Literary Puppets: Is it worth it to allow self-published ebook publishers to pull the strings on your career?

Since I made the decision to follow my dream and become an author, I’ve been asked and advised to sign publishing deals with social media/ebook publishers. Two years ago, I got an email from a certain Urban Fiction publisher who said she’d come across my book and would like to sign me. At that point, I was very new to self-publishing (I’d only written and published my second book) but there was a part of me that enjoyed the process, even though I will admit it can be frustrating at times.

I spent many long nights and hours on Google- reading and doing research on as many self-publishing tips and articles I could find. I spent countless hours creating blogs, websites, and establishing connections with readers; and after doing all of that, I just wasn’t willing to give up all creative control to someone else. I immediately went to this publishers website to see their work. While she’s definitely made a name for herself, I knew that my writing style wasn’t going to fit in with the books and authors she had on her roster.My books do not fall under the Urban category. There are no thugs, gangstas, and bitches in my titles, which was what the majority of what I saw on her site were about. I very nicely declined her offer. I’ve never been a follower and even though this publisher has a bigger following than I do, I feel like with hard work, I can get where I want to be.

A lot of new authors see dollar signs when they scroll down their Facebook timelines and see all the fancy book covers from ebook publishers- who all claim to be better than any other publishing company- despite the fact that all of their covers are nearly identical. Add to that the fact that while many of these publishers posts how successful their company’s are, their success comes at the expense of the authors on their rosters, who usually don’t realize it right off. The idea of a publishing deal is fascinating to them, and that’s all they’re focused on. They don’t realize until it’s too late sometimes that the label (publisher) is more important than the product. It’s like how guys are with shoes- men will go out and spend their whole paychecks on a pair of Jordan’s, even though most of them are ugly and look exactly like the last one’s. To them, all that matter’s is the ‘Jordan’ symbol and label. That’s what their paying for. That’s what they get hype and excited about. It’s the same thing with books- most urban fiction readers buy books based on the label (publishing company) and couldn’t care less about the actual author. So, while the publisher is racking up the dollars when/if the book starts selling like hotcakes, the author is only seeing a small percentage of those earnings. Not only that, many are being told what to write, how to write, they don’t have a say so in the book cover design or even the graphics designer who does the cover. It’s similar to a new singer who’s just landed themselves a record deal- they go in the studio and sing the songs that the music execs/producers tell them to sing. I have heard many famous artists say that it took years and several albums down the line before they were given any type of creative control on their records. The music label owns them and makes all the decisions on everything from their songs, to their clothes, and even whether or not they can even get pregnant and start families.

Sorry, not sorry, I can’t give anybody that’s not doing a whole lot more than I am, that kind of control over my literary career. I have put in way too much time, effort, blood, sweat, and tears to just hand over the reins to someone else and become their literary puppet. Why would I let someone else make all the decisions about my stories, my ideas? I certainly understand why some new and self-published authors consider and give in to the idea- it’s two years in, and it’s still difficult trying to get readers to actually buy my books (and not want them for free) Marketing sometimes makes me want to throw my laptop across the room. I am constantly begging readers to leave reviews- which are what drive sales and attract new readers- although my pleas tend to go unanswered. It seems like no matter what I do or how good people tell me my books are, I’m still not where I want to be as an author. This reason- along with lack of know how- is why most authors give in to the allure/pressure of signing a publishing deal with smaller publishers. I even gave in to the temptation myself at one point about a year ago. Bad mistake. The ‘publisher’ I signed with kept pushing back the date of my book release..because she had personal issues. Although she’s very successful on her own, she didn’t seem too focused on her author’s books. When the release dates came and went, with no book released, she didn’t even contact me…I had to inbox her and ask what was up. While I understood her issues, books are a business, and the business side of me didn’t like being pushed to the back burner while she dealt with personal problems. That was money/potential money out of my pockets. I wasn’t liking how things were going, so I asked to be released from my deal before I even had one book published under her. Her response was, “Okay!” Just okay? I would hope that the person in charge of my career would have more to say than just ‘okay’ when I asked to be released from my contract. It was obvious that she didn’t care too much, which is all the  more reason why I’m glad I stuck to self-publishing my own books, the way I had been doing in the first place.

I won’t say that all smaller publishers are bad. I’m sure there are some good ones out there who really do have their author’s best interests at heart. I have yet to come across one, though. So, I think I’ll hold out and keep writing query letters and pray that one day, a big-time publisher will say, “Yes!”  I feel that in the end, all of my hard work, struggles, and frustrations will be worth it.

1 thought on “Literary Puppets: Is it worth it to allow self-published ebook publishers to pull the strings on your career?”

  1. It seems as though the self-publisher really has to watch her step nowadays. It used to be, beware of vanity publishers. Nowadays, everyone sees self-publishers as easy prey. I write in a totally different genre than you–memoir, but I don’t really see the point of traditional publishing either. If a traditional publisher approached me, I wouldn’t want to give up my control either. From a business standpoint, self-publishing makes more sense to me. But, there are a lot of people that just want to wear the Jordans, as you state, simply because they’re Jordans. To me, when someone approaches a self-published author about publishing their book, what they’re really saying is, “I want a piece of your profits.” The only thing they can do better than me is promote my book, which they probably won’t seeing how I’m a new author with my first title. Another thing that you’ve probably already considered, if the publisher has a large catalog of books, then your title becomes one of many. It’s like going to a book fair with 50 other authors. The chance of selling more than a hand full o books is slim to none. Like you said, we work too hard, in all aspects of our book, to just hand everything over to someone else.

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