I never knew what it meant to be an author until I became one. As I wrote previously, I had stars in my eyes, imagining that I’d find instant fame because my books have cleaver titles. Not only do they have cleaver titles, but they are also well written and chock full of information. Somehow, that’s not enough to sell books.
My first publisher loved the title of my first book, Trials of an Entrepreneurial Virgin. “The title alone will sell books,” they said. Once I was published, however, this is what I was told, “Your book is directed to a very specific segment of people. It’s going to take a long time for people to come around and buy your book.” I never thought that I’d become a millioniare writing books, but I definitely thought I’d make more than $12 in royalties in my first quarter of sales (My royalty rate was 10 percent). I learned they pushed me to write my second book,Moving at the Speed of Twitter, to could learn my knowledge about social media without paying me for it.
Why I parted ways
More than one reason exists as to why I decided to dump my publisher and re-publish on my own. These are the main ones:
- Help with marketing was promised and never happened. My publisher assumed that I knew more than I did, and, even though in my contract I was promised marketing help (a press release, getting press contacts, etc.) it never happened. Most publishers today don’t help their writers with marketing, just so you know. At the time, I didn’t know that was considered the “norm.”
- ROYALTIES. I busted my ass solid for six months. Promoting, writing, talking to people all the time and I was rewarded with $12. I was pissed. When I took another look at my contract, there was nothing in it saying I agreed to 10 percent in royalties. When I confronted my publisher, she ignored me. After asking multiple times, she stated that this was the industry “norm.” Let me tell you that if that nugget of information had been in my contract, I wouldn’t have signed it.
My former publisher is what I’ll call a “partner” publisher. My definition might not be accurate to those of you in the industry, but my former publisher is one of those where you hire them to edit, proofread, create cover art, get you set up with distribution, the whole 9. They are choosy about the authors they sign, so at the time I did feel honored that they chose to work with m. Because I paid a pretty hefty up-front fee, it never even occured to me that the publisher would then keep the majority of the money from my book sales. My understanding when I signed on with them was that because I paid them up front, that was it. That was their fee and they would not continue to make money off of me after my books released. The lesson: ask a lot of questions before signing that publishing contract.
How ‘partner’ publishing is like social social media
People who see an easy opportunity for capitalizing on we naive creatives, are now jumping on the publishing bandwagon as they did to social media. I started working in social media before any job listings existed for “social media managers.” It didn’t take long for those fly-by-night types to swoop in to make a buck, claiming hundreds of thousands of followers, then failing to deliver or disappearing completely. Many of the social media hacks have since dissipated as the general public has become a bit more wise to what social media entails. I see the same thing happening in publishing.
Many people have dreams of becoming published authors. Since some still have a negative view of self-publishing, to-be authors seek out indie or hybrid publishers to make their dreams a reality. Doing this is just glorified self-publishing. If you’re paying to have someone publish your book, you might as well do it on your own. You’ll still have to fork over cash for a professtional editor and cover designer, but at least you’ll have more control of your financial future.
Let’s talk royalties
As I wrote above, my former publisher was paying me only a 10 percent royalty. That’s bullshit and if anyone says to me, “That’s just the way it is,” again, I’m going to scream. Why is it that way? I can understand it if you’re with a big publishing house and were given an advance on your book sales. But when you PAY someone to publish your work and they still keep your royalties. That ain’t right. You aren’t paying them back for anything. At that point, they’re just making money off of you and you’re a sap.
So, in an effort to take back my publishing future (and a much better business decision), I parted ways with my former publisher in December and created my own imprint, Writer’s Chat Stew Media. The process has been a bit labored: Tweaking cover art, re-doing eBook formatting and my paperback option in CreateSpace. Fortunately, I found a great team to help with all of it. I’m already making more money off my sales. I’m in control now, which is how I like it in the first place.
Do you have any good/bad publishing stories you’d like to share? I’d love to read them in the comments or tweet me @ChiefWordsmith.