December 7, 2010


Over coffee, a friend told me she’d received a book contract from a small company for her first novel. But when I offered my congratulations, the corners of her mouth drooped. She admitted she’d rejected the contract because it required a $500 fee.

Obviously she’d run across one of the many self-publishing companies that masquerade as a full service house. 

To be fair, self publishing is a legitimate way to put one’s book before the public and there are several advantages. The author retains total control of the product and all of the profits. But companies like the one my friend encountered are not only dishonest in their promotion of themselves, but they offer dreadful terms. They charge for printing; they control the quality of the product and they keep the lion’s share of any profits.

I’m sorry for my friend’s disappointment. She isn’t the first nor will she be the last to be tempted by unscrupulous profiteers. Once, I too almost fell into that trap. My heart denied what my brain knew as I read the contract offered. Throwing it away seemed almost impossible even though I was aware I was being played a fool. A contract is a strong lure for first time novelists. That’s how these phony publishers thrive.

I congratulated my friend on her decision to submit elsewhere and sugar coated her disappointment by saying she’d grown wiser. My words, I’m sure, fell on deaf ears but I’m glad she wasn’t discouraged. A writer needs determination to get a foot on the first rung of the publishing world. One day, she’ll make it. And when we meet to celebrate her real contract, I’ll say nothing about the further struggles ahead, like finding an audience. She’ll discover that rung soon enough.   

[Note: We weren’t forgetful. Mozilla had technical issues that kept the site unavailable to Caroline Miller until late Monday. Ergo, we resume with today’s posting.]