Home » Contracts, Self-Publishing » Next Time, I’ll Self-publish

Next Time, I’ll Self-publish

12 April 2013

From author Amy Chavez on IndieReader:

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’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).

. . . .

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?).

. . . .

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.

. . . .

Next time, I’ll self-publish.

Link to the rest at IndieReader

Contracts, Self-Publishing

18 Comments to “Next Time, I’ll Self-publish”

  1. What a nightmare. I pitched my first novel to a couple dozen small publishers and had a few nibbles. One of those who asked for a full manuscript was a dinky operation that required it to be printed in a very specific way and spiral bound, which wound up costing me a few bucks. I viewed them as my “safety school.” At least until they declined. Looking back, I’m glad I wasn’t faced with deciding whether to accept an offer from them. I don’t see that they would have done anything for me that I couldn’t have done myself. I’m not sure I realized that at the time, but I sure do now.

  2. I think Amy’s story is common. I know it mirrors mine. I signed with a publisher (I have no agent), and they wouldn’t budge on anything in the contract. I signed. Financially, it was a bad decision. But from a learning perspective, it was a wealth of knowledge and experience (of generally what not to do with the one exception of their incredible editing department) that I needed to cut my teeth in this industry.

    A lot’s changed in the last three years, and the stigma of self-publishing is evaporating. Going forward, the deal would have to be very good to persuade me to sign with a publisher instead of going it alone.

  3. I don’t mean this to be an insult, I really don’t — but where has she been? Yes, I’ve stood in her shoes as well but that was six years ago and since then I’ve read and read and inhaled and imbibed and studied everything I could about the publishing world, the changing face of publishing and options for authors. There are so many warnings circulating through the blogosphere regarding every one of her concerns/complaints.
    So my question is this– do we authors just keep hoping this time we’ve bought the right lottery ticket?

    • YES. I have watched this play out in the past year with two other authors. Both have traditionally published with small size presses. Both only have print books right now for sale. Judging by all the contest they are in, and the academic reviews, it would seem like they are doing well in sales. My hunch is that I have out sold them, and I really have not done a great job. Validation is very important to some people. I have a feeling that Generation Y is going to turn everything on its head for publishing.

  4. Awesome!

    Not that she was screwed over by her publisher – I’m really sorry for that – but that’s she’s not going to take it any more and is joining the indie ranks.

    Welcome to the Indies, Amy! :D

    This is what I love to see happen. An exodus from Publishers with terrible contracts and terrible practices, to the world of freedom, control, and keeping the money you make from your book. Right on!

  5. I followed the link and read the article. I was amazed that one commenter blamed the author for “not having an agent” and for “making a poor choice of publisher.”

    Where has this person been? Agents by and large do very little to prevent the type of situation in which Amy found herself. In my experience, having an agent to “negotiate” for her would have gained her exactly nothing.

    Glad she’s come over to the Daylight Side.

    • “Where has this person been? Agents by and large do very little to prevent the type of situation in which Amy found herself. In my experience, having an agent to “negotiate” for her would have gained her exactly nothing.”

      Indeed. My reaction, too.

      Repeating (once again) that my career of writing for New York publishers IMPROVED after I shed 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 agents, and it has remained steady in the 6-7 years since then.

      • Laura, I’m curious. When you negotiate yourself, have the publishers agreed to your change requests of contract terms? Or are they only flexible with advances? I may be in this situation soon.

    • Call me silly, but that first commentor, who was blaming the victim, sounded an awful lot like an agent.

      And yes, she did make mistakes, like not having her own attorney translate the contract for her (which I would do no matter what) but then again it’s always easy to sit at home and armchair someone’s elses errors.

      • I’m not sure an attorney would have helped here, based on her statement, “They won’t negotiate any points in your contract.” Except maybe try to convince her to not sign the contract in the first place.

      • “Call me silly, but that first commentor, who was blaming the victim, sounded an awful lot like an agent.”

        I wondered about that and clicked on his name.

        His website describes him as offering various consulting services, but it lists no clients, no projects, and no credentials for his business, though it does list his previous job history (sales and marketing). His site includes a low-activity blog (he last posted in January).

    • ‘Where has this person been? Agents by and large do very little to prevent the type of situation in which Amy found herself. In my experience, having an agent to “negotiate” for her would have gained her exactly nothing.’

      The problem is an underlying belief system: ‘if I follow all the rules everything will work out.’

      I interact with a woman on a writing forum who _knows_ that if she polishes everything, if she obeys her agent in everything, if she sticks only to traditional publishing, she will succeed. Everything else is breaking the rules and only leads to catastrophic failure. It isn’t fear, it isn’t stupidity, it’s just confusing the rules she was taught with the laws of physics.

  6. I had the same reaction as Deb Kinnard to that clueless commenter who seemed to think this wouldn’t have happened if Amy had an agent. The fact is she probably would have been screwed worse.

    Those old-school small presses like hers mimic the Big 5 in all the worst ways. They perpetuate the master/slave relationship of the old publishing paradigm.

    But there are small niche boutique presses springing up that offer a real partnership: good royalties, short term contracts, and 21st century marketing. They do offer advantages to the technophobic and people who feel more comfortable working with a team. But it is true lots of small publishers are worthless. The only way to find out is to contact their authors.

  7. After having one book published via the traditional route, I decided never again. I created my own publishing company for my works and couldn’t be happier. 3 of my books have won awards (International Book Award and Global eBook Award) in 3 different categories (Christian non-fiction, performing arts, business/careers) and I use my books and publishing to form foundation for speaking engagements, training and workshops, and classical guitar performances. To be successful as an independent author books should be one element of a professional platform for disseminating information–not just the only element.

  8. Scott Turow would obviously tell this woman that she fails to appreciate the complexities of the publishing business and she shouldn’t complain.

    Sadly, still today many aspiring authors will sign a Big 6 contract, even against the adamant advice of their agents (believe it or not, some agents do understand who they work for). I know mine has threatened to cut an author from her list if the author accepted.

    • The publishing business is complex, Pete, but the question is whether that complexity adds any value for an author. Indeed, these days, it’s reasonable to ask if that complexity improves books or sells enough books to offset the costs and inefficiencies associated with that complexity.

  9. Yes, this author made a bad choice, but there’s always a first time for everybody. Even Agatha Christie signed a terrible contract for her first six books (no royalties until 2,000 books were sold!). But she learned not to make that mistake again.

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