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After the year that e-publishing has had, it boggles the mind that there are still people out there who will submit and sign with an e-pub without at least taking the time to find out all they can about the company. (And don’t get me started on authors who sign contracts without making sure they understand what they are signing.)

Not only that, but there are Aspies who will still sign with a house, even when there are red warning signs all over the place. I say those dumbasses deserve what they get.

Placing your literary masterpiece (at least in the aspiring author’s own mind) in the hands of e-pubs who have huge question marks in terms of their reputation, could be compared to choosing a rumoured sex offender to look after your kids. Sure they could be innocent, but would you really want to take that chance? A slightly uneven comparison perhaps, but I’m sure you get my drift.

I’m a big believer in learning from other people’s mistakes, and it amazes me that time and time again, authors hoping to get e-published are doing the same foolhardy crap, even with advanced warning.

I remember when Venus Press first opened, my first impression was, ‘Not a publisher I want to buy from’.

When Mardi Gras opened, I went onto the website and thought, ‘Not a publisher I want to buy from’.

I recall one of MG’s authors sending me an e-mail informing me of their opening, and at the time, I left a message on her blog basically telling her that the website was a mess, and if they wanted anybody to take them seriously, they would need to employ a decent web designer to at least give them the illusion of being a professional outfit.

I never heard back from that author. I’m guessing that she along with the others got shafted.

If I as a mere reader, can look at a house, and think, no, not for me, then shouldn’t every author/aspiring author be able to do the same?

Google can often times be an author’s best friend, thus the aspiring author should endeavour to become intimately acquainted with its inner workings.

72 Comments »

  • I hate to get think of people getting shafted~deserved or not.

    However, if an author doesn’t do their homework, unfortunately they run the risk of getting screwed sideways and having to deal with consequences.

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  • I have done my homework and have been very lucky. Only once did I “take a risk” and that was with a brand new epublisher “The Wild Rose Press”. I became one of their first authors and I’ve had a very positive experience there.
    But it WAS a risk. I googled the owner’s names which didn’t have a place that said whether these people could run an epub. But everything Rhonda Penders and R.J. Morris said matched what I found about them. They’ve proven that they can do it and I’ve been very proud of my work there.
    The one thing I’ve tried to do when I submit my work is let it go. If a publisher goes out of business and I can’t free my book from the entangled mess, I write something else and move on.
    I’ve been very lucky. But I’ve also done as much homework as I can.
    I don’t think an author “deserves” to be shafted. I think it can be a test to discover if an author is willing to keep at this despite the risks, the frustration and the disappointments.
    Some do and some don’t.

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  • Some people are so desperate to be published, they don’t care. I’m not sure anyone *deserves* to get shafted but I have met some folks who left me scratching my head (and that’s all I’ll say about that). For God’s sake, do your homework!

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  • “Deserve it” does seem a bit strong but I do agree that the new writers who run off and sign a bunch of stories at once or in rapid succession to an untried press do seem to be asking for it.

    Sometimes I want to grab these people and yell “Always start at the top then branch out!”

    If you have a few books well placed with top-of-the-line publishers then it will balance out any bad choice you make in the name of “it seemed like a good idea at the time”.

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  • Shirley
    April 13
    8:10 pm

    Amen, Karen.

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  • Hm, what brought this on?

    Last week in Arizona I did my epublishing workshop (I’ll be giving it again a few more times, including once online, plus writing a series of articles based on it for a writer’s website). Part of my workshop is based off a blog post Jane and I did a while back, right after Trisk folded, about researching an epublisher. In that part of it, I talk about doing basic things, like buying a book and being a customer. Several of the attendees said that had never occurred to them. (insert shocked face here)

    Things like this seem very basic to me, because if you don’t know what type of product the publisher you’re pursuing is producing (yay for alliteration!) then you can you know they’re producing a product you want to attach your name to?

    But it brings home to me just how little research or knowledge some authors do have before signing a contract (and for what it’s worth, I also did a section on contracts and my main point was–have an expert look at it).

    As a source of amusement for you, I did list you (and several other blogs) as a resource. Heh.

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  • Deserve is a bit much, but I agree that if authors don’t do their homework whether it be for publishers or contracts, they are going to get shafted. There is no way around it and they will be able to blame no one but themselves.

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  • Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t so much a lack of research, but rather desperation and impatience to be published. It’s not hard to find out who the big players are in epublishing–especially in romance/erotic romance. If you start at the top and work your way down, and your ms is consistently rejected until finally someone at Flybynight Books expresses interest, maybe instead of jumping on the offer, you ought to work on your craft a bit more?

    Oh, but wait, writing books is easy, right? Especially romances. Anyone can do it, you don’t even need to practice.

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  • Angela, I am also boggled authors don’t ‘test buy’ from presses. Just this morning I decided to start a secret shopper program to report about buying experiences at erotic romance epublishers. I am currently looking for non-author customers to make purchases and report back. I cover the cost of the book.

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  • Meredith M.
    April 13
    10:50 pm

    Several years ago at an RT convention, I walked away with dozens of free paperbacks, and let me tell you, I was shaking my head over the course of the next few weeks wondering how some companies (Venus Press and New Concepts were two of the companies I remember from those free samples) stayed in business, or even lasted for more than a few months. Fuzzy covers, pages printed cockeyed, different sized fonts from page to page, centering mixed with justified types, inconsistent page numbers, not to mention missing chapters. Of the four NCP books I had received that week, each one of them had major formatting problems. They looked pieced together by someone who had a printing press in their garage. Venus’s were not much better. And I won’t even begin to mention the spelling errors I found on the opening page of the first book I picked up from both Venus and NCP. I swore to never dish out money to these companies, and I never did. That’s why I’m still confused as to why it took so long for NCP’s “problem areas” to come to light, and why up until just a few months ago, authors kept singing their praises. (I also could never understand how Venus Press popped up and managed to gain the #1 Best Publisher spot in the P&E poll that year, when they hadn’t even published a single book up until that moment.) Anyway, I find it very hard to believe that NCP has a dedicated customer fanbase based on the samples I saw. Those were truly eye-opening samples and completely influenced me as an author about to embark on the e-publishing world.

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  • I also could never understand how Venus Press popped up and managed to gain the #1 Best Publisher spot in the P&E poll that year, when they hadn’t even published a single book up until that moment.

    Methinks the P&E polls in general would make for another good discussion.

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  • Quite. I took part in a vote scrabbling ans swapping a few years ago and placed with maierial most of the people who voted for me certainly hadn’t read. Then I realised there really isn’t any point to it all.

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  • I agree what “deserve” seems rather harsh, but I can’t come up with another word that applies. And truly, isn’t it really a matter of “consumer beware”?

    I understand that a couple of decades ago it was much harder to glean information on any topic, let alone the business practices of relatively small outfits. But there’s no excuse in this day and age to remain in the dark–particularly not when one is entrusting someone else with one’s product/reputation.

    If a writer is so desperate to see their name in print/epublished that s/he will either disregard all warnings, or not even seek the most basic information, it is harder to feel much more than incredulity and frustration when said writer is shafted by a con artist/fly by night/shady accounting ‘company.’

    (This is much different than when a company changes hands or management, and business standards take a dive, of course.)

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  • SHayne
    April 13
    11:48 pm

    I’m not all that surprised. Only two years I was clueless to the entire epub world. Luckily, I found Em Veinglory’s forum. That was a hell of a fountain of information, but it was sheer luck I found it.

    I can very well see why others might stumble in the desire to be published. People new to the epub aren’t going to know the major players, I certainly didn’t when I started. They aren’t going to know the blogs and places that talk about the epublishers. They aren’t going to know shit.

    They might come across an address where they can submit their work or do so on the recommendation of a friend who is published with XXX and is happy (treated nicely, first couple of royalty checks on time). XXX might have a long list of unhappy authors and/or just about to break down, but neither the friend or new author know that.

    Everybody seems to be broaching the problem as if the new authors should know everything we know. How long have some of us been watching and/or plying our trade in this world?

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  • The unfortunate thing (as I’ve seen and experienced) is that many people see epub and NY on a near horizontal plane. Who wouldn’t expect a NY agent who is respected and in this business to move the authors’ careers to treat you fairly? Then the E world must be the same!

    Um.. No.

    I’ve been lucky in that I did start with a new pub more than two years ago and I’m still doing just fine there. Many don’t know they can research a pub. Many don’t know to research the NY desks either. Think of the editors and agents who consistently say they receive mss that aren’t what they represent. It’s not just the epub world.

    I have bought from presses I’ve wanted to sign with, and I can stoutly agree that is a good way to find out about the pub, their website, their delivery, and their product. Angie’s comment (shocked face) made me grin. Personally, you wouldn’t go and buy a car without researching it, test drive, check Consumer Reports. Be smart about how you handle your career and it will pay off.

    I agree “deserve” is a little harsh, but I can’t think of a better word either. “Desperation” plays into it too. There’s no denying that. A folder of R’s is bound to make anyone feel pretty low, and only to willing to jump at the “chance” of being published. That’s when you tell yourself to back up, sleep on it, and look at it realistically. I’m the last person to tell anyone it’s a perfect system. After two years, I’ve hit the max of pubs I’m interested in signing with. That knowledge came with some beautiful explosions of inexperience and embarrassment, and it’s all mine. LOL

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  • I guess I look at this the same way I would look at buying a house or a car or whatever. It’s my money to spend, and it will be my property/asset/whatever to maintain. Eventually, it will also be mine to sell if I so choose. Doesn’t it make sense to make sure I get the best possible deal for my money?

    And how do I make sure? I research. Ask around. Look it up.

    If I go with the first recommendation, and end up shafted, do I blame the friend who recommended that car or connected me to the real estate agent? or is it my responsibility for not taking the time to research properly?

    In the case of writers, it’s their work and future earnings–plus peace of mind and reputation–that they are putting out there. It only makes sense that they take the time to ensure they put their trust in someone who deserves it.

    If they did take the time and still got shafted, it’s one thing–if they simply were in too much of a hurry to protect themselves… well, I’ll repeat, it’s difficult to feel that much sympathy then.

    ETA: Damnit, Diana, you posted while I was typing! grrrr 😀

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  • I dunno Karen. I tried to do due diligence with Genesis, but to no avail. At that time, writers were talking amongst themselves, but no one was complaining out loud. I didn’t know any other authors, and really had no way of knowing them being new and all. I doubt anyone would’ve said anything to me anyway. They were still listed in good standing with RWA, and P&E had them listed as a good publisher until 2006/2007 when folks finally started raising hell about it. These folks had gotten away with not paying people for more than a decade by then.

    When I checked, their website looked reasonable, they’d been around and established for a lengthy period of time. Some of my fave authors wrote for them. I don’t know about the epubs because I’ve never written for them. Now that I know about the various blogs I have a great in for checking, but unless you’re ‘in the know’ it can be very hard. At least it was for me.

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  • but unless you’re ‘in the know’ it can be very hard. At least it was for me.

    ITA! I googled. I checked out the covers, bought a book (or two), recognized some authors’ names on the roll, and even emailed a few authors to get their opinions. I still made mistakes because, despite everything, I wasn’t “in the know”.

    Come June I will have been in epublishing for a year. Let me tell you, it has been quite an education! 🙂

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  • I also did a section on contracts and my main point was–have an expert look at it

    I agree with Angela.

    It’s not that expensive to hire a literary attorney to review your contract and give you pointers on how to protect yourself. It’s certainly cheaper than getting screwed and having an ePub take your story hostage or something like that.

    Also you can tell (at least a little) how the publisher’s going to treat you by the way they respond to your concerns on the contract. If they basically say “F*U. Take it or leave it. We don’t negotiate”, you know you don’t want anything to do with them. Isn’t it better to find out sooner than later?

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  • Oh, but wait, writing books is easy, right? Especially romances. Anyone can do it, you don’t even need to practice.

    Kristen- Don’t you just love it when someone who has never written nor tried to write a book and finish it spouts out that crap? GAH!

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  • I also think that “deserve” is a bit harsh, because I don’t believe that new, naive authors deserve to be taken advantage of because of their naivety. That said, I do think that they are taking unnecessary risks and “asking for it” in the same manner as a scantily-dressed college student strolling dark allies in a bad area of town is asking to be raped and/or murdered. Common sense, people!

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  • It’s not that expensive to hire a literary attorney to review your contract and give you pointers on how to protect yourself.

    I had a contract reviewed because truthfully I didn’t understand some of what was in it and didn’t know how to go about having some of the stuff in it changed nor the proper phrasing. It cost me $150 to have an attorney who specializes in Intellectual Property review my contract and give me advice.

    Now, if you’re going to leave the negotiating to them, it’s going to cause you more, but once you understand what everything means, you could probably handle that yourself.

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  • Well, I’ve been shafted. Twice. You’d be hard put to find an epubbed author who’s been doing it for over five years who hasn’t been.
    But at the beginning (more than five years ago) it really was the Wild West. Now it isn’t. You can find things out a lot easier and many people will share their experiences. Plus, check places like Emily’s EREC, and there’s more information for you.
    The smaller pubs do tend to pick up the newer, more naive would-be published author. Anything is a credential, right?
    Wrong. In the old days you could do that, take your experience, shrug and move on to the next one. But these days you really have to do your homework. The epublishing business is much more lucrative than it ever was before and the sharks are getting more vicious. They’ll circle you for longer before they pounce, to get more out of the encounter. There are potentially more rewards. And the larger epubs are either closed to submissions, or they take much longer and they are far more selective.
    Take a step back. Ask yourself why you write. Really. Is publishing so much to you that you’ll take a chance on a dodgy publisher? Or do you want to work hard and make yourself into a really good writer, take your time to get it right.

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  • Due dillgance is called for, but as Lynne said a lot of people will get burned at least once. I know I was with Lady Aibell.

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  • Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t so much a lack of research, but rather desperation and impatience to be published.

    I think this is part of it.

    Another part, I think, could be chalked up to naivety. They assume because a publisher is up and going, or in the process, that means the publisher knows what they are doing.

    A new author might not realize that some people:

    -don’t care if they screw their authors
    -don’t care about a professional site–professional, not just pretty and sparkly
    -they don’t care to put the time and thought into the business.

    A new author might not realize that some people

    -view epublishing as a get-rich quick scheme
    -see it as a way to get their own books published on their own timetable versus somebody else’s
    -couldn’t really care less about professionalism.
    -only ‘think’ they know what they are doing.

    Any of these, all of them are will mostly to lead to problems. Some of those problems may be huge, spectacular train wrecks that we all watch with macabre fasincation.
    Some will be quieter, and hopefully handled the right way, and everybody involved learns how to avoid said problems.

    But the new author may not think of these things. Now the wise new author is going to investigate and learn these things, I hope.

    But we all have to start somewhere and sometimes people get bumps and bruises along their way.

    Maybe it’s like a kid learning to ride a bike. Some are going to take off with no problems. But others are going to fall down a few times, get scraped, scratched and they might be tempted to give up.

    Writing can be just like that. Some of us luck out and don’t have trouble along the way. Sadly, though, some do-they get bumped, scraped, scratched, insulted, abused, lied to….

    Doesn’t mean I think they deserve it, although too often, these things could be avoided. I just hope they get back on the bike.

    Edited.

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  • Marissa said: “It cost me $150 to have an attorney who specializes in Intellectual Property review my contract and give me advice.”

    For some people, this might be a paltry sum. For others, it simply wouldn’t be affordable.

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  • Nonny, I hear what you are saying, but then I wonder if writers who want to make of this a career can afford not to invest the time and effort, and yes, money, to do it right.

    Because in the end, aren’t they spending more money (by turning in work and not getting paid for it) and energy (by being subjected to abuse) if they don’t protect themselves as best they can from the get go?

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  • I’m thinking it comes down to the desperation to get published. People will do anything. It’s scary, actually. For some reason, that drive and the emotion behind it push out common sense. People who would otherwise think clearly get all muddled and stop doing the background work needed.

    I see what you’re saying Shiloh, but we were all new once. Where the “deserve” part comes in – and I agree the word is harsh and makes me squirm to type it – is that if you want to be a professional writer, you need to use your head and do your homework. This is especially true now when we’ve had example after example of “bad” publishers.

    If you’re going to write for Harlequin/Silhouette, you need to understand the lines and see where your writing fits. If you’re going to try to get in at a Berkley or Kensington or wherever, you need to know what the imprints are all about and she what is being published there. The need to gather fundamental information should not be less because your potential publisher is an ebook publisher rather than a NYC print publisher. It’s your career, so you have to take responsibility for it. It’s true that you can investigate this stuff and still get into trouble, but it’s incumbent on the author to at least try.

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  • SHayne
    April 14
    4:48 am

    AztecLady,

    In the beginning if you can’t afford to do it ‘right’, you can’t. That isn’t going to stop anybody from writing and trying to get published. Everybody seems to forget a lot of people really have no clue that epublishing can be so shark infested.

    Not even google can help sometimes. When the first mentions of Highland Press came up, I googled them out of curiosity. It wasn’t til page 9 there was a mention of Karen’s blog in reference to Highland Press. Not even the fact we talk about it all over the place ends up on google all the time. *shrugs*

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  • Take a step back. Ask yourself why you write. Really. Is publishing so much to you that you’ll take a chance on a dodgy publisher? Or do you want to work hard and make yourself into a really good writer, take your time to get it right.

    Exactly. I’ve been writing for freaking twenty years, and I only finally subbed to my first publisher last year. If I could wait twenty years, dammit, I could take the time to do some research on where I was sending my work. I probably looked things over online for six months or more before I knew where I would feel safe and where I wouldn’t. All that patience paid off–I’m overjoyed to be with Samhain.

    I understand how eager aspiring authors are to be published, but eagerness is no excuse to not do your homework. FFS, every resource I found–from P&E to Emily’s EREC to Writer Beware–I found with an obscure and little known search engine called Google. Apparently this Google is so arcane, many otherwise literate people out there don’t know it exists.

    It’s one thing to be caught in an implosion if there are no warning signs whatsoever, but in most cases I think it’s largely willful blindness. The bullshit at NCP seemed to take a lot of people by surprise, but I’ll tell you, after buying one ebook from them I wouldn’t have touched them with a ten foot pole.

    In that part of it, I talk about doing basic things, like buying a book and being a customer. Several of the attendees said that had never occurred to them. (insert shocked face here)

    Now why on earth would anyone choose to be published in a format they don’t ever read themselves? I just don’t get that at all…

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  • Marissa said: “It cost me $150 to have an attorney who specializes in Intellectual Property review my contract and give me advice.”

    For some people, this might be a paltry sum. For others, it simply wouldn’t be affordable.

    Nonny, I know $150 seems like a huge chunk of change, especially for some. But it is a chunk that would be so very well worth it.

    One of the reasons I don’t really agree with the ‘deserve to get shafted’ idea is because every single one of us make mistakes, and generally, they shouldn’t be mistakes we suffer for endlessly. But something like a mistake in your career, even one of ignorance or just being too broke to pay an attorney is one that can stick with you.

    I was 16 when I first had a book finished that I wanted to get copyrighted. Sixteen, and about as broke as they come. My parents didn’t have the money, I didn’t have the money, but I had a book that I wanted protected. So I busted my tail working extra hours at my part-time job so I’d have the extra $75 a local lawyer charged to help me file the copyright papers~and this was just to get the book filed with the Library of Congress.

    If a writer doesn’t understand the contract terms, it really is in their best interest to get a lawyer to get look at it–even if money is beyond tight. Because if they don’t, what happens if they happen to be the best thing that ever came through publishing, but they are chained, and I mean literally, chained to a publisher that treats them like crap and who had a contract that screwed them six different ways to Sunday?

    Anybody who ever had that happen to them probably wishes they had found a way to get the money to pay a lawyer.

    Now, rambling off tangent here-
    another long-winded comment about why I don’t really think authors ‘deserve’ to get shafted–

    As savvy as I thought I was at 16, when I was 19, I made the stupidest mistake known to writer and let somebody ‘claiming’ to be an editor read a romance I’d written and wanted to get published.

    She wasn’t an editor. I found out quick enough *but after she had my baby, naturally* and took action before she could do anything. The so-called editor wasn’t aware that I’d already registered that book with the Library of Congress, too, that one on my own, and that is the one thing that saved my butt. If I had taken a few more days to investigate her, I could have saved myself endless trouble and many long hours afterward wondering…why if she tries to steal my idea anyway?

    But it’s a mistake I learned from and fortunately, I didn’t get scarred from it. It’s not quite the same thing as signing on with a house that would be best left alone, but it was still a scary moment for me. One of my own making, yes, but I also don’t think I was ‘asking’ for bad things just because I was gullible enough (at one time) to take somebody at their word.

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  • Shiloh, I agree that if the writer doesn’t understand the legal terms at all, then it’s definitely worth the money to have a lawyer look over the contract. Some of the comments, though, read more like any author should have their contract checked out, period. I’m not a lawyer, but I am familiar enough with legalese to know what’s being said and check for obvious loopholes — and I’ve found a couple in my contracts that would work in my favor should it come to a crisis point.

    Realistically speaking, though, I think a lot of newbie authors don’t consider contract terms and just sign the damn thing. It’s a commonly stated pseudo-myth that e-publishers will take “anything.” While that’s certainly not true of all e-pubs, there definitely are ones that have lower standards for what they will accept. I remember doing a critique of the first three chapters of somebody’s MS. Without going into detail, the writer had made just about every newbie mistake in the book — literally! A few weeks later, the author announced that it had been accepted for publication by the now-defunct Mardis Gras Press. *sigh*

    Unfortunately, along with prose and storytelling, business is also something that has to be learned. It doesn’t come naturally. The information is out there, yes, but so is all the rest of the info for a beginning writer. Many beginning writers are impatient and think that their work is good enough to be published now (even if it isn’t — I know that was true for me! *g*). Reputable publishers aren’t going to take on a complete newbie, but we aren’t talking about reputable publishers here. Thus, the newbies get screwed over.

    And yes, I know it’s not just beginning writers who have been preyed upon by these publishers — but I think they are in a vast majority, at least from what I have seen.

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  • I, too, think “deserve” is a little harsh of a term. I was with Venus Press, and although my “spidy sense” had been tingling for some time and I quit producing new/more work for them, I didn’t think about getting my rights back. After all, I was still getting some money. I got an email that my editor was leaving. Didn’t think much about that either, editors come and go all the time. It was only with a few days before my editor’s departure that something told me to get on the chat loop. I did, to find out that Venus had gone down in flames. Luckily, I was able to get my rights back, but just barely.

    I’ve been frustrated with the big guys and the little guys. And I think, as an author, if you don’t look at all the alternatives, then you’re going to be doing your career a disservice. I think all authors should do as much do dilligence as they can before submitting. Even basic stuff, which I’ve blogged about, look at covers, look at their website. If their submission guidelines have typos in them and their covers are gawdawful ugly with flowy script where you can’t even read the author name and the title (that’s your marketing right there, if they can’t read your name, you’re sunk!), close your browser. Do not pass Go. Do not send a submission!

    I do think some common sense would save a lot of heart ache, but even then, you can be as cautious as humanly possible and still get singed. 🙁

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  • If their submission guidelines have typos in them and their covers are gawdawful ugly with flowy script where you can’t even read the author name and the title (that’s your marketing right there, if they can’t read your name, you’re sunk!), close your browser. Do not pass Go. Do not send a submission!

    Typos in the excerpts are a huge red flag, too. I mean, come on! That’s the shiny, candy-colored lure that’s supposed to induce a sale! If they can’t get the most important thousand words right, WTF makes you think the rest of the book (or any of their books) will be any better.

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  • Dorothy Mantooth
    April 14
    9:59 am

    Yes, I think they deserve it, at this point. A few years ago, no. Now? There is way too much info out there, too many people have given advice and been ignored, for anyone to use “I didn’t know XYZ press had a bad rep” or even “I don’t know how to research” as an excuse.

    The thing is, a lot of these people don’t WANT to do that dirty, mean research-and-discriminate stuff. They just want to play Author: The Role-Playing Game, and talk in very sincere voices about how speshul it is to touch other people’s lives with their beautiful words.

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  • Realistically speaking, though, I think a lot of newbie authors don’t consider contract terms and just sign the damn thing. It’s a commonly stated pseudo-myth that e-publishers will take “anything.” While that’s certainly not true of all e-pubs, there definitely are ones that have lower standards for what they will accept.

    For those authors who do hang out in the “community”, one of the things I suggest is to think if you’ve ever actually heard of anyone getting rejected by the publisher. I know authors don’t like to talk about rejections, but there are some who will, and I think not having heard of a publisher ever rejecting someone is a big red flag. There are publishers who say they have a 98% rejection rate (uh huh) and of course there’s no real way to know that, but if you’ve never heard of anyone being rejected…

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  • Another anonymous
    April 14
    1:50 pm

    Did anyone see Piers Anthony’s update on NCP? I was dismayed by it, because I know a lot of authors see his site as a good resource. He starts out by listing NCP’s problems, but in the end seems to conclude that a lot of the problems may be due to “the ignorance of new writers,” and he even feels that Madris has made some good points in her posts.

    I understand his need to present a balanced viewpoint, but I don’t like to see NCP’s problems being listed, and then partially dismissed as newbie author problems, rather than very real and serious issues with the company itself.

    His updated info:

    April 2008 update: yet another bad report of lack of communication, poor customer service, and authors having problems getting their rights back after their contracts expire. There is an extended discussion at an author loop, the essence of which is that authors must post anonymously to avoid vindictive retaliation, that authors who ask questions can get blacklisted, that there is no editing, payments can be late, and that the proprietor publishes her own material under multiple aliases, with those getting the most promotion. One says that NCP was good, but has been going downhill the past 18 months. One is bemused that the publisher can’t be bothered to notify authors when their books are being published. But some posts are positive. One says that the blacklist is a myth. The publisher, Madris DePasture, has a long hard-nosed discussion of publishing and authors that makes sense; it is true that many seeming errors are mostly the ignorance of new writers. So as an outsider, I suspect the truth is somewhere in between.

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  • Rosemary Laurey
    April 14
    3:03 pm

    Marissa said: “It cost me $150 to have an attorney who specializes in Intellectual Property review my contract and give me advice.”

    For some people, this might be a paltry sum. For others, it simply wouldn’t be affordable.

    Not about to debate whether $150 is paltry or not, but remember Publishing is a BUSINESS. As an author with a start up business, you need to be prepared to invest a little money to get established.

    I don’t see how it’s feasible to set up a business (at least if you intend to last) if you aren’t prepared to provide a little start up capital.

    I often think many of the woes in publishing are because there are authors – and publishers come to that- who neglect to acknowledge this and seem to treat it as a pastime.

    For a Publisher or author to set up without a well thought out business plan is, IMO, a major mistake.

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  • Rosemary Laurey
    April 14
    3:06 pm

    I think a lot of newbie authors don’t consider contract terms and just sign the damn thing.

    Not just newbies Nonny. I know multipublished, bestsellers who just sign then. Astounds me.

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  • Nora Roberts
    April 14
    3:45 pm

    The information is out there. If you’re looking into e-publishing, you have access to the internet. All you have to do is take the time to look around, read, weigh, absorb, check.

    It’s a business. It’s your career. If you can’t be bothered to check, to take the time, then you’re very likely going to pay a big price for it.

    If being able to say you’re published is all you want, fair enough. You’ll get published, but you’re not going to have a career as a writer until you take that time, treat it as a business–and respect yourself and your work enough to be professional.

    We were ALL new once. And when many of us were, info wasn’t nearly so readily available. We knew nothing, but we found out.

    HKD says: ‘It’s your career, so you have to take responsibility for it’

    To that, I say: Oh boy, WORD.

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  • Annmarie
    April 14
    4:07 pm

    I was at Mardi Gras for a short time… and while I was there I receieved an IM from a new author who was getting their first book published there. They asked me how many thousands of copies they should expect to sell. I sat there slack jawed for a few minutes then I asked them how they figured they’d be selling thousands… and they responded that since ebooks were available world wide, sales should be huge… right??

    And I don’t understand why some of the authors at Venus decided to stay when they were told that the only staff who answered emails was quitting. I remember there was a lot of discussion on the loop with authors saying to stay and wait things out… everything will be fine… The people who decided to leave got their rights back. The people who stayed ended up stuck.

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  • I too am disheartened by Piers Anthony’s updates. But not knowing how many actually wrote him with their complaints, it’s hard to judge why he said what he did.

    But I know I’ve reported abuse to him in the past that was ignored, and I had literal proof of it happening, so for the last year I’ve felt uncomfortable trusting his site.

    It goes back to having a webwide watchdog for writers who will report the problems without the editorializing. Can that be done…I don’t know. But I would sure like to see that be something EPIC worked towards.

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  • Dorothy Mantooth
    April 14
    4:46 pm

    I’ve had a hard time trusting Piers of late, as well. His NCP and HP updates are disheartening, to say the least. It makes me wonder if he’s really as detatched as we think, or if he has some sort of connection with some of these publishers?

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  • The news from PA’s site is a little disturbing.

    I realize it’s always best to take everything, good and bad, with a grain of salt.

    But considering how many people have spoken up about NCP, and considering her rants, to view her comments as anything other than way out of line and way unprofessional wouldn’t take a grain of salt. More like a dump truck.

    Even aside from the author complaints regarding NCP itself, publishing woes, editing woes-anybody who addressed me in a fashion similar to those emails would be one person that would never see another book from me.

    My career has been fairly smooth, although I have bumped heads a time or two. However, I have never, and I mean NEVER, had anybody speak to me the way MdP has spoken to her authors.

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  • Rosemary said: “Not just newbies Nonny. I know multipublished, bestsellers who just sign then. Astounds me.”

    o.O

    One would think…

    *sigh*

    One would apparently be wrong. 😛

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  • Meredith M.
    April 14
    7:12 pm

    And also don’t forget, even if the contract is well-written, deemed perfect and legit by some $150-$300 per hour lawyer, only the gods of e-publishing-land can say whether the company, itself, will actually adhere to it! Lawyers can advise, but they can NOT guarantee.

    I saw one contract that looked beautiful, but the whole thing turned as ugly as sin and wasn’t worth the paper it was written on when the publisher thumbed their nose at the document, continally disregarding 90% of the clauses, then called the authors who complained “ignorant.” Go figure.

    And also beware–rather, BEWARE–of publishers who sign the contract using one of their various pennames. This happened at Venus Press multiple times (since the owners and co-owners were hiding under pseudonyms–Lady Isabella and other stupid names listed on their website instead of their real names—then many of them claimed ignorance) and the contracts, therefore, were nothing but fireplace fuel…pure garbage! Why any company owner would sign a legal document under an obvious penname is cause enough to run to the hills. So do your research, including Google hunts for the name of owners, co-owners, wannabe owners, family member owners, penname owners, dog owners, and editors and cover artists and all their multiple pennames. If the chief people attempt to hide their identities, then you know they are either morons, shady characters, or totally ignorant of proper business and legal practices. (Probably all!)

    So just because a contract looks valid and sturdy doesn’t mean squat. It’s whether the publisher actually LIVES BY THE CONTRACT or not that means gold. This is where other authors at the same publishing house can be life-savers (if they’re willing to share experiences of contract problems and don’t hide their heads in the sand). And sometimes even they don’t know that they’ve been shafted if an owner signs a document under a falsehood.

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  • Precisely Meredith. I had my contract vetted by an attorney. I’ve had some training as a paralegal, and understood the contract perfectly well. Unfortunately, my publisher had no intention of abiding by the contract. This went on for more than a decade. Finally, some authors had enough and started complaining, but that was well after I’d already signed the contract. Not only that, but when authors actually had the temerity to complain the publishers responded by suing for millions!!! Now, I don’t know about you, but that can have a seriously chilling effect on anyone. I had myself incorporated to protect my family and my home, but that wasn’t cheap especially considering that I have received no royalties on a book that sold thousands of copies.

    Eventually the publisher lost the suit, but it certainly wasn’t cheap for those authors to defend themselves. I’m not sure why I wasn’t sued as well. Probably because at that time the only thing they owed me was a promised advance, which I didn’t receive until AFTER my book earned out the advance. So, your best bet, in my opinion is to find authors who publish with that same publisher and ask, ask, and ask again. But understand that they might not be forthcoming with information, either.

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  • Marissa said: “It cost me $150 to have an attorney who specializes in Intellectual Property review my contract and give me advice.”

    For some people, this might be a paltry sum. For others, it simply wouldn’t be affordable.

    If you’re going to write as a business, that $150 is a tax deductible expense. The IRS or CRA understands you have to spend money to make money.

    BTW, “deserve” sounds harsh, but after the melt-downs last year and so far this year, it’s apt. A lot of the e-pubs that went down didn’t make it past my web site checklist. Seriously: music on a professional web site? Or forcing potential customers to play “Where’s Waldo” to find the books? Do these people not understand the basic tenets of web usability?

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  • I’m afraid I’m going to have to stand by my assertion that any author who blindly hands their books over to a publisher without doing their homework, deserves to get shafted. A little un-pc I know, but seriously, they do.

    If/when an e-pub such as Rene Lyons’s Lyrical Press goes tits up, there wont be any outpouring of sympathy from me, because the authors that have already signed with them, surely must have known the risks. Either that, or they are sadly lacking the common brain functions that they were gifted with.

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  • One of the things that throws off new authors is the instant “my publisher is the best” mantra that many authors assume the minute they sign with a new pub whether there’s any real, factual information or long term experience to back it.

    It’s important to remember when asking questions that enthusiasm is one thing, fact is another. It’s also important to take into account what stage of growth the company is in. Are they in the usually well funded everything’s rosy first couple year flush? Are they in the reality check second to fourth years? Are they in the sink or swim 4-7?

    About all one can check in the first couple years is whether the growth plans are logical, the soundness of the contract (for the company. Company does not write the contract for the author ) whether they are paying on time, and whether their growth plans make sense. Usually in an effort to lure authors, company’s offer better than what will be the norm terms. ie A publisher starting out with a promise (in words not in contract) of every book going to print in three months. Unless they are in the contract, those kind of terms should be expected to be amended, but are good incentives. If they are too outlandish, however, can be a warning sign.

    In the 2-7 year zone, you can follow the pattern of fall back from the original plan to get an idea of company health. Do they have a pattern of going backward from the peak? Some adjustment is normal, but a steady retreat (no matter how reasonably explained away) and persistent shrinkage is a warning sign.

    Pretty much, every one of the popular epubs out there is a start up, so theres no avoiding the risk, especially as the epub market itself is going through it’s own growth cycle (which forces the publishers in it to reevaluate and adjust) but that’s part of the excitement.

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