Over the years I have read many warnings from professional authors (I’m a part timer, and always will be, even though I consider my work – non-fiction, fiction and journalism – to all be of professional quality) about working with traditional publishers now that we have an alternative, in indie publishing.
Many of us have still sought (and are still seeking) that ‘validation’ of being published by a traditional publishing house. Some of my friends have achieved it with their fiction. Good for them. It’s been lovely to see their books on the shelves in bookstores and even in airports – way to go. But in most cases, it hasn’t lasted past four, five or six books because, guess what, they are what’s termed ‘mid-listers’. In other words, they don’t sell huge quantities – somewhere around 40 – 60 thousand copies per book.
That doesn’t do it for the bean counters at those publishing houses, and despite the support of their editors, who know it takes time to build a following, they are summarily dropped as not financially worth the company’s investment.
Ha! What investment? Unless you’re a huge seller, they don’t even bother with marketing – that’s all down to you, at your own expense! I know this: been there, done it.
Okay, so my traditionally published books are non-fiction, in a small market, with a small, but respected publisher: J.A. Allen was established in 1926, and has been the premier publisher of equestrian books in the UK for all that time.
I have two books with them, lovely hardbacks full of pictures and illustrations, the first of which, THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF TRAINING, has earned out its advance and is continuing to sell, while the second, THE SUCCESSFUL DRESSAGE COMPETITOR is approaching that rewarding state. As I understand it, the majority of books published never earn out, so I’m proud of this achievement.
So what prompted my rant today?
Putting aside the efforts I’ve gone to over the years to market my own books (successfully, in terms of numbers, though definitely not in financial terms if I were to add up all the unpaid hours of work), I’ve just discovered that my publisher has not thought fit to tell me (or any of its other authors) that they’ve sold out to another company and left me floundering in the dark, trying to track down where to obtain copies of my own books!
Yes, Allen’s sold out and became an imprint of Hale Books in 1999, but that didn’t produce any changes. Same editors, same offices, just a different name above Allen’s. More to the point, same distributors, same contact points, same account details for authors to use when ordering their own books – which, if you are going to arrange talks, signings, etc., you need copies to hand. I’m never without a couple of each title, wherever I go, as you never know when you’ll find someone who wants to buy one.
But last week, I called the usual distributor’s number, to pay my most recent invoice, and was told: “Oh, this will be the last time you talk to us; you’re no longer with us.”
Apparently we were sold back in November.
DO YOU NOT THINK THE PUBLISHER MIGHT HAVE LET THEIR AUTHORS KNOW???
I’ve called the listed number on the most recent catalogue, but that company was dropped as well and were not given details of who would be dealing with any aspect of this huge catalogue of books, or its authors.
I followed my nose on the internet and finally tracked down the distributor who has the last 107 copies of Building Blocks, but right now they can’t tell me if I can order with my author discount, nor what that discount will be if, indeed, I am entitled to one!
I am awaiting a return phone call, but in the mean time, I am now one very unhappy traditionally published author, with no one I can call to discover if my book will go to reprint or not, or if that’s it. I don’t know if my contract is valid, given that it is with a publisher that, apparently, no longer exists.
I am so happy I decided to go indie with my fiction, and in this crazy unstable world of publishing houses merging and vanishing, I’d urge anyone who thinks that traditional publishing is the only valid way, to reconsider.