In many ways the past seven months have been like a fairytale. Two days before my delivery date for my son, I had an email from Booktrope publishing to say that they would like to sign the first book in the Sophie Morgan Vampire Series and all subsequent books in the series.
Wow, I thought, what better timing! With a pregnancy that had more than its fair share of complications and stresses, this was exactly what I was looking for in terms of my writing career – a publisher. Although I’d self published a number of books, the security of a company behind me, plus the opportunity to refine some aspects of layout, editing and design was extremely welcome. How would I have the time to push my books during those first few months with a new born? How could I financially afford to commission new artwork and so on? It was perfect timing.
Things started well, but it soon became clear there were problems in paradise.
Editors, including my own left. One of the issues was the payment model. Rather than carrying a large creative staff, freelancers complete work for a percentage of the royalties. This is great for authors, or indeed the business, who want to keep upfront costs down. For those professionals, however, it may mean they have to wait an exceptionally long time to recover their costs. If freelancers have outside work they undertake as well, where they receive immediate payment, that must be very frustrating. Good people therefore leave.
My first Marketing Manager left. That wasn’t a great issue as she hadn’t really done anything. The second was wonderful, but she left too. When juggling other commitments it’s not hard to see why people choose other options over the one which means they have to wait years to fully recover their costs – if at all.. Given my background in PR and Communications, I decided to go it alone and handle those aspects myself, saving a chunk of royalties in the process. My efforts proved to be effective and things started to get moving. I set myself a deadline for the third book in my series and frantically worked to it, despite being ill for months… oh, yes, and still new baby.
Then, on Saturday morning, I awoke to a blog post on the Booktrope internal system to say that the company was closing at the end of May. That’s it – a blog post. I stared at my iPAD, mouthing WTF at it.
The situation has left people wondering what they will do next. Many authors simply don’t have the finances to buy out editors and other with a cut of their royalties under the Booktrope model. If they can’t come to an agreement, it appears they won’t be able to publish their work elsewhere. Nothing is certain though, as there has been no assistance or FAQS provided yet. Hundreds of authors, editors and designers, as well as marketing professionals, are scratching their head about their next steps. I suspect that many will simply never be compensated for the work that they have done.
My first reaction was sheer, unadulterated anger. I am not alone. But, wearing my rational, calm head forty eight hours later, I am not entirely surprised – primarily for the reasons I’ve mentioned. Small presses go under all the time. Freelancers get screwed over all the time. I’ve been made redundant from an employer twice (one when I was off at a dental appointment) so nothing surprises me anymore! I also know that a model which relies in everyone getting a cut of the royalties can only work if everyone has the same agenda and motivation, and if everyone really pushes the product. Given the level of work I was still having to do in terms of marketing, I had already decided that once the third book in the Sophie Morgan Series (which will draw a natural conclusion to the saga for a little while), I would revert to self publishing. In fact, I already have a number of projects in mind. One or two of these may get touted to some big players, but I may go straight to print myself – working with some of the wonderful creative people that I worked with at Booktrope, as well as freelancers I had worked with previously. Yes, it’s not been all bad. In particular, I have to thank Steve Trinward who is a wonderful Editor, Sandra DaBolt who is a proofreader and the wonderful designer Ashley Byland from Red Bird Designs.
So what’s next for me? I’m very fortunate that this will not be my first rodeo when it comes to self publishing, and when rights revert to me on 1 June, my books will still be available in major ebook retailers and in paperback. I’ll be doing it myself. Of course there is going to be an administrative burden here, including ensuring reviews are transferred, pricing is consistent and all those links and addresses I’ve lined up for marketing purposes are revised. But despite that I’m choosing to look on the bright side now. There’s a degree of excitement here. It certainly gives me more freedom when it comes to the third book and I feel a little more like master of my own destiny again.
Nonetheless, I know that for a lot of my peers this will be a stressful and deeply troubling time. I feel their pain. I didn’t sleep last night. I sat up watching my sleeping baby on the video monitor and wondered how I would afford to buy out my creative team so I could use edited material and existing covers. But you know what? They’ve all been great. Booktrope had some amazing people and I’ll miss that network. Thank heaven for social media and the direct contacts we’ve forged. None of us are in this alone.
If you are looking for professional services for your writing project, I recommend….
Ashley Byland, Designer https://m.facebook.com/redbirdesigns/
Sandra DaBolt Nguyen – Proofreader and Editor https://www.facebook.com/SFreshSetofEyes/
Steve Trinward, Editor https://www.facebook.com/trinwords/
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