Friday, June 28, 2013

The Dark Path with Publishers

It’s about time I talk about my wretched experience with publishers, and why you might want to consider self-publishing instead.

The big question this decade has been, Should I go traditional, or should I go the self-publishing route? Increasingly so, many have been saying to go the self-published route, and I have to side with them.

For the record, I’ve published three works. Two self-published, one published by a small publisher—and let me tell you, going with them instead of publishing on my own has been a regret that has stuck with me every night since I’ve signed that contract with them.

As a disclaimer, this is only my opinion and my experience. I believe some authors out there can do well going strictly the traditional route. It all depends on people’s circumstances. But I’m not talking about those people, I’m talking about my experience—something I’ve lived through and know happened for a fact.

I just read a compelling article from the author Dean WesleySmith on why you shouldn’t start up with traditional publishing, but should start self-publishing, and maybe even not ever deal with traditional publishers. It’s a great read, and he’s quite impassioned about his viewpoint. I suggest giving it a read sometime. But why I bring that article up is because my recent publisher, Unlimited Publishing (AKA UP), is guilty of many of the money-grabbing practices that Dean describes in his article, and it’s sad that I realized this too late.

 My Experience with UP

Part of the contract I signed with UP states that I’m not allowed to discuss specifics about the pay or the contract itself, but I can mention my experience with them in general.

Originally, I had sent them this proof to work with
It is understandable that signing on with a publisher means that you are ultimately going to take a smaller cut of the profits, but it is also expected that you’ll receive something for having the publishers take that cut. For me, it was the editing, formatting, cover art, purchasing the ISNB, publishing it on multiple different outlets, and marketing. I figured these services would help recoup the low profit I’d be making per book sale. (It’s down to cents what I make from the book I signed with UP, when I make around $2.00 with my self-published pieces.)

So, you can imagine my disappointment with UP when they changed one word in my manuscript for the editing treatment that they promised, formatted the book for publishing on the Kindle (but in the process added errors to my text that I had to notify them of to change), was going to publish my book with this cover…
 Which after I mentioned some obvious poor design choices, they changed it to this...
And once it came out, their attempt to “market” my book came down to telling me to sign up for Google Alerts, and asked me to retrieve some fax numbers from local outlets for them to send a fax out to.

I was less than happy about how our relation had gone at that point; but, I’m a pretty laid-back kinda guy, and decided to wait a few months to see if they kicked into gear in four or five months.

I asked how many copies I had sold, but was given no number. I mentioned the quarterly payment was coming up, but was told that I had to reach a high threshold amount of sales before I could get paid, I wanted to know if they had any plans of continuing to market my book and was told that maybe I should stop being lazy and start marketing my book for them (like I wasn’t already, literally out in the streets, speaking to creative writing high-school classes, doing my best with the usually social media outlets, begging anyone I had connection to in the world to PLEASE READ MY BOOK, working my butt off every day trying to promote my work).

Eventually, enough was enough, and I mentioned that I wasn’t happy with the way our relationship had gone, and, even though I knew they had me in a contract and that they didn’t have to respect my request, I wanted out, and if they would be so kind to just terminate the contract, I’d be very please.

Of course they place my dissatisfaction and blame on myself, saying that if I didn’t complain so much, and, again, spent more time marketing the book, that I’d be getting more sales—but that wasn’t my point. My point was they were not delivering on their promises, and to be honest, at that point I started to wonder why should I try to sell my book for them? I made only a fraction of profit from each copy, when they made over half of the total sale, and there was no talk whatsoever now about print publishing, which they had previously had alluded to as being almost an inevitable course for my book.

It’s a sad story, and one that’s not ending anytime soon. I’ll have to wait just under three years now to get my book back from them, and that’s sad since I’m working on the rest of the series, and will need to wait to release a box-set of that series.


The Takeaway

My experience isn’t unique. I know others have had similar experiences with publishers. And while much of it comes down to doing you research and making sure you know what you’re signing up with, a big portion of this whole fiasco with my publisher couldn’t have been foreseen, since they listed much of what I desired a publisher to do in the contract, saying that they’d provide it, but then only completing the legal bear minimum to make sure they weren’t going to get into a lawsuit over it.

This is why self-publishing is my road going forward. I’ve been scared off from traditional publishing for the time being. I tried that route and got burned. I’m not saying it’s an invalid route to take. I’m not saying everyone’s experience will be similar. I’m saying that this is what happened to me, and for you to take that experience into account. Take from this story what you will, and hopefully I’ve helped some other writers out there become the wiser, not having to go through this sort of experience themselves.


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