Wednesday, February 3, 2016

On Branding- Publishers or Authors

I'm in that "pre-busy season" sprint to finish everything on my plate before the day job takes over my life.

The new book is nearly editor-ready (and my use of the word "nearly" would be pointed out to me in this sentence). I'm also judging books for a major contest - it's a simple "how would you rate this book, did it have what it was supposed to in it" and then the books pass to the next round. And before I started those books, I was in the middle of another one that I had to finish. I was chosen as an ARC (advanced reading copy) reader for one of my favorite authors, and fortunately have not yet received that book to read and, finally, one of my crit partners is also on the home sprint with her next in series book.

Wow - that was more than I expected to tell you, but here's the thought of the day. I'm a little whiny while staring stress in the face, so bear with me, willya?

As I'm reading through the contest books, I had two from one publisher, a publisher I used to bash when I was younger. It's a well-known house with a well-recognized brand. You know what to expect from the books, but even when I was younger, I spent more time noticing the editing flaws than enjoying the stories. This from a kid with an overdeveloped English gene. I never had the issue with any other publisher. The stories weren't strong enough to overcome the shortfalls, and so I vowed never to write for them. As the years have passed, their brand has become somewhat stronger, producing some very well-known authors and a couple of my favorites. Those authors have also written for other publishers. So why is this relevant today?

The first book I read wasn't bad. The second book ended one chapter with "... last final breath." which was indicative of the way the story was written overall. As opposed to the second to last final breath? I feel confident that my editor would pull out her red pen all over that phrase. She won't even look at my work until I cull out all the poor grammar and incorrect usage, yet this book made it through a major publisher.

Let me back up a minute. Many of the classics have horrendous issues with grammar and usage. It's the story or the message that resonates and allows a reader to overlook the language issues. Jane Eyre is my favorite example. I loved that book, in spite of it being difficult to read in places.

Back on task. When reading a book, do you look for a particular author, or a publisher that you trust?
When I read a "new to me" author, I don't necessarily care who their publisher is, whether its one of the big dog houses or if they are independent. It's the story, the author's voice. This current set of books reinforces for me that you can't write an old trope with bad editing. If your story isn't "something completely different" (anyone else hear Monty Python when they hear that phrase?) you'd better make sure it is well written. Without a strong story to hold my attention, I turn into an editor. A proofreader. A writer who reads. I hate that. I want to get lost in a book.

Authors and publishers preach branding. This experience has reinforced this publisher's brand for me. They may sell a ton of books, but when I'm looking for a strong story, I'm going to hesitate when I see that they've published the book. Author branding outweighs the publisher. Regardless of who publishes their books, I have several go-to authors, and that's because those authors are better than their publishers, better than their editors.


  1. I think all the major publishers, as well as the smaller one, have cut way back on editorial passes, or they're hiring less experienced/qualified people. I tend to ignore who published a book unless something about the editing hits me in the face, and then I check. I follow authors, not publishers.

    1. Agreed. It's only the one publisher that I have ever taken issue with, and as I said, their brand has grown better over the years, but there is still a ways to go. They're still very inconsistent.