Writing Tips You Don’t Want To Learn the Hard Way
Becoming a published author is a dream many aspire to. Somewhere, I don’t recall exactly, I had read a comment that noted, “out of all the people who want to write a book, usually 10% of them actually complete it, out of those 10 % of people, only another 10% actually get published.”
In the modern world of epublishing, I’m not entirely sure these statistics hold true anymore. Small press are bountiful and able to publish many more new authors and stories at a fraction of the cost. This is because eBooks are a fast sell, and there is no cost of going to print, in most cases, leaving lower overhead than the big publishing houses that maintain print books as their bread and butter.
People often ask about my journey to becoming a multi-published author, I share what I can, happy to pass my newly acquired knowledge to others on the path to joy and success. For four years of my life as a published author, there was a lingering negativity that spoiled the fantasy and slammed the reality of my dream in my face.
I am happy to say; I am now free from the tyranny, and so pleased to be with my current publisher. They are professional, supportive, encouraging and sleeves rolled up—completely involved with every one of their authors, helping them work as a group and individually toward success in reaching their target audience for reading. They are the cheerleaders that keep us going.
I will take a step back, to speak about my experience, in hopes that future aspiring authors, and those still caught in the clutches of greed and gluttony will find the courage to take the longer path to true achievement. I hope they don’t fall for the short, easy road paved with empty promises of grandeur, like I did, where some less reputable publishers feed off the hard work of others.
When I had an editor of a publishing house contact me directly, asking me to sign with them, they loved my writing, I was ecstatic… (& completely blindsided.) In retrospect, how in the hell would they have known how my writing was? I wasn't published yet. Based on a blurb on my website, my amateur, neophyte website that couldn't even compare to the professional authors who knew what they were doing? Gullibility won that round. It wasn't before long, I was published with two books, and working on more. Sounds like a happy story, right? I thought so too.
As time passed by, and I didn't earn a single penny, I got discouraged, after all, I was working hard, I was published, so why aren't I making tons of cash? Self-promotion was not a skill I had acquired yet, but neither was interpreting fictional royalty statements that didn't add up. In fact, rather than getting paid for my sales, it cost me money to get published! For a round of media this publisher had arranged, I traveled and incurred a great deal of cost for a signing that got cancelled without notice. Now stuck with an unproductive trip, instead of earning cash from sales at the signing like I was promised; I owed money for the print books that were ordered for this event.
Looking back, there were a lot of things I didn't take the proper time to learn, signs I should have noticed. I did take some online advice, and joined my local RWA chapter, which was the best thing I did for myself. Connecting with a group of gifted, supportive writers, I did learn a great deal.
A big part of my new found education made me face the truth that I really had very little knowledge, in fact no experience and I seriously needed to work on developing my craft. AFTER I was published, I discovered the world of online writers groups, supportive colleagues, and I realized what an amazing phenomenon the writing community truly is.
At first, I had convinced myself, to stay away, for fear of retribution, competition, that sort of ridiculous assumption about other authors vying for fame and fortune. Then, I was introduced to a few incredible people at a writer’s convention that showed me the meaning of solidarity, team work, and professional respect, what a real publisher is supposed to be like. There, among the thousands of published and would-be writers, I had the chance to interact with a group of people that were enthusiastic and enjoyed their publisher…. “What? Authors aren't supposed to be repressed, broke and miserable? You’re kidding, right?”
Flash forward, to just a few months ago. My contract for my first series, the two books, expired after three years. Other authors were pulling out, left right and center facing the wrath of the would-be queen who threatened anyone who left for another publisher, any who dare even submit to another, let alone consider self-publishing.
Those of us who sought asylum in the arms of legitimate publishers, kept quiet for fear of the vicious backlash for straying. We were subjected to volatile rants, slamming and insulting writers, demanding more books be submitted, emotional manipulation of; “you should be grateful for all I've done for you,” and promises of ruining any future they had in publishing if they didn't buckle under the empty threats of lawsuits.
Of course, there was the infamous catch phrase always spewed in rage, beit by phone, online, in writer’s loops and emails, but there is no place here for such vulgar rudeness. Those who have experienced the fury, know full well the offensive title that was consistently assigned to anyone who had the audacity to say “no” to the ongoing ridiculous demands. “You want your royalties? You want your statements? Signed contracts? Your books aren't selling and you want them back? Who the hell do you think you are?”
I decided to stay under the radar. After all, these other people were cast out to the dark side; they must have done something wrong, right? Uh, no, as fate would have it, I finally took the blinders off and started to tune in to the truth, the multiple, common complaints, the frustration and resentment many endured. The hardships cast upon them for trying to take back the books that were rightfully theirs. I even waited an extra year, thinking, if I don’t join the bandwagon, I should be able to leave quietly without the hostility.
Wrong again. In accordance with my contract, I followed it to the T. Went through the legal mumbo jumbo and sent my required notice, highlighting the 90th consecutive day my rights would be returned and my books would be removed from this toxic publishing site, and from all other third parties they were collecting money from. From all the sales, I never saw a single penny. Apparently, over the course of four years, and two books, royalty statements, or rather, fictional spreadsheets indicated I had not made enough sales to pay off the small sum of $125.00 for print books! Four years!
Shift forward to yesterday, I held true to my word, sent in writing by registered mail. These words of rescission I damn well know were received and as with every other author, went unacknowledged. I took action and had my books removed from all third party sites and advised my next course of legal action, should they choose to continue holding my two books hostage, books that were reported, NEVER made a profit!
I know many of my fellow authors are still hanging in there, hoping the same thing, wait out the contract, maybe it won’t be so bad if I don’t draw any attention to myself, keep everything just the perfect, and maybe I can avoid the verbal beating from the violent mood swings bestowed upon the masses. Does this sound vaguely familiar? I found this mindset I adopted, was similar to that of an abused person. Placate the abuser, do everything in your power to please them...Does it really make a difference? Sure it does, it weakens us, and it diminishes our self-esteem, our confidence, and reinforces the incorrect assumption that we deserve the way we are being mistreated.
Alas, many more authors have left and fought to get back their books, and won. Most of us will never see a penny from this unscrupulous, literary succubus, and the tyranny was not limited to authors, but cover artists, editors, anyone who caught onto the ruthless, unethical and inconceivable business practices that persisted.
Needless to say, my books are down, they are mine once again. You might still be wondering what this lengthy rant is really about? I was fortunate to have the support of many former authors who battled their way to freedom, I benefited from their experience, their shoulders and their encouragement. A particular author, the first to hear my glorious news, asked why, after posting my public declaration of taking my rights back, why would I not offer a warning to others? She’s right.
Rather than stooping to the tempting level of revealing this tyrant of a self-proclaimed publisher, I decided to take the high road, and share my journey with others, without name dropping and without personal attacks, but rather with a forewarning and links to resources that had I known before I signed on, could have avoided four years of headaches and nightmares.
One of the best information sites I am familiar with and can point any upcoming or current author to is Predators and Editors. It holds endless tidbits of information, including warnings or endorsements about known publishers, agents, editors and so forth. They also post some valuable points about how to sniff out potential frauds and protect your precious work.
These are just a few, but not all of the highlights of Predators and Editors warning page: (these items are borrowed from P & E at: http://pred-ed.com/pubwarn.htm )
Some General Rules for Spotting a Scam Publisher
- The publisher claims that it's seeking to publish first-time authors.
- Claims that the established publishers and published writers are trying to block new writers from being published.
- When confronted with very low or non-existent sales, the publisher refuses to release the book from contract.
- Its contracts contain provisions that prohibit complaints by its authors about its service and product.
- Acceptances usually take place in less than a month. Even less than a week is not unusual.
- Communications from the publisher are frequently unsigned by any individual using a department address so that no one can be pinned down as responsible for any comments made to the author.
- The publisher never gives a direct answer to any direct questions. Instead, the publisher points to others who are satisfied with policy, procedures, contract, or sales as proof that everything is fine.
- The publisher threatens to blacklist its authors within the industry should they mention leaving.
There is so much valuable information on this particular site, and there are tons of others. Authors that have fought their way through the trenches generously share the knowledge with all. Take advantage of it, that’s what it’s there for.
Before signing anything, read, read and re-read the fine print. Get legal counsel to determine if the contract is in your best interest. Take in all of the free information offered by others, writing tips, research, posts about warnings or highlights. The writing community is incredible and there for anyone who wants in.
Join reputable writing organizations such as the RWA. They have local chapters everywhere! And they can offer resources you wouldn't obtain on your own, lists of approved publishers and agents, etc.
No legitimate publisher will ever demand money upfront to publish you. Scammers will. Don’t pay a cent; you won’t see it again if you do.
One warning of my own I would like to offer, in almost every case, if you are approached and solicited by an anonymous publisher, editor or agent, that you have not queried, who wants to take you under their wing, despite no published works and no real experience, do the one thing I didn't – RUN AWAY! IT’S A SCAM.
These people troll the internet looking for their next victims. Often, the ones directly soliciting you, are merely the lackeys working for the big fraud, I wouldn't be surprised if most of them were trolling because they were duped into the promises of fame and fortune as well by finding the next Anne Rice or Stephen King. I hope some or all of this posting is of help to those in need. If we stick together, we can weed out the fraudulent publishers, and put an end to future writers being taken advantage of.
There is one more, really important point I want to comment on:
If you really want to pursue writing, do it because you love the art. Making a career out of writing is hard enough, if you don’t truly have the passion for it, you won’t last. Write because it’s a part of who you are, typing the words make you come to life. That’s the purest motivation that produces stories to live in the hearts and minds of readers. Those stories created through true inspiration, are the ones that will go down in history.
When you do finish your story, you've done the edits, and it’s ready for submission, or even when it has been published, work on developing a thick skin. Every writer bares their sole when they put their work out there for readers, but that also opens us up to other feedback, some good, some bad. As long as you love what you’re doing, keep writing! Never stop writing!