My friend and colleague, Susan Stoner, Sage Adair mystery series writer, sent me an article the other day with an “I told you so,” message. Stoner self publishes her work and uses a distributor to make her series available in bookstore. For some time, she’s encouraged me to do the same, but I’ve been disinclined. Self publishing involves technical work and record keeping and buying print runs of your book that sit in the basement until they are sold. But, I’ll confess, working with a publisher can also be tricky.
The release of my first novel, Heart Land, a coming of age story about a boy growing up in the Midwest after the depression, is itself a cautionary tale and explains why I’m bringing out a revised edition with a new publisher. The story begins in 2008 when I signed my contract with a small company in England. Communications went well in the beginning. A year later, however, conditions changed when the company sold out to a self-publisher. Unfortunately, a clause in my contract made my book the property of the new enterprise. When a year passed and I’d received neither royalties nor sales statements, I asked to be released from my contract. “Come to England and sue me,” the man in charge replied.
That wasn’t going to happen and he knew it, so I stopped promoting Heart Land and never mentioned it in my blogs after our fallout.
How much money the publisher earned from my book, I don’t know. I was cut off from any information. Then the good news hit. The company was drummed out of business by unhappy clients and a looming criminal investigation. Heart Land, was mine, at last. Happily, my publisher for Gothic Spring and Trompe l’Oeil has agreed to bring out a revised edition of this first book soon, complete with a new cover and illustrations.
I shouldn’t be surprised that the world of small publishing is fraught scammers. I’ve written on this subject before. (Blog 5/23/2010) But who would have thought a large company, like Penguin, would be up to the same tricks? Stoner’s article opened my eyes. The company’s subsidiary is in trouble for failing to pay writers their royalties and for sloppy production errors. Adding insult to injury, authors are expected to pay to have those error corrected, which means Penguin reaps a tidy profit from its mistakes. (Click)
If a large company like Penguin can operate unscrupulously, who’s a writer to trust? (See blog 3/16/15) Stoner feels she has the answer: publish your book yourself.