Nov 26, 2014
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Next Time, I’ll Self-publish

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When to suspect you’re getting taken for a ride by your publisher.

Featured, Guest Author, Homepage Sub  •  Apr 10, 2013

by Amy Chavez

I’d walked away from two book contracts because they were not in my best interest, financially, to sign. I’m a professional writer and I have to make a living. If I’m not going to make any money publishing a book, I’m not interested in a book contract. My time is better spent on other writing projects that pay. And believe me, writing a book takes a lot of time away from other money-making projects. Furthermore, I was happy with the sales of my self-published e-book.

But still in the back of my mind was that I should give a publisher a try. Many of my published writer friends scoffed at me saying I had to expect to “give away” my first book in order to break into publishing. And a publisher can bring you prestige, get your book into bookstores and get the big reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal.

So when a small press with over 40 years of publishing experience was interested in my latest manuscript, I decided it was time to see what a publisher could do for me. I wasn’t going to walk away this time. Now that I am at the end of the two year process of getting my book published, I’ll share with you my results.

I’ve summed up my experience in the following 10 points, which I’ve put under the heading:

When to suspect you’re getting taken for a ride by your publisher

Before publication

1. They won’t negotiate any points in your contract. (All book contracts are designed to be advantageous to the publisher and disadvantageous to the author. It’s up to you to negotiate. I tried to negotiate the major points, they refused to budge. I signed anyway).

2. They send you the second half of your advance 6 months late because they “forgot.”

3. They don’t answer emails asking basic questions you need to know so you can plan a marketing strategy (ie: Will the book be available in bookstores? Overseas? In e-book form?).

4. When they send you the edited version of your manuscript, the editing job is so bad, you have to hire your own editor to fix the mistakes (at your own expense, of course!).

5. They won’t commit to a publishing date.

6. When you ask when you should start marketing your book, they say, “It’s never too early to start promoting your book.”  If they were doing the marketing themselves, they wouldn’t say this. They’d pick the BEST time to start promoting the book (taking into consideration the publishing date) to get the best exposure and to impact pre-sales of the book. A year before publication is definitely too early, as I found out. But without a publication date, I didn’t realize it was still a year out.

7. They don’t engage in attempts at pre-sales of your book. Nor can you pre-sell the book without a publishing date (see No.s 5 and 6).

After Publication

8. They shun Amazon sales because they don’t make as much money as they do selling the book on their own website, where they are charging US$11.00 for domestic shipping on a 220-page, 10.4 oz book.

9. They say it is not in their “business model” to get your book into major bookstores. (See numbers three and eight.)

10. They eventually admit that they did not get your book reviewed by any major reviewers, including Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal.

And, I should add, if you were thinking of a book tour, even offering to pay your own expenses if they set up the signings, dream on!

Next time, I’ll self-publish.

*********************************************************************

Amy Chavez is a columnist for The Japan Times and a blogger for HuffPo.

 

  • Greg Henry

    LOVED! LOVED! LOVED your piece on self publishing. These guys never learn they’re just screwing themselves in the end as we learn to work around them. They’re going to go the same way as the record industry. Bless you my dear girl!

    • Amy Chavez

      It’s a good point that the music industry is going through, basically, the same thing. Thank you.

  • http://www.ribackassociates.com Eric Riback

    If you’re not going to work with an agent and will make a bad choice of publisher because that’s the one that made you an offer, please don’t complain about publishers. A savvy author, even if she gets a publisher directly, will engage a good agent to negotiate the contract, be her advocate and guide during the publishing process, and be well worth her 15% commission.

    A publisher that is unwilling to negotiate is one that you walk away from. A publisher that won’t sell the amazon is one you walk away from. A publisher that chooses not to try for B&N is one you walk away from. So please don’t make your experience an example of why people should self-publish. The publisher you accepted is just a lousy publisher (based on your report). Just because they’ve existed for 40 years doesn’t say anything about their expertise or suitability for your project.

    It is true that nearly all publishers do a terrible job of marketing first books, and authors do have to be active participants. There is no other industry that I can think of that will create and launch thousands of products with minimal marketing, but they do. That said, if you want the possibility that you’re book will be sold in retail stores (where the great majority of book sales still occur), you need to be published by a publisher. So it’s crazy to choose one that isn’t going to leverage a broad distribution system.

    • Deb Kinnard

      Um, this, no, not so much. Let me explain. I had an agent, with whom I contracted after an offer from a trade publishing house for a historical novel. The agent looked over the contract; didn’t have much to offer about it, so I signed. Jump forward 18 months. The book released. I was told it would go to three of the three book chains extant at the time. It went to none of them, and my questions about why they weren’t distributing the book weren’t answered. I asked Agent to find out. Nothing. The agent did nothing to intercede with me with this publisher, who was soon moaning they’d done a 5K print run and couldn’t seem to move it.

      Well, DUH. If you have commitments from chain bookstores, and don’t send them the book, your sales might be pretty dismal.

      An agent may or may not do anything at all to protect the author from a bad experience like this. In fact, my opinion has turned more to the side of the agents working primarily for the publishers rather than the authors who pay them.

      • Greg Henry

        In this day & age of connectivity, I think the question is why would you want to have more complications in the supply chain and more leaks in the profit chain. The process of publishing is very “iffy” in many cases but the process of them taking their pound of flesh is never more precise and deliberate.

  • http://www.mogrith.com Paul Wirtz

    Have you seen what stock photographers are doing? A few have created a co-op Stocksy http://www.stocksy.com/.

    The Photographers are the owners of the publisher. Not only do they give a much better share of the profits to the creators at time of sale but also get profit sharing. It is invite only.

    • Amy Chavez

      Awesome!

  • http://andy-gavin-author.com Andy Gavin (@asgavin)

    If they don’t put a book into booktstores, they aren’t doing the ONE THING that publishers can (theoretically) do that is hard/impossible for a self published author. So why except any of the other downside nonsense. To me, it seems increasingly clear that small presses offer very little. They do not seem to have “wised up” to do the easy things they could do to compete against the big guys: faster time to market, more flexible contracts, less reliance on the irrelevant need to categorize rigidly, etc.

    • Amy Chavez

      Amen!

    • lol

      One point in the favor of small presses:

      Awards.

      Small presses have the financial means to submit their titles to award committees, which often charge a submission fee. And small publishers have a good track record when it comes to actually winning.

      This can be prohibitively costly for a self-published author, and many award organizations refuse to accept any self-published material (this is slowly changing).

      Whether winning (or being nominated for) one of these awards provides any significant benefit is in question, of course, but it’s another potential upshot of being with a publisher.

  • http://www.pauldinasbookeditor.com Paul Dinas

    Unless there is a big advance, self-publishing is financially better for authors than a standard publishing contract.

    • Amy Chavez

      I wish there was a “like” button on these posts :)

    • lol

      This. And not just financially, but in all other aspects. Publishers are now competing with freelance cover designers, marketers, indie distributors, etc., and in most cases the pubs aren’t offering a significantly better experience or product than what you can contract for yourself (excepting, of course, the A-list authors who get the red carpet treatment).

      There is really no point in going with a small publisher or taking a small (or no) advance anymore, unless you are that desperate for the “legitimacy” of being “traditionally published.”

      Of course, if you have something with high commercial potential on your hands, it makes sense to pursue an agent/trad pub for the potentially huge advance, robust marketing, foreign/media rights, etc.

      But don’t kill yourself over it. It’s a lottery, and winners are few and far between. Give the traditional route a good try, but have a self-publishing plan as a fallback.

  • http://writeitforward.wordpress.com Bob Mayer

    There are many ‘publishers’ now who try to make money off authors, or have a system too rigid and antiquated to compete in the digital world.

    However, ‘self’ publishing is also difficult. You have more control but also more responsibility. I recommend Kindleboards as a good source of information and there are a number of bloggers who give good advice on the subject.

    All the best with you next title!

    • Amy Chavez

      Bob Mayer, you have brought up an excellent point that many older publishers cannot or have not kept up with the digital world. If you’re on Facebook but your publisher isn’t, if you’re on Twitter but your publisher isn’t, then there’s a good chance that you know more about the current publishing environment than your publisher does. How can a publisher understand the book market if they themselves are not a part of the social media network? How can they understand the importance of e-books if they don’t have an e-book reader themselves?

  • David H Fears

    If Amy’s a successful writer, I’m surprised. She started with: “I’d walked away from two book contracts because they were not in my best interest, financially, to sign.” How is this verbose? Or, rather, how can it be said concisely?

    I walked away from two book contracts not in my financial interest.

    Well, that’s one way. Whenever I read an article that begins awkwardly or verbosely, I cringe.

    • http://elfarris.com E.L. Farris

      Your version is too brief. It doesn’t read well. “Not in my financial interest” leaves me, the reader, begging for more and feeling like the writer left out a few letters.

    • lol

      I love when some pedant comes along to “correct” someone’s writing…and “corrects” them with even worse writing.

    • Jake

      If you think that’s bad, try reading her Japan Times columns. Atrocious.

  • http://www.geraldineevans.com Geraldine Evans

    Amy,

    I think all authors learn the hard way. Self-publishing with kindle is still such a new phenomenon and we’ve all been indoctrinated for so long that their way is the only way, that it takes a while to realise that’s simply not true.

    I walked away from my publishers’ last offer in 2010 because they said they would decline to publish my latest series book if I refused to sign away all my erights. No way was I going to do that. I’d begun to read too many other writers’ experiences with kindle and concluded, with my sizable backilist, that I could make a better living by going it alone.

    And I have! MUCH better. I make twice as much from Amazon in one month, than it took me an entire year to earn going the traditional route. Plus, my books stay ‘in print’, so continue to earn.

    Fortunately, I was able to get back the rights in nearly all of my backlist (all but three out of twenty novels. For those three I instructed my agent to insist they epublished within a certain timescale or I’g get the rights to those back, too.).

    I thank God daily for Joe Konrath, his evangelical zeal for indie publishing and his willingness to share his experiences and results with other authors. If it wasn’t for him I might still be suffering the limited enthusiasm, marketing and income of a typical midlister. Worse, I might, in ignorance, have signed away my rights.

    • Amy Chavez

      Thank you!

  • http://www.mirlacca.com/Bookshelf.html Ashley McConnell

    I’m sorry, but if you’re choosing a publisher based on its ability to “bring you prestige, get your book into bookstores and get the big reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and Library Journal,” what research did you do to see if it actually has DONE any of those things? Or did you just take their word for the “40 years of publishing experience”?

    That’s the first reaction. That’s on you, for not doing your homework.

    The second reaction is, unfortunately, a lot of what you describe is true of many publishers, including those who actually can bring the prestige, the reviews, and the bookstores. Getting any publisher to negotiate its boilerplate without a good agent, or preferably an entertainment attorney, is well-nigh impossible. I can name publishers in those categories for whom a mere six-month delay in paying on-signing or delivery monies amounts to dazzling promptness. Prying loose a publication date is often difficult, as other books push yours out of the queue. Editing is often a crapshoot, and don’t get me started on copy editors.

    So I can’t argue, at all, with your decision to self-publish. I see a lot of writers making that decision and I think it’s a good one. At the same time, there are authors who *have* found that going the traditional route–or doing both traditional and self-publishing–works well for them. But if you are very clear about your goals, as you appeared to be, you also need to have a plan to see if the publisher you want to work with (assuming they want to work with YOU, because traditional publishing is still a buyer’s market) has a track record in that respect. Did you find reviews of books by that publisher in your goal venues? Did you find their books in bookstores or online? Have you found any of their books achieving the “prestige” (however you choose to define it) that you seek?

    If not, don’t be surprised if what happens to you and your books is… exactly what happened to you and your book. And I’d suggest you check your contract with this publisher carefully, because you may have great difficulty ever getting the rights back again.

    • Amy Chavez

      Thank you! Very valid points.

  • http://www.LauraResnick.com Laura Resnick

    Amy, I assume you’re intelligent enough to ignore the ill-informed “get an agent” advice above. But just in case:
    My 25-year full-time self-supporting career of writing for New York publishers IMPROVED after I shed agents from my business model. I started working with agents several years into my career, after having sold 8 books on my own. 95% of the time I dealt with agents, I was paying a LOT of money (15% of my income) for absolutely no service of any kind whatsoever. In every instance where I fired an agent, my only regret is that I didn’t do so sooner. 6 years ago, I decided to shed literary agents from my business model altogether; my only regret since that is that I didn’t do so years sooner. SInce I shed literary agents from my business model:

    My advances went up. My response times went down. My contract terms improved. I sold more books. I earned more income. This improvement began within a few months of firing my fourth/final literary agent, and it has remained steady ever since since then.

    When I decided to proceed in my career without hiring another literary agent, 6 years ago, it was an unusual decision. These days, it’s increasingly common for writers–including writers like me, who write for New York houses–to work without an agent. Increasingly, writers are discovering that their income and contractual terms are BETTER without an agent.

    Keep in mind that there are no qualifications, no education, no licensing, no standards, no oversight of any kind for being a literary agent, and that even most “top” literary agents (which describes 3 of my 4 former agents) get that reputation by providing extremely attentive service to the 1-2-3-4 clients who are NYT hardcover bestsellers and worth a LOT of money to those agents. Most writers earning $25K-$75K per year? Not worth so much to an agent, and invariably worth LESS to them than their relationships with the 2-3-4 editor pals to whom they market/sell most of the projects they handle. And there are 30-40-50 of us on the agent’s list, and an agent’s goal is generally to collect the check in exchange for doing ABSOLUTELY AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE for us. IOW, it’s a really bad business model and it only works well for a modest percentage of writers.

    So don’t let anyone kid you into thinking your situation would have been different with a literary agent, even (as several of mine were) an agent cited as “brilliant” and regularly quoted in the trade journals. Speaking from experience, as well as from the anecdotes of many many agented (and no-longer-agented) writers I know, the only thing at all likely to have been different about your experience, if a literary agent had been involved, is that you’d only have gotten 85% of the advance, rather than 100%.

    • Amy Chavez

      Wow, now that’s INFORMATIVE! Thank you for taking the time to comment.

  • http://www.indiadrummond.com India Drummond

    I had a similar experience with a small press. I happily self-publish now, am making a living, and can’t imagine what it would take to get me to go to a traditional deal.

    • Amy Chavez

      You rock!

  • Jeremy

    Interesting piece and I’m sorry you seem to have had such a terrible experience, but I have to say you are tarring all publishers with the same brush. You seem to have landed with a particularly inefficient publisher from the experience you describe. I’ve been a publisher for over 30 years. Weirdly it is not my life’s ambition to rip off authors and not sell books and I doubt it is a deliberate policy of your publisher. I went into publishing because I love books and I love authors. Unfortunately for me to share the love I have for the books and authors I publish and encourage other people to read and buy those books is a really complicated process as you will have found and as a vast army of self-published authors have found too. But it is fun. By all means continue to self-publish. I think the whole self-publishing movement is fantastic and is bringing new voices and authors to readers. That can only be good. But please accept publishing companies do it too, some do it well, some do it badly.
    I agree with Eric above on most points, though I disagree about first novels. Some of our biggest campaigns and sales are on first novels.
    All best and best of luck with your publishing!

    • Amy Chavez

      Thank you Jeremy! My intent is surely not to say all publishers are like this. As a matter of fact, I presumed my experience was not so normal and my intention was to warn other authors about some of the things I wished I had known before signing. Unfortunately, others have said they have had similar experiences. And its is these authors that need posts like yours saying that hey, we’re not all like that! That’s great. I’m not even sure if my publisher was “bad,” we just didn’t have the same vision. Here I am, a professional writer looking to make some money and here they are, publishing books more as a hobby, because they are trying to get good books out there that they feel should be given attention. Like you, they love books and want to help authors. Unfortunately for my publisher, they got an author who probably takes herself too seriously. And I give them a hand for getting my book out there! Now I just move on. Thank you!

  • Suzy

    I will never use a publisher again. I did it once and that was enough. My next 2 books will be self-published.

  • darkelf

    This sounds like a vanity publisher. Like Publish America or something similar. Vanity publishing is not using a real or traditional publisher. I can’t think of any legitimate publishers that aren’t vanity (not including e-publishers) that don’t utilise bookstores.

    • Amy Chavez

      Well, this was a new one to me too. They are a real publisher. But they told me it was not in their interest to get the book into mega-bookstores (which is what most are nowadays). I’m pretty sure this is because of the way the publishing industry has changed over the years. Many publishers just don’t want to deal with the changes. They don’t want to have to accept returns, and they don’t want to have to deal with the big mega bookstores where they have to call 1-800 numbers and sit on the phone for hours as they get transferred from dept. to dept, never getting to talk to any real person (this was their complaint with Books-A-Million) just to get the book into their store. I’m not saying they don’t have good reasons to not get the book into the megastores (I am not on the publisher end, so it’s not fair for me to say), but they should be upfront with me about it. Notice there is no clause in a book contract that commits them to getting the book into bookstores. I was aware I would have to do all the marketing for the book, and I was fine with that. I was not aware that my publisher wouldn’t support me to get it into my local bookstores (Books-A-Million and Barnes & Noble–we have no independent bookstores left in my area). It’s a lot of work to go in and push your book with these stores, get then to agree to give you a book signing slot at their store, only to have the publisher say it’s not worth their while to get it into that store. It’s called pedaling backwards! So, I feel a lot of this could have been avoided had they just answered my questions months ago, but most of these emails went unanswered.

    • http://www.nuetzel.webs.com Arlington Nuetzel

      You still believe in vanity instead of self-publish or publish on demand? You are living in the seventies. Publish America is formatting my sixth title. I haven’t given them a thin dime. They have produced high quality books with professional covers. They are on Amazon, B&N and all over the world. They book my appearances. Are you just jealous or just uninformed. The industry has transformed and belongs to the indy author now.

  • Lee Taylor

    Next time, try not being so naive. You make it sound as though there are no such things as agents (who exist for a purpose) or honest publishers. Those mistakes are easy to avoid with a bit of research. And patience. Professional advice is also available to anyone who takes the trouble to seek it.

    I hate to see any writer get ripped off, but you contributed to your own misfortune. So don’t blame it on publishers. This whole article is wilfully misleading.

    (If your points above are in chronological order, did you really sign a non-negotiable contract and *then* ask if the book would be available “in bookstores / overseas / as e-books” ?)

    • http://taylormadefiction.blogspot.com Susan

      Exactly how many publishing contracts have you signed or negotiated? Me thinks thou dost protest too much! Easy to sit on the sidelines and naysay aye?

      • Lee Taylor

        Why? It’s the simple truth. This whole experience was avoidable. AND her book would probably have been given better marketing. Taking professional advice before signing any kind of contract is simply common sense. I don’t get what your problem is.

    • Amy Chavez

      Lee Taylor, why do you presume I didn’t do my research? Have you tried to get an agent yourself? It’s as hard as getting a publisher. Let’s back up here a bit. Since I was told that everything was negotiable, and since I didn’t have an agent, I brought in a book contract lawyer to help me negotiate. This threw the publisher for a loop and they withdrew their contract entirely. I said, “Wait a minute. That wasn’t my intention. I’m just trying to negotiate my contract!” So the publisher then said, okay, but they didn’t change anything in the contract. At that point, I contacted an agent and said, “Look, I have this contract I need help with. Would you like to step in as my agent?” He said he wouldn’t, because it wouldn’t be worth his while with such a small publisher, but that he would help me negotiate the contract–for free! I sent that contract to the publisher and they negotiated on two points. But as an author, I am still vulnerable on many of the points on that contract that they refused to budge on. I can only pray I don’t get into any difficulty with them.

      • Lee Taylor

        Yes I know about getting agents. If you think you were right to sign an agreement like that, fine. Whatever.

  • Megan

    I experienced exactly the same thing with a publisher (minus an advance). In fact, the experience is so similar that I wondered as I was reading whether the publisher was the same. When I would ask questions about pre-orders and when to start marketing, I was actually chastised and threatened with a termination of contract. So I took them up on it. This isn’t the case of a publisher taking you for a ride; it sounds like a case of a hack “publisher.”

    • http://www.47-5.blogspot.com CarrieVS

      Agreed, I don’t yet have any experience of publishing, and I’ve only begun to do my research into publishers, but I have it on excellent authority that point number one is something no reputable publisher does and if you’re ever offered a ‘standard contract’ that can’t be negotiated you should on no account sign it.

      • Amy Chavez

        You are right. I never should have signed the contract. The second book contract I was offered was by Tuttle/Periplus and I was told ahead of time that the contract was non-negotiable. So that was fair enough, and I walked away from it. This publisher told me that “everything is negotiable” but in reality, not much was. It is indeed my fault to have signed it.

        • http://www.47-5.blogspot.com CarrieVS

          Well, I hope you do well self-publishing and if you ever go with a publisher again you have better luck.

  • http://www.triciadrammeh.com Tricia Drammeh

    Great article–one I wish I would have read before signing with a publisher. I’m sharing this everywhere!

    • Amy Edelman

      Thx!

    • Amy Chavez

      Thanks Tricia Drammeh. That was exactly my reason for publishing this article. It’s not that all small publishers are like this, I just want other authors to be aware of some of the issues before they sign.

  • http://www.47-5.blogspot.com CarrieVS

    Well I’m NOT going to self-publish. The ultimate deciding factor is because it’s a rich man’s game and I won’t be able to afford it for years, but it’s also because I think, both as a reader and a writer, that the self-publishing revolution is an absolutely awful thing. I just won’t sign a contract with a dodgy publisher.

    • http://denisemcgee.com Denise McGee

      I am MOST certainly not rich by any means, but I’ve self-published a book. And will many more.

      You can get a pro editor for about $2 a page and a great cover for about $200 (I’m in the process of having a new one done). It doesn’t have to break the bank to self-publish.

    • http://shawninmon.com Shawn Inmon

      Everyone gets to make their own decisions of course, but it is definitely not a “rich man’s game.”

      Publishers weren’t interested in my book because it was a memoir, but I didn’t have a platform.

      I paid less than $200 for my cover, found a very competent, reasonable editor and proofreader and published myself. Six months and six thousand copies sold later, I’ve made at least double the advance I ever could have expected from a publisher. Financially and artistically, self-publishing was the best decision I ever made.

    • http://hearth-myth.blogspot.com Lynne Cantwell

      “Rich man’s game”? Only if you go with a vanity press. My first self-pubbing venture cost me exactly $9 (for the cover art); I did everything else myself. And it was a finalist for a Global Ebook Award last year.

      Some of the things Amy Chavez says in this article (i.e., no negotiating the contract, editing errors, zero help with marketing) lead me to believe that she signed on with a vanity publisher, like PublishAmerica or one of the Author Solutions companies (iUniverse, AuthorHouse, and tons more). Those places are set up to rip off authors, not help their careers. Please, please, please, everybody: if you’re thinking of signing with a publisher, google “(publisher name) complaints” first.

      • http://hearth-myth.blogspot.com Lynne Cantwell

        Reading more of the comments now — I see I was mistaken about who Amy signed with. Apologies for jumping to conclusions. Still, I think the rest of my comments stand. 8)

  • GS

    I only self publish and this is a perfect example why. I have known others that share the same experience. First and foremost, those companies are only out for their profits and will promise an author the world to get to sign.

    I have emailed and tweeted the link to this article.

  • http://mercedesludillbooks.com/ Mercedes Ludill

    My first book I published with AuthorHouse.com and after a year, I’m very disappointed in how much I had to pay and how little I got from it including royalties. Many things were not as portrayed once the contract was signed. I’ve since canceled the contract and now self publish only and have saved thousands of dollars.

  • http://www.heidekatros.com Heide Katros

    I’ve been writing for the past 18 years and just finished my 23rd full length novel. I don’t really count the novellas, but there are 4 of those. Anyway, I have worked for a small press publisher, I have written for a larger company and I had a useless agent for 3 years. I had my own column for several years and some big publishers love my reviews. I got tired of waiting for a reply to my queries and the poor return for my sales. I finally started self-publishing in 2010. Yes, I pay an editor, yes, I have a cover artist, but I am making money. With the return from my publishers I could barely afford lunch out once every quarter. I resent that someone questions your ability to write or those who look down their noses at indie authors, while I laugh all the way to the bank. You go, Amy. Thanks for writing this column. Best of luck, Heide

  • http://Www.project7alpha.com Leland Shanle

    Amy,
    Great article, I wrote one very similar years ago. I had the same experience and more on my first book. Basically ZERO support. Even after I informed them that my company Broken Wing was a central part of a Discovery documentary there was no effort to market. Thankfully I was released years ago and now self publish. After years of seeking agents/publishers I must admit that I too took the advice; “You have to give away the first book.” The book itself was very well done. Editing, cover, etc were perfect. But that is where it ended. I encourage you to self publish. Since I made that decision I’ve been published in magazines and have made ten times on book two (in the past year alone) than I have on book one since published(2008). Good luck! Chip

  • http://Carlasarett@blogspot.com Carla Sarett

    Of the points raised in this post, I found the absence of good editing the most troubling. — I assume that by editing, you mean copyediting. If publishing companies cannot provide that, their future value is indeed diminished.

  • http://www.marionstein.net Marion

    Just as anyone can call themselves a writer, anyone can call themselves a publisher. Chavez had a bad experience with a “publisher with over 40 years experience” but doesn’t identify the publisher or give details about her book — fiction? non-fiction? self-help? what? Context would help.

    Just because a publisher has been around doesn’t make them good. The take-away could just as easily have been research your publisher before you sign as opposed to “next time self-publish.” Certainly, when she goes through her list the warning signs were enormous.

    Self-publishing is no picnic either, and as more people do it, it’s become even more difficult. There are things you have more control over in self-publishing, but if your goal is to get your book into brick and mortar stores, it’s not going to happen. If your goal is to get reviewed by Publisher’s Weekly, etc, that’s not going to happen either unless you pay for it, and even then it will be in a special “indie” section. If you don’t have a built in readership, it’s going to be very, very difficult to build one. I know several fiction writers who had agents and were very close to getting deals, but it didn’t happen, and so they self-published. In some cases, this has helped move them forward on a deal for a new project. In some cases, they have built up a readership and sold well. In other cases, they have sold very little.

    I don’t know what Chavez’s previous experience with self-publishing has been, but what it comes down to is that every case is different. Certainly no one should sign with a publisher solely because they think having a publisher is automatically better or more respectable than self-publishing, but no one should self-publish without doing a lot of research first either.

    “Next time, I’ll self-publish.” may be the best solution for Chavez. It may not be the best solution for everyone.

    • http://www.jonirodgers.com Joni Rodgers

      What Marion said. I’ve had great experiences with small presses (MacAdam-Cage, Spinters Ink) and huge houses (Random House, HarperCollins, S&S), and I’ve had a bit of success indie publishing. I’ve also had challenges and disappointment in both the corporate and indie publishing realms. It’s a tough, tough business. I’m grateful for the money I earn, but I’ve learned that my only hope of happiness is to write for the love of it.

      Meanwhile, I’m really sad for your bad experience, Amy. Shame on that shoddy publisher. They’ve offered a very poor example of how a small press works. I’ve never signed a contract without win-win spirited negotiation and compromise on both sides.

  • http://www.NicciLeigh.com Nicci Leigh

    I am an Indie author of two years. I write unconventional non-fiction and self-help for women. Prior to self publishing I wrote an editorial column for a national newspaper that welcomed alternative views. In my spare time I was writing short stories and screenplays that ended up in a file cabinet collecting dust. I never even thought about submitting or developing any of them for publication, this decision an intuitive one, since I had little knowledge of the publishing industry; I just knew I want to own the legal rights to my works and had no interest in putting them into the hands of corporate publishing. To me, this is the very definition of Indie: independent. I am a control freak (I’m working on that). With the emergence of KDP and other self publishing portals, I saw my path illuminated. I’ve since published two titles. I hire an editor, a book designer, and a graphic designer to do the cover art. I have two years work into my first title from its conception to publication and approximately seven months with the second. I am honored to say that six months after my first title’s release it made it to the top of the best-sellers list in both of its categories and has remained there (alongside all traditionally published books). The second title is going to need promotional efforts, but also debuted as a best-seller in its category. I do take full responsibility for the updates and progress both titles will need to undergo as time passes, however, it has been a fun adventure! I would love to work with a publisher someday, it can get boring and overwhelming doing it all by myself. I’ll give traditional publishing a shot with my fiction titles. But for now, I am now writing from home, happily independent (looking for an agent—wink!).

  • http://www.spinetinglermag.com/2013/04/01/2013-spinetingler-awards-poll/ Kevin Lynn Helmick

    I feel ya. I am currently working (arguing) with a small press and have gotten the option of having our contract terminated. I jumped at it for a lot reasons.
    I don’t think all small, micro press’ are intentionally incompetent by any means. I don’t necessarily feel mine was. I just didn’t feel like they were earning their royalties.
    At least you got an advance. That’s very rare with a small press.
    Good Luck

  • http://firebrandpublishing.com Amy Cancryn

    Publisher contracts are written for the publishing company. It’s not surprising they will act in the best interest of their business model not yours.

    I’m not knocking the publishing industry, but it should be understood that this is a business and decisions will be made to benefit the business.

    There are some authors that have found tremendous success with traditional publishers. Those are the outliers.

    Most mid list authors will be able to do better financially by self publishing.

    I wish you much success the next time you publish your book, regardless of the format or the means.

  • http://queendsheena.blogspot.com Sheena-kay Graham

    That’s why I’m only using a small press that I’ve researched properly. Also some of my writing friends have had positive experiences with Small Presses I’m willing to check out. I’m so sorry for your bad experience and I’[m someone who plans to both self-publish and use the traditional route to get my writing out there.

  • http://canewsome.com C. A. Newsome

    My mother continually bugged me about getting a publisher. I self-published. I consider myself a mid-lister type author. I earned the equivalent to an advance in the first year my book was out, and I still own all of my book. I can still go to a publisher if I want to.

    If I went the trad route, 6 months minimum to find an agent, then more to find a publisher, then 18 months till I hit the shelves, and then if I don’t start performing immediately, my book is pulled and I never see more than my advance. Meanwhile, they own my book for the length of the contract.

    I’m releasing my 3rd book this month. In the trad world, I’d be eating Ramen noodles while waiting for my book to come out.

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  • Yvonne Mahlape Maserumule

    Thanks, Amy! Your article is informative!

    • Anon

      Who’s the publisher? Name and shame.

  • http://www.lindamc.com/ Linda M.C. Nguyen

    I’m sorry to hear this author didn’t have a pleasant experience with a traditional publisher. This is unfortunate. I don’t know who this publisher is, but I would like to believe the above is not a common experience. I work with an imprint of an independent publisher (Kaylie Jones Books at Akashic Books) and all our authors are thrilled to be with us. In addition, committing to a publishing date is a must.

  • Alex

    These really are all the big flashing warning lights that the ‘publisher’ is a scam artist (and yes they may have been scam artists for 40 years!). A lot of these issues would have been picked up by an agent or, an organization such as the Society of Authors (here in the UK), which gives contracts advice etc to members. Moral of the story; if the contract makes you uncomfortable (and this one clearly did), DONT sign it, as things will only get worse. Having been both a trad published author and an indie, I can tell you the pro and cons are 50/50 each way, but not not with an outfit like this. I once walked away from a ‘three book deal’ that made me very uncomfortable and I’ve thanked my lucky stars I had the confidence to do so almost every day since.

  • http://sheerhubris.com Sandra Hutchison

    Did you check Preditors and Editors before signing? You should report your experience to them, at least, and help save future authors from this company. A reputable small publisher would have done better than this.