Your Mileage May Vary


Think of this as the interlude between informative articles, the public service announcement, the after school special with a meaningful message (remember those?)…well, you get the picture. I’m taking a break from discussing epublishing and finding the epublisher right for you to share one of my favorite internet acronyms and one pertinent to both life in general and publishing: YMMV—Your mileage may vary.

Publishing is like everything else in life, from the weighty matters to the not-so-life altering: political candidates, Coke or Pepsi, the chicken or the egg, Burger King or McDonalds? No matter how much information you gather, how many opinions you get from people you respect, and no matter the thorough research you do, in the end, what publisher you choose and whether you’re happy with them is an entirely subjective and individual thing (and I should note, this pertains not just to epublishers, though that’s what the scope of my series of articles addresses, but also traditional publishers, small publishers, agents, etc.)

Not only that, but what makes up each publisher—how they operate, the people who run it, their marketing plan, payment schedule—will vary in importance for each author. To use politics as an example again, in the same way it might be a deal breaker for you if your candidate cheated on his wife, but the next person could not care less, one author might only want a publisher who pays monthly and refuse to consider all others, while another will consider twice a year just fine.

The last point is one that’s more difficult to articulate. From a publisher’s point of view, I think it’s also important to remember that there are two sides to every “story” and you will rarely get the publisher’s side. Quite frankly, I don’t think there’s any graceful way for a publisher to go public to counter grievances or accusations of wrongdoing, and so some things are better left unsaid. But that leaves authors who are researching for the right publisher in a tough position: reading between the lines to determine if a publisher acted badly towards an author.

Speaking bluntly, because I think honesty is needed in an industry where people are too often afraid to be honest. Sometimes things happen that get reported as bad behavior or marks against a publisher when they’re things that simply happen in publishing: editors and authors don’t always mesh, edits aren’t always to an author’s liking and contracts get cancelled for any variety of reasons. This is actually key to what I’m saying because just as your mileage may vary on what’s important to you in a publisher, your mileage may also vary for agreeing or disagreeing with the reason an author may dislike a publisher.

As a point of clarity, I’m not saying that there aren’t legitimate complaints about publishers because heck yeah, there are. I don’t think any are perfect, and some are decidedly not so perfect. But it’s to say that some things need to be measured against perception.

In the end, it is up to each author to take the information they collect, assimilate it through the filter of other authors’ experiences and beliefs, and make a decision that they are comfortable with and can live with in their publishing career—not based on what will make others happy. No matter what you choose, no two authors experiences will be exactly the same. Everyone’s mileage will, inevitably, vary.

Angela James
September 2008

“Everything You Ever Needed to Know About Epublishing” © 2008 Angela James. All rights reserved.

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