There are only a few living authors of western literature who can truly be called legends in the field — Richard Wheeler is one of them. He started a fascinating blog some time ago, then abandoned it, offering his views on writing and publishing on Ed Gorman’s blog and in comments here. But now he’s back with a blog of his own. Whether you read westerns of not, I highly recommend you put him on your blogroll for his valuable insights, candid opinions, and informed take on the biz (he was an editor before he became a novelist, so he knows both sides of the biz)
Today, in a discussion of Gary Svee’s book SANCTUARY, he blames publishers with a deeply-held, anachronistic view of westerns for the demise of the genre in print:
In the last several decades, western fiction has been forced into a procrustean
bed by New York’s mass-market publishers. And now almost all the western lines
are defunct as a result.
The idea, apparently, was to have a "line" of
books with similar classical covers and contents, and this would surely reach
the vast market of western readers pining for stories with 1940s titles that
employ words like "vengeance" and "showdown." This notion had the power of
religious conviction in New York, and still does even though most western lines
have gone to heaven, or hell as the case may be.
Wheeler’s new book FIRE IN THE HOLE is saddled with one of those traditional western covers…which bares no relation to the actual story. The hero isn’t a U.S. Marshal, he’s a detective posing as a vermin exterminator in a filthy, Montana mining camp. Not exactly your typical western hero or setting. All you have to do is read the opening chapter and you’ll be hooked.
2 thoughts on “He’s Back!”
Amazing. There is Mr. Wheeler grieving for the demise of the nonformulaic Western novel. Here am I, wishing I could find some to publish. And I even live in Texas.
Burton works for Zumaya Publications, one of those POD outfits (www.zumayapublications.com)that makes most of their money from authors selling copies to their families. It’s not a vanity press in a strict sense, but check out their contract (http://www.zumayapublications.com/Downloads/StandardContract.pdf)
and you’ll see why no real author would go to them.
One laughable clause states that the author isn’t allowed to buy copies of his or her book from any other source but the publisher (a clause I have never seen in a book contract before). The first 20 copies are available at the publisher’s wholesale cost and any others beyond that at $2 above wholesale cost. The publisher has a right to add a $1 surcharge — or more — on top of that at a later date. What the fuck???
There’s another rather revealing clause stating that if the author receives an offer from a “traditional, advance-paying publisher” the author must fork over 20% of any advance receive or $500, whichever is more. What can you take away from this? That they aren’t a traditional, advance paying publisher. They are a POD press. You are better off paying your own way at iUniverse. Your covers will certainly look better. But back to that contract…
Another clause states that the author also must give Zumaya the right of first refusal on any subsequent works. What is your motivation to do that? In consideration of their huge advance? There is no advance. They want you bound to them and give you nothing in return. It’s insane.
I commend them for posting their contract. That act alone shows unusual honesty. It’s a shame that honesty isn’t backed by a contract that more reasonable and equitable.