In October, 2013 I started a series of conversations with my acquaintance, the author Elle Emerson. I don’t have the link handy, but if you scroll back on WordPress to October 19, 2013, you’ll find our first conversation, which I entitled “Tales of Woe.”

Twenty years ago, Ms. Emerson began publishing stories in professional magazines and then books with two of the Big Five Publishers. She got good reviews, award nominations, and even a New York Times Notable Book designation.

But she didn’t get enough of a readership in a short enough timeframe and the Big Publishers crushed her career.

She knows a lot and has experienced a lot and I wanted to interview her and set out our conversations here.

I’ve been after her for months to tell me more. I regret to tell you she just called me and has declined to proceed further.

When I asked her why, she said, “Plenty of authors are writing about the problems with traditional publishing. The New York Times recently ran an article by a successful author who explained why she’s self-publishing her new book. Another author has written extensively in her blog about her problems. I don’t want to go there. However legitimate, these types of confessions sound like complaining. And I don’t see how it does anyone any good. If you’re traditionally published, you already know the score. If you’re not, you’ll probably never have to deal with it.” She laughed. “You’ll have to deal with self-publishing.”

Well, okay. Could she summarize her experiences?

“Sure,” she said. “Arrogant, careless, incompetent, lazy, disloyal literary agents.” [Note: Ms. Emerson has hired and fired five big agents.] “And arrogant, careless, incompetent, lazy, disloyal book editors.”

Could she give me some examples?

“Okay,” she said. “An editor who is no longer in publishing at all went off on his vacation to Italy after neglecting to include my Author’s Bio in the first edition of what was my biggest book. The book had to launch without it. This same editor withheld the payment of an advance after I had turned in my book. The editor had approved the book and was required under contract to pay me. But he stalled anyway as sort of a passive=aggressive power move even though my husband had just had surgery and we really needed the money. I had to get down on my hands and knees and beg for money I was legally and promptly owed.”

Wow. I was starting to get the picture. I should add, Ms. Emerson is an attractive, positive, cooperative, brilliant, business-savvy woman, as well as being talented and dedicated.

I was intrigued by her last words in our October interview. She had said: “I’ve been abused for years by the publishing business. The publishing business is just like a toxic parent.” What did she mean by that?

“If you’re a child with a toxic parent, you are totally dominated by that parent,” she said. “The parent controls your time, your activities, and your means of support. S/he demands that you meet every requirement the parent sets out, demands you abide by the parent’s rules, demands your loyalty and your love. In return, the parent doesn’t have to do anything. The parent can be cruel, withholding, manipulative, and careless, and you the child can’t do anything about it.”

“So traditional publishing is like that?” I said. I must tell you, she was making me nervous.

“You got it,” she said.

“What about independent publishing?” I wanted her opinion on this.

“It’s a time-consuming and expensive hobby that may or may not enable you to make a tiny living,” she said with a laugh. “I think there’s a lot of luck involved along with the hard work.”

So there you have it, my friends. “I have to get on with my life,” Ms. Emerson told me and ended the call. So do we all. I thanked her and said goodbye.

Previous Blogs in this Series:

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 1: Introduction https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/03/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-1-introduction-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 2: Who’s Reading? https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/07/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-2-whos-reading-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 3: The Shady Case of Fifty Shades https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/04/17/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-3-the-shady-case-of-fifty-shades-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond Part 4: The Comet and the Long Tail Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.wordpress.com/2014/05/27/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-4-the-comet-and-the-long-tail-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 5: Authors’ Market Share Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/07/02/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-5-authors-market-share-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 6: Ebooks Versus Print Books Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/07/18/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-6-ebooks-versus-print-books-lisa-mason-sfwapro

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 7: Unlimited or Not Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/08/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-7-unlimited-or-not-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 8: Print Books in 2013 Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/13/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-8-print-books-in-2013-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

State of the Biz: Publishing in 2014 and Beyond, Part 9: Amazon Vs Hatchett Lisa Mason #SFWApro https://lisamasontheauthor.com/2014/08/16/state-of-the-biz-publishing-in-2014-and-beyond-part-9-amazon-vs-hatchett-lisa-mason-sfwapro/

From the author of Summer Of Love, A Time Travel (a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist and San Francisco Chronicle Recommended Book) on BarnesandNoble, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony. Summer of Love, A Time Travel is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

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Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) includes all four books. On Nook, US Kindle, Canada Kindle, UK Kindle, Smashwords, Apple, Kobo, and Sony; Celestial Girl, The Omnibus Edition (A Lily Modjeska Mystery) is also on Amazon.com in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Japan, and India.

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