Jane Friedman

Do You Love Your Publisher: Author Survey Results

Last month, author Harry Bingham and I launched an author survey to explore the experiences and current leanings of traditionally published authors in the English language. The Bookseller in the UK originally reported on the survey here; it can catch you up on what we hoped to accomplish with this effort.

So the results are now in. We received 812 responses; you can view the entire dataset here if you’d like to wade through the figures.

The Bookseller has published a report on the results (including publishers’ and authors’ reactions), and Harry Bingham has done a thorough and excellent overview titled Grumbling, But Not Quitting, which accurately sums up the results.

The Major Findings (Not Surprising?)

  1. Authors respect and value their publishers’ editorial and design skills.
  2. Authors question their publishers’ marketing ability or philosophy.
  3. Publishers don’t communicate well with their authors.
  4. Authors value their agents more than their publishers.
  5. Despite their complaints, most authors aren’t leaving their publishers.

Bingham writes in his analysis:

The traditional publishing industry often claims to have authors at its heart, but our results suggest, on the contrary, many authors feel somewhat excluded from it. Since communicating better with authors would not entail significant costs (and might, you’d think, bring some significant benefits), it would seem that our data provides a large clue as to how regular publishers could improve their operations. …

The formula for success is not hard to find. Talk to authors. Involve them. Ask for feedback. Then rinse and repeat. The more you solicit and respond to feedback, the better your results will be.

The Limitations of This Survey

If you look at my original post announcing the survey, you’ll find a few commenters who felt the line of questioning made some bad assumptions. Keep in mind that our goal was to recruit highly experienced authors, particularly those agented and actively working with a Big Five house. We succeeded in part:

That said, there are limitations in the data:

I highly recommend reading Harry’s analysis, then also take a look at The Bookseller’s report by Sarah Shaffi. You can also join a live chat on Twitter today hosted by Porter (follow #futurechat).

P.S. Earlier this year, I was invited to contribute a 5-minute video to a UK-based Hachette Books digital conference, answering the question: What is the biggest opportunity for publishers in the digital age? Below is the video I sent.