Finding a publisher isn’t always the end of the story.

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.

So, about that next step… I just got the rights back for that second book and I’m rereleasing it on my own. I don’t know if I can do a better job of selling it than the traditional publisher, but I’m excited to find out.
Wish me luck.

13 thoughts on “Finding a publisher isn’t always the end of the story.

  1. I’ve heard a lot of similar stories from folks who go the traditional publishing route. Of course…it’s hard to see it being all that bad when there are 10,000 sales involved…
    Good luck on your new endeavors!

  2. Good background, Katie. When you get ready to market your book, I’ll host you on my blog, WordDreams ( I have a nice group of readers and writers I’m sure would be interested.

  3. I wish you much luck! I have had similar issues with traditional publishing (no three book deals, but lots of run-around). I went the self-publishing route as a result, and do not regret it. I have one novel out (second one will hopefully be published by the end of the summer) and one short story. Both have done reasonably well with no marketing (I’m in graduate school, so will begin marketing when I’m not spending all of my time writing academic papers) 😉

    Enjoy the process. It’s scary, but having control over your own work is really rewarding.

  4. Wow, what a journey! It sure seems strange that the editor would just disappear and after a successful first book wouldn’t do at least the same effort for the follow up.

    But I’m sure you’ve come out stronger for it. Good luck with the re-release of this book and with what I hope will be many new book to follow!

  5. Well done with the sales on the first book, and I wish you all the luck in the world for handling books 2 and 3 on your own.

  6. Thanks for sharing this story, Katie. I’m probably going to self-pub, hopefully within the next year. I keep hearing such discouraging stories about traditional publishing not going well. You’ve participated in both options with legitimate insight about what works and what doesn’t. I just don’t want my stories to languish forever.

  7. It’s hard to fathom why your publisher became so slack after the success of Monsoon Season. I can imagine it was a very disappointing and frustrating after your initial good experience, but well done on getting control of your work back.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, and I hope you get the sales you should have with A Long Thaw now.

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