Sunday, 27 November 2022

T The Pro-Active Author

A Critical Responsibility for Every Writer

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 publishing.

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 responsibility. 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? 

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)

Columnist: Terry Whalin


W. Terry Whalin, a writer and acquisitions editor lives in Colorado. A former  magazine editor and former literary agent, Terry is an acquisitions editor at Morgan James Publishing. He has written more than 60 nonfiction books including Jumpstart Your Publishing Dreams. To help writers, he has created 12-lesson online course called Write A Book Proposal. His website is located at:

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