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.


Why so much animosity among Urban Authors?

competeWhen I made the decision to self-publish my first book two years ago, I was well aware that I would be one among thousands of other African-American authors, who all write the same genre(s) that I do, and that I would have to put forth a lot of effort to build a fan base and get people to notice me. At the same time, I never came into this to be in competition with anybody. I’ve never been a hater..I can congratulate other authors on their success and still shine at the same time. But it seems that not all African-American authors feel this way.

Since becoming an author, of course I network, follow, and have become associates with other authors on social media, mainly Facebook. But it seems that every day, several times a day, all I see is one author/publisher/editor/promoter or anybody associated with anything literary, hating on the next person…trash-talking each other, as writing and publishing books is a competition rather than a business. At least five times a day, I read subliminal diss posts from countless authors, publishers, or whatever saying how their way of writing /publishing is the best and only way that’s right to publish, edit, or write a novel, and if you aren’t doing it their way or get on their team (publishing company) you won’t be successful as an author and you will fail. The irony in that is that while they are quick to try to call out another author/publisher.editor on what they perceive them to be doing wrong, their own posts and/or books aren’t much better, and are often riddled with mistakes: incorrect grammar, misspelled/misused words, etc. I might catch a lot of heat for this post, but this is my opinion, which I’m entitled to have; and as I’ve always heard: If the shoe fits…

I hear so many AA authors complain all the time that there aren’t enough of ‘US’ on the top Bestsellers Lists (USA Today, New York Times, etc.)…that those accolades typically go to white authors and/or AA authors who have been in the game for many years. While I do think the literary business can be extremely biased towards AA authors, sometimes we don’t see that we’re creating our own problems. Instead of focusing on their own books/writing, too many – and I hate to say it- Urban authors/publishers/editors are spending more time trying to out-do the next person than they spend writing the best books they possibly can…doing all the hard, necessary work that it takes to make it on the New York Times Bestsellers list, for example. I’m willing to bet that the authors (white, black, or whatever) who do grace these bestsellers lists aren’t spending their time on Facebook trash-talking and posting subliminal disses at other authors. Instead, they are focusing on their own work…their own journey and aren’t concerned with what the next author is doing (or not doing) right; not feeling the need to call another author out on how much time they spend (or don’t spend) writing, or complaining about what resources they use to help them along the way, or worrying about who’s graphics designer is the best (when all the book covers look exactly the same anyway) And the reason why I specifically noted Urban authors is because they are the only one’s I see arguing and talking about each other on a daily basis. I read many different genres and follow authors of all races, and I don’t see this happening anywhere but in the Urban Fiction genre. It’s irritating and it’s distracting and just plain stupid.

I am too busy focusing on ME and MY career to be concerned with the next author’s business. Again, I wish everybody much success in their literary journey’s, but I don’t hardly have the time to sit around all day, nitpicking and focusing on everybody else’s mistakes and feeling the need to call them out on it on Facebook, so everybody else can jump on and co-sign (hate) on them..especially if it doesn’t involve me or my bank account. Why concern yourself with the next person’s business? What about the next author, publisher, or whatever’s work makes you so angry if they don’t write, edit, or publish the way you feel they should? Unless you’re invested in them, and your monthly royalties depends on what the next author does, you’re wasting time worrying about the wrong things. The way I see it, there is room at the table for everybody to sit and eat. We can accomplish so much more together than we can apart.And not only is all the bickering and feeling the need to call everybody else out on what you think they’re doing wrong petty and silly, it’s extremely unprofessional. If I were a literary agent interested in your work, potential author wanting to sign with your company, or reader looking for new authors to fall in love with, I would never choose to spend my time or money on authors who spend more time on Facebook arguing and beefing with other authors than they do writing/publishing their own books. Nobody’s journey to the top will be the same as yours, nor should it be. As long as you’re doing what it takes to get there, that should be all you worry about. If it’s not constructive criticism meant to help, rather than criticize (and most of what I see on Facebook isn’t) it’s just mean and unnecessary.  That’s just a little something to think about.


Literary Event: For The Love Of Literature


Come join the Sistahs of Urban Literature as we celebrate our seven year anniversary all year long for 2016.  We are happy  to have authors ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Brian W. Smith and Trice Hickman to join in the evening celebration.  Each author has written some amazing literature and their careers continue to take new heights.

Click link for additional info..