***My point with this journal entry is not to complain about my publisher, but to explain why I am no longer a published author on 14 September 2023 and why my publisher has unpublishing all my novels at once outside of contract renewal, and why I'm not upset about any of it.
In October 2016, after 2 years and 46 rejections, a publisher finally sent me my wish come true: their editor said my debut novel, The War Queen, had a lot of "angst" and I was being offered a publishing contract. My head spun. I couldn't believe it! Floating on euphoria, I had a lawyer look over the contract to make sure it was legit, I signed, and the next months brought communication back and forth between my editor and I, then the cover, then publication.
My contract with my publisher, and I knew this before I signed, said my books would be available as ebook form only unless I could sell enough ebooks to "earn" my books to become paperbacks. So I set out to market like crazy that first year, however, I still never sold enough ebooks to make The War Queen into paperback. So like any good author should do, I wrote more books and published The Last Wizard series with Publisher (actual name of publisher removed because of that whole "defamation" thing in my contract). I increased my newsletter subscribers, and just continued to hum along. My entire family supported my publication, though most of them are not ebook readers and so, to this day 7 years later, they have never read anything I've published because all my books are still ebook only and found nowhere in print.
Still knowing writing more books brings in more readers, I wrote another book called "Infamy's Wish", a novel written in the same universe as The War Queen. Where I wrote The War Queen to celebrate females, I then wrote Infamy's Wish to celebrate men and how wonderful men are. Being an in-house author with Publisher, I submitted Infamy's Wish for their consideration. This, I see now, was the start of my deteriorating relationship with Publisher. The editor returned Infamy's Wish with this note:
There's a troubling contrast between domineering 'logical' men and
subservient, 'emotional' women. It's unrealistic that a woman should be
at peace knowing there's a big, strong man looking after her. This type
of storyline weakens her believability, especially with today's readers.
They want strong heroines.
I could not believe what I had just read. Unrealistic? To men everywhere, this is an incredible insult. I am married to a big, strong man looking after me, and I love him so much for it. It was made clear to me then that Publisher is a misandrist. The War Queen is nearly the direct opposite of Infamy's Wish, and yet it's okay for women to be domineering but not men? This sickens me. I have massive respect for men
I then pitched to my publisher a YA novel called Paragon Forgotten, but she only publishes in the adult genre. All this was 3 years ago. I have not published another book since. I have since decided to self-publish Paragon Forgotten fall of 2023, but that's another story.
February 2023, Publisher pushed out an email that said, as a reminder, she would be unavailable to author correspondence while she was on vacation, and as a side note she was terrified of flying because she was going to be on a plan with "toxic people". The email thread is as follows.
ME: What do you mean by toxic people?
PUBLISHER: Toxic as in with covid. I just passed the three year date of my near life-ending illness (15 Feb) and have managed to not get covid. If I'm going to get it anywhere, it's bound to be the plane.
ME: Your last email "Reminder" felt more like a personal venting session than it did a professional correspondence, specifically when you mentioned your presumed fears of "toxic people" and how you were nervous about flying with them. I feel a direct offense at being referred to as "toxic" since I also partake in flying on a plane, which gave off a tone that everyone but you has covid. When Publisher sends out emails, please keep them professional and directly related to Publisher, books, etc. As nicely as I can put this, I didn't sign up for your emails to hear your personal opinions.
Ouch? Sure, but I'm not going to sit back and nicely take garbage like that. As you can see from my response, this is insight into my deteriorating relationship with Publisher. My books still available as ebook only, her refusal to publish anything else I wrote, was pushing me to self-publish my next novel, build a better readership with it (since I'll make it into print) and then bring readers back to my backlist with Publisher. See, I am still trying to repay the investment for each of my books with Publisher (each book is on a 5 year renewal) because I DO care about my books and I DO want to attract readers because I'm an author and I don't give up.
31 August 2023, this email thread happened:
PUBLISHER: As we're heading into fall soon, this is usually the time we review our content, and with it, the contracts. I see that the only book still under original contract is The Illusions in Between, book 3 of the Last Wizard series. This book expires contract mid May 2024. The rest of the series is on annual rollover, as is The War Queen, since October 2021. When you get a minute, would you please update me on your plans for the future of your books with Publisher?
ME: I plan to renew my contract for Illusions In Between with Publisher.
PUBLISHER: Please refer to your Amazon income since you came to us in 2016. Between December 2020 and November 2022, you sold only 7 books in that 22 month period.
For us to continue hosting your books, we need to see more active promotion and marketing to bring up your sales. You seem to have given up all of your social media accounts, and your FB group is so private, that no one can find it. Your sales ranks are in the millions. As I'm sure you're aware, your sales go toward repaying the investment we made in your books. Books collecting dust don't do that. With the holidays coming up soon, this would be a good time to make the effort to resurrect your books. We're here to work with you to get your books in front of readers, but we can't do all the work for you. Let me know how we can help.
ME: I can't deny the facts. Here's some more:
1) I have lost many readers because they only read print books and my books are ebook only. My own family won't even read them because my own family only reads print books. This has declined my sales.
2) A sure-fire way to build readership is to write more books. I submitted a novel, a sequel to The War Queen, to Publisher and it was rejected by the editor. I corrected what the editor suggested and I submitted again. It was rejected a second time. I didn't understand this because the purpose of an editor is to edit, and the notes they provided was everything I could have worked with them on, but they declined. Almost as if they wanted to be paid to edit without actually editing. Unable to publish more books has declined my sales.
3) So I wrote another 5 books, but they are coming-of-age novels and Publisher only publishes in the adult genre. Cutting out an entire and very popular genre has lessened the amount of readers who might be interested in Publisher books. Unable to publish more books through Publisher and unable to attract more readers (YA readers) have declined my sales.
4) After you emailed me this morning I did some soul searching. I searched Amazon's best seller books to see what was making them successful and saw that, not only were these best seller books available as ebook, paperback, hardback, but audio, too. And for that, the average price for their ebooks are $13.99. Not $2.99.
5) I sought out the opinions of others. I'm involved in both writing and reading groups on Facebook. I asked the hive mind what they thought of an author's books being available ONLY as an ebook. I got over 48 responses and I screenshotted them. (see below). (The bottom line is, ebook only is terrible for exposure and marketing and I can just as easily do it myself if that's all a publisher is offering me.) The hard truth is self-published authors who make their books available on more than one platform (ebook AND print) are selling far more books than I am. My sales have declined due to marketing to an extremely small audience: adults only who read ebook only Because the adult genre and ebook only format is all Publisher publishes.
6) I next did a google search for a book vs. ebook report and found a 2021 survey that revealed 68% of younger readers prefer print books, and the U.S. market demonstrates a continued preference for print books.
7) All my books are available on Overdrive. However, none of my books are available at any library anywhere. For my local library, I requested they order my books to have in stock, to which they declined. If I had a PRINT book to give to them, they'd put it on their shelf and people could see it, check it out, and read it. My sales have declined because libraries have declined to order my books.
I do care about my career as an author. I care a lot. I care so much I've been, for the last while, researching marketing and how to increase my sales, and my above list is my report on why my sales have been so terrible. As any good marketer should do, I've identified the problems and am implementing fixes:
1) I am self publishing the coming-of-age novels (5 of them) Publisher refused to and I intend to release them as ebook, paperback, hardback, and audio.
2) Publish more books ( my 5 COA novels) is a sure-fire way to draw in more readers.
3) I will price my ebooks to be competitive in the market (an average $13.99) A $2.99 price point for an ebook shows potential readers that I / my publisher doesn't think my book is worth more than that, and the readers likely think it's trash because why else is it priced so low when best sellers are selling theirs for $13.99?
4) I will have book signings with my print books
5) I will donate my books to my local libraries and schools.
I'm working as an Army Recruiter right now, and I find it funny how similar it is to being an author: we both have a product to sell. As an author, I'm stunted because my books are available on only one platform, and apparently not even the most popular platform. As a recruiter, however, I am instructed to go anywhere and everywhere people are: text, social media, phone calls, and face-to-face in the community. It would be ridiculous as a recruiter to limit myself to only social media to find recruits for the Army. To date, I haven't found a single person on social media to join the Army. However, I have, to date, found 2 via phone call and 1 face-to-face. This shows me it is far more lucrative to have my books available on all platforms instead of just one.
You keep saying the same things over and over why you are ebook only, and you're likely going to hit reply to this email and say all those same excuses again, but it doesn't matter because Publisher has been a dead-end road for me and if I'm to be successful, I need to take a different road. The question I've asked myself is this: what is Publisher doing for me that I can't already do for myself? I need to market to more than adults, to more than just ebook-only readers. Publisher does not allow me to do that. So unless Publisher opens up the YA genre and makes all author books available as paperback, I'm opting to not renew my contract with The Illusions In Between come May 2024, and every book hereafter as it comes up for renewal, I will decline to renew. I'm moving on to a different road to see if I can be more successful there.
PUBLISHER: (We) have been talking about your email and have decided, rather than rehashing all of this with you again, and because it's always someone else's fault than your own, we're just going to return the rights to your original submissions. We have this on our schedule for next week which will include a full ROR letter so you can republish these books at will. We'll only return the rights to the text portion of the books. If you wish to obtain the covers, this can be done at a cost of $150 per cover. However, if you take all four, we can offer a cost of $500. They will be sent as unbranded images. Let me know if you have any questions and how you would like to proceed.
ME: I'm satisfied waiting until each book's contract expires. My sales are poor, but allowing the contracts to expire naturally will still bring in more sales than removing them from publication and distribution right now outside of the contract duration. I have an event planned for October where I'm printing large posters of each of my covers and displaying them at a local downtown event (brings in hundreds of people) and I'm going to have QR codes so browsers can watch my book trailers, read blurbs, and get free stuff (bookmarks and a signed copy of my anthology I have published with another publisher). I'm also self-publishing a novel in October so promoting that will draw readers to my backlist. You renewed my contract for The Foes Between Us (May 2023). If there had been an issue as major as giving me the rights for all my books back to me as early as next week, then you wouldn't have allowed me to renew The Foes Between Us. This tells me your decision to return my rights right now is an emotional decision and not a business one.
My counter offer is what I said in my last email: I'll let each of my contracts run out and will decline to renew them. This will allow more sales, as poor as they are, to still come in during that time. Doing this helps you out more than me. I'm opting to allow all my contracts to run out so I can still make attempts to repay the investment for each book until they do. Passive income is better than no income. That's a smart business decision. As for me, it makes no difference if you return my rights right now or not.
And, because I was curious, I did some research into my publisher. She also writes and publishes books under her company. I compared her books on Amazon against books for another author also with Publisher. This author is one of Publisher's best selling authors and does very well. See below.
And Author's book
So this successful Publisher author doesn't have a hardback, but my publisher gave herself a hardback even though she's thousands of reviews lower? But the emails about unpublishing my books continue:
PUBLISHER: As you will have seen, your ROR has been sent for your books and you'll find your titles are already starting to come down. The ROR is post dated for Friday next, 22nd of Sept, to give all retailers a change to take down the books and for the changes to propagate through the worldwide system. The reasons for removing your books now rather than waiting until the contract for The Illusions in Between expires in May 2024 comes down to a few things, and in no particular order...
- Your statement that you don't plan on keeping your books with us after May 2024.
- Lack of obvious promotion and marketing leading to poor discoverability
- Poor sales
ME: I need more specifics on each books' reason for being unpublished.
- I made a statement saying I wanted each book to reach its contract's expire date, so I require an explanation why that was not honored.
- For marketing, I need to know specifically what guidelines you graded me off. I made efforts to market my books, so I want to know how you expected me to market and how I did not meet your expectations.
- Define what you mean by "poor sale". What price point did you expect each book to hit, and how did I come short of that?
To be continued..........