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A Critical Responsibility for Every Writer

By Terry Whalin @terrywhalin

I often hear fascinating stories from writers about their
experiences in publishing. I listen to these stories because I learn more about
the world of publishing. Often in the process, I discover some pitfalls to avoid
with my own publishing efforts. Yes after years in publishing, I continue to
learn—and I hope you are learning too because that is how we continue to grow as

This author has written a number of nonfiction books. For
his most recent book, he signed with a literary agent and had high hopes for the
success of this book. While I'm not including the name of this agent, she is
well respected within publishing. She has a large number of clients and has
placed a number of books with various publishers. In other words, this agent has
a good reputation and this author was thrilled to sign with such an agent. This
agent took his nonfiction book and placed it with a small traditional publisher
located in the midwest.

With the agent placing his book with a traditional house, he had
high hopes for the success of this book. The author is connected and worked hard
at getting reviews and book signings and other events to promote his new
release. Yet this author could not get much traction (exposure and sales) in the
brick and mortar bookstores. They would not order or carry his book inside the
bookstores. Then he discovered the reason: this publisher did not allow
retailers to return unsold books.

An aside: books inside bookstores have been 100% returnable for
the lifetime of the book since the great depression in the 1930s. Publishers
take all the risk on these books and while it seems unusual to people outside of
publishing, returning books from retailers is simply a part of the fabric of

This author was enraged to learn his traditional publisher
didn't allow returns. He spoke with his agent and she shrugged it off, saying,
“Most books are sold through Amazon anyway. Returns is not an issue.”

Another aside: Amazon is a large player in the book publishing
business but books are still selling in brick and mortar bookstores and other
venues. You narrow your possibilities if you are only selling through Amazon (in
my view).

This author learned a lesson from his experience—and one that
every author should learn. You can delegate some things to your agent or a
publisher, yet at the end of the day, the author bears the ultimate
. The agent doesn't sign the bottom of the contract. Only the
author signs the contract with the representative of the publisher. Yes the
devil is in the details. It doesn't mean you have to do everything, but you have
to know enough to monitor everything because if something falls apart, you will
take the blame.

What did you learn from this story? Does it help you take the
critical responsibility for your own writing and work? Let
me know in the comments below.


Learn The Critical Responsibility for Every Author—one that can't be delegated to an agent or publisher from this prolific editor and writer. (ClickToTweet)


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