In the last few days, I’ve been called a Grammar Nazi by somebody that continuously makes errors in her writing. And she’s right. I have been a bit picky. But it’s to prove a pretty important point.
Sure, everybody makes mistakes when they’re posting on FB, texting, or anywhere else. Lord knows I’ve done my fair share of that.
But when I’m writing, I do my level best to make sure that I present a tight, concise body of work, free from spelling and grammar errors. That’s not some silly post in a social media site. That’s business, and that’s a very different thing.
If you want to see what sort of publisher you’re talking to, take a good look at their sites. Look at every page, including their book blurbs and their author pages. Are there spelling errors? Are there grammatical errors? Is there a preponderance of swearing? If so, you might want to hit the door and keep looking for someone better suited to handle your business. Because it is your business we’re talking about. Your books and your reputation as a writer. Sure, “mistakes happen,” but it’s your publisher’s duty to make sure they don’t happen to you. And if they can’t even be bothered to keep the spelling and grammar high and tight on their professional website, what in the world makes you think they’re going to do any better for your book?
If you talk to a publisher that says they’re dedicated to “making your dreams come true” or “treats you like family” that’s probably another indicator that you should keep looking. Publishing isn’t about dreams or kinship. It’s business. That doesn’t mean it can’t have personal touches in your service, by any means. A good working relationship with your publisher is important, even vital. But it is still work, and the work has to come first. Dreams are well and good, but what are they doing for your book professionally? How good is their editing? Don’t be shy about checking out their editor’s sites and credentials as well. If they’re not up to par, keep looking.
If your publisher claims they’ll “bust their ass” for you, pin ’em down. What exactly will they bust it doing? Get a list, and make sure it’s a detailed one. If they’re professional, they won’t mind. They should, in fact, expect it.
What will they be doing to promote your book? Radio show? Great. Will it be a little internet show that two people will hear, or will it be a network interview during morning drive time? Blog tour? Swell. Will they be industry blogs that a lot of people will see? Or will they be a handful of blogs owned by your publishing company that only your fellow authors will know are there? Swag? Great. But this isn’t a craft show. It’s your book. Handy little giveaways are a nifty little tool, but not a selling point to sign on with a publisher.
Will your publisher arrange for a book tour? No? Keep looking.
Will your publisher have a launch party for you? A real one, out there in the physical world where you can invite press? No? Keep looking.
Will the company allow you access to your book’s sales reports on Amazon? No? Why not, unless they don’t want you to see how many books you’re really selling? Keep looking.
If you want dreams, take a nap. If you want family, call up your great aunt Lucy and ask her to bake you a pie. If what you want is a publisher, look for one that knows how to work the industry, not a catch phrase.
Do not ever let anybody tell you that you can’t do better than a publisher that’s substandard. You do not have to settle for an unprofessional publisher just because you don’t think anybody else will take you on. When it comes to an unprofessional, possibly illegal, publishing company, you can do much better on your own. Createspace offers services for editing and cover art, and can get your book on Amazon same as any publisher can. Createspace can even get you distributed through distributors like Ingram and Baker & Taylor. It’s not free, but it’s cheap, and it’s infinitely better than dealing with an unprofessional middle man that probably doesn’t have your best interests at heart.
Marketing isn’t as hard as it seems. It’s daunting, and it’s work, but if you have a publisher that isn’t doing it for you, you’re stuck doing it yourself anyway while they keep a large portion of your royalties for doing nothing.
Book signings: Call a book store and set one up. Be sure and tell them that you’re advertising the event in the local media, so they know that the public is likely to show up for it. That turns it around from the store owner doing you a favor by giving you a signing to you doing them a favor by bringing in advertising.
Radio interviews: They usually arrange for these things a few weeks in advance, so call up well before you know your signing is going to be and arrange for an interview the morning you’ll be doing it.
Newspaper: Ads are expensive, but interviews aren’t. Call the local entertainment section editor and offer to do an interview with them as a local author with an upcoming event that they can promote. Worst that can happen is they’ll say no. Best that can happen is that they’ll give you a spot. Even if it’s a one -inch column, it’s in the paper and you can reference it.
Newspapers and radio don’t care who you are one way or the other. But they’ve got space (and air time) to fill and they’d just as soon give it to you as anybody else.
These are just a couple ideas to get some promotion for your book. If you’re with a publisher that isn’t doing this and much more for your work, then what are they doing to earn a percentage of your profits? And what are you still doing with them?
If some scan publisher tries to scare you into thinking you’re stuck with them because you signed a contract, think again. Demand to see their licensing for the company. If they haven’t got a license, they aren’t a legal company. Even if they’re in a state that allows for a sole proprietorship without a license, don’t let that fool you into thinking they’re legal. They might bluster about how they’re going to sic their lawyer on you and sue you for breach of contract. If they do, call their bluff. Demand their lawyer’s contact information and offer to go talk to him yourself. The lawyer probably doesn’t exist.
They might even try to charge you a separation fee to revert your book rights back to you. Don’t fall for it. If the company doesn’t legally exist on paper, neither does your contract, so they never had the rights to begin with. Don’t let them bully you into paying them a dime.
And, chances are that if they’re illegal, they’d rather let you go than sue you. The last thing a scam artist wants to see is the inside of a courtroom. Especially considering they’ve probably ripped of a whole lot of other people too who are more than willing to testify on your behalf.
Stand up for yourself. Stand up for your work. Stop getting ripped off.
It’s simple. If you’re dealing with a company that doesn’t exist on paper, then your contract doesn’t exist either. You’re free to walk away. Tear up your contract and demand that they stop selling your title on the spot. They’re making money off of you that they haven’t earned, probably more than you’ve been told about. Don’t let them get away with it for a single minute more. If they don’t comply, take legal action of your own. That’s stealing. Don’t let it happen to you.
If a publisher’s got you thinking you can’t do any better, then don’t just take a closer look at them, take a closer look at yourself. If you’ve got it within you to write, you already deserve better. You and your work deserve the best chance for success. Don’t let anybody tell you different.