The Dangers of Publishing with a Small Press
November 4th, 2022
It was 2018 when I published my debut science-fiction novel, Breachers, and it was nearly three weeks later that I almost gave up writing completely.
The contract I signed was what one could expect from any Indie Publisher. Nothing fancy. No advance, standard royalties for e-book and paperback sales, minimal exposure. These things didn't bother me. I had done it. I was going to release a book, and the moment that contract hit my inbox I couldn't sign fast enough.
After multiple rounds of edits, some more painful than others, it was finished and ready to be released into the world. In the months leading to the release I was doing all I could to successfully launch Breachers. Giveaways on twitter, reaching out to every book blogger I could find, interviews and blog tours. It all happened so fast. It all came crashing down equally as quick.
With the launch date rapidly approaching, I asked my publisher when to expect the author copies of the book, as my contract stated I would receive paperbacks copies for promotion. She assured me they were on the way and the book would launch with paperback copies. Hey, she hadn't led me astray so far, right? Surely I should trust her now. Mistake #1.
There were a lot of things going on behind the curtain with the publisher, some of it speculation, while a lot of it was confirmed through other authors who had signed the same contract. No one with a release in the past six months had paperback copies available, and to make matters worse, some weren't even receiving royalty checks. I should've pulled the plug right? Counted my losses and went back to the query trenches with a professionally polished manuscript? Well, this was mistake #2.
I pushed forward, intent on ignoring the noise from all the authors around me airing the dirty laundry of this publisher. I had a release date to make, after all. And when it finally arrived, a day that should've felt like a celebration, a day I talked about for months to all my family and friends, fell remarkably flat. I couldn't tell you how many texts I received asking when the paperbacks would be available, only to respond with a vague "they're being ordered now, should take a couple months" response. Embarrassed is probably the best word for how I felt in that moment.
All the authors received an email roughly three weeks later from the publisher, offering anyone the chance to have the rights to their story reverted back and cut ties. Everyone, including myself, saw the door and let ourselves out. What happened next? My book, the thing I had worked so hard on for the past year and a half was removed from all retailers. Those book blogs I fought to get, faded into the background. The wonderful reviews I had garnered, gone. I was back at square one. I was, yet again... a querying author trying to claw their way out of the trenches.
No big deal right? Get back on the horse! Only, I quickly learned the horse isn't looking for passengers like my book. One that was, gasp, previously published. Not an agent nor a small press would even touch the query letter once they read "Previously published by". I scoured the internet only to find the same response wherever I turned. It was over. My debut novel was shelved, and my love, my passion to write and tell stories had disappeared completely.
For close to two years I didn't write a single paragraph despite the itch I had at times to do so. But one day, I wrote a little. And when that wasn't enough, I wrote some more. I finished the project I was working on when my debut release came a staggering halt, and after a lot of revising, query letters, and more revising... it happened. My book had an offer of publication.
I wouldn't be fooled again, oh no. I did my homework this time, investigating everything about this company. Searching for any flaw or negative thing I could find. But I couldn't. They brought with them an excellent track record, positive reviews, and a large range of satisfied authors. Four years after the ruined release nearly destroyed my love for writing, I happily signed with Tule Publishing for my psychological thriller, Have You Seen Sarah Baker? and it is set to release May 4th, 2023.
The moral of the story is to always do your homework. Had I done a little more research on the company I signed with for Breachers, maybe I could've saved myself the headache. Next, to all my wonderful writing friends out there, don't be like me! Do not quit! I let a small setback derail my writing for years, and when I think about all the stories I could've created in that time, well, it makes me want to walk on a lego-filled floor barefoot. Keep at it. Writing is hard. Putting your work and yourself out there? Even more difficult. I wish I would've had a little more resilience back then, but I am turning the page and moving my story on to bigger and better things.
As far as Breachers goes... Never say never...