Hello, Renegades! You may remember that I started a series of posts on the work and expenses that have gone into writing and publishing my new book,How to Do It All: The Revolutionary Plan to Create a Full, Meaningful Life — While Only Occasionally Wanting to Poke Your Eyes Out With a Sharpie.
I promised to follow up with a final accounting and to let you know if all the work and expense was worth it. That’s what you’re reading now.
In short, I’ll tell you that the book cover designer, interior layout designer, and proofreader were all 100% worth the cost. They all delivered on what they promised in their contracts.
The launch team that constituted the bulk of my expenses ($6,500 of the $10,000 spent)? That’s another story. I learned a lot of hard lessons from this, and hope you will, too, as I’m passionate about helping writers and want to make sure no other self-publisher has to go through what I experienced.
. . . .
I hired Insurgent Publishing to launch my new book. I had interviewed the owner, Tom, in the past and liked him.
When I contacted Tom in November 2015 about doing a book launch for me, he created a short video outlining the services he would provide. He mentioned in an email that “I only work with people who intend to sell more than 10,000 books in the first year alone.” Of course I intended to sell over 10,000 copies — who wouldn’t? — so that was a go! He put together a page of testimonials, and those included some very big names. Finally, Tom was very charismatic and reassuring, for example telling me (since I’m no longer on social media) that “social media is overrated” and “you do not need to blast on all channels to make this happen.”
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[I] decided to hire Tom for a full launch of How to Do It All, which I was about to start writing. After a bit of haggling from the initial quote of $10,000 to include a “rebranding” of Renegade Writer Press, Tom drafted a contract where I would pay $7,500 over the time leading up to the launch of How to Do It All, plus “15% net receipt of all book sales” for the next 12 months.
. . . .
Some of the particulars of the contract included:
- “Active promotion and outreach during launch sequence (30 days prior to campaign start through the completion of the campaign, and post launch to facilitate ongoing sales of book).”
- “Insurgent Publishing will manage an ambassador group/launch team for the Client, with input and feedback from the Client. (b) Insurgent Publishing will provide feedback and direction on marketing collaterals and develop alternative marketing channels for promotional efforts.”
- “Create an ambassador group/launch team.”
- “Finalize outreach timeline and materials. For example: how we need to approach influencers and mainstream media, how we’ll track and follow up with them, and all the organization and tracking that goes along with this process.”
- “Conduct promotional outreach 30 – 60 days out from launch. Arrange podcasts, blogs, and other promotional opportunities with the help of the Client.”
Tom set me up with Jamie [not her real name] as my account manager.
. . . .
Jamie and I spoke once a week, and I started to notice that every week we would come up with a list of tasks that Jamie would promise to do or follow-up on, but by the next week’s call, many of items were not completed and the list would remain much the same for the following week. But I liked Jamie and trusted that things were moving along on their end.
As the book launch date approached, I started noticing that more and more was left undone. For example, the contract stated that Insurgent Publishing would identify and reach out to 200 “mainstream media, blogs, podcasts, listing sites, forums, FB groups / social media groups.” A few weeks before the launch I saw that the team had reached out to about 30 outlets — and those were mostly business podcasts and writing blogs, not women’s and mom podcasts/blogs (which is the obvious audience for this book), and certainly not the “mainstream media.” Moreover, the writing blogs were all ones I had written for multiple times before, and I’m friends with the owners; even if their readers were an appropriate audience for my book, I wouldn’t need any help placing guest posts with them.
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I started to worry, so I sent an email to Tom asking what was being done for the launch. As per the schedule we had agreed upon, I had been updating my early notification list at least weekly, managing the Facebook group, writing guest posts I landed, reaching out to my own contacts, and building a website. I had also made plans to contact every website, author, and business I mentioned in How to Do It All. But I wanted to know: What had Insurgent Publishing done?
Tom responded with, “We do what we do on our end” and that I should “trust the process.” He also said, “We also have plenty of stuff up our sleeve for launch day, from a Reddit promo, to ProductHunt, etc.”
At the time I didn’t see this as a bullying tactic, and I’m very non-confrontational, so I just put my head down and kept working, hoping that on launch day I’d see the results of the $7,500.
. . . .
On April 13 (remember, the launch was scheduled for April 18), I noticed that Jamie had not been responding to the emails I had been CCing her on. We had a phone meeting scheduled in 15 minutes, so I went to ding her in the Facebook Group for the book. I was surprised to see that she was no longer a member of the group. I emailed Tom, and he replied that Jamie was no longer with the company and the call would be with him.
The fact that I hadn’t been told that my main contact at the company had left goodness-knows how long ago — I noticed the last time she had responded to one of my emails was April 4 — and that I had been emailing her all that time with questions and comments, kind of freaked me out. But again, I tamped down my worries and kept a smile on my face.
In the week leading up to the launch, the communication from the company became even more scarce. The Friday before Monday’s launch, I sent a pleading note to Tom for information and support. He didn’t respond.
. . . .
The launch was scheduled for Monday, April 18. After all that work and expense, along with the promises from Insurgent Publishing, I was expecting congratulations, updates on what they were doing, and updates on results. Or at the very least, the promised Reddit, ProductHunt, etc. Instead: silence. No promised Reddit posts, no ProductHunt listing, no emails from the team — nothing.
I was stunned. Even when I sent a note asking for an update, I heard nothing from Tom or Insurgent Publishing on launch day. And even more troubling was that they were doing nothing that I could see to launch my book.
I went into the book’s Amazon dashboard to see if Insurgent Publishing had at least done something with the SEO (search engine optimization) terms, which they had said they would do. I discovered that they had changed the keywords to “Leadership in Management,” “Communication in Management,” “Inner Child,” “Study Aid,” and “Consulting and Psychology,” keywords that were irrelevant for How to Do It All — which is, if you’ll recall, a self-help book for women.
. . . .
Sandra told me that boilerplate packages used by launch companies often include software to generate keywords in order to save the company time from reading the actual book. If anyone working on my behalf at Insurgent Publishing had read the book, they would have known that those keywords were completelyinappropriate for my audience.
. . . .
So the next day, I took some important screen shots and sent an email to Insurgent Publishing. I said I feared Tom had some issue that was preventing him from working on the project, so I would need to cancel the contract. I requested, at the very least, a partial refund. To this point, I had already paid him $6,500 of the $7,500 fee.
This e-mail finally got his attention: Tom responded just 17 minutes later with a lengthy missive that questioned my character, and that said he didn’t respond to my emails on launch day because was too busy doing tasks that would have happened later that week. He also blamed the fact that I had sent an Advance Reading Copy to my list for the extremely slow sales (just over 30 sales on launch day) — which seemed pretty strange to me, considering I had paid Insurgent Publishing $6,500 so far to reach out to the media, bloggers, websites, podcasters, and more. If I was expected to rely solely on my subscriber list for sales, why hire someone to help?
. . . .
While I was reading this e-mail, I happened to have Basecamp, our project management program, open and I could see that Tom was going through our to-do list right then and checking off all the to-dos that hadn’t been completed, including low-priority tasks on my own list that I hadn’t yet done. Luckily, I had a “before” screen shot, so I took an “after” one that included the time stamp. Now I had proof that something fishy was indeed going on.
I responded with a very simple note requesting that Insurgent Publishing stop work immediately, and asked for a full accounting of not only the extra time they spent over the $6,500, but also for the entire $6,500 — including what they did, when, and proof that they’d done what they were contracted to do.
Tom wrote back immediately and said, “Let’s consider the contract cancelled.” To me, that was a big red flag that he didn’t want to show me an accounting. I emailed back, requesting the numbers I had asked for.
On April 23, I received an email from Insurgent Publishing with eight attachments meant to serve as proof of hours worked. And behold, the final tally of what I owed was $7,600 — $100 more than the total worth of the original contract.