The doorbell rang and I went answer, I was bleary eyed and still in my dressing gown. Stood on my doorstep was the postman with a couple of heavy looking, cardboard boxes in his arms. Immediately, I realised those boxes contained copies of my first ever published novel, ‘It Happened One Summer’. It was as if all the fruits of my labour [well that book was my first baby] had suddenly been delivered in those brown boxes.
My heart skipped a beat. I thanked the postie and hefted the heavy boxes through to my living room table, my hands shaking as I tore open the first box to inspect its wares. That particular book was more than two years in the making. It had taken nine months to write, edit and revise, before submitting to a publisher. Then it was several months before I heard my manuscript was accepted and another two years before it would see the light of day. The publishing world moves at a very slow pace at times!
Anyhow, I had decided this particular book would be sold to help raise funds for a local charity I worked for. The charity which needed a new building was keen to put on a big launch at a local castle, which both scared and excited me at the same time.
I picked up a book from the box and inspected it. It was such a thrill to see so many books bearing my name on the front cover.
“Come and take a look at this!” I called to my teenage son.
He came over and picked up a book to inspect it, flipping through the pages. “Mam, they’ve spelled your name wrong!” he exclaimed.
“No, can’t be…” I chuckled nervously. My son is a big joker, so I really thought he was having me on, particularly as my name was spelled correctly on the cover. I picked up a book and flicked through its pages. He was right. Although the book had my name as Lynette Rees on the cover, inside at the top of each page was the name, Lynette Reese – an extra E added to my surname.
I had no idea what my editor had been thinking, other than Reese’s Peanut Buttercups! My publisher was American and that product is popular across The Pond.
I picked up another book and flicked through its pages, hoping that book would be different somehow. But no, all books bared the same mistake. I was mortified. It would be too late to order new copies for the launch as those boxes of books had already taken weeks to arrive.
I immediately contacted the publisher who refused to take any responsibility for their error. They didn’t even offer any free copies of an amended version of the book, so in the end I had to use those books for the launch.
Did it spoil a special day? No, not really. All copies sold out, there wasn’t even one left for the Mayor! We immediately ordered more and I was reassured that this time the mistake would be amended. But the damage was done, I no longer trusted the publisher, particularly as I had to pay a $90.00 so-called set up fee for some deal they had with their printer. The lady who did the printing was also one of their authors.
A second follow-up book was due for publication, but I demanded my rights back after the first print run fiasco, and finally after some argy bargy, got the rights returned. I did self-publish for a while using Lulu.com, which was okay. Someone gave me free cover art for it, but I wanted the book to look more professional, so I found a new publisher, who published the first and second books without asking for a single cent! I also received some free copies of both books, so that was a bonus.
So that was a lesson well learned after my dealings with that first publisher: DO NOT PAY A PUBLISHER ANYTHING AT ALL!!
Actually, I’ve learned several lessons over the years regarding publishers.
Another publisher who claimed that her authors earned up to $3000 a month, published one of my books. I’d worked really hard on that book but disliked the assigned cover as the hero of the story had man boobs!! Seriously, the couple on the cover looked attractive, but my eye was continuously drawn to his size 46 GG cups! I pointed this out to the publisher in an email asking if I could have the cover changed. She laughed it off and made out that the cover artist would trim them, but when she sent me the new cover it looked exactly the same as the first to me! I also hated the fact the book’s title was changed to a bland one, too — ‘Beneath a Sicilian Sun’ sounded more like a Thompson Holiday ad to me than a steamy, suspenseful novel.
Whether the cover and title affected book sales I don’t know, but after a year of the book hardly selling a copy, I asked for my rights back and self-published it. That book has gone on to sell far more copies than it ever did with the publisher. I was now using the title I wanted for the book all along, which is, ‘The Sicilian’s Proposition’. The publisher refused to allow me to use that title as she said it sounded too ‘crime oriented’. Well there were some elements of crime in the book anyhow, so go figure! After all that work, I received a cheque for a measly two dollars from the publisher! Not even enough to buy a cup of espresso coffee! She hardly made me an offer I couldn’t refuse!!
The third publisher I had problems with published my crime fiction book. I asked could it go into print as I wanted to sell it at a local book fair. He categorically refused, saying the only way that could ever happen would be if I paid him £500 for the privilege!!! Obviously, I didn’t take him up on his offer that was another I could well refuse! I could have published that book myself free of charge using the Create Space website. I asked for my rights back, which he refused to give me. He told me I couldn’t get them back unless I paid him another £500! Notice a pattern here? He has since relented and I’ve got the rights to the book reverted to myself without having to pay anything. I’ve since republished that book under a different title and it has a new cover. It’s now sold more copies in a couple of weeks than that publisher did in a couple of years for me!
Authors shouldn’t kid themselves. If a publisher asks for ANY money, be it as a ‘set-up’ fee for a printer or to issue print copies in general, then that’s not right at all. The publisher should ALWAYS foot the bill.
MONEY SHOULD ALWAYS FLOW TOWARDS THE AUTHOR, NOT AWAY FROM THEM!!
What I love most about Indie Publishing is that I have full creative control over my work. I can change the cover and title of my book if I feel it’s not selling as well as it should; I can even make changes to the story if necessary; and best of all, I can set my own royalties. With Kindle Direct Publishing I can set my royalties at up to 70 % per book, that’s far more than any publisher would ever pay me.
I love self-publishing, though I do think it needs to be done well. Authors need to have their work proofread and properly formatted. Self-publishing shouldn’t mean sloppy publishing.
Authors like Rachel Abbot and L. J. Ross have done tremendously well for themselves becoming extremely successful, bestselling authors, in their own rights – newspaper articles have been written about them and their individual rising success!
I was astonished when my own book, The Workhouse Waif, hit the bestseller list on Kindle last October, which proves if you have the tenacity to keep going and do what you feel is best for your own interests as an author, then you can become successful. As I write this, the book is number three in the Victorian Historical Romance chart alongside The Waterstone Book of the Year and the Richard and Judy Bestseller! Not too shabby for a self-published author, don’t you think?
In all honesty, I wished I’d listened to my son who tried to encourage me to self-publish years ago. Still, I’m doing it now and my book sales are fantastic as a result, I’m earning far more as an Indie author than I ever did when I was with any publisher!! It’s more than I could ever have dreamt of…