Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Rush

When I was a young woman, there used to be a phenomenon in college sororities known as the rush. Basically, each fall a sorority would look for new members, wine and dine 'em and try to make membership in their sorority more attractive than any other sorority. Once the decision was made, the rush was over. At that point the new sorority sister found herself at the bottom of the totem pole, so to speak.

I have observed quite a few publishers employing the same tactics. Especially in the current economic climate, authors are carefully studying the cards they hold, trying to decide which ones to hold--and which to fold. It's a dicey proposition.

The publishers are well aware of the situation. Too many authors have lost by placing all their eggs in one or two baskets. Many of them are branching out, trying things they would never have considered a couple years ago. Partly that is due to changes in technology. More of it it due to the combination of dwindling royalty checks and a complex combination of factors at various publishing houses.

Faced with the wholesale stampede of authors, the houses are also trying new things, but perhaps the most insidious is the rush. At some publishing houses, it's a long-term practice, but many of the smaller ones are picking up on the idea. Here's how it works:

1) Your book is fabulous. Even if you have to slog through six set of edits, your editor soldiers on, working to get your book in some sort of shape to publish.

2) Your book's cover is spectacular. If there's one star cover artist at your publisher, she/he will be the one who does your cover.

3) Your opinion is in demand. It doesn't matter that you don't know diddly about the publishing world. Really. Everyone wants to know what you think. When you speak, everyone listens...

4) They can't wait for your next book. It doesn't matter how fast you're pounding them out. Or how lacking in plot and characterization. And if the story is eighty-five percent sex, so much the better. They're happy to do minimal editing and slap that baby up there on the release page. More!

5) When the first bad reviews come in you're history. Nah, I'm not talking about a four out of five, though I know authors who absolutely fall apart when they don't receive a five out of five. I'm talking about the reviewers who give you a one or two out of five and specifically wonder (in writing) where the heck the editor was for this piece of drivel. And what could the publisher be thinking when they published this terrible book? Oooops.

6) The rush is over. Suddenly you can't get the attention of anyone at the publishing house. They don't return your e-mails. They might forget to send your royalty checks. Or the checks might be short. Or they might start demanding a revise and resubmit on every single book you submit. Submissions might take months instead of weeks before you receive an answer. In effect, you're no longer the flavor of the month.

I've watched this rush cycle happen at more than one house. If you observe carefully, you will be able to pick out exactly which authors are at the top of the cycle. And if you watch long enough, you'll know which ones were the stars the last time around.

There's nothing wrong with taking advantage of the rush--as long as you're aware of the realities and are prepared when they spit you out on the other end. I know some authors who've been devastated because they didn't understand what was happening. But if you are awake and ready when you're whirled into the rush--well, why not use it to your advantage?

Just be ready to jump when you shoot out the other side.



  1. Wow, Anny. This is why I love you - you don't pull your punches.

  2. To me, it all comes down to 'to thine own self be true' - believe in you, look after you and trust no one in this business. Too many liars.

    As for 5/5 reivews? Only nitwits get their knickers in a knot when they don't get them.