Yesterday’s post elicited so many comments that I felt the need to expand on this further and continue the discussion. It’s something I feel could be talked about for days, but I’ll try to contain myself.
Since I suspect that most readers already know why they want to be published at multiple houses and what the advantages are for them, I’m going to continue to talk about how I think the publishing houses look at this new trend and their thoughts about it. In other words, I’m playing devil’s advocate.
The question was asked whether or not this trend is specific to authors publishing in different genres, and while that is certainly an important (and sometimes necessary) part of choosing different houses, that’s not necessarily who I’m talking about. I’m talking more about the author who writes romance in general but might have two or three different series at different houses.
A former colleague of mine, from my days as an acquisitions editor, read this post and reminded me of what it was like to sit in on scheduling meetings, deciding when a book should be published. I remember hearing the complaints of the publisher, editorial director, and others that they couldn’t schedule a book by a certain author because she had another book coming out with another house that same month, or even that same season. By publishing two books by the same author so close together you almost guarantee a loss of sales. Most readers have a limited book-buying budget, and spending it all on the same author is unlikely to happen.
In addition, let’s say that your first book comes out with Avon to stellar numbers and sales. They are thrilled with what you’ve done and have put a lot behind you. Your second book is published by Pocket, and for whatever reason—maybe it’s a different genre or market, maybe the cover isn’t as strong—the numbers are considerably smaller than they were for the Avon book. Do you know what’s going to happen? The bookstores are going to order your third book (another Avon book) based on your most recent numbers. Therefore, the lower numbers are likely to trump the sales of your first book. Of course this can happen both ways, but again, I’m playing devil’s advocate here.
Those are just two fresh new thoughts I had on the subject. Interestingly enough, there is nothing to prove that being published with one house is better than three, or vice versa. My job here isn’t to convince you to do one or the other, it’s just to let all of you know what I see as the possible downsides to this trend. My fear is that authors think that you have to be published with multiple houses these days and that a contract with only one house is actually a negative, or even a failure. What I want you to know is that there are two sides to every story.