim?

  2. Delays are life-frightening,
    I’ve been a hard newsman all my life and have written untold millions of words. I have had several novels at the back of my mind for years and accumulated thousands of dollars in travel and hours of research in digging up stories.
    For family reasons (deaths, for instance, and illness), publishing my own newsletter – plus sheer inertia – I found it difficult to start writing fiction (apart from expense accounts!).
    My big book’s first draft was simply appalling. So I took a fiction-writing course largely for the stimulus of being with other wannabes and the advice was good. I found the deadline spur of NaNoWriMo was just the familiar pressure environment I needed and have written two short November novels, one self-published, the second ready to go when my artist rocks up. I’d love to say I hit paydirt but I haven’t. But I have learned about eBooks (Kindle) and technique and the Big Book is shaping up well.
    Now 82 I simply don’t have time to be stuffed around by dinosaurs who look only for genre and track record. I have four books (non-fiction) published traditionally and the blatant inefficiency I experienced means I’d probably be dead before my novels got into the commissioning editor’s in-tray – and languish there for months more. I need to dodge my ultimate deadline, death.
    I work with editors (tick that box ) and artists (tick that too) and have good friends to call on. I spent years in hot metal working with type and layout (no, I don’t mourn those days) so I can produce a professional result, better than most P-books (and all e-books) I buy.
    It takes me about two months to produce a book through CreateSpace and I get a craftsman’s pleasure from doing it. E-books are a whiz.
    I intend to focus on producing my long-planned novels and if necessary putting them on the shelf. Vanity, I guess. Reality, however, is more like it.
    I want sales. For revenue, you need a back list and promotional specialists.
    But my priority is what I do best: writing.
    Statistically, I should die this year (I have no intention of so doing) and four good products on the shelf is a legacy I hope someone will exploit. They beat tombstones.


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