Monday 27 August 2012

Working with freelancers

Cost-effective for small press
Certainly a lot of free-lancers work in the publishing industry. I actually find that quite healthy. Freelancers cost a little more per hour but you only “employ” them for the number of hours you actually need. On the whole, they’re paid per task anyway. This is a little different form employing someone full-time and having to find them work to justify their salary. We can outsource when we don’t have the time ourselves.
Pros and cons of being a freelancer  
It’s actually hard work being a free-lancer. You live on a knife-edge, not knowing always when the next job will come in. You tend either to be busy or looking for work. A nifty free-lancer manages to work and look for work at the same time.
People decide to go free-lance for all sorts of reasons:
·         They want to be in charge of their own time.
·         They want to be more selective about the work they do.
·         They combine this free-lance work with other work – often their own writing – or looking after children, pets or elderly parents.
·         They want to get away from having to work in the city.
Most will of course work from home, with a few going into the office, as and when needed.
The sort of work they can do
Even the bigger publishing houses use freelancers for some of these tasks. Freelancers can:
·         Read submissions
·         Complete structural edits.
·         Copy-edit
·         Proofread
·         Publicize the book
·         Market the book
Perhaps we also need to remember that the content-providers – the writers and the illustrators – are all free-lancers and work from home, so publishers are already used to how this works.
Other benefits for small press
The free-lancer will work quite quickly. They need to get though a certain number of jobs in order to pay the mortgage, the other bills and to put food on the table. But this is never at the cost of quality. If they don’t provide quality you’re hardly likely to ask them again.
A few new freelancers may undercharge and take on too much work. But even they are worth giving a chance. They will be meticulous in their work, if a little slow. If you have the time, it’s worthwhile helping them through the learning curve.
Some freelancers I know
·         One combines working with a primary school as a teaching assistant with doing occasional editorial work for us.
·         One who was made redundant, a published writer, supplements her income by offering in-depth critiques, copy-editing and proof-reading.
·         A former editor at one of the Big Six now offers critique services to developing writers.       

Tuesday 14 August 2012

Foreign Rights and Missed Opportunities

The three small indie publishers I work with all always offer world rights contracts. Our books are sold everywhere, and printed “locally” in the UK, US or Australia. The printer absorbs the shipping costs. Our e-books are available worldwide. We probably do it because in an operation as small as ours selling more widely means more sales.  
I read fluently in several different languages. I used to buy books from, and and pay the high postage. The books on Kindle, I thought, would stop all that. Not so. It’s actually harder to obtain a Kindle book in a foreign language than it is to buy a print version. Ironically, now that Amazon has woken up to the territorial issues, it’s now harder to buy print copies.
I can understand why publishers want only to sell in one country. There may be something in their contract with their authors that makes this necessary. Selling foreign rights, anyway, can bring in some significant money. This transfers then also to e-books.
On the other hand, I can’t understand why small publishers and self-publishers would choose anything other than worldwide availability for an e-book if they don’t have to work under those constraints.   
There is another problem, however. E-books carry VAT and VAT varies in rate in different countries. Of course, we’d rather that no books attracted VAT but even that is likely to vary from country to country. For this reason, e-books from another country often have to be purchased through an agency in our own country e.g. Amazon UK. Those that are available are not well catalogued. You often need to browse them on a foreign site and search them on your home site.
Book distribution is governed by some restrictive copyright laws whihc actually were brought in to protect the film industry. In pre-digital days films were released gradually to various countries – it couldn’t be done any more quickly because of physical limitations. So the video and more recently the DVD was not released until after the film had done the round of cinemas for a certain amount of time. The same pattern was then imposed on the music industry. And now we also this issue for some books.
The consumer misses out. And ultimately it is the consumer who provides our sales. So, we miss out.
Yes, we need to worry about VAT; yes maybe there should even be some import duty. We have the technology now that could allow automatic interaction with the agencies that control these matters. After all, the same technology allows an instant download of an e-book, a piece of music or a film. The law does not. Is that law still appropriate? And if it is, why can’t we at least use technology to help us to implement it efficiently and fairly?   
Aren’t we missing an opportunity here?