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January 26, 2010

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part one)

I’m a member of the Marketing for Romance Writers loop. There’s a wealth of knowledge available in this group, mainly promo and marketing advice but there are also discussions about other writing related things such as publishers. Late last year the subject of writing for different publishers was raised. Author Brenna Lyons had such awesome advice about the pros and cons that I asked if she’d write a post for me on the subject. Over to Brenna…

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part one) by Brenna Lyons

Why do it?

All I Want For Christmas by Brenna LyonsYou’re a prolific author– It is possible to overload the system of a single publisher, if you submit everything you write to that one. Can you imagine the havoc that could cause with a prolific author?

You write in several genres– It’s a solid fact that authors who write in many genres may not be able to place all of their books with a single house. If you sign with a publisher for your fantasy erotic romance books and then you write a straight fantasy book, that publisher is likely not your market.

To work with publishers/authors/editors you enjoy– This is not my favorite reason to change or add publishers, but some people do choose publishers this way. For me, it is more important that I think the people I will be working with know what they are doing, are pleasant (or at least tolerable) to work with, and have a smooth-running system that I feel will work well for me.

Getting in on special collections or projects– This is actually a good reason to join a publisher…if your other concerns are met as well. Think of it this way. Even if it’s the collection you think is perfect for you, if the contract and staff are far less than ideal, you are better off taking your personal ideas elsewhere. Remember that this is your career!

A new concept or contract option that you enjoy– Unfortunately, some authors are so dead-set on making sure a particular thing is addressed at their next company that they allow themselves to be blinded to the less savory aspects of the company they target. You have to keep the full package in mind. It is typically easier to convince company B to add something you want than to convince company D to change half a contract that you don’t like to suit you, just because it already has that one item covered.

In addition, a new concept in publishing is good…if it works. Keep in mind that many of the more radical designs don’t last very long. A company that gives you 75% of cover price sounds great…until you find out that you won’t be able to sell a quarter of the books you did with your old publisher.

The pros to having more than one publisher?

Reaching new readers who haven’t read you before– There is no denying that you will likely reach some readers at the new company who are not regular buyers of the old one. However, while some readers buy a company, many readers buy the author. That means that, once introduced to you, the readers are typically willing to follow you from publisher to publisher…as long as they are comfortable with the publisher sites…or they follow you to one-stop places like ARe/OmniLit or Fictionwise, where they can buy books from you with several publishers at once.

Name building at double or triple the speed…maybe– This sounds good in theory. But while it is true that you are reaching more readers, there is typically an overflow of readers that read both houses…or one company may have a large audience while another is new and has a small one. You can’t count on doubling your publishers meaning that your double the readers who know you.

Less wait time for editors/release date…maybe– You may very well reduce your wait overall, since you are waiting editors at several publishers, so you can get four books through in the time you might have gotten one or two through at a single publisher. However, you may lengthen your wait on a particular book.

Not being pigeonholed into one genre or style– This is one of the most widely-stated reasons for people choosing to have more than one publisher.

The cons to having more than one publisher?

Planning ahead to fulfill your contracts– You have to keep an eye on what you agree to do and when. If you have three books coming in for edits, you better have everything out of your way and be prepared for some long nights and days getting those edits done in the 30 days you have to do all three! And, you don’t want to burn out.

The “Prolific Trap”– When you’re prolific, you often get contacted by your publishers saying things like, “We have X going on. You’ll put something into that, right?” This is where you get into an interesting balancing act. Do you say “I can’t” and get on a publisher’s bad side? Do you say “yes” and figure out a way to make it happen? That depends on your comfort level.

Glutting the market on your name– It is possible to put out so many books that the readers can’t keep up…or don’t want to keep up. At what point do the readers’ eyes glaze over? The problem is that there is no set number I can give you. If you write really well, that glut may not come for a long time.

Expectations of publishers– Your publishers have certain expectations of their authors. The problem comes when you either have conflicting schedules…you should be in chat with B at the same time C is doing a list game you should be taking part in…or you are get used to the expectations for one and have problems changing gears.

Keeping your mind in the game: which publisher is which– You could make a file of printouts or a database of guidelines and house styles a prerequisite for having more than one publisher. Worse, it’s easy to start resenting one company for not being more like another. You can suggest changes gently, but if they don’t want to change, you either have to live with it quietly or not sign them any more books. You are under no obligation to stay with a company that doesn’t offer what you need as an author PAST what you have already contracted.

Arranging SOME crossover readership to aid in the transition– You want to find new readers, but you also need the old readers following you along and bringing new readers with them by word of mouth. Having some distribution channels or promotion channels that overlap is a wonderful thing.

The “Leave your other publisher at the door” problem– Imagine a well-meaning reader or reviewer congratulates you on an award finaled for with a publisher on the wrong list…or someone mentions a series from publisher B in publisher C’s chat. Though it is beyond your control, and no matter how skillfully you handle it, it will still be held against you to a certain degree.

Come back for part two tomorrow.

Brenna Lyons is a bestselling, award-winning author in spec fic indie press. With 21 series worlds and stand-alones, it’s not a surprise that Brenna works with between six and eight publishing houses at a time and fields ten or more releases every year. You can reach her at her site http://www.brennalyons.com


  1. Brenna Lyons

    Thanks for having me here. Hope the information helps others!


  2. Kaye Manro

    This is just such great info. And a lot to think about if considering or already have more than one publis!her. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Kaily Hart

    This was an awesome post. Thanks Shelley! Most of the reasons I thought about why people have more than one publisher were validated, but there was additional information – very thought provoking.

  4. Debra Kayn

    Great post, Brenna. Valuable information to consider for authors.

    Its quite a game us authors play, isn’t it? lol

  5. Helen Hardt

    Great information — thanks, Brenna!

  6. Claire Thompson

    This is an excellent post! And I love the way you laid it out with headers for the skimmers among us. It was succinct, well thought out and right on the money!

    Before I went indie, I wrote for Ellora’s Cave, Samhain, Amber Quill Press, Aspen Mountain Press, MLR Press and a few others to boot! The most difficult thing I found was remembering which editor at which site liked what quirks of grammar, house rules etc. Sometimes they were diametricall opposed. (Esp. EC, which HATES commas!). The other problem as you mentioned, was release dates. It was whacky to have a book released with EC one day, and two days later one with Samhain, even though they’d been written months apart.

    Thanks for this excellent article that gives authors food for thought. Bottom line my opinion, it’s good to diversfy – put your eggs in different baskets, but put the most eggs in the best basket!


  7. Shelley Munro

    You’re welcome, Brenna.

    Like Claire, I’ve diversified, although not to the extent she has :grin:

    You never know what’s around the corner and it’s good to build a solid foundation so a sudden scare won’t topple your publishing building.

  8. Kate Pearce

    A great post and in my varied career, I’ve dealt with every single pro and con you mentioned. I do like having the ability to write for different houses though, mainly because I like to write different things and I’m quite fast.

  9. Linda Henderson

    I don’t know how you authors handle all that. My hats off to all of you.

  10. Teresa Noelle Roberts

    Great post(s).

    I’m enjoying working with several houses, but I have to avoid the shiny new toy syndrome. (We won’t mention which publisher we both write for may be feeling like the neglected toy in the corner…but honest, that book’s almost ready!)

  11. Catherine Bybee

    Wow… I couldn’t agree more. Now I can’t say I’m completely over the top with publishers. I have two… but with The Wild Rose Press, I have three editors. One for Erotic, one for Dark Paranormal and one for Light Paranormal. Then there is my Red Rose Publishing editor. The combination gives me a broader world to create books in.


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