June proved an interesting and oft times frustrating month.
Things have happened that have caused me to reflect on how short life truly is. We waste so much time fretting about things we can’t change, or changing things we shouldn’t. We worry hopelessly, and work at jobs we hate, thinking that one day our fortunes will change—but they never do, because that requires a change within us and without an awakening, we very often don’t take heed. My awakening came on June 28th, when my brother suffered a massive stroke. His life as he knew it is effectively over. He will have to adjust, as will his wife, sons, and grandchildren.
I’ve spent several months embroiled in a terrible situation with a publisher with no scruples and no honor. I’ve followed my contracts to the letter—sent a certified letter enumerating contract breaches. They had 90 days to remedy the situation and they didn’t. The contracts provide for, under that scenario, a reversion of my rights. In mid-June, I sent a Termination of Agreements letter, and claimed those rights on all the titles published there, eight in all. Two of those were published without contracts.
I’d questioned the wisdom of entering into the whirlwind of such a venture, as opposed to waiting out the contracts—in some cases, another five years. Or, simply ignoring those titles and moving on to new ones. In both cases, I rejected the impulse to take the easier path. That is my work, many hours spent researching, writing, editing, and promoting those titles.
I’ve rewritten several of them, given them over for a proper edit, something they never received before, and have embarked on self-publishing my het romances. I am leery of doing business with yet another publisher.
My gay romance titles will always go to Dreamspinner, because that is a company with integrity and class. They treat their authors with respect.
Publishing depends upon the authors, the reliability in their writing and of course, their retention. If authors are happy, they will remain with a publisher, which is what I desperately wished with my association with the unnamed publisher. Instead, they subjected all authors to untruths, non-payment, lack of royalty statements, non-communication with those who make decisions, continued condescension when the CEO deigns to answer messages. The editing lacked integrity, the formatting in print and digital amateurish (one of my print books had my name spelled incorrectly in the header and though the publisher was aware, they never fixed the error,) and when the book is out, there is no remedy. The house has moved on to pushing more books out the door.
Author retention is the lifeblood of a publishing house. Their loyalty is paramount to the good press a house receives. In turn, authors depend upon the house to produce a finely formatted book. This includes edits and in that regard, if a house takes on an author’s book, they should treat that as the author would. We all make errors in grammar, punctuation, even plot and continuity. A good editor can sniff out the errors and polish our manuscripts to a high gloss. We count on them as the last bastion between us and the reading public.
Only recently, when I assumed my rights, did I discover the morbid truth. The manuscript of a book the publisher said would received a thorough edit and be reissued, had not been edited, save for the changing of words to British spellings. I am mortified that they published the book as they did. The publisher was notified and he didn’t acknowledge the notification and did nothing, hence my decision to take drastic measures. Soon, that book, truly and thoroughly edited, and the others, will find their way to the public, in proper condition.
My story isn’t unique in the publishing world, but it has certainly opened my eyes to all that can go wrong with publication and how life is too short to not take control of what is yours. This publisher keeps 64% of each dollar my titles make. They earn none of it.
Writing isn’t simply a matter of writing a story and turning it in to the publisher. There is so much more and at times, the work involved after you’ve written “The End,” is mindboggling. An author must take it upon themselves to make sure that their work is well represented—it is our name on the cover.
All publishers, save this particular one, have provided proofing copies of my books. I can’t tell you how important it is to take those galleys seriously. Certainly, by the time an author receives the galley, they are likely text blind, but along with the proofreader, the author is the last set of eyes on the text before it goes to production. An extremely important step in the process.
Ultimately, an author must involve themselves in every step, starting with the contract. Many contracts aren’t author friendly, particularly those that carry the Right To First Refusal clause, an inordinate number of years, rights grabbing (all rights for the lifetime of the copyright, which is 72 years.)
Authors must be aware and see to it that they receive equitable benefit on an ongoing basis. More often than not, the publisher keeps the lionshare of the money earned from each book. They must do their share to earn it. Contracts are tricky buggers and glassy-eyed authors will lose themselves in the idea that they are published and consequently, they don’t read the fine print. I know, I was there.
Authors should remember that writing is a business—their business. No one will look out for their interests like they will. I’ve learned the hard way that not all publishers are equal.
Authors, ask around for publisher recommendations. If you hear bad things from authors—not a couple of complaints, but many, particularly of the same kind, there is something very wrong. No, things won’t be different with you. Disreputable stays that way.
There are wonderful publishers out there. They care about their authors, abide by the contracts, and respect the author’s work. Sadly, there are those that are just the opposite.
Be careful. Publishing a book is a joyous situation. Take as much care with the aftermath of the writing as you did in the writing.