How do authors feel about their publishers? The UK’s “Writers’ Workshop” site has the results of a survey of about 300 authors, both professionally-published and self-published, conducted through assistance from several authors’ associations. Two thirds of those polled had published at least 3 books, and 70% had published one within the last twelve months (and another 18% between 1 and 2 years ago), so they’re mostly authors of recent vintage and well-informed.
The poll asked various questions about how authors relate to their publishers—how happy they are with its editorial services, cover art and blurbs, advertising campaigns, and feedback—and how likely they are to self-publish in years to come. The results are quite interesting: the authors are happy with the editorial aspects, production values, and the promptness of payment—but are considerably less happy about the quality of communication and marketing support by their publisher, and about 3/4 of them are at least considering the possibility of self-publishing in the future. (Found via “Ask Nicola”.)
The statistics are rather damning. For example, question 13: only 20% of surveyed authors felt as though they were “closely involved” with their publisher’s marketing plans. Question 14: Only 14% of surveyed authors felt the publisher made full use of their abilities and resources in its marketing campaign (and only 24% more were mostly happy with how their publisher included them).
Question 17: Only 22% of surveyed authors were asked by their publisher for feedback in such a way that they could be completely honest about their feelings, and 46% weren’t asked what they thought at all. Question 20: Only 26% of surveyed authors say they would never consider self-publishing through Amazon. And question 23: If asked to move to another publisher, only 37% are happy enough with their current publisher to say they would definitely stay.
Of course, these results tend to cover only a relatively few authors, from the UK. It’s chancy to generalize too much to the state of publishing in the USA or elsewhere in the world. But given that the Big Six publishers are multinationals who publish in the UK as well as here, it’s hard to imagine their behavior, or authors’ responses to that behavior, would be all that different on this side of the Big Pond.
It’s all to easy to rail against “those idiot publishers” and suggest that businesses whose suppliers are that unhappy with aspects of how they do business and who have such readily-available competition won’t stay in business for too long. But really, it’s unclear whether publishers will be hurt so much by this in the long run. Certainly there are enough other things they could be hurt by that it’s hard to say whether this straw might break the camel’s back.
Still, it’s interesting to watch these rumblings of discontent and wonder if the publishers will sooner or later take them into consideration.