Saturday, May 23, 2015

Self Publishing: A better option?

I've never had much luck with publishers which is why I've now decided to republish some of my novels on Amazon Kindle, and in paperback [via Create Space].

When I say I haven't had much luck, I don't mean with getting books accepted for publication but with the publisher practices.

My first novel, 'It Happened One Summer', was originally released to help raise funds for a cancer charity I worked for at that time.  Imagine my excitement when the first shipment of books arrived from the U.S...the postman struggled to hoist the humongous sacks down my front steps!  However, my euphoria was short lived when my son, who was a teen then, opened one of the books and looked inside.  "How come they've spelled your name wrong inside?" he asked.

"What?"  I took the book from his grasp and noticed he was absolutely right.  My name was spelled correctly on the cover but inside my surname was spelled 'Reese' instead of 'Rees'.  Not only that but my name was printed at the top of every page, you just couldn't miss it!

I picked up book after book, checking, hoping it was just that one, but they were all the same.

How could the publisher make a mistake like that?  The only thing I can think of is that 'Reese's Cups', a chocolate and peanut butter sweet treat, are very popular in the U.S. and maybe it was imprinted on the editor's or printer's brain!

The publisher concerned had some sort of alliance with a small printing firm.  The person who owned it was also one of their authors.  Not only that but authors had to pay a so-called 'set up fee' to have their books put into print.  So all of this was a costly mistake, not of my making!

Imagine my annoyance.

I contacted the publisher but they refused to replace the books or even give me a discount. They didn't even apologise for their mistake!  The charity book launch was already set up, so I had no choice other than to go ahead with it or wait another six weeks for a shipment of books.  A second lot of books were sent to me following the launch, this time with the correct spelling, but it was already too late for me, the sparkle of my first published novel was tarnished.

I was so fed up of the way this publisher was treating me...communication was poor, emails went unanswered... that I asked to be released from my contract.  I'd also signed a contract for a second book that would also be published to raise funds for the charity and asked to be released from that too.

I finally found another publisher who was much better to work with, I didn't have to pay a set up fee and I was also given some free books.  The books had new cover art too [which was far superior to the first book's cover].  I was relieved when these arrived to find no errors and they continued to be sold for the charity.


My next strange experience with a publisher was a more recent one.  I submitted my romance novel to them and was thrilled when it was accepted.  I'd worked hard on it and worked even harder on the publisher edits when they arrived.  The first editor sent me six rounds of edits which I found strange as usually there are only a couple of rounds.  I also found some of the things she said most odd and slightly offensive.  

She made a comment about the heroine drinking vodka and lemonade with ice as if it was an unusual thing to do. She tried to get me to delete the word ice!  "When I was in England I had a hard time finding ice in any bar!" she scoffed.  I wrote back saying that I've never had any problems getting served ice with my drinks and it's true I never have.  I had to really dig my heels in to let the drink I wanted my heroine to have to remain in the book.  I really felt that editor had some sort of personal issues related to England.  Of course she called it England but we are really the United Kingdom.  The heroine was Welsh anyhow not English!

Then there were the songs in the book.  I had mentioned one or two Frank Sinatra songs being played as the couple danced on the balcony, also a Mario Lanzo song the hero's mother loved, but the publisher refused to allow me to use the titles.  Instead I had to explain the type of songs playing like, 'a swing song' or 'Italian love ballad', which I found totally ridiculous. The publisher said it was because if the real titles and artists were mentioned, they could be sued.  Really?  My next publisher allowed me to use titles of songs and the artists.  She wasn't afraid of being sued.

The book then had to go through another couple of rounds of edits with another editor who contradicted the first editor. So there were eight rounds of edits in all!

This publisher did no promotion for my book at all. I applied to review sites myself and did all sorts of promo: Interviews, Twitter, Cover Reveal Sites etc.

Now, you would think after all the hours of work from their editors, it would pay them to promote their books, but they only seemed to promote certain authors, mainly those who wrote paranormal shift-shaper type stories. The publishing company then changed their name and set up a new web site and didn't even add me to it!

Worse was to come.  I was really upset when I received the cover art for my book.  The characters looked like how I imagined them to, except for one thing...the hero had 'man boobs', he had bigger breasts than the heroine!!  I emailed the publisher, who just laughed it off and said she could see what I meant.  The man boobs were supposedly trimmed down by the cover artist, but they looked the same to me.  The publisher then said we'd go with it as it was. In other words, no more discussion.  She wasn't concerned at all.  I felt so embarrassed about that cover that I hated using it as promotion.

Then there was the title.  I won't name it here not to identify the publisher but they didn't like my original title and made me choose something bland.  Their reason being that they thought my original title 'The Sicilian's Proposition', sounded too crime oriented.  Now pardon me, but a proposition doesn't have to be something sinister, does it?

The dictionary definition is:  something (such as a plan or offer) that is presented to a person or group of people to consider
: a statement to be proved, explained, or discussed
: something that someone intends to do or deal with

Merriam Webster.

I think the publisher thought as the book was set mainly in Sicily that a proposition had to have a Mafia connection, but in this case, it was an offer that could be refused!

I decided to take action and asked for new cover art and a new title, which the publisher complied with. She immediately sent a new cover which was acceptable to me, which made me ask the question, Why couldn't she have done that to begin with when I first complained?

She said she'd see how sales went with the new title and cover and then try it with a 99 cent promotion, but that never happened.  She also said that ** Linda [Not her real name] would work her magic on promoting the book.  Linda never did.  In fact, all I ever saw Linda do was post about some selected books [mainly shape-shifter romances again] on their Facebook page.  The page had few subscribers, all of whom seemed to be other authors from that publisher.

So what was the point of that?

After a year of not receiving any royalty payments for this book after all the work I'd put into it, I decided to call it quits and asked to be released from my contract. I finally got sent some money and guess how much it was?  A couple of hundred? A couple of thousand dollars?

Nope.  A measly two dollars!  

Two dollars for all that effort!  Less than the price of a cup of coffee!

I knew my novel hadn't sold many copies, it might have been due to the odd cover art, but two dollars was taking the proverbial!

It's the least I've ever earned from a publisher.  

Yet that same publisher claimed that some of their authors had regular earnings of $3,000 a month!

Once released from my contract, I immediately changed the cover art for my book and gave it back its original title, 'The Sicilian's Proposition'.  Then uploaded it to Kindle and created a paper back version at Create Space.  I've earned more from selling it myself via Amazon Kindle than I ever did from the publisher.  My novel has also been nominated for a RONE Award this year in the Contemporary Steamy category.  So it's proof that someone loves it!


My third bad experience with a publisher, was with an historical fiction one.  Almost two years ago I signed a contract for my Welsh Historical Romance novel.  The publisher in question had big ideas and said we had to have book launches at Waterstones etc, instructing me not to invite family and friends!  She was a total control freak.  She used to bark orders at us and didn't allow us to communicate on an author loop.  She once sent the following email:

Dear authors,

Please do not use the word 'Strode' in your novels or it's derivatives as I detest that word! Remove all forms of that word before publication!

She wouldn't accept the author photograph I sent her for the website either, even though other publishers had, telling me I had to have one professionally taken, which I did.  I complied with all her requests of creating an Author Press Release booklet, etc.

The contract I signed was long and complicated.  She owned some sort of movie making company and wanted to make movies of some of the books and claimed to be 'in talks with Hollywood agents'.  She wanted the television and movie rights too.  I think to be honest it was all bull about the movies and she had delusions of grandeur.

When it came to the time I should have been working on publisher edits, she kept putting me off, so much so, I had to cancel a planned book launch and talk.  I then discovered someone had recently taken her on in court for non payment of translation rights and they won.  She'd been successfully sued! Other authors had complained too and left her publishing company. I then asked to be released from my contract.  

It was so disappointing as people had been waiting for that particular novel as it's about my home town.  I knew I couldn't work with her any longer though when she'd put off edits three times, finally asking me to choose a date.

This publisher claims to have offices in London and New York which sounds really impressive.  In reality though, the addresses when traced, are just postal addresses and she herself, lives in South Carolina.

I'm getting to think these days, if you're a reasonably good author who can sort out your own manuscript, get a couple of people to proofread and edit, format correctly, and can upload to Kindle and Create Space, you might as well do it yourself.

Authors like Rachel Abbot have done this and made a name for themselves and gone on to become best selling authors.  Gone are the days when you had to have a traditional publisher in order to do this.

The great thing about self publishing is you the author can have complete control over everything.  

1 comment:

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