Friday, July 11, 2014

Life With a Small Publisher: The Road to Self or Indie Publishing Part 3

In the last installment, I had parted ways with my agent and gotten contracts for two books with two different publishers. One publisher was small but more traditional. The other was more digital oriented. Both planned to release the books in ebook and print formats. Neither paid an advance. Both had easy to read, author friendly contracts. One wanted a two year commitment, the other wanted four.

What Did I Learn With Small Publishers?
The first book came out with the more traditional publisher. Now that I know more about digital publishing, I feel bad about the condition of the manuscript I submitted. I’ve always written in Apple word processing software. Lady Runaway probably began in AppleWorks, but I’m sure I was using Pages by the time it was submitted. I remember  I had to buy Word for Mac because all the publishers wanted submissions in Word. 

That poor manuscript had been through several software updates and then was pasted into Word. The editor who put it into the ebook format had quite a fight getting it formatted. On the other hand, I wonder if she knew about text editing programs that would have made the job simpler. All she had to do was paste the manuscript into a text edit program to strip all the formatting. 

From her irate email, it sounded as if she cleaned it up line by line.

The second book, Feather’s Last Dance, went to the small publisher who fell into the digital camp first, but offered print publishing for longer works. Since this company started in digital, they had a much better grasp of what was what. Their author’s guide walks the author through a clean up process for the manuscript. 

By the time I’d submitted two novels and a short story to them, I had a pretty good idea how to clean up a manuscript. To be honest, I didn’t really know why I needed to do it, but I had a grasp of the basics.

As with the New York publisher, book promotion fell mostly on me. Each publisher offered opportunities to promote either with information from various sources or through promotions they ran to generate interest in their company. The digital first publishing company was better equipped for sharing tips and how-tos for online promotion. That company also had a larger staff and more active author groups.

Life With a Small Publisher
This time around, I had to learn about Internet promotion. Virtual tours. Banner ads. Blogging. Contest prizes. Amazon Author Central. Facebook (this one still eludes me, but I try). Twitter. These are just a few of the ways writers interact with fans. As before, I 
was the one primarily responsible for the interaction. My new publishers helped, but there was no money from them for promotion. 

Although I had more say in cover design compared to the NY house where I had none, I still didn’t always get the exact story, title, or cover I wanted. The publishing house came first. Some changes were made to stories to keep it in line with the company’s vision. It was their company, after all. If they had another story with a similar title, I had to come up with a new one. And changes to covers were nixed if the cover artist and editor preferred what had been created. 

My experience with the more traditional house as to cover design was the best. The artist there worked with me to create the cover. I was their first true historical romance title and the publisher and artist respected my input.

Light Bulb Moment
In reality, I was still doing most of the hard part of publication. Writing a good story, cleaning up and prepping the manuscript for publication, and spending money on promotion. Why not take the next logical step and join my fellow writers in the indie revolution?

Things fell into place when I accidentally got the right to publish the next book in my contemporary series. The publishing company did not respond within their contractual deadline. Eventually, they offered me a contract, but I decided not to accept it. I’d noticed a gradual change in the contracts they offered. Each contract was more detailed and less author friendly than the last one. They were growing into a larger company, which was good for them, but they refused to negotiate anything, which was not good for me.  

I had a decision to make. Was I going to shop around for another publishing company who would probably offer me a similar give-away-all my rights contract? Or was I going to take the Indie plunge?