Monday, September 16, 2013

Indie Authors Are NOT Desperate!

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone who was very respected in the publishing business as far as I can tell. They--I'm using they to avoid revealing gender. I know it's not grammatically correct--are now the owner of an established niche press and a new imprint. 

I was asked if I was interested in hearing about the new imprint and I said yes. I may be an indie author, but I'm open to being approached. I don't feel like I have all the answers and I sometimes feel like having a publisher might give my books a boost that I haven't been able to do on my own. 

So, a week or so later, I received a phone call from the publisher. I thought it went well but in retrospect, I don't recall hearing anything major that they could/would do to market my books. Of course, they would get them in print in bookstores--but I must be one of the few authors who isn't all that excited about the prospect of seeing my book on the bookshelves. I mean, sure, it would be cool, but as the closest bookstore to me is over an hour away, I guess it's not something I've thought about that much. What am I going to do? Drive an hour to go 'visit' my books? 

I received a contract a few days later and to say I was disappointed with the terms would be a major understatement. I'll be frank. I was insulted. Very insulted. The contract was for the four books I currently have in my series, in addition to a fifth that I'm in the middle of writing. I will be the first to admit that I'm not a Hugh Howey or Bella Andre and I didn't expect offers that approached what they probably received, but I did expect that I would be offered an advance for all FIVE books that would be more than what I earn in royalties in a typical month for just four books. It was less than what I've read that is the average for a first time author for ONE book, and that is what they offered me for FIVE books, four of which have proven sales. 

The advance was so pathetically low, I mean, if it was any lower, it wouldn't have been an advance at all. It was so much lower than I expected, that there wasn't even a place to start negotiating. 

I worked years on those books. Not just writing, but marketing and building an audience. I spent my own money buying ads and getting the word out, and now I'm supposed to give it all over for virtually free? Just for the stamp of approval a publisher would give it? I don't think so!

What I don't understand is that there are other indie authors out there signing with this press! I have to ask, why? Why are indie authors doing this? Even if I only was selling one book a month, I wouldn't have signed that contract for such a low advance and standard royalty. You never know when a book might break out.

I might have signed for a lower advance if the royalty was better than standard. It would have shown good faith on their part. 

The thing is, I think I'm pretty typical of a successful indie author. I'm not getting rich, but I've had some highlights I can point to. For instance, No Good Deed reached the top 20 in the Kindle store in June 2011, and as recently as April 2013, my combination book which contains both No Good Deed and March Into Hell, reached #44 in the Kindle store. The series has sold appox. 60,000 books. That's not bad for an indie author who has done pretty much everything on her own. I'm including the networking with other authors as a way of increasing sales as one of my marketing methods--so I wasn't exactly on my own, but I think you know what I mean. I didn't get any Kindle Daily Deals thrown my way or mentions in any Amazon newsletters. The most my books received was the usual email marketing Amazon does for everyone based on a person's usual purchasing habits.

Keep in mind, I was approached by the publisher. I did not approach them. Apparently the publisher either didn't do their homework before making an offer, or thought I was desperate to be published with a 'real' publisher. Or they thought I was an idiot. 

Anyway, readers of the Mark Taylor Series should be happy because it means the next book will come out sooner than it would have if I had signed. I hadn't been given a date when it might have been published, but I'm sure it was many months away based on the 'due date' in the contract.

27 comments:

  1. Thank you for staying independent. It's a new art form and needs to continue to be developed. Pioneers are needed! Besides, I can't wait for your next book!

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  2. Thank you for the kind comment, Karen. :-)

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  3. Girl sometimes it is NOT worth it. I am glad you turned the other cheek. Obviously they WANT your books, because they can SEE what kind of money they would make off of them. I believe you would do AWESOME, but NOT so THEY can make all the money.

    As for you living an hour away, that doesn't matter too much. It where the people who will BUY THEM, that matters :)

    Stick to your guns, MAKE THEM come to you and offer you a LOT more than what they did, and ONLY if you MAKE money, good money off it! YOU DESERVE IT! Your books are THAT GOOD!

    GL I know things will change for you :)

    Teresa

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    1. Thank you, Teresa! At this point, I'm content to remain indie. :)If I hadn't gone the indie route, I'm not sure I ever would have met fantastic readers like you and Kay. Thank you for your support!

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  4. You go, girl. It's nice being the captain of your own ship.
    Proud to be a fellow Indie. Karen said it best... Indie is a new art form.

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  5. Just say no.
    Small presses often can't afford a big advance. I didn't get an advance from my publisher until my third book. But it was worth the wait!

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    1. I understand in the case of small presses, but I don't think this one was going to be that small. I think it aims to be big--but that's a guess on my part based on the people involved. As I said in the post, I might have considered an offer for less of an advance if the royalty was better than the boilerplate contract, but it wasn't.

      As it stood, I was going to lose a lot of money while my books were off-sale, and I honestly would not have been able to pay my bills. It was a no-brainer to refuse.

      Congrats on your third book advance though. That's awesome. :-)

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  6. Good for you - sounds rather lame to me

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    1. Lame is a great word for it. Thanks, Faith!

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  7. Since the local Borders closed in my town, the next closest bookstore is over 40 minutes away. I mostly buy all my books online or use the library to get books. So I don’t see how the publisher is bringing any more value to the table than what you’re already doing on your own either.

    As an avid reader, I prefer ebooks from indies because of the lower prices and the portability of the medium. I don’t think I would ever buy a fiction paperback again unless it’s to specifically mark it up for a class or to dissect how the author put together the story. For my pleasure reading, ebook is the way to go for me.

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    1. Thank you for commenting, A.R. Tan. I also don't read many paper books anymore and in fact, if I want to re-read a book I've already read, for instance, The Physician, by Noah Gordon, I look for it as an ebook. I got lucky with that one as it was a Daily Deal one day and I snapped it up. And guess what? The story hadn't changed from the paper version ;-)

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  8. Way to go. Shame on the publisher for their greed. (Yes, I know their is incorrect grammar but I am following the lead of a very special author.) You just keep typing away and giving your public what they crave and let the publisher who is a cheapskate at best, greedy at worst take the hindmost. Bring on the Indie books dear friend.

    Katie

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    1. Thank you, Kay. I'm hoping the publisher was just clueless rather than greedy, but who knows?

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  9. Good for you for not jumping at the first offer that came along. The indie route is a valid alternative to traditional publishing and a low ball advance doesn't give your work its due. Congrats on your success.

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    1. Thanks, Christy. Luckily, this one was easy to pass on. lol. Like I told someone, at least they saved me the cost of an IP attorney looking over the contract. Even I could tell this one wasn't good for me.

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  10. Good for you. You have faith in your worth, and it will be rewarded. One day I would love to go to my local bookstore in New Zealand and see your books front and centre and you getting the recognition you deserve. I have enjoyed your books immensely and will continue to promote the series to anyone looking for a good read. It's great to hear there is another story on the way.

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    1. I could send you a few paperbacks and you could, ninja-like, stash them on the shelves at your local bookstore. ;)

      Thanks for the support!

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  11. I wonder what the response would have been to a print only contract.

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    1. Interesting question. I wonder? It sort of crossed my mind to ask, but I chickened out. I don't have the clout to ask for that. Not yet, anyway! :D

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  12. You did you right thing, MP. Consider also having the copyright on those five books tied up for years, with ebook rights into infinity. My former agent contacted me after I went indie and wanted to know if I wanted him to shop my latest novel to the big 6. I graciously declined, and I haven't been the least bit sorry.

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    1. I know. I hope to build the audience with each book, and I have a spin-off planned too, which was also a concern. Would I have been able to use my own characters in a spin-off series if the publisher held the rights to the original series?

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  13. Well done you standing firm. So would I. The reason so many sign with tiny publishers - or people setting up as one as we all could 0- is they are desperate to say, "my publisher". Who gives a damn I don't. There is no way I would sign mine away just to say those two words. All power to you for going alone - I intend doing the same unless someone makes it VERY worth my while not to any longer. x

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    1. I should really give a name to my 'publisher' so I can say that too. I haven't made up a name so there's nothing there. Maybe I'll call it Tigerheart Publishing. That sounds pretty cool. (and it's our cat's name.)

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  14. Ms. McDonald

    I saw this post over on KB and figured I'd stop by for the whole story. Congrats on the success you've had so far and even more so for keeping your wits, your head on your shoulders and your rights (and royalties) where they belong.

    The only thing that will change these abhorrent contracts fired off to the "desperate wannabe's" of self-pub is collective dismissal from writers.

    Now if we can just get all these old-timer Legacy folks to stop paying overpriced, royalty grabbing e-pub services when they crossover to the indieverse.

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    1. Thank you. I hope this makes an impression on someone weighing whether to take a crappy deal or to self-publish. You really just never know when a book will take off..

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  15. It sounds like this publisher is starting off with an interesting niche plan to find new authors-- approach self-published and then re-release their books with possibly a quick edit and a new cover. This way they will get a large backlist very quickly, much faster than they would if they went the request submissions, wait for good ones, go through editing and then 6 mo. to a year later, have a few books to release.

    Judging from what you explain, it sounds like you made a very good decision to stick to what you are doing. I'm sure the publisher (wish I knew who they were!) is approaching a large number of indies, knowing that those who are frustrated with their sales will bite. It's an interesting tactic. I'm glad you didn't go with it. As you said, it really didn't make good business sense for you and your books.

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