Perhaps that’s harsh, but the reality is that I’ve been saying this for a while. I repeat it now because I got a nasty shock this week: the publisher who published my first book, Battleground Earth – Living by Faith in a Pagan World, closed last summer. And I received no notification, or my rights back to the book. I learned this when I tried to query them for my latest inspirational book, Joy on the Journey, and the messages kept bouncing back as undeliverable. It didn’t take much online digging to find a lot of venom over yet another publisher smashing the dreams of writers, and wishing new and inventive layers of hell upon them for their wrongs.
Not that Battleground Earth is selling anymore anyway. My reliable sellers are my mystery and scifi novels, so it’s not like I need to join the lawsuit for royalties, since everybody who was going to buy it did so back in 2004-2005 when it released. The point is the principle behind the thing. I got a nastygram email from somebody at PublishAmerica a little over a year ago over posting some chapters of Battleground Earth online for promotion, with a lot of language about “breech of contract” and “exclusive rights.” How dare they talk to me like that, and then THEY breech the contract by closing their doors and not returning those rights, per the same contract they griped at me about over promotion! I said a prayer of gratitude that I didn’t publish anything else through them. In fact, I only tried to query them about Joy on the Journey as a professional courtesy. Honestly, it’s a relief to learn that I’m free to self publish this. But it still pisses me off that they did me, and so many other writers, wrong by holding our books hostage while they muddle through their internal drama. And so here we are, with me preparing to self publish as I wanted anyway, and writing a pissed off blog about the scoundrels who think they should have the right to tell others what’s “good enough” when they can’t attend to their own affairs.
What’s worse is that PublishAmerica isn’t the only publisher to do this. This year alone, I’ve lost count of how many publishers have closed their doors. It’s ridiculous, and it’s why it’s time for the traditional publishing industry to die. It’s outdated, and it’s gotten too big for it’s britches. It’s time for revolution, folks. And here, 500 years after the catalyst for the Protestant Reformation, I’d suggest taking a page from Martin Luther and nailing our grievances to their doors – if they still had doors to nail them to!
So no mischief. We’ll do this right. Writers, I encourage you now more than ever to self publish. Don’t get caught in the trap of putting your creative dreams in the hands of those who only care about money for themselves. Keep that control. Trust me, I have enough experience to tell you that they won’t promote for you – and in fact, you’ll have more and better ability to promote without a contract tying you down saying “sell it, but you can’t post samples, adjust price point, or basically do anything that will encourage readers to give a new writer a chance.”
To hell with that. Arm yourself, and educate yourself. Start by getting the Smashwords Style Guide. It’s free, and will tell you everything you need to know about preparing and formatting your book to self publish. It even tells you how to request lists from Mark Cocker, the author and founder of Smashwords, on graphic artists and formatters who can help you if you get stuck. The book is free; all you have to do is set up a Smashwords account, which is quick and simple. I’ll talk about other tips to self publish in upcoming entries. For now, start with getting that guide and getting your manuscript ready to publish by yourself, with no middle man required!
Readers, I also want you to know that you have more options available than the bookstore. Ebooks can open a new world of endless variety to you with talented indie authors that the traditional publishers wouldn’t give the time of day. I know you like the “feel” of a book in your hands, but you’re a hypocrite if you surf the internet on a phone or tablet and won’t give ebooks a chance – especially since the ereader apps are free. Come on, give it a shot. Reading ebooks doesn’t mean you can never read a hardback or paperback again. If you truly love to read, then a great story is all that matters. Who cares how it’s delivered, be it ebook, audiobook, or the old-fashioned way? Besides, have you noticed that all of those books by the “big publishers” seem to sound the same after a while? That’s because they don’t tolerate different! If you want something new, then you have to strike out on the new way of this indie ebook revolution!
In the meantime, Joy on the Journey is published! And it’s ready now, not a year from now after diddling with acquisitions and timelines and deadlines and schedules and the convenience of others.
That’s all today. Take care. Have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a wonderful weekend.