This is a question I’ve been getting a lot lately, and with my new book out I thought it was a good time to write a (really long) post about it.
I wrote The Detective’s Brother some years ago and was very proud of it. I polished it, edited it, and sent off dozens of queries to agents and editors. None of them picked it up, though a few did show interest. Disappointed but not ready to give up, I shopped it around to some small presses, especially ones that were focused on romance novels.
It wasn’t long until I found a very small publisher called Sinnful Books that was just starting out. The publisher loved the book and wanted to sign me at once. I was excited and the terms were good, so I signed and sent it off. He set me up with a beautiful cover and the book was headed to the editor with a tentative release date. Then, out of nowhere, he emailed all his authors and said that the company was shutting down. All rights would revert to us, we were no longer bound by the terms of the contract, and were even free to keep our cover art if we wanted to cut out the imprint.
At that point I considered self-publishing, but thought I’d give the whole small press thing another try. I submitted my book to Booktrope because I felt like it would give me more creative control – small press marketing with indie control, what could be better? They also wanted it with some slight edits, so once I got it into the system and picked out my team my book went into edits.
My editor whipped it into shape, teaching me some very important lessons along the way, and I credit her with The Detective’s Brother turning out so well. Once it was a book we were both proud of, we set it up to be published! Then, about two weeks after it was released, Booktrope said it was shutting down at the end of the month. Unlike Sinnful, though, we were left with the options of either paying back our cover artists and editors or selling them and divvying up the royalties as per the contract. My cover artist decided to just give us the art, but my editor preferred a payout. Of more than a thousand dollars, which would be her fee for my manuscript If I’d gone directly through her.
Since it’s rare for me to even get one paycheck of that sort of money, The Detective’s Brother has gone back on the shelf until I can pay her or the contract runs out in five years. I really do want to pay her and was willing to do it in installments, but then my husband became disabled and I became the breadwinner of our family. As for The Detective’s Brother, I can sell the last few copies I have but that’s it.
I was pretty depressed about the whole thing. What was the point, I thought, to signing with these small publishers only to have them go under? Thankfully, Tammy Andresen had contacted me before Booktrope shut down, asking if I wanted to be part of a pirate-themed historical box set. As depressed as I was, I had already agreed to it so I wrote the novella for Treasured Love and had a great time. I was also included in Every Rogue’s Heart, another box set with them.
The box sets, as many are, was self-published and consisted of mainly self-published authors, most of whom are very successful. After firing a zillion and one questions at Dawn Brower, I decided to take the plunge and self-publish Drowned History.
I don’t yet know how things will turn out, but I’m pleased with how the book is doing and love the way it looks. It would be nice to have a publisher deal with the marketing and such, but I don’t have to have one to validate me. If there’s one thing I do know, though, it’s that I love writing and I’ll never sell myself short again.