Tuesday, February 3, 2009


My visit to Tate Publishing
This past Friday I was in Oklahoma City for a conference and decided, at the invitation of my editor, to visit the offices at Tate Publishing. I've been in the business of boosting these guys and working very hard to ensure that their authors are satisfied and informed. I've been able to recommend them to several new authors, who then submitted material. I've worked many hours and at no compensation, so I figured it might be a good idea to at least stop by and see if it would actually live up to the image that I have been helping them project. Sure, I have been extremely satisfied with my experiences thus far and I wanted to lay eyes on the place for myself. The reception area is stylish with a friendly atmosphere. The girl working behind the counter was very perky when she asked how she might assist me. My editor walked down the hallway and began to show me around the cramped office building. Tate is actually spread out over several different campuses because they grew too fast for their infrastructure, and one of their major goals, my editor explained to me, was to eventually build one massive building that could house all branches of the company. There are now over one hundred employees, and as I poked my head into each office it seemed like all of them were sitting in four tiny rooms. Most employees operating under these conditions would be grouchy at their cramped workspace. I have worked in similar circumstances and remember just how crabby I was all the time. I'm sure everyone at Tate has their moments, but I was caught off guard at the genuinely warm greetings I was given at being introduced as one of the authors for the company. Each person took off their headsets, looked up from their screens, and put their phones on hold to say hello to me. I arrived at Dr. Tate's office, and he likewise put down his workload to greet me. He was very busy and there was going to be a company meeting that afternoon, but he took the time to chat with me a moment about how happy he was to meet me and to say that he looked forward to seeing me again in the future. I also met the marketing director and he was very friendly as well. After chatting with a few more people I asked if I could meet Ryan, the president of the company, but his secretary said that he was running around that day. Which was unfortunate, because I have spoken with him on the phone and looked forward to meeting him in person, but his being busy was consistent with the rest of the staff. They all looked and acted like they were moving with passion and purpose; something sorely missing in most work environments. I saw a stack of contracts sitting on the receptionist's desk awaiting Ryan's signatures. Next to those were books being examined by marketing representatives. Everyone, without exception, greeted me with a friendly smile. I did not warn them ahead of time that I was coming, nor did any of them know that I was the guy who ran the Tate author's blog so they could be putting on their best faces.Near the stack of contracts were two large mail bins stuffed and overflowing with envelopes. Dr. Tate, who had walked down the hallway at that point, grabbed me by the shoulder and asked, "Do you know what those are?" He was pointing at the bins of envelopes. I shook my head.He said, "Those are royalty checks. 1,400 of them. Best part of my job is signing those checks, because I love seeing how successful our authors are becoming. One check in that pile is a royalty check for $20,000. If you ever find someone who tells you we aren't a royalty publisher, tell them you saw this yourself."It was a theme I have picked up several times when speaking with Tate people. They are quite passionate at defending themselves against the attacks by some groups who claim they are a Print-on-Demand, or Self-publisher. This is not the case. They simply have a business model for publishing that more closely resembles other business models in the corporate world, and the older traditional publishers are green with envy.It works like this: suppose I were to bring you a product for you to sell. It has no proven history of sales, nor does it even appear that it works. But I will insist and demand that you pay an exorbitant amount of money to me for providing you with this product. You assume all the risk for it, assume all the costs for it, and if it fails, you lose a tremendous amount of money.That is the traditional publishing model, and it is why those companies are failing. Time magazine ran an article on this several weeks ago, which I linked to below in a previous blog entry.Tate Publishing took everything that worked for the traditional model (screening manuscripts selectively, providing structured editing and marketing, mainstream distribution) and threw away all of the areas that have proven to be failing (paying advances to every author, wasting millions of dollars on failed product, assuming all risk).The result is that an author is pre-screened for quality, then when they pass that test, they are offered a contract that best fits their book. If the book is exceptional and is clearly a marketing bombshell, that author is paid an advance and their book is published. Another option may be that the book is good but it might not sell enough to justify an advance quite yet, so the contract offered to the author is that Tate will assume all costs in producing the book. The third option, and the one that most authors fall under, is for the author to pay a relatively small amount (around $3,900) in relation to the production costs as an investment in their work, and Tate assumes all of the rest of the cost. This way, Tate's bottom line is protected, and their author has a vested interest in the book succeeding. The best part of this contract, though, is that as soon as the book sells 5,000 copies, that author investment is refunded and the author is offered an advance on their next book.This is the business model of the publishing future, and it is why this company has grown so fast that they are now considered a major publisher by Barnes and Noble--which means that they get a good shot at premium shelf space in Barnes and Noble stores. It makes no sense for an author to just simply expect a publisher to do everything for them. No one else in all of capitalism operates that way and succeeds.I left satisfied. They are exactly who they say they are. I even got to meet the people who have worked on my books, and they all expressed their enjoyment of the process

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