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Glass Valkyrie
08-15-2016, 10:47 PM
OK, well, I am at a crossroads of sorts and would like some advice.

As many of you know, I have a couple of books with publishers.

Here is the sitch on those:

The first is volume one of a children's chapter book series. I actually have a contract for five books in this series with the potential to add more down the road. This publisher is a very small press, and I thought long and hard before signing with them. Although I feel like my series is pretty good, I know of the troubles with pitching chapter books to agents; it's a much harder sell than middle grade and most agents don't even specify if that accept CB submissions or not. I called the publisher and talked with her for a while before making my decision. She was very polite and answered all my questions satisfactorily. Now it has been two months and I haven't heard a peep. I emailed a couple of days ago, maybe I'll get a response soon.

The second book is one I wrote when I was 15. I honestly felt like it would be a waste of time subbing it to agents, so I just submitted to small presses. To my surprise, I got a fair amount of interest. I was offered contracts by about three publishers (one of which is the publisher that has my other series), and one offer to R&R. I looked into all of them and found some had some pretty bad reviews, so I declined those. One offered to publish it but when they sent the contract it said I had to pay them $12,000. Uhm, no. Another publisher I found was upfront about asking for money. They offer what seems to be a really good marketing strategy plus a wide distribution in both print and ebook. I knew my manuscript really needed some heavy editing (which is why I didn't want to go with my other publisher because in the reviews I found for them, it seems that was their major flaw) and when I looked up the costs of having it edited professionally, well it would be around $4,000; less than what this company was asking for. So, after much debate, I paid a deposit with the understanding that I wouldn't need to pay anything else until August sometime (this was in mid June). I received a letter the other day saying I was behind in payments and that I owed two installments now. Two? Not what they told me. I am worried that if I am already seeing problems, then things will only get worse down the road.

So, my options: either fork over the extra cash (which I really don't have), cancel the agreement with the current publisher and switch to the publisher that has my series (although communication is lacking which is driving me batty), or self-publish the darn thing.

On another note, I have several projects I am working on and I'm not sure what to do with them when I am done. I am not a very patient human, and all this waiting around on responses and the long publication times is really .... tiresome. But if I self-publish, then I can release books on my own terms. However, it is hard to get noticed or placed in actual bookstores with self-publishing (not that I write to get famous, but I would like to be able to make a modest living with it).

Over all, my head hurts. I am so overwhelmed by all of this. I'm not sure if I have made the right decisions for my books or not and am worried about making even worse decisions for my future books. Any suggestions or advice would be appreciated. Thank you all in advance.

CathleenT
08-15-2016, 11:11 PM
I've decided to self-publish to build an audience and then later take a stab at trade. I still have no idea if this was the "right" decision, but it fits my personality better. Having something I can do--even if it is overwhelming--is far better for me than waiting on someone else.

Other people here are more qualified than I to comment on the pluses and minuses of your situation, so I'll bow out there.

But I will suggest ditching the worry as soon as you can. It eats away at your productivity and contributes nothing. It may be that both paths would work for you--you're just choosing which one fits you better.

Feel free to email me if you want to chat more on this. I'm totally willing to share my very preliminary conclusions in more depth--as long as you realize I'm no sage. I'm struggling along just like you. :)

J. Tanner
08-16-2016, 05:53 AM
When we talk about trade publishers, including small press, the basic rule is that the money flows to the writer.

They pay for the cover. They pay for the editing. They pay (you) for the writing.

If they ask you to pay for something, they generally would not be considered a reputable trade publisher.

Publishers that ask you to pay are most likely what is referred to a "vanity press". They typically make their money by charging hopeful authors outrageous fees for services rather than making money by publishing books. You generally want to avoid such places. (There are a few unusual exceptions where they can be helpful, but nothing in your post makes you sound like the exception.)

The third option is self-publishing where you DIY direct to a retailer like Amazon, B&N, Kobo and/or iTunes. This will be the finished book. You will contract out and pay for the cover and editing yourself before you publish.

This is a very simplified explanation of publishing options. There's a ton of nuance beyond these basics (except for vanity presses which pretty well suck.)

Glass Valkyrie
08-16-2016, 06:22 AM
Yes, I am aware of all of that. I am not a new writer. I have two self-published short stories on Amazon so I am familiar with the self-publishing process. I know what a vanity press is and like I said in my post, I looked at what the company had to offer for the cost and what they offered far out-weighed what I would be able to do if I just did everything myself. The price they wanted was less than what it would cost for me to have my manuscript professionally edited and commissioned a cover myself. I did not make the decision lightly.

At this point, if I self published it, I would probably forego the editor and just try and do it myself.

debergerac
08-16-2016, 06:57 AM
For me, with the second piece I like the idea of doing an e-pub and paying an editor. Or self-pub and paying an editor. What makes me uncomfortable about this place you'd have to pay, is lack of transparency. It's hard to know how much of your money is spent on which part of the publishing process.
I would be more comfortable doing a deal and taking a chance on a less experienced editor and that I am able to choose myself.

Glass Valkyrie
08-16-2016, 07:05 AM
For me, with the second piece I like the idea of doing an e-pub and paying an editor. Or self-pub and paying an editor. What makes me uncomfortable about this place you'd have to pay, is lack of transparency. It's hard to know how much of your money is spent on which part of the publishing process.
I would be more comfortable doing a deal and taking a chance on a less experienced editor and that I am able to choose myself.

Very true. I would like having more control over it. I think my main concern is marketing, although I have been researching more options I could do on my own. That was a big factor in this other place as they had a pretty sound marketing plan, but if I can do some leg work on my own and get similar results... I would really like to be able to get it in physical bookstores, but I can always try for that at a later date.

Old Hack
08-16-2016, 10:16 AM
OK, well, I am at a crossroads of sorts and would like some advice.

As many of you know, I have a couple of books with publishers.

Here is the sitch on those:

The first is volume one of a children's chapter book series. I actually have a contract for five books in this series with the potential to add more down the road. This publisher is a very small press, and I thought long and hard before signing with them. Although I feel like my series is pretty good, I know of the troubles with pitching chapter books to agents; it's a much harder sell than middle grade and most agents don't even specify if that accept CB submissions or not. I called the publisher and talked with her for a while before making my decision. She was very polite and answered all my questions satisfactorily. Now it has been two months and I haven't heard a peep. I emailed a couple of days ago, maybe I'll get a response soon.

What stage have you got to with this contract? Is it all agreed and signed, or have you been offered the contract but not yet signed it?

If you've not yet signed it then consider whether the publisher has its books on bookshop shelves, as that's so important for sales in this genre. And if not, consider whether other more high-profile publishers might like it (assuming you've not already tried them).


The second book is one I wrote when I was 15. I honestly felt like it would be a waste of time subbing it to agents, so I just submitted to small presses. To my surprise, I got a fair amount of interest.

At this point, I would have probably advised you to stop sending it to publishers and start sending it to agents.


I was offered contracts by about three publishers (one of which is the publisher that has my other series), and one offer to R&R. I looked into all of them and found some had some pretty bad reviews, so I declined those. One offered to publish it but when they sent the contract it said I had to pay them $12,000. Uhm, no. Another publisher I found was upfront about asking for money.

I wouldn't get involved with any publishers which expect you to pay for anything. Such publishers give you all the hard work involved with self publishing, but with none of the control.


They offer what seems to be a really good marketing strategy plus a wide distribution in both print and ebook.

The term "distribution" is often used to mean "lists books in lots of places online and crosses fingers", but it's not the same as the distribution that good trade publishers use. They have contracts with distributors which actively sell their books into various physical retailers, which is a much more effective way of selling books. Don't confuse the two, or assume that the former is anything like as effective as the latter.


I knew my manuscript really needed some heavy editing (which is why I didn't want to go with my other publisher because in the reviews I found for them, it seems that was their major flaw) and when I looked up the costs of having it edited professionally, well it would be around $4,000; less than what this company was asking for. So, after much debate, I paid a deposit with the understanding that I wouldn't need to pay anything else until August sometime (this was in mid June). I received a letter the other day saying I was behind in payments and that I owed two installments now. Two? Not what they told me. I am worried that if I am already seeing problems, then things will only get worse down the road.

If you read some of the self publishing diaries here you'll find lots of our members get their books edited for far less than $4k--sometimes for less than $400. And they keep control of their books.

They're now trying to get you to make more payments than you signed up for? This doesn't sound good for you, I'm afraid.


So, my options: either fork over the extra cash (which I really don't have), cancel the agreement with the current publisher and switch to the publisher that has my series (although communication is lacking which is driving me batty), or self-publish the darn thing.

Or look for an agent.


On another note, I have several projects I am working on and I'm not sure what to do with them when I am done. I am not a very patient human, and all this waiting around on responses and the long publication times is really .... tiresome. But if I self-publish, then I can release books on my own terms. However, it is hard to get noticed or placed in actual bookstores with self-publishing (not that I write to get famous, but I would like to be able to make a modest living with it).

Most writers don't make a living from their work.

The good thing about having an agent and being trade published is that all you have to do, most of the time, is write. You get to leave everything else to your agent and publisher, so there's less waiting because you don't need to worry about stuff once your books are out of your hands.

The good thing about self publishing is that you control everything. But it's hard, hard work and you are very unlikely to get bookshop placement.


For me, with the second piece I like the idea of doing an e-pub and paying an editor. Or self-pub and paying an editor. What makes me uncomfortable about this place you'd have to pay, is lack of transparency. It's hard to know how much of your money is spent on which part of the publishing process.
I would be more comfortable doing a deal and taking a chance on a less experienced editor and that I am able to choose myself.

debergerac, you seem to be a little confused.

Can you explain what you mean by "doing an e-pub"?


Very true. I would like having more control over it. I think my main concern is marketing, although I have been researching more options I could do on my own. That was a big factor in this other place as they had a pretty sound marketing plan, but if I can do some leg work on my own and get similar results... I would really like to be able to get it in physical bookstores, but I can always try for that at a later date.

If your book is under contract to a publisher you're probably not going to be able to try to get it into bookshops later, because the publisher will own the rights and it will be up to them to place your book. If you self publish you're going to really struggle to get your book into bookshops because you don't have access to the distributors which make this happen. If you want bookshop placement you need to get a deal with a good trade publisher. It's the only way. And they're not likely to take on a book which was previously self published.

Barbara R.
08-16-2016, 03:53 PM
Yes, I am aware of all of that. I am not a new writer. I have two self-published short stories on Amazon so I am familiar with the self-publishing process. I know what a vanity press is and like I said in my post, I looked at what the company had to offer for the cost and what they offered far out-weighed what I would be able to do if I just did everything myself. The price they wanted was less than what it would cost for me to have my manuscript professionally edited and commissioned a cover myself. I did not make the decision lightly.

At this point, if I self published it, I would probably forego the editor and just try and do it myself.

They say they will edit your book, but who actually does the editing? Some kid they hired for $12 an hour? Personally, if I were going to self-publish, I'd want the best freelance editor I can find, and I'd want to vet him/her myself. I wouldn't want some tryo's fingerprints all over my work; I'd want someone who can help me bring the book further than I could alone. Good editing is a real skill, and it doesn't come cheap; and somehow I doubt these vanity companies (which is what the one you describe is, however reasonably priced) provide it.

Also, if you do sign with this company, make sure you have a good reversion clause in the contract, including a time limit to the rights grant. so if you're not happy you can eventually get the rights back.

On the general question of whether to publish or self-publish, it depends very much on the sort of books you write and your goals. I break it down in this post (http://barbararogan.com/blog/?p=802), if you're interested.

Good luck!

J. Tanner
08-16-2016, 06:51 PM
I know what a vanity press is and like I said in my post, I looked at what the company had to offer for the cost and what they offered far out-weighed what I would be able to do if I just did everything myself. The price they wanted was less than what it would cost for me to have my manuscript professionally edited and commissioned a cover myself.

Perhaps it's just me, but in that case, I find the phrasing in your first post confusing. It sounds like you were surprised about getting a bill from a vanity press in one instance, and this phrase...


I looked up the costs of having it edited professionally, well it would be around $4,000; less than what this company was asking for.

...reads to me as if you gauged the self-pub cost at $4K, and then went with a vanity press that charged more, which doesn't make a lot of sense. So maybe it's me being dense, and you meant the opposite, that the vanity press would be less than $4K.

So, without knowing the details of your book, $4K sounds VERY high for self-pub editing. You could get a premier developmental editor, and a copy editor, and a proofreader for a 100K word book and probably still not hit that $4K if you shopped around. And most self-publishers just get a single good copy-editor for $1000 or less.

And then on the vanity press side, they tend to overcharge for terrible "editing" in name only so even if the price were similar going with a vetted editor you find yourself is pretty much always the better call.

Anyway, apologies for perhaps misjudging your level of experience in publishing, but a lot of things in that post read like red flags even with a second look.

Glass Valkyrie
08-16-2016, 07:33 PM
They say they will edit your book, but who actually does the editing? Some kid they hired for $12 an hour? Personally, if I were going to self-publish, I'd want the best freelance editor I can find, and I'd want to vet him/her myself. I wouldn't want some tryo's fingerprints all over my work; I'd want someone who can help me bring the book further than I could alone. Good editing is a real skill, and it doesn't come cheap; and somehow I doubt these vanity companies (which is what the one you describe is, however reasonably priced) provide it.

Also, if you do sign with this company, make sure you have a good reversion clause in the contract, including a time limit to the rights grant. so if you're not happy you can eventually get the rights back.

On the general question of whether to publish or self-publish, it depends very much on the sort of books you write and your goals. I break it down in this post (http://barbararogan.com/blog/?p=802), if you're interested.

Good luck!

Very good points, and a great article. Thank you!


Perhaps it's just me, but in that case, I find the phrasing in your first post confusing. It sounds like you were surprised about getting a bill from a vanity press in one instance, and this phrase...



...reads to me as if you gauged the self-pub cost at $4K, and then went with a vanity press that charged more, which doesn't make a lot of sense. So maybe it's me being dense, and you meant the opposite, that the vanity press would be less than $4K.

So, without knowing the details of your book, $4K sounds VERY high for self-pub editing. You could get a premier developmental editor, and a copy editor, and a proofreader for a 100K word book and probably still not hit that $4K if you shopped around. And most self-publishers just get a single good copy-editor for $1000 or less.

And then on the vanity press side, they tend to overcharge for terrible "editing" in name only so even if the price were similar going with a vetted editor you find yourself is pretty much always the better call.

Anyway, apologies for perhaps misjudging your level of experience in publishing, but a lot of things in that post read like red flags even with a second look.

I apologize, you are right, that was worded wrong. I meant that the vanity press charges a lot LESS than $4K.

Old Hack, thanks for dropping by and offering up your advice. I have a few queries out to some agents (for a separate work), so I may try this route. Ideally, I would love to have an agent to handle all the contract offers and publishing issues, but we come back to my impatience on the trouble with that. I think I am going to try to contact a few about the problems I am having and telling them I have been offered contracts and see if I can find one willing to help me. If that doesn't work, then I will decide between letting the small press publish it or self publishing. I am not going the vanity route.

Thank you all for the advice.

ASeiple
08-16-2016, 08:10 PM
I'd recommend pulling away from the company that's charging you, because they'll do you no good. Next step would be trying to get on the horn with the publisher that hasn't been communicating. See where they're at, check in. If they're good, they won't mind you touching base. Once communication's been reopened, and you've had a heart-to-heart with them about your concerns, I have a feeling the choice will be easier.

Glass Valkyrie
08-18-2016, 12:42 AM
Well, a strange thing happened yesterday. The vanity publisher got back to me with the edits for my book. So, either way I got, it looks like I won't have to pay for another editor (these edits were provided based on the initial deposit I paid). I haven't signed anything with them though, so I am still free to take my book elsewhere. However, their quick edits and communication has pleasantly surprised me.

After thinking about it a lot, I wandered through the diaries here. I've looked at them before, it's been a while. It looks like the best results are when you can get out multiple books in a short amount of time. I think this is something I can do.

So, here is the plan! I am going to self-publish. I am going to finish up writing a novella that is like somewhat of a prequel to the novel. Finish that and hopefully get it out next month. Then I am going to spruce up the novel a bit (to make sure I don't completely embarrass myself) and release it in either October or November. I'll contact some bogs or pay for a blog tour to get some promotion and reviews. After that, I will work on completing my dark fantasy novel and hopefully be able to release it in December or January.

I've been looking at pre-made covers (selfpubbookcover.com) and have found a couple I think would really work well for both the novella and novel. Now I just have to hope nobody snatches them up before I can!

debergerac
08-18-2016, 10:37 AM
debergerac, you seem to be a little confused.

Can you explain what you mean by "doing an e-pub"?

i'm sorry to be confusing Hack, I meant to publish as an ebook.

Well, a strange thing happened yesterday. The vanity publisher got back to me with the edits for my book. So, either way I got, it looks like I won't have to pay for another editor (these edits were provided based on the initial deposit I paid). I haven't signed anything with them though, so I am still free to take my book elsewhere. However, their quick edits and communication has pleasantly surprised me.
Congratulations on deciding to self publish. I hope it goes well!

Old Hack
08-18-2016, 10:32 PM
i'm sorry to be confusing Hack, I meant to publish as an ebook./

Thank you for the clarification.

E-books, paperbacks, hardbacks, audiobooks, are all different formats and can be published through self publishing, vanity publishing, and trade publishing, which are the business models. It helps if we are clear about what we mean, as a trade published e-book involves a very different approach (businesswise) to a self-published one.

Glass Valkyrie
08-19-2016, 11:15 PM
Well, I finally got a response from the other publisher. A grand total of two sentences in response to my three, detailed emails. Those two sentences really didn't answer ANY of my questions either.

MartinD
08-20-2016, 03:52 AM
If it were me, I'd run away from both of these publishers. The one appears to respond too slowly and too cryptically; tell her she's won a $10 Amazon gift card and I'll bet you hear from her in minutes. The other wants your money, not your book. If they're treating you this way now, how will they treat you once you're in their net?

There are a lot of bad small publishers, and it sounds like you've found two of 'em. The bad ones seem particularly nasty if you tell them you want to walk away from your contract. Unless you know exactly what you're doing, I'd tread carefully there.

Old Hack suggested you look for an agent, and O.H. is always right. (You can say I'm kissing ass if you like, but I mostly believe this. I'm an Old Hack fan.) There are some wonderful small publishers, too, even if they're especially picky.If you can recover the rights to your stuff, you might try submitting to some of the really good small publishers before you do it on your own. They'll provide all of the tools you need to get your stuff out into the world.

G.V., I wish you well.

ASeiple
08-20-2016, 05:27 AM
Wellp, looks like your choice is easier now. Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

Glass Valkyrie
08-20-2016, 06:41 AM
If it were me, I'd run away from both of these publishers. The one appears to respond too slowly and too cryptically; tell her she's won a $10 Amazon gift card and I'll bet you hear from her in minutes. The other wants your money, not your book. If they're treating you this way now, how will they treat you once you're in their net?

There are a lot of bad small publishers, and it sounds like you've found two of 'em. The bad ones seem particularly nasty if you tell them you want to walk away from your contract. Unless you know exactly what you're doing, I'd tread carefully there.

Old Hack suggested you look for an agent, and O.H. is always right. (You can say I'm kissing ass if you like, but I mostly believe this. I'm an Old Hack fan.) There are some wonderful small publishers, too, even if they're especially picky.If you can recover the rights to your stuff, you might try submitting to some of the really good small publishers before you do it on your own. They'll provide all of the tools you need to get your stuff out into the world.

G.V., I wish you well.

I've sent them another email. If they don't answer my questions this time, I will see about get the rights reverted and seek an agent for the children's books.


Wellp, looks like your choice is easier now. Good luck! Let us know how it goes!

I will! As soon as I get my novella ready to put up I will start a self-pub diary.

Old Hack
08-26-2016, 11:02 AM
I understand your feeling Glass Valkyrie. However, you also have to consider some other things when you self-publish a book. This article [link redacted] will help you think and decide for your future books to publish.

Chad, we don't allow link-shorteners at AW, so I'd be grateful if you'd edit your post. And I'm not sure that linking to Litfire, a vanity press which is advertising its services to writers is helpful here, especially when the vanity press in question has featured on Writer Beware, as Litfire has (http://accrispin.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/solicitation-alert-litfire-publishing.html).

Whibs123
09-03-2016, 07:02 PM
I think you'll find that lots of agents take chapter books and MG and if going with a trade publisher is what you're after, you should start with the top. So yeah, go after an agent, and if you burn-out, and still belive in your work, there are a lot of trade presses you can submit to. Top ones, too. Don't go with any press who asks you to pay them ANYTHING. What would be the point of that? You can do it yourself, self-publishing, WAY cheaper, and with more control over the final product. I've never seen a publisher who asks for money who wasn't a scam.

Good luck with your journey. I hope you'll keep us posted!