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
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).
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.