……And Another Thing or Two About Publishing

I have writer friends who rave about their publishers. They glorify them on their Facebook pages, tweet their credits and give mention to them in their books. They are so pleased with what their publisher brings to their project that if they were to win a Pulitzer, they would surely dedicate it to them.

I’m so jealous!

I’m not sure about forking over my Pulitzer, but I’d love to be able to spiel my publisher’s virtues to anyone with ears. Those publishers are best-seller gold. Cherished and coveted. But not as plentiful as we would like.

The big publishing houses aren’t going anywhere. At least not anytime soon. It’s the small ones I want to talk about. Some of them are their authors’ greatest assets, going above and beyond while seeing little in the way of profit. They are truly dedicated to fulfilling the promises they make to their authors within the pages of the contracts they mutually sign. And other small houses are Hell’s gatekeepers.

Myself, I have given up on traditional publishing and gone digital.  My latest novel, ‘Fight Like A Girl’ is coming out later this year and will I ever consider going with a traditional publisher for the opportunity to see my books in paper and ink again? Possibly. But now, the difference is, instead of having to sell myself to them, they would have to sell themselves to me.

That’s right. For me and many others, the days of query letters and elevator pitches are over. Slush piles all over New York are melting as I write this, making room for the mini-bars industry execs are going to need in this digital age. Why? The biggest reason is also the most obvious. Because Amazon has different ideas. They have shown readers a different way and readers are buying into it. With the onslaught of eReaders and low cost books, readers are being pulled in a new (money saving) direction. Who can blame them? A dollar saved is a dollar saved, right? That may be the biggest reason, but it certainly isn’t the only one.

We’ve all heard that ‘only amateur writers publish eBooks’ and ‘they’re peddling their book on Amazon because they couldn’t find a REAL publisher’. Those reasons may have had some validity in the past, but not so much now. Authors are beginning to realize that they CAN float their own boat. Granted, it takes a lot of work and motivation (not to mention sleepless nights and first-born offerings), but as authors in the digital age, we are in charge.

Assuming you’ve written a good story,—that is still critical in achieving success—you treat it just as you would if you were shipping it off to a traditional publisher, you write, revise, edit, revise, revise, edit and then cross your fingers and say a little prayer. It’s at this very point where many are choosing to forego the game of query-and-wait and taking directly to Kindle format. I am one of them.

My reasons had nothing to do with being unable to find traditional publishing. My last book, ‘Lily White Lies’ was published traditionally. Hell, it even won a national fiction award. I spent eighteen months waiting to see it in print and once it came out… TOTAL DEFLATION. And now I will tell you why so many good writers are taking the path of Kindle and slowly putting the small houses out of business.

I have a standard publishing contract with my publisher. Nothing out of the ordinary. I was promised an advance against royalties to be paid by a given date. I was promised a certain number of author copies. I was promised certain promotional courtesies. I was promised many things within the contract. And do you know what I’ve received?

Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Seriously. I have not received a dime from the sales of my book nor have I ever seen a red cent of my advance. I have never been sent an account reconciliation showing how many books have sold. I never received a single author copy. My novel came out (in print) in June of 2011 and to date, it still hasn’t been added to the publisher’s online store. I signed my contract in May of 2010 and after a year and a half of waiting for the advance I was promised, I sent a very courteous letter to my publisher, after many unsuccessful attempts to reach her by phone. I received a call from her with no fewer than four excuses as to why she hadn’t been able to fulfill her obligations, but not one viable reason. After another six months, I sent a 10-day letter, to which I have not received a response in any form. Until an author has been in this position, it is impossible to know just how involved and aggravating it can be.

I may never see anything that is owed to me by my publisher, but all is not lost. I retained my digital rights, published on Amazon using KDP and quickly learned that I make more on each eBook sold than I would have on each print copy (had I seen any of it). Amazon pays their authors on the exact date they say they will. And through their author pages, featured listings and promotional days, they have actually done more to promote my work than my publisher has. No outlet will ever be perfect, but at least now my bank account is being fed regularly.

I know there are some authors out there who are planted in tradition and believe that if they aren’t published by a ‘real’ publisher, it doesn’t really count or they’ll never be considered successful in the eyes of their peers (Ssh, don’t tell that to Amanda Hocking or Hugh Howey!) That simply isn’t true.

I know I’m not the first one to write about the differences between traditional and digital publishing, but I wanted to give my take on it, as I’m sure I’m not alone in my feelings. As writers, in the end we have to do what is right for us individually and what works for one won’t necessarily work for the next one to come along. But when I hear a representative from any publishing house, big or small, complain about Amazon, eBooks or even self-publishing and what it’s doing to their bottom line, I have a hard time feeling any sympathy. After all, we ALL float our own boats and we’ll end up in the direction we’ve paddled.

Kathy Reinhart is the author of the award-winning LILY WHITE LIES’ ‘The Red Stokes’ and the upcoming ‘FIGHT LIKE A GIRL’,  book one in the ‘Like A Girl’ series.

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