When I can’t help but shake my head and wonder how some folks manage to put one foot in front of the others, much less survive in today’s world. This past week has seen me feeling that way more than once. It came to a head last night when a writer I know, one who has been in the business for a couple of decades and who has been both traditionally published and indie published, came to me with a question that had me wondering what in the world they’d smoked, injected, snorted or whatever to have completely lost their minds when it came to publishing.
And, no, this is not a knock on trad publishing.
Here’s the thing. I have no problem answering questions and helping folks. I look at it as paying it forward. Sarah and Dave were there for me when I was getting started, answering my questions, holding my hand and applying boot to butt when needed. All either of them asked in return was that I pay it forward and I have done my best to do so over the years.
Anyway. . . .
Over the last week or so, I’ve talked with some several writers about the various ways to publish books and advance their careers. Mind you, the question of advancing our careers is something each of us at MGC wrangle every day. But I am more than happy to talk about what I’ve tried that’s worked and that’s blown up in my face.
But here’s the thing. No matter what you try, it needs to make sense.
And it needs to hold to the adage that money flows to the writer and now from the writer. Yes, there is caveat. As indies, we will pay one way or the other for editing, cover work, formatting, etc. That may be paying for the software needed to convert our manuscripts or to manipulate the art for our covers. It may be paying for an editor or proofreader or someone to make a cover for us.
Where I want to reach out and shake folks is when they come to me with this really great “deal” they’ve seen where some company will publish their book for them. All they have to do is pay for the privilege.
Okay, repeat after me. You do not pay a publisher. A publisher pays you.
Rule the first: read the contract. If it has anything in it about you guaranteeing that you will buy a certain number of books, run for the hills.
Rule the second: If that contract charges you for editing, cover design, formatting, typesetting, printing, distribution and there is a set fee for each of those (and more), run for the hills. That is especially true if it is also combined with the scenario in Rule the first and/or the so-called publisher says it will only pay you a set (and often below market) royalty.
Rule the third: Even after you’ve read the contract and you think it is good, have an IP attorney who is familiar with publishing look at it. Let’s face it, this rule applies to any publishing-related contract you are considering.
Rule the ultimate: Check to see what rights these “publishers” are claiming in the contract and ask yourself if this is something you are willing to give up, not only for yourself but for your heirs because, yes, it can have that long of a reach.
In other words, be proactive, be realistic and be present in this part of your career. Is it easier to have someone else deal with the fiddly-bits of publishing like converting your manuscript for print and digital sales? Sure is. But it isn’t like it used to be where you had to hand code your e-books. There are any number of programs out there now, free and paid versions, that will do it in a matter of seconds or minutes and put out a good looking product. Same goes or print editions.
A good looking cover can easily be made if you don’t mind investing in a good photo manipulation program (or learning GIMP). You can use royalty free images or even those that fall under Creative Commons licensing. If you want something a bit more unique, you can find artists through sites like Fiverr who will do it for a couple hundred max. You don’t have to spend thousands on a cover. Trust me, publishers don’t spend that much on most of their covers, not any more.
If you think going with a “publisher” will get your book into a bookstore, think again. A traditional publisher will put your book into a catalog that is sent out. If the person in charge of choosing books for the store likes what they see, they will order your book. But remember, you are going u against every other book published during that timeframe. So a publisher doesn’t mean you can walk into your local B&N and find your book there.
You have even less of a chance with that happening if you go with one of these so-called publishers who you pay. Once upon a time, you saw ads for them in the back of magazines and comic books. They were called vanity presses. In my book, they ranked right up there with the agents who would charge a fee to read your manuscript to see if you deserved to be one of their clients.
Remember the adage from above? Money flows to the writer and not from her.
Traditional publishing has its place. Indie publishing has its place. But when someone says they will publish your book for a price or will rep your book to find a publisher for a price, run away.
Do your research. Check to see what others have to say about the “publisher” you’re considering. Have an IP attorney look at the proffered contract. Most of all, remember that the only person looking out for your rights is yourself when it comes to this business of ours. So do your due diligence and ask if what the other party wants you to give up is something you are willing to do not just for yourself but for your heirs as well.
Now, for a bit of business. Dagger of the Gods (Sword of the Gods 3) is now available on Amazon and will be available elsewhere shortly. Here’s the blurb:
Evil has taken root in the Adrean Imperium. Soon it will rise up, destroying everything in its wake. If Balaar wins, the world will fall to a darkness the like of which it has never before seen.
Aimsir, to the west of the Imperium, is the birthplace of the Order of Arelion, enemy of Balaar. Cait Falconer—Knight-Cleric and heir to Queen Maeve Porgisl, ruler of Aimsir—knows danger draws near. Aimsir’s borders have been safeguarded but at a great cost. Now Cait and the Order work with the Queen and her military to make sure Aimsir never falls to the coming evil.
Then the unthinkable happens. Allies fall. Others become enemies. The followers of Balaar march inexplicably toward Aimsir. If it falls, all will be lost.
Also available is Fire Striker (Tearing the Veil 1). Link is to Amazon but it is available in the other major storefronts as well. Here’s the blurb:
Some say monsters aren’t real. Others say the only monsters are those people who aren’t fully human: the witches and shapeshifters, elves and dwarves, and all the others who one day stepped out of the realm of fairy tales and into “real life”. Morgan Walsh knows the truth. Monsters come in all shapes and sizes, and some of the worst are human.
She didn’t start out life as Morgan Walsh. Once upon a time, her name was Adriana Grace Hensen. Everything, including her name, changed the day she turned thirteen. That day she learned several lessons she’d never forget. The first was that monsters were real. The second was that her parents were two of the worst “monsters” alive. The third was that those you trust the most can and will turn on you.
Morgan’s parents betrayed her because she wasn’t “human”. Now she’s back with one goal in mind: vengeance.
Never, ever conspire against a Fire Elemental, especially one with other “talents” as well. When you do, you’d best be prepared to get burned.
Now, to work. Until later!
I second Fiverr. I’ve learned from experience that I’m a writer, not a graphic artist and I don’t have 9,996 more hours to invest in getting good at cover design. Angie from pro_ebookcovers did all six of my book covers (published under a different name, for privacy) for Kindle and paperback. Never paid more than $50 including rights to the photos and the tip, turnaround is mere days. Awesome.
I used them once without success. In fact, I wound up asking Sarah to fix the cover since she had done the others in the series. I went to Fiverr that time because she was swamped and I didn’t want to add one more thing to her list of things to do. But that was my fault. I needed a really fast turnaround and didn’t have time to do full research into the artist. As with anything, you can find good, bad and everything in between on Fiverr. The key is to do your homework and make sure you and the person you are contracting with are on the same page.
You can check Writer Beware if you aren’t sure if some “publisher” is either a scam or something with such a bad contract that it might as well be a scam. Really, though, a bit of common sense should tell you the same thing. Basically, if the Randy Penguin contacts you with an email that would get a third grader scolded and forced to do a re-write (yes, their editors are bad, but they aren’t THAT bad), or if someone is promising the moon, the stars, and a movie based on your book starring Tom Cruise, it’s almost certainly a scam.
You can even write to them if you have something that looks bad. Then they can alert others!
Writer Beware has also warned of several “contests” which have “and then we own your submitted material now, neener-neener” buried in the fine print.
I probably foolishly lost rights to some poems that way twenty-odd years ago, but as I have also lost the actual poems, as in I can’t find them, I guess I couldn’t do anything with them now anyway.
Um. Did you mean to say “inexplicably” here: “the followers of Balaar march inexplicably toward Aimsir” or is that an artifact of autocorrect deciding that’s what you meant?
You know it’s a bad contract when Your IP lawyer says They (Ye Publisher) need to get an IP lawyer to update things to use current legal terms and to clarify things. (I passed the word along. No idea if the University Publisher got the hint or not.)
You know, this indicates a massive opportunity….
For an honest to goodness, publishing company. That is, someone who offers all those things, as a service. They get no right to the books, they don’t sell them for you, they make a book of your stuff in so far as they will print up the books, and do the editing/uploading stuff– maybe even with a publishing company type imprint?
It would have to be a lot more organized than the usual service-for-hire, so you don’t dilute your imprints, but you could get some Amazon and other online vendors push just from having similar stuff coming out regularly.