Seeking Some Advice

Parting is such sweet sorrow….~William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

Saying goodbye is never easy.

Most often, it’s downright messy.

And painful.

Starting with last year’s loss of my beloved Sheltie to the Rainbow Bridge and continuing this year through the swift decline of a longtime personal friendship and the recent notice my publisher is turning me loose….

Wait, what?

Yep, the publisher of my debut novel Unplayable Lie just informed me that I and others in their stable of authors are being let go.

It’s a business decision. My book didn’t sell as well as they projected.

Probably they had higher hopes for it than I did.

Most debuts don’t strike it rich. You only hear about the ones who do.

And a fictional series often takes several books before it really gets off the ground.

But publishing is a business, and this global pandemic has hit it hard.

People might be watching movies and cooking while stuck at home, but reading books doesn’t seem to be high among their tactics for survival.

We writers tend to romanticize the publishing industry. It’s the thing enabling us to get our words out to the masses, the thing helping us cross a goal off our bucket lists, the thing we need before we can rest confident we’re really writers.

But it’s a business, and sometimes we don’t want to leave our fictional world for that reality.

Sigh.

Gone are the days when creative folks — writers, painters, musicians, sculptors — had patrons, who took them under their wings and provided for their living expenses, giving their Muses free rein to frolic.

Today’s writer must wear ALL the hats, from creating and polishing the work to marketing and sales.

Call me naive, but when this publisher and I connected, I took them at their word. They’d perform an intensive edit on my story, publish it in several formats (including print, electronic, and audio), then promote its availability through social media and other avenues.

Um, not really.

We bogged down so long on formatting that editing, cover design, and marketing suffered, never to recover.

I’ll take my share of the blame. After all, I’ve never been comfortable hawking anything, and sending out a dozen tweets every day to “Buy my book … please!” isn’t high on my must-do list.

Which brings me to a dilemma. What should I do now?

If you have any suggestions or advice — or just want to sympathize — my ears are open.

Thanks in advance!

53 thoughts on “Seeking Some Advice

  1. Well that’s discouraging for sure but I say keep on keeping on! Did they have any suggestions or did they just drop you with no support? I agree— I learned long ago I am no sales person. Some can do it seamlessly but not me. Hang in there.

    • Thanks very much, Beth Ann. In their defense, they’re trying to make this as seamless a transition as they can (if such a thing is possible). Nice to learn I’m not the only one being let go — misery loves company and all that! Quitting writing isn’t on the table, at least for me. I’ve written since childhood, so it’s my thing!

  2. Well. That sucks. I am so sorry it happened! After you move past the sorrow, disappointment, anger, and never-ending conversations in your head… There is only one thing left to do…find a new publisher! Go You! <3

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Katybeth! You’re right: it does suck. But I’ve had a couple of days to stomp my foot and slam a door (or two!), so now that the initial emotions are out of the way, I can focus more rationally on my next steps. I’m going to do a heavy edit first and see where that leads.

  3. I’m not the one to offer advice, because I really don’t know anything about the complexities of publishing: self- or otherwise. But there’s one sentence in your post I might revise. Instead of “Today’s writer must wear ALL the hats, from creating and polishing the work to marketing and sales,” I’d suggest “Today’s writer gets to wear all the hats…” If I were going to publish, my preference would be self-publishing, simply because I could control the final result. The learning curve would be steep; there’s no question about that. But I still think that’s the way I would go.

    This may turn out to be a blessing in disguise. There were some formatting and editorial decisions made along the way that puzzled me when I read the book. I think you, or another publisher, can do better.

    • Linda, thank you for pointing that out. Yes, it’s an unprecedented time to be an author. And self-publishing has become way more acceptable in recent years as name authors have embraced it. Controlling the final results (and reaping the monetary rewards) is huge. I appreciate your optimism! I’ve always believed that when God closes a door, He opens a window. Maybe this is a blessing in disguise (yep, formatting and deep editing were practically nonexistent the first go-round).

  4. Debbie, I am so sorry to hear about your publisher. Keep the faith though, my friend, you’re a very talented writer who has the gift of being able to write in a variety of genres.

    And I have to say, I’m surprised to hear that the pandemic affected the book business because I assumed that people would be reading MORE books, being that they’re spending more time at home and can order online and have the books shipped.

    However, I’m sure all businesses have been affected by the pandemic in some way.

    When I think of all the out-of-work stage actor’s who haven’t been employed for almost a year, it’s so sad. And God only knows when theaters will reopen.

    Have you tried self-publishing? My friend from Brooklyn, NY published his book through a company a few years ago. I don’t remember the name of the company, but if you’re interested, I’d be happy to email him to find out. If you are, just email me and I’ll reach out to him.

    This has been quite a year, hasn’t it? A year filled with ups and downs, and constant adjustments to a new way of life.

    Have a super Sunday! X

    • Ron, I appreciate your words of praise and support! I was surprised so many publishing companies (the smaller ones) are suffering financially, too, because of the pandemic. Perhaps some over-extended themselves in 2019, thinking the economy was going to continue skyrocketing?

      My heart goes out to those unemployed actors and musicians. This virus has hit certain industries especially hard, and recovery is going to take some time.

      Thanks, too, for the suggestion of contacting your self-published friend. I might decide to do just that, bur first, I want to do a deep edit and see where my book stands. I’ve just completed the first draft of my second book and ideally, I’ll be looking to publish both of them. Loads of work to do before they’re ready for the world! xx

  5. The only thing I can think of to offer is a quote from Neil Gamain- “Make Good art.” He has a speech, which was published as an illustrated pamphlet of sorts, which the answer to every dilemma is “make good art”. It’s a short, fun read. That’s my 2 cents, for whatever pennies are worth these days.

  6. Very sorry to learn that your publisher won’t be publishing any more of your books. My husband and I self-publish, and we have zero regrets. We do have to go various fairs and events. I consider that part of the job. Also, my beautiful blogging friends from all around the world have bought my books. How cool is that? Good luck!

  7. I can lend an ear and a hug, but have no idea about publishing. I’m sure some of your readers will have some good ideas. I’d say, don’t get discouraged. I know, that’s not so easy to do. I think you should concentrate on the continuation of your writing, don’t let that falter, and in the meantime look for another publisher.

    • An ear and a socially-distanced hug do wonders for my spirits, Dawn — thank you! Don’t worry, of course I’m going to continue writing. I’ve done it for so long that I’m not sure I’m willing to change courses. There were so many issues with my first book that I need a heavy edit — first by me and then by another pair of eyes — to see what remains that’s salvageable!

  8. I, too, am sorry but don’t have any bits of advice to give either. For some reason am thinking of the Sound of Music (just watched it in December) and how Mother Superior says, “When God closes one door, He often opens another one.” Or maybe He opens a window? In any case, I hope you find another open door or window soon, Debbie.

    • I’ve long believed in the truth of Mother Superior’s statement, Kathy! It might not be on my time, of course, but it won’t be a minute too late. This whole thing has given me a new perspective. We tend to think a publisher is a panacea for all our needs, when in reality, it’s more of a springboard from which we must launch ourselves (and our books) to the world. At least I don’t have to start completely over!

  9. Been around the publishing neighborhood for a while. I was traditionally published for the first book. I did all the promotion. They did a sloppy job of editing and selected the cover. Long story short I finally asked if they would let me out of the contract. They did. I immediately hired an editor and a professional cover design person. I have self-published since. If you want to be a big seller without having to promote then you are going to need an agent for a shot at a big firm. If you don’t care about sales and just want to write then self-publish may be the option. I guess the choice is up to you on which way you want to go.

    • Thanks, John, for your story. I was traditionally published, too, but by a small company. Like your experience, I wasn’t happy with the cover or the editing and formatting. I’m glad I didn’t have to ask to be let loose of the contract. This way, it hurts, but it’s like ripping off a bandage, as opposed to peeling it off bit by bit — the pain is there, but it’s over quickly! Probably just the impetus I need to go the self-publishing route. While it would be nice to make some money from my writing, I’ve proven to myself over the past couple of years that that’s not a necessity. Hiring professionals to help ready it for the world makes much more sense (sad we didn’t get that the first go-round!)

  10. I’m sorry, Debbie – the book deserves to succeed. I’m never sure what marketing works. Some books just seem to take off and other, often better, ones don’t break through. I’m pretty sure blog reviews don’t make a lot of difference – we all just talk to each other, I think, and not to the wider public. Although maybe I’m wrong, because publishers do always seem keen to get blog reviews. Do you get the rights back? Can you send it out to other publishers? Or re-launch it as a self-published Kindle book, and do what a lot of authors do – sell it for $0 for a couple of weeks to boost sales and push it up the bestseller rankings? There’s one author I knew through the blogosphere a few years back who did that and her books took off quite well (and don’t tell anybody I said so, but yours was much better than her first one). I don’t have any idea how much it costs to do that though. If you did decide to do something along those lines, I’d be happy to promote the special offer period on my blog, for whatever that might be worth. Giveaways on Goodreads seem to be a popular thing too – again I don’t know whether you have to pay to do it, or whether it’s just the cost of the books and postage, but in theory it should generate some Goodreads reviews which I actually think can be considerably more useful than blog reviews.

    • Such outstanding advice, FF — thank you so much!! And that red flaming ball you’re seeing is my face when I read such high words of praise! The only rights I’m not keeping are to the audiobook (eek, I listened to a bit of that and am still shuddering!) and to the cover (ditto). I know it’s going to need a deep edit — not just my eyes, but that’s where I’ll start. I also know I’d like to follow John’s suggestion and get a professional editor and cover designer. Yes, I believe I can re-submit it to other publishers or self-publish. I need to research the pros and cons of each again — it’s been too long since I’ve studied my options and things have changed dramatically. Thank you most humbly for your offer of helping promote — you’re a gem!! (And I promise I won’t take advantage of your friendship!)

    • Do you think so, Eliza? I hadn’t looked at it that way. I guess I was too put out at the news to do anything for a day or so but sulk and have a Pity Party. “Called to something higher,” hmm? That’s interesting … and encouraging. Thank you for sharing it with me and giving me another perspective!

  11. I’m so sorry, Debbie. I can’t imagine how disappointing this must be. I’m in agreement with a few others here who have said that every struggle has a purpose. But knowing that still doesn’t make this any easier, I hope a new opportunity comes your way soon.

    • Thanks very much, Tee. I was discombobulated when I first heard, but as time goes on, I find myself dealing with it. It’s not like I can change their mind now, but I can change my attitude. I’d kind of hoped the misery of 2020 would end when Dec. 31 rolled around; finding more misery in the new year doesn’t seem “fair,” but that’s a spoiled and selfish way to look at things — especially when we all have so much to be grateful for, right?!

  12. Oh Debbie I am so sorry about losing your publisher. I had a similar experience with losing my agent and I wanted to give up. In the end I went ahead with self publishing, which I could never have attempted without my techie husband, but with your computer knowledge/web design skills I would think that this would make a perfect fit for your talents and art. That said, I have never had the drive to write another book cause it takes so much work. At the end of the day, put words on paper, do whatever you can to flame the muse. I for one love your work and look forward to your posts.

    • Pat, thanks so much for empathizing. I didn’t realize you’d lost an agent — that must’ve been distressing, too. You’re so right: writing a book does take an awful lot of time and energy — way too much to undertake such a project lightly! Perhaps self-publishing will be the answer; right now, I just don’t know. I need to edit both books and make them as readable as possible, then try to figure out what to do with them. I’m humbled at your praise, my friend!

  13. I’m sorry, Debbie. There are still patrons of the arts. I support one writer and one artist on Patreon. Or did. The writer has moved to her own site and I support here there, now. There are different tiers of support, and the patrons are given the opportunity to see their work ahead of time.

    • Robin, I had NO idea! Seriously?? What a wonderful kind of relationship! Thanks so much for stopping by and offering this information. I hope it helps others to look at writing more optimistically!

  14. I’m so sorry and offer you my sympathy, Debbie. You must be very disappointed in your ex-publisher. I do hope you get some good advice from others who are familiar with the business of publishing. The timing seems particularly hard to bear, following on the heels of your beloved Sheltie and this awful pandemic. I hope things will be looking up again soon. Something wonderful may be just around the corner. ♡

    • Thank you, Barbara, for understanding and sympathizing! This for sure didn’t come at an ideal time; however, since nobody knows what lies down the road, perhaps it did, ha! Yes, I’m trying to keep my head up — that’s so much easier when I’m surrounded by loving, caring friends!

  15. So sorry Deb about your publisher! I am struggling with my self-published book. I used used Book Baby and they did get my book in lots of online book stores. The marketing is the problem. I’ve spent more on the marketing than on publishing. I did radio, major magazine and Fiverr promotions.

    Right now I’m using Facebook advertizing and I’m getting big interaction,but I’m not getting book sales. There are about 40 million book on Amazon. Mine is at 1,000,00-ish. I’m trying to figure out what else to do. I’ve been on people’s pod cast and no sales. This is hard. Unless you spend some $$$ on marketing or hire a agent it will be hard to get sales. I hope you find a solution to promote your book. If you do let me know LOL!

    • Tanya, I’m sorry to hear your book hasn’t attained the sales you’d hoped. Now you can see why my publisher let me and others go — publishing is a business, and what doesn’t sell quickly drops by the wayside. Yes, it’s hard. Writing, editing, publishing, marketing, selling: all must work together. Thank you for sharing your experiences — here’s hoping for more success this year. Hang in there!

      • I was shocked at all that it takes to publish a book!!! I made a CD a few years ago and it was so easy. I sold 100, but I wasn’t planning to go big. This book thing is a whole different animal! I was shocked about the expense of it! I’m almost finshed writing my next book, but the cost! I will keep on writing because I need to do it, but……

  16. Not knowing the publishing world, Debbie, I really can’t offer advice but I can offer a “oh wow that really stinks!” to bolster you some. How discouraging for so many like you when a publisher expects great results right away. Don’t quit. That’s all I can say as well. Keep at it and perhaps new doors will open in places you just didn’t even see coming. Sometimes things work out like that.

    • I so appreciate your encouragement, Amy — thank you! After the miserable year we’ve all been through, something like this could knock a person off his moorings; however, I keep telling myself it’s not personal and I’ve still got lots to say. So I’ll write on!

      • Honey, God bless you! I know how hard this past year has been coupled with deep emotional pain. I know. Several times I questioned God how is it possible for me to take any more, just feeling as though I was at the brink of falling off the cliff. Perhaps I did fall off and needed to free fall. All I know that in order to continue to create in the fashion we as individuals create, we have to keep moving forward in any way we can. You’re in my heart, Debbie. xo

  17. Hi Debbie, sorry to hear about your publishing woes(!) What a disappointment! The landscape is constantly changing. Every year at workshops with publishers it seems they are playing catch-up, too. Self publishing can be a bridge option – garnering good sales draws the attention of brick & mortar publishers. But these days even mid-list authors do huge chunks of their own marketing. I feel for you, Debbie! Prayers for wisdom & extra doses of comfort (missing Dallas!!!!!!!!) Much love! – Virginia

    • Thanks for empathizing, Virginia. I’ve quit railing over it, but it still hurts. Sure, it’s a business and we all have to change with the changes, but it can be frustrating. And time-consuming, doing all that research! Glad for the prayers, my friend! ;)

  18. Debbie, I’m sorry to hear about your publisher’s decision. That’s why I chose the indie publisher route and had a positive experience with 1106 Book Design with Michele DeFillipo. Remember, God doesn’t close a door without opening a window. Best wishes in the next phase of your journey. Keep writing!

    • Thank you, Kathy, for understanding and empathizing! Thanks, too, for your recommendation. I’ve got loads of work ahead of me — polishing up my two books and figuring out how to get them launched into the world. I must remind myself, this is an adventure and I’m fortunate to have options. Indeed, you can’t keep the writers from writing!!

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