When a difficult decision gets easy.

I submitted my book to a publisher at the insistence of a critique partner of mine because she’d already been working with them and recommended them.  So I submitted my manuscript blindly, meaning I didn’t do any further research but totally intended to. Although, in the back of my mind I was like, ‘Nothing will come of this.’ After two years of rejection you come to expect it.

So imagine my surprise when I hear back and they love it and want to know if it’s still available for publication. At first I was just completely stunned.  Two years of nothing and then FINALLY.  I went from shock to sobbing like a happy little baby because FINALLY.  Just . . . finally.

So I responded that yes, it was still available but I had some questions I wanted to ask. Was it easier to ask now or wait for the contract and just compile my list of questions into one big email? And then I waited. I was discussing this with my critique friend and she was saying it was taking a little while to hear back from them because of the plague going around the office. Considering I myself have been sick twice this season, after a complete dry spell from snot since 2009, I got it.  About four business days later I got a response. They apologized for the delay because they were doing taxes and I could go ahead and ask my questions now. Not a problem.

So I did. Nothing major.  Are you interested in the single book or the series?  Any advance and how much (it’s not uncommon for smaller pubs to pay low to no advance)? What format will the book be released in? What’s the distribution plan? What kind of royalties and their payment structures? Editing ideas for the book? What’s the marketing plan and what’s expected of me? How soon do you want to get started?

Like I said, nothing major. It was the next day when I facepalmed myself and was like I MUST RESEARCH THE PUBLISHER. And I did.

I started with Preditors and Editors (yes, that is spelled correctly). It’s an industry-recognized resource for vetting industry professionals (and not-so-professionals) before signing yourself into a contract with them. They’re legit and it would behoove you to listen to them. What did they say about this particular publisher? Don’t do it. And then referred the reader to a thread on Absolute Write, a writing forum that I’m very familiar with and have been a member of for years. It’s been a resource for me forever at this point.

So I read through that thread. Five or six pages of posts going back to 2011 when the publisher first cropped up. 98% of the posts were negative.  And incredibly so. Some posts spoke of favoritism with the authors. Well, you’re going to have that no matter where you go.  Even the big houses will lavish more marketing money on the authors they know are worth it than the smaller, debut guys whom are still gambles.  That’s nothing new.

But what really got me was the alleged abject lack of professionalism. Heads of the house getting spiteful and vindictive about authors leaving to the point where they launch internet smear campaigns against them. One former author even said that this publisher continued to sell their book after they left and after the dissolution of the contract and they never saw any money for it. It’s alleged that the owner of the publisher would rope in readers to target these “bad” authors with negative reviews and trolling in order to ruin them. At the beginning there were major concerns over the lack of editing, the lack of quality of the books in general, and how the favoritism is more than just what’s found in commercial publishing. It’s that all effort is given to a few authors while others are left to flounder. Marketing is considered a social element where the authors support each other and promote each other but it wasn’t reciprocal.

I wanted to gag. They didn’t have a whole lot of information on their website but something did click for me after reading all of this. Their site says that they’re home to over a hundred authors yet if you look on their book list page they only list maybe a dozen. Nothing of their backlist or any other authors.

I forwarded the information to my critique friend and after thinking about it she said she was still going forward.  To date she hadn’t had a bad experience with them and, in fact, they were better than her other publisher in how they treated her (another really small indie).  I wished her all the luck with it.  I really do hope it works out for her.

But my gut was gnawing at me. I decided I’d wait until I received a response from them to my questions and go from there.

It’s been more than two weeks at this point and I’ve received nothing. Well, thanks for making my decision really easy. Because at this point even if I got a response back now and all of the questions were favorable, this is not how you do business. I am a business professional. I deal with clients every day. I deal with potential accounts every day. You don’t leave people hanging. Even if those answers were all good, the response time doesn’t bode well for the working relationship, doesn’t it? I’ve been working through my wedding particulars in very much the same way. Oh, it’s been a pain in the ass for me to get any preliminary information out of you? Then I’m sure as shit not going to lock into whatever it is you’re selling if your best face forward is a hot mess. No thanks.

So my dream was there and gone. At least in this fashion. But I’m going to continue plowing ahead with self-publishing. I’m having a cover designed as we speak (I type?) and I’m running my manuscript through a few more edits to clean it up. Then I’ll go from there. I’m probably looking at a year-end or early 2017 release date just because of the wedding and the research I want to do into self-publishing and successful marketing. I’m not half-assing this. Not a chance.

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