I Sacked My Publisher!

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About three years ago I was delighted when one of my books was accepted for publication. It was a book that was close to my heart as it involved information from my own family tree and research into the local history of the town where I live.

However, my period of joy at the thought of being published with this particular publisher who claimed to have offices in London and New York, was short lived. I soon became aware of how controlling she was.

My initial contact with her wasn’t good. I’d just sent a query about my historical novel and she sent me an email back saying I should not have contacted her via her personal email address and used the publishing one. She was most off-handed about that.

I replied, “Well this WAS the  query e-mail address given at your website!”

She didn’t know how to answer that as it was her own error, but said she’d pass on my manuscript to the ‘Submissions Department’…little did I know how she operated then. I thought she had people working for her, how wrong was I!

The contract itself should have told me that she was a little different to other publishers, it was 10 pages long and  very detailed, much longer than any other publishing contract I’d ever received. I also had to send copies of my passport and other details I’d never been asked for before. She also insisted I paid a professional photographer for a publicity shot. I’d never been asked that before either. Usually publishers were happy with photographs I’d selected myself.

Not only was I to pay someone for a publicity shot, she even told me what the photograph had to look like, she sent me a photograph of another author at her site. This particular author was posed near a painting, her elbow resting on the mantle piece next to a fire place. This puzzled me as a lot of the other authors on the site had standard sorts of photographs, maybe taken in the park or at home. Anyhow, I complied with her wishes and thankfully, didn’t need to pay anyone as the photographer was a family friend. This was after I’d sent her a photograph I’d had jazzed up and turned into black and white. I couldn’t fool the ‘Great One’ and she wouldn’t accept it, even though I like that photograph and have used it at another publisher’s website. It just wasn’t good enough for her’s.

Then there was the pen name. As the book was historical fiction, I wanted to use a variation of my great-grandmother’s name, but no, I was told I wasn’t allowed to use a pen name.

Outrageous, you might say! As I normally wrote contemporary fiction, I wanted to keep my historical fiction under a different name. She would not budge. She said I should have requested the use of a pen name when I first submitted my manuscript to her. [This was never mentioned on the submissions page at the website nor anywhere else.]

“But I did mention it in the email!” I protested.

No, Ms-I’ve-Got-a- Very-Big-Ego would not budge an inch. I was not allowed a pen name.

I began to feel my power slowly ebbing away.

Then there were the emails to all authors. She wouldn’t allow us to set up our own author group to contact one another, they all came from her as she barked out orders to us.

“Authors! You are not to use the word, ‘Stride’ or any derivatives of it! I absolutely detest that particular word!”

Really? I don’t particularly like some of the words you use either!

“Authors, make sure you fill in that publicity pack I sent you and ensure you book your launches in Waterstones!”

I was even told I couldn’t hold my own book launch at the local library and not to invite family and friends!

I was speechless! After all, even though family and friends might not be our ‘true audience’ as they might tell us authors what we want to hear, they do show their support and some are true fans who will tell their friends about our books and so on.

That, to me, seemed the ultimate in control.

I had to wait for eighteen months to see my book in print, during that time I had written a follow-up book, so I submitted it to her. [I began to realise she controlled everything as when I submitted the manuscript to the ‘Submissions Department’, it was her who answered immediately. I never communicated with any other member of staff, which I found most odd.] Anyhow, she wrote back to me saying, “You should not have submitted that second book. All authors know that a second in a series of books, is not published until a year after the first book goes into print! It’s standard in the publishing industry!”

Really? This particular author didn’t know that nor others I’ve since questioned about it!

Anyhow, all my dealings with her didn’t bode well. When it came to the publication of said novel, she kept putting off the date for edits. Can you guess why? She was running the whole shebang. So she kept getting behind with things, taking on so many submissions and then going through the edits and sorting out her website and promotion, publishing the books, etc. After the third time edits were cancelled and the publishing date had passed on by, I became irate as I’d been telling people the date it would be published and lining up a book launch, etc.

So, nervously, I asked if I could have the rights to my book back. She’s a formidable character who could have grown men trembling at the knees, never mind me!

Guess what?

She refused.

Meanwhile, I discovered other authors had been having trouble with her too. One had actually taken her to court for non payment of translation rights. She ended up having to pay him a large sum. I took advice from another author who’d managed to escape the publishing stable, who told me to get tough with her and threaten legal action, which I did, and eventually several emails later, she gave in, but kept me waiting for the reversion of rights letter.

I’m so glad I got away from her publishing company. I’ve since discovered she has no offices in London nor New York, they were just virtual addresses.

I’ve also found evidence she photoshopped pictures of herself to make herself appear as though she’d been at a movie awards ceremony.

She doesn’t even use her real name and has had several virtual addresses for her business.

Several authors have trotted off, neigh, galloped away from her Stable of Control…but one good thing, being involved with such a publisher from hell has taught me a valuable lesson…sometimes it best to do things yourself. I’ve since self-published that particular novel and its follow up series of books, and they’re selling very well. If I’d remained with her, the first book might never have been published at all, the second wouldn’t have been submitted as I wouldn’t have been allowed to send it to her yet, and the third and fourth wouldn’t have got a look in.

In fact, she reminds me of the Wizard of Oz, making out she’s more powerful than she really is, and I’m like Dorothy, I had the power all along but I didn’t realise it!

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