Instead of it being my dream come true, my book launch was the thing nightmares are made of. Although it's been over a month, I'm still having bad dreams, panic attacks, not sleeping, I've lost 22 lbs., I'm not eating, I can't write much of anything, I still break out in spontaneous tears. I was humiliated in front of my colleagues, my friends, my family, my bosses, the University benefactors, and even some media (who kindly said NOTHING about it).
Not only was this happening, but my uncle died on his way to my signing--wanting to help me celebrate my big moment. So it was as if he died for nothing. My family and close friends were in deep sorrow for his loss that night while still trying to be up for my sake. (We were all an emotional mess from crying all day) and then to have the publisher do what he did... it was my own personal hell.
Not saying who was right or wrong and not getting into the exact details (so take it with a grain of salt knowing there's always two sides to a story), basically the books weren't printed until the last minute. The publisher changed the fonts and colors and back cover blurb and fonts without me or the graphics person knowing about it. Plus when he changed it, he misspelled the word Angels. Instead, the title and spine were printed as Wrath of 'Angles.' No, it wasn't a book about mad mathematicians. There were font issues and typos on the back cover as well.
The University, who was sponsoring the author reception and signing, told the publisher he couldn't sell a book with such obvious typos, especially since it was an academic environment AND my job at the University is to fix typos in the national library databases. And there weren't just typos on the outside, but on the inside. A serious typo was on page 2 of one book! It would have left the University and me with a black eye. It still did in a way.
Long story short, I ended up having to print the books as promotional copies (without an ISBN) at a local printer in order to have physical books in time for the signing. It was either do it or have no books at the book signing. The publisher then informed me I was in breach of contract for printing more than 7,500 words and for being in competition with him when I told him I needed to make the money back for what it cost me to print them and for the promotional materials costs, so he had to either let me sell the promotional copies or pay me for them. He refused to do either (even though he had given me permission to print corrected copies at the espresso book machine in downtown Denver using his .pdf) which I couldn't physically do because of my health issues, nor could I afford it. Nor did I know what kind of set up costs, computer skills, etc. would be needed to do this. And it was very expensive.
I guess neither of us trusted the other. He wouldn't give me the money without the printer's receipt (which was at my house an hour and half round trip from the University and which I said I would fax to him as soon as I got home. I never even thought about bringing it with me. I was notably overwhelmed by everything, all the relatives and people in the house helping me get ready, planning the funeral, etc.). And I didn't trust him when he said he would send me a check for it later. He had already said he would send me a check for some of the promotional materials which I had yet to see.
He walked out on the signing, telling me his lawyer advised him to leave and to tell me I couldn't sell any books. This was after everyone was already there, seated and waiting (and listening to us in the back of the room). I ended up having to just give the books away and take the loss.
To make matters worse, I'm going to have to send the publisher's books back at my own expense (yes, the books I was told I couldn't sell.) That's another $200 or more out of my pocket. I'm handicapped. I can't drive. I'm on a fixed and reduced disability income. I've already had to take a hit for the printing costs and for the promotional materials. It was a very expensive lesson to learn.