I have always been a bit of a snob when it comes to self-publishing. In theory, I like the idea of making publishing democratic by eliminating the gate-keepers, but without some sort of filter, how do readers find the good stuff in all the slush?
I shied away from self-publishing, insisting on the validation that traditional publishing provides. A few years ago, I got exactly that: a publisher with a three book deal, a contract, an advance, an editor to work with. We went back and forth on cover revisions. There were book bloggers who did reviews and twitter updates from the publisher. Months later, when the sales were finally reported to me, Monsoon Season had sold over 10,000 ebooks. I was elated.
Things went very differently with the second book, however. In order to get me to sign over all three titles, I had been told they planned to release all the books in the same summer. But a year later, that hadn’t happened and my editor stopped returning my emails for such a long period of time that I actually thought she might be dead. When she did get back in touch, she ignored my questions and we began the editing process. This time, I had no input about the cover – a decidedly summer image for a story that takes place in the winter, called A Long Thaw – and there was no promotion on their end. No reaching out to bloggers, as with the first book, not so much as a single tweet.
Not surprisingly, the second book didn’t do as well. It took awhile, but I was able to get out of the contract so they wouldn’t have the rights to the third book or any option thereafter. This is particularly tricky when you don’t have an agent or a law degree.
Getting out of a contract with a publisher was a very strange feeling for someone who always thought that was the brass ring. It was a hard fought victory that put me back in control of the way my work is promoted. And that’s exciting, but also a bit daunting.
I certainly don’t regret the route I took. I learned a lot and I probably wouldn’t have the confidence to take the next step if not for the validation I felt in the process- from my publisher and editor and, ultimately, from readers.