An Open Letter to Nora Roberts (and other authors, too)



I’ve been following your blog as the #CopyPasteCris saga has unfolded, and I’ve tried so many times to comment on the posts, but words have failed me. Not because I couldn’t think of what to say, exactly, but because there simply is so much to say on the matter, and honestly, words cannot express how happy I am that someone with some clout has finally had their eyes opened to the atrocities us “small fry” authors have been enduring for a good five years now.

I do not mean that disrespectfully. What has happened to you with #copypastecris is beyond deplorable. I’ve been plagiarized myself, on more than one occasion, although not to the extent you, and so many other authors, have been suffering at the hands of this most resent, high-profile plagiarist. Even a single line taken is like a knife through the heart. Entire sections, entire books – that’s more like the proverbial sword through the midsection.

I say this because honestly, I feel like now maybe someone will actually listen. For years I’ve sat and watched an industry I grew up in, an industry I absolutely loved, de-evolve into nothing but back-stabbing authors, con artists, scammers, and wannabe “writers” who are more than willing to step on anyone and do anything, and I do mean anything, to make a quick buck through the self-publishing industry. I’ve watched no less than a dozen really great writers from my social network toss in the towel in 2018 alone.

And I may be next. Although quitting is the last thing I want to do.

The truth is, I’m tired. And with so many scammers skimming off 6+ figures a year through shady tactics, I simply cannot compete. Not when I’m barely drawing in $100 in royalties a year, and losing thousands on publication and marketing expenses.

Like so many other authors, I work full-time. Writing is my escape from the drudge of the dreary 9 to 5 I do every day. Nothing makes me happier than to sit down at my keyboard and enter into the worlds I’ve created.

But, I’ll be honest. I do expect to get paid for the hours upon hours, the weeks, the months, sometimes the years it’s taken me to write a single book. And I thoroughly expect to be reimbursed for the thousands of dollars I’ve paid out-of-pocket to have my books properly polished before publishing. If I was doing this just for fun, I’d stick with my WattPad account and stop clogging up the proverbial slush piles that Amazon has become over the past few years.

I’m hoping with someone with as much pull in the industry as you, that maybe, finally, authors and readers alike will pull their heads out of the sand and finally start demanding better. I’ve been begging, screaming, and pleading with everyone for years now to stop giving their books away, to stop pricing them so cheaply, to stop pushing out a new “junk” book every week or month and realize how much damage all this has been causing authors, to the industry as a whole.

This revolution, this epiphany if you will, it must come from the authors because honestly, readers will only continue to demand what authors are willing to give them. If all the cheap and the free went away, maybe readers would start demanding better books. Maybe they wouldn’t mind paying for the books they want to read. Maybe that $5 for an ebook wouldn’t seem so pricey if it was once again the norm. If Amazon and the other platforms would finally start manning their stores, if they would put some type of quality controls into place, if the writing world would right itself so the really good authors would once again rise to the top of the rankings instead of the top being dominated by whoever has the largest pocketbook, then maybe, just maybe, authors like me won’t have to give up on their life-long dream.

I’ve been screaming it from the rooftops, but alas, I am just a nobody-author who has been pegged as “jealous” because I’m no longer making money.

But you, my dear Nora, please keep fighting the good fight. Please give those of us whose voices have gone ignored for years now a chance to finally be heard. I’m tired of fighting this alone.

Because after more than thirty years of fighting, clawing, and having my butt handed back to me by editors, by publishers, and now by the very authors I’ve helped support over the decades, I’m not sure I have much fight left in me. There’s only so much any one person can take before they are forced to give up on their dream.

Today, I do not want to join the ranks of the really good authors who have been forced to quit.

Tomorrow, however, may be the day that I am finally forced to face the staggering odds that have been stacked against me by others in my profession.

All because no one wants to listen. After all, if it’s not affecting their bottom line, then what do they care?


Also on #CopyPasteCris:

Can We Just Get Real for a Moment?

I Write My Own Damn Books, Thank You Very Much

My Take on Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store


Forword: please note this is an opinion piece.

A recent blog post entitled “Scammers Break the Kindle Store” has now been shared on FB more than 5 thousand times in just three days. If you haven’t read the article, I highly recommend it. You can CLICK HERE to read it in its entirety. It’s very interesting, to say the least. I suppose what bothers me the most about this article is it accuses this author of using black hat tactics to gain a #1 spot on Amazon’s paid list with no other proof than the author not having any type of social media presence and had not used any of the “traditional” marketing ploys most indies use – lack of self-promotion via social media platforms and no Bookbub ads, in conjunction with the fact this author is “unknown” to the writer of this article. (As a side note, I’m pretty sure Amanda Hocking did not have a social media platform nor did she use Bookbub before she became one of the first authors to successfully sell a million copies of her own self-published books prior to being offered a 7-figure publishing deal. Oh, and Anne Rice hit the big leagues long before social media was even a thing.)

As I was saying, I would like to point out the Amazon ranking system routinely catapults “unknown” authors into bestseller status. I can’t even begin to describe how many times I’ve seen the words “NYT Bestselling Author” or “USA TODAY Bestselling Author” on the front of book covers on Amazon and have absolutely no clue who these authors are. I would also like to point out an incredibly wild notion – there are other ways to promote books outside of the internet. I know, crazy concept. I’m sure the author of the article actually has very good reasons for thinking this book hit this status with less than ethical practices, just as I know why he chose not to lay out the proof so other people can’t use the tactics to scam the system further. Unfortunately, by not giving a play-by-play and no other proof other than his gut, the entire article has become nothing more than an opinion piece, just like mine. As a matter of fact, I’m going to go so far as to call total bullshit on his entire article and way of thinking. Judging by his reactions to some of the comments, he’s just another author who seems to be frustrated with the entire craptacular we indies are forced to deal with every day.

With that said, I’m about to voice a very unpopular opinion about this, but I’m hoping you will bear with me and read through to the end. At the very least, I hope this will get you thinking, because I honestly do not believe the thousands of indie authors who have been sharing this article fully understands how the publishing world works – and by “publishing world” I mean not just the indie scene, but the trade publishers as well. As I’ve stated many times, I’ve spent the last twenty-six some years in the publishing business, either trying to break into the trade pub scene, learning from it, interacting with both NYT and indie best-selling authors, being an active publisher and indie author, as well as having friends in both the modeling and music industries. To say I’ve learned a lot is a vast understatement. But I digress.

I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why indie authors are so upset over this. Well, I actually do get why, but it goes back to the reason they are so upset is they fail to see the broader scope of publishing from a business aspect. It’s like the authors who never once think about how their own business practices affect the industry as a whole, so long as they are making money right now.

Let’s look at this from a business standpoint. This type of “black hat” operations happens all the time with traditional publishers. The only difference is they are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to “underground” marketing and PR firms to do the very same thing and are pretty much keeping how they operate their business a closely guarded secret shared only among other big-boy publishers. While this is going on every single day with bestseller books in the trade world, with millions of dollars being invested and earned off of Amazon, we have indies who want to crucify the indie authors who are following in the big boy’s footsteps using the resources at their disposal – which would be Fiverr and the like. It’s not pretty, and we have fewer “underground” resources at our disposal simply because we are not rubbing elbows with the big boy publishers enough to be “in the know” when it comes to which “secret” firms we should be hiring. We have to ask around, and doing so means our business becomes everyone else’s business. Remember, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, and to be honest, as indies, even if we did have access to the same resources as the big boy publishing houses, most of us simply do not have the money required to hire these people.

So let’s look at a few case studies. Hugh Howey admitted he used his own money, one of these underground market PR firms, and a whole lot of Fiverr people to buy his way onto the NYT bestsellers list and pad his serialized book with fake reviews. He openly admitted this on his own website and did an in-depth interview outlining how he went about achieving his letters. And yet no one went raging to Amazon demanding his account be revoked, nor did Amazon demand his royalty payments be paid back. So pray tell how this is any different?

Purchasing dozens of “fake” reviews through businesses like Fiverr is no different than the author who band together all their family, friends, and fellow readers/authors to create huge review/reader teams and then not only enlist these huge review teams to leave reviews but oftentimes pay them as well to leave dozens upon dozens of reviews of a book which was just released. You ever see a book that literally has only been live for two hours with two hundred plus glowing 5-star reviews on it and wonder how they managed it? That’s how they did it. Is doing that any more ethical than paying a bunch of random strangers to do the same thing? Does knowing the reviewers somehow make it okay as opposed to finding a complete stranger to do it for you? The only difference is Amazon’s ToS says you can’t “pay” for reviews, but they do not specify what “payment” is specifically. We all just assume they mean we can’t spend money but giving someone a book in exchange for a review is okay. In my eyes, it’s still payment. Just because Amazon lets us get away with it in their world does not make it an ethical business practice.

I’ve seen authors gather together these large teams and then pay them to pre-order their book so when it hits, it shoots up the Amazon ranking with the potential to earn bestseller letters. Yet authors are okay with this because so many of them do it. How is enlisting these large review teams any different than someone buying the same exact services through places like Fiverr? Just because it is not technically against Amazon’s ToS does not necessarily make it ethical business practices.  Yes, large trade publishers hire people to leave reviews yet indie authors seem okay with that, but are quick to crucify an indie who pads their reviews through Fiverr. Either way, the ToS are being broken no matter how much you want to justify it, the only difference is one of them everyone is doing, and the other one is being done just as often, authors just don’t talk about it.

Everyone keeps saying what this author did was not “ethical” and it displaces “legitimate, hardworking authors” right out of the ranking. “Hardworking”? You mean “hardworking” like erotica authors who have used a few friends with blogs to amass a huge army of rabid fans who not only cause his books to shoot up the Amazon charts, but an author who then turns a blind eye to said fans attacking other authors and leaving bad reviews on their books? You mean “hardworking” like those authors who gather up the large review teams, pay them to preorder their books, and have them leave glowing reviews on their work as soon as it goes live? You mean “hardworking” like those authors who spent thousands upon thousands of dollars using private PR firms to buy their way onto these bestseller lists? Or “hardworking” like the authors who join boxed sets and then spend thousands of dollars gifting the anthology right onto the USA Today’s bestsellers list? Or “hardworking” like the ring leaders of these anthologies who not only learned how to game the system, but who then instruct their 30+ authors to do less than ethical marketing and break a huge chunk of Amazon’s TOS just so they can say they earned their letters? No matter how much indies or trade publishers try to justify it, black hat tactics are black hat tactics, even when they do not go against Amazon’s ToS. So I will once again ask, how is any of that different from what this author is accused of?

I’ve had Anne Rice herself tell me on more than one occasion that I should use all the tools at my disposal, which means calling in every “favor” I’m owed by family and friends and have them leave me a nice review on my books. It flies in the face of Amazon’s TOS yet trade publishers do the exact same thing. They pay other big-name authors to write some small, glowing review to pop on the front cover or include in the blurb of a new release. And you know how movie trailers are quick to boast how the NY Times, USA Today, and other critics are calling this new movie “The must-see movie of the year”? Yeah, you bet your sweet ass they were paid to write those reviews. It’s extremely commonplace with the big trade publishers, yet no one is demanding Stephen King or EL James’ heads on a platter because their publisher engaged in questionable business practices to try to launch a new book into bestseller status. It’s being done en mass, yet indies either seem oblivious to it or just choose to ignore it. Just because they are large publishers does not make it any more ethical than an indie doing the same thing. So if trade publishers get to do it, then why not indies?

It concerns me greatly that indie authors are quick to bring out the pitchforks against this one author, yet they are more than willing to turn a blind eye to the authors who are gathering up huge review teams to leave stunning reviews on their new releases, or the authors who allow their fans to openly attack any other author they deem a ‘threat’ to their own success. They are quick to join the author who can launch their own books into bestseller status knowing they are doing things against Amazon’s TOS and then only get upset when they lose all the money they invested into the scheme without hitting those coveted lists. Again, just because Amazon is allowing it doesn’t make it ethical.

I do not quite understand why indies seem to think it is okay for publishers to hire these firms who then hire third parties to purchase these books en mass, thus skyrocketing the books into bestseller status, or think it is perfectly fine for them to use marketing and promotion techniques to create a grassroots movement thus tricking the general population into believing a certain book is just the most wonderful book on the planet. We all know which book I’m referring to, yet no one is demanding she be stripped of her bestseller title or give back the millions of dollars she earned when her publisher used the bit of momentum she had already started on her own to catapult a poorly written piece of literature into the history books.

So why are authors okay with turning a blind eye to the indies who have huge review teams pre-order these books and leave dozens of shiny 5-star reviews on these books within a few hours of release? Why are they okay with joining boxed sets where authors are gifting copies of the set to people, knowing these gifted copies count toward their sales numbers. Regardless of whether you are gifting 3% or 99% of your total sales numbers, regardless of whether you are giving away copies to get a few hundred reviews, regardless of whether you are hiring people off of Fiverr to buy your book, pad your reviews, or “paying” your review team by gifting them swag, paperbacks, or other “rewards” for being a part of your team, ultimately all these tactics still do the one thing which goes against Amazon’s ToS- these practices ultimately manipulate the sales ranking.

People seem to forget while Amazon may allow you to gift copies of books, it doesn’t mean you should do it to the point where it is actively affecting your sales numbers. While Amazon may allow you to give a book away in exchange for a review, it does not mean authors should be doing it to the point where they have so many reviews in such a short amount of time it is actively affecting their visibility, ranking, and preferential treatment by Amazon to give those books with more reviews more exposure. Yet this is happening on a regular basis with both trade and indie books. So why are indies so quick to lynch one of their own over something like what this article talks about but are perfectly happy to turn a blind eye to everything else that is going on? Saying it is unfair to other, legitimate and “hardworking” authors is a total crock of bullshit to be honest. Trade publishers enlist underhanded practices to skew the rankings and both the NYT and USA Today bestsellers lists are highly vetted. The only difference between indies and trade publishers is Amazon is willing to turn a blind eye to anyone who is making them money.

While it certainly sucks this guy probably made a good $100K or more through this practice, how much did he pay out of his own pocket to get that ranking? I’ve seen my own books go from the 2 MILLION ranking mark to breaking the top 50K overall paid with only 3 sales. I’ve had authors tell me they had a book go from total obscurity to cracking the top 50 overall paid on less than a hundred total sales. And yet I myself have sold nearly one thousand copies of a single book in just under twelve hours and not have my overall ranking move more than a few places. The bottom line is, we don’t know how many sales or page reads it took for this guy to hit that bestselling status. It could have been tens of thousands of sales or it could have only been a few dozen. He could have easily spent a quarter of a million dollars to make a few thousand bucks or he could have spent $50 to make a few hundred thousand. Because of the way Amazon’s ranking system works, we simply have no idea what was actually gained off of this other than a bestselling ranking. It’s all purely speculation.

While it would be nice if everyone were playing on a level field, that simply is not the case nor will it ever be. So long as trade publishers are left to apply the same black hat techniques then indies are always going to be at a disadvantage. Even if Amazon began banning, removing, and revoking accounts and books of indies who engage in such behavior, there are still the trade publishers who are using questionable means to launch books into bestseller status, a practice which is always going to put indie authors at the bottom of the totem pole as far as both Amazon and readers are concerned.

It’s just another example of anyone who has the resources and money will always come out on top of this game, just like with any other business. It’s why I can’t exactly whine about not “making” it as an author when I know full well it takes a lot of money to hire professionals who know how to get me to where I need to be in order to make a name for myself. I simply do not have the money, and while I’d love to see those who do have the money be punished for doing what I cannot even though I may be a better writer, until Amazon starts enforcing that throughout their publishing platform and holding trade publishers to the same standards, I hardly see anything changing other than to make it even more difficult for indie authors to get a decent chunk of the publishing pie. And in all honesty, whining about such authors who do somehow manage to play with the “big boys” isn’t going to help any of us out. If anything, it just makes it that much more difficult for us to be seen.

First it’s this guy, but then what? They are already taking down reviews if the writer of the review is thought to somehow “know” the author. What happens when we are no longer able to have any type of social media platform with our readers because Amazon is removing all of our reviews? What happens when unverified reviews are no longer allowed because authors start complaining that giving away ARCs in exchange for a review is “unfair” to those who can’t find a huge review team? It certainly is unfair, but what if authors start complaining about it to such an extent that Amazon bans those types of reviews? What happens when boxed sets are banned because of all the shady tactics that are used to launch those into bestseller status?

The point, dear authors, is –  be careful what you wish for. Nothing about the publishing game is fair, least of all to indies. We have to be smarter, more cunning, and somehow manage to dance toe-to-toe with the big boys with a whole hell of a lot less money and nowhere near the connections. The more you complain about authors using the resources at their disposal, the harder it becomes for all of us to make it in the industry. I’d hate to know gifting copies no longer counted toward sales, that Amazon no longer allowed unverified purchase reviews, that giving out ARCs for reviews was no longer an option, and that the small readership I have thanks to social media was all for nothing because Amazon would no longer let anyone who was following me on social media review my books, even if they purchased them through Amazon on their own. It’s a slippery slope, and once one person starts screaming “unfair”, it’s just a matter of time before people start pointing out the tactics which are at the very core of being indie as being “unfair” practices as well.





My Vanity Forced Me Do It – Why I Signed a Trade Publishing Contract

Sign Here

Publishing a book is hard work. If you decide to do it on your own, it’s even harder. Unfortunately, writing the book is just the first step. From creation to completion, publication involves a lot of professionals. Once the book is written, it still has to go through editors, proofreaders, formatters for the different platforms, graphic artists for cover art, and then the hardest part of all – marketing and promotion. If you are an indie author, you either learn to do all this on your own or you contract it out to other professionals. The one constant which remains, however, is whether you are trade published or indie published, the vast majority of marketing and promotion will fall to the author.

There are many reasons for authors to decide to try to get their books published through traditional brick and mortar companies, just as there are many reasons for them to take on the work and responsibilities of being their own publisher. For some, going traditional seems like much less work. They either do not have the technical know-how to acquire the skill sets required to become their own publisher, or they do not want to break up their time between writing and publishing. Some authors are still under the “Happily Ever After” notion that once they are accepted by a trade publisher, all they have to do going forward is write a rough draft and pass it along. If only it were that simple.

For me, the reasons behind me tracking down a trade publisher were simplistic and selfish – vanity, and time.

In the beginning, I set out to prove to all the newbie writers who were still under the “HEA” guise that having a trade publisher did not equal large advancements and a lot less work than being indie published. I had been offered trade publishing deals on and off for years but still maintained publishing under my own house for one simple reason – none of the contracts stated anything about the publisher doing any marketing or promotion on my behalf. All those responsibilities fell onto my shoulders, while the publisher still only offered me the standard 25% royalty rate. The way I saw it, if I still had to do the majority of the work – and one of the most important jobs in publication – then I wasn’t going to sacrifice my royalties.

Yet so many newbies kept insisting I was wrong, despite me being able to point to at least six different trade published authors on my FB friends list who had been picked up by Random House and were still working upwards of four part time jobs just to keep food on their tables, and, oh yeah, they had to do the largest part of promotion and marketing on their own. But hey, what the hell do I know, right? I mean, thirty-two years of being a writer and more than half of that time spent wading in the muck with traditional publishers apparently made me know even less than the ones who woke up a month ago and decided they wanted to be a writer. What could I possible do to convince them otherwise?

Well, you know me, and so about a year ago I began to send out query letters and submit to those larger publishers who were still taking unsolicited manuscripts. Some of them I never heard a word out of, even after a year, and I’m assuming that was a “silent” rejection on their part. Others had submission pages where I could watch them reject my manuscript in real time. The record for rejection goes to Kensington for rejecting my manuscript in exactly 45 minutes from the time their editor clocked in at 8 a.m. I’m assuming they make a habit of rejecting all manuscripts as soon as they are submitted and then take their time reading through them. It’s a great way to keep the authors from blowing up their email with update requests. Yeah, they don’t know me very well either, do they?

After spending a few months being reminded why I hate the publishing business so much, I was growing tired of breaking what little bit of time I had for writing into the different aspects of running my own publishing house. I mean, my ass works a full time day job to pay my bills. I did not have the time to do everything, and so when I was actually offered a publication deal with a fairly large hybrid house, I went against my better judgment and signed the contract.

WHY? Like I said, my vanity made me do it. I must admit it was nice finally having someone in the “industry” to “validate” me as a writer. And that is all it was, my ego and vanity needing a bit of a pick-me-up from someone who supposedly knew the difference between a well written manuscript and someone who pumped out as much gutter trash as possible to make a few quick bucks. Let’s face it, it is one thing to have a few hundred readers tell you they like your work, but nothing makes you feel like you actually ARE a real writer like having a publisher offer to publish your work.

So I signed the contract. I will say this, if you know absolutely NOTHING about being a published author, have no desire to learn the business or do not have the technical know-how to do it, then getting a publisher is a great idea. But if you already know the different aspects of the business, have already published work on your own and are working to get better at it, are hiring the right professionals to produce the absolute best work you can, then getting a publisher is probably not the best move for you, and it certainly isn’t going to lighten your work load. If anything, it is going to drag out the publication process, it is going to create more work for you, and if you are used to doing things yourself, you are going to find yourself at odds with your creative team.

Trade publishing is not for everyone, just like indie publishing is not for everyone. There are pros and cons to both paths, which I will cover in another blog post. I will only say that for me, being indie is probably going to be my path from here on out. After spending 5 months revamping a book for publication using time I really needed to devote to writing, I can honestly say I have no desire to go down that path again. The only thing about that entire ordeal that I found even remotely helpful was the FB group, and that has its limits. I can say that for the first time in years, I don’t feel a twinge of jealousy when I see other authors announce their writing contracts. If anything, I pity them, because I have walked both paths. I have seen the amount of time and work which goes into both sides of the business, I know what a trade publisher will and will not do for me as an author. And in case you are wondering, NO, there was no money spent on promotions or advertisements by anyone other than myself.

Well, after giving this a go just to see if things had changed over the past fifteen years, I can now say I was right. And I didn’t want to be right. If anything, I had hoped the industry had changed, were starting to take authors more seriously and offering to do more for their careers. I had really hoped all I would have to do was write a rough draft and hand it off to my publisher and then wait for my shiny, new proof copy to arrive. Unfortunately, if anything, the indie revolution has pushed the trade publishing companies to offer even less for their authors. What more can you expect with so much competition?

I can’t say that my experience was all bad, and if I didn’t know as much as I know about the industry then it most likely would have been a pleasant experience. Knowledge, it would seem, was my undoing. There are many, many authors who happily sign with trade publishers and are happy as clams to do so. I, however, know it is not the right choice for me.

So, for now at least, I will continue to publish under my own house. Whether you like to admit it or not, the only person who really cares who publishes your book is YOU. I still feel if I have to go behind someone and check their work, be my own proofreader, my own copy editor, and market and promote my own works, then I’ll do it with 70% royalties, thank you very much. No, being indie isn’t for everyone, but being trade published isn’t for everyone either. My only words of wisdom are: know what you are getting into, don’t be afraid to ask questions, trust your instincts, and above all, do NOT be afraid to learn things on your own.

Why Traditional Publishing is Still Not an Option for Most Writers

One of the questions I get asked the most by other, “serious” writers, is “Why aren’t you trying to get a traditional publishing deal?”

First off, I, like most other writers, don’t have the option or luxury of writing full time. We have bills to pay, families to feed, and all those pesky little necessities that insist upon being paid every month, like electricity and the mortgage. So for a huge chunk of us, with me being right there in amongst them, we have to have a full-time Evil Day Job that helps pay those bills and support our families. It’s a simple fact of life. Trust me, if I could afford to write full time and not have to work, I would quit this gawd-awful hell I go to each day and plop my happy arse down in front of my PC for 12 hours a day and pound out a few books a year. Unfortunately, I live in the real world, so I have to have my job to help pay the bills. It’s not a matter of choice; it’s a matter of my kids needing to have food in their bellies and a roof over their heads.

So I guess the next question for most everyone would be, “So what does that have to do with getting a traditional publishing deal?”

In the past few months I have seen numerous authors in my FB feed overjoyed that they finally got a traditional publishing contract, some of them from really big name companies. I’m happy for them, really, and I’ll admit, I’m absolutely pea-green with envy. But my first question to them, after congratulations, is “Did you get an advancement?”

I already knew their response even before they answered me, because I have already been down this road so many times over the past twenty-five years. The vast majority of them have responded to state that the companies, even the large ones, did not offer them any type of advancement, just a book deal that covered X number of books to be published over X number of years. Some were lucky and got offered a few thousand dollars, but most were not offered any type of advancement.

My next question to them was, “Okay, so what about marketing and promotions? How much are they going to spend towards marketing your books?”

Again, I knew the answer and was not shocked when they told me that they companies hadn’t really mentioned anything about it, or they hadn’t confirmed any hard marketing plans yet. What I was shocked to hear was how many of them never once broached the subject of promotional ventures and budgets with these companies. Those few who did think to ask or had the information provided to them in the contract all reported the same thing: the marketing of the book would be left up to the author until such a time as the publishing company had recouped the money spent on editors, printing, and graphic artwork.

As I said before, I have to work to pay the bills, so signing a contract with a company, even if it were Random House, would not be feasible for me if it did not come with a large enough advancement to replacement my current income. Now that I have said that, let me clarify this by saying I could not sign a contract with a regular publishing company UNLESS they either offered a large enough advancement to replacement by current income OR they were willing to spend money to market and promote my books, i.e. get them in major bookstores across the country with prime shelf space, ads in major publications, get it in front of critics who could help launch my career, and possibly some talk shows or radio shows.

So you are probably wondering why on earth I would pass up signing a contract with a publishing house, even a big one, even if it meant I didn’t get an advancement or any type of marketing support? Wouldn’t the exposure of having a big name publishing company printing my book help launch my career? The answer to this, unfortunately, is not so cut-and-dry, and is both a ‘yes’ and ‘no’ question.

First off, most readers, and even authors, can’t tell you who publishes the majority of the books they read. Sure, you probably know who publishes your favorite author of all time, but 99% of people who read have no clue who actually published the book. Why? They don’t care. Readers don’t care if Random House published the book or if Joe Blow Press published it. All anyone cares about is whether or not it’s a good book, so having a ‘big name’ publisher means absolutely jack-shit to a reader.

Second, if no one cares who publishes the book, then how is having a big name publisher print my book going to help me? If they are not marketing my books, not getting them into book stores, not getting them in front of critics and major publications, then exactly WHAT are they doing for me? The answer to this is N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

If Random House offered me a deal today but refused to pony-up any type of marketing dollars, it would not help me one damn bit so far as readers are concerned. Sure, authors would be jealous as hell, but readers honestly don’t give a rat’s ass. The readers I already have would be overjoyed for me, but those who didn’t want to read my work in the first place are not about to go rushing to bookstores to snatch it off the shelves just because I announced that Random suddenly wanted to publish me. Trust me on this, it isn’t going to happen. How many times have you used the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon, or read a teaser on FaceBook, and groaned over the storyline and writing style? What happened? You rolled your eyes and didn’t bother to purchase. Now imagine if that same author announced that Random House had picked up their latest series. Are you suddenly going to rush out JUST because Random House decided they could make a quick buck off it? Um, NO, so it’s not like having their name on the inside of your book is going to make people hunt you down UNLESS they are marketing the shit out of your books.

I’ve seen dozens of authors signing these deals with big name publishers and a year later I still have not seen their books on the shelves of book stores, they have not become a house-hold name, they are not being offered movie deals and they are still having to do their own marketing and promotion through FaceBook and begging bloggers to review their work. They have to pay for those ARCs out of their own pocket because, when a publisher publishes on Amazon for you, you no longer have an ecopy that you can send. Instead, you have to purchase them through Amazon and gift them to readers and bloggers, costing you the precious little bit of royalties you have earned.

So now the big question is, if being picked up by a big publisher isn’t going to help an author in any way, then why on earth would they do it? The amount of royalties they get are far less than they are when self-publishing through Amazon. They are still going to have to do their own promotion and marketing and pay for all that out of their own pocket. Readers don’t really care who publishes them so using that name as a marketing tool is not going to garner them a whole lot of extra readers. So why do it?

For some writers, just getting that contract is enough. And to be honest, even if I did not get offered an advancement or any type of marketing plan behind the deal, I would still sign just to say that I was “good enough” for someone to take notice. However, this simply is not enough for most authors. And while I might be willing to sign a contract for one book, I can’t see myself signing a major contract for numerous books UNLESS it came with a large enough advancement to take the place of my current income. Because let’s face it, I’m already doing my own marketing, my own promotion, lining up my own blog tours and paying for my own editing and graphic work PLUS I get to keep 70% of my royalties. A better question for authors is, “If you are already doing all that, why would you sign a contract with a publisher who is going to make you continue to do all that AND take half your royalties away from you?”

Why indeed.

Open Call to All Publishers – Have I been Wrong All This Time?

I began writing when I was only eight years old. By the time I was thirteen, I had already written my first full length novel. Less than a year after its completion, after everyone and their brother at my middle school had read the book, I took their words of encouragement to heart and began researching on how to get my book into publication through traditional publishing houses. The next ten plus years saw three more novels written and several hundred query letters, novel summaries, chapter submissions, and more rejection letters than I can count at this point. I’ve been turned down by everyone from Random House to Aardvark Press. I never took it as a sign that I should stop writing, because, after all, there are some really, really crappy books in publication. I just took it that I was young and needed to keep writing. Practice makes perfect, or so the old saying goes.

I took a reprieve from trying to get published for a while, allowing ideas to begin to form inside of my head before I once again took up the call of the pen in 2002. I wrote for fun off and on for about a year, posting short stories to social media sites. I wrote under the Avatar name of “PoisonRunner” and soon had tens of thousands of readers crashing my Yahoo! 360 page on a daily basis. I was bombarded with messages and posts of encouragement, everyone wanting to know why I wasn’t trying to get published. I decided, “Why not?” After all, I had spent more than ten years learning the business inside and out. I was older, wiser, my writing style had greatly improved over the years, and despite all the rejection letters (some of them incredibly harsh, by the way) I had received over the years, my passion for cultivating a well-told story could not be dashed by mere words from some of the top publishers.

Soon I was scouring the internet trying to get the scoop on some of the well established but lesser known publishers. What I discovered was much more of the same that I had encountered all those years ago when I was just starting out. More rejection letters, but now the rules had changed a bit. Most publishers were no longer accepting unsolicited manuscripts, forcing me to add yet another person to the mix in the form of a literary agent who would ultimately take a chunk out of the royalty pie.

The contracts that I got shown were atrocious to say the least. Most of them either had me signing away my copyrights altogether or had me giving the publisher an exclusive prints right to my work that never expired, meaning that if the book flopped with one publisher I could never take it to another publisher down the road in hopes of getting it spruced up and re-released with a new publisher. Most of them were doing little more than allowing me to use their name as the publishing house on the inside cover.

There were no advancements offered and none of them were going to put forth a single penny towards marketing and promoting the book, two things that determine if a book lives or dies in the literary market. The publishers kept 100% complete control over all aspects of the final product, including cover art and the final draft that went to print. For those who do not understand the full weight of this statement, it meant that the publisher withheld the right to rewrite the story and change it any way they saw fit, without my approval and oftentimes without my knowledge. Ultimately the publisher was turning me, the creator and writer of the work, into little more than a ghost writer, being just the person who came up with the initial idea, leaving the publisher to hammer out the details and rewrite it into whatever they thought they could make a quick buck off of.

I hoped that this was not the norm, so I continued to look into larger houses, smaller houses, indie houses, anyone and everyone that I could think of, find on the internet, and even some odd-ball houses that other authors suggested or that I found on blogs and other websites. The end product? The exact same thing: contracts that took away any future printing rights for anyone other than said house, no advancements, the publisher kept 100% control over final product, 0% upfront money being spent on marketing and promotion until I had cleared several hundred thousand copies or money earned off the book, whichever came first, and absolutely no marketing plan for me to follow in the meantime to help get the ball rolling. Ultimately, the publishers were telling me that they would lend me their house name for the inside cover, but all marketing and promoting would not only have to be handled by me, but the cost of those endeavors would have to come out of my own pocket.

Needless to say, my first reaction to all of this over the years has been, “If you are not going to help market and promote the book, then why would I bother signing a contract with you?” My next questions were subsequently, “If I have to do all the work that you should be doing, why am I having to share my royalties with you?” and finally “If you are not helping to get the word out on my book, then exactly what is in this deal for me?”

It is these questions that go unanswered that has driven so many authors to just self-publish their work. With traditional publishers, it is all about compromise. You write the initial draft and the editors and publishers turn it into whatever they think will make them money. It isn’t the author’s story, it is the publisher’s version of their story. You don’t have that in self-publication. It is the author’s story told how the author intended. About the only compromise you have is how much money and time you can invest to get the best cover art work and editors and which platform you want to publish to. You keep complete control, you keep your copyrights, you keep the print rights, and best of all, you keep all the royalties. Of course there is always the cost of editors, graphic artists, swag, etc. if you decide to purchase all that, but those costs are factored into royalties received from a traditional publisher, so you have to pay for all this regardless of whether you go traditional or self-published. The only difference is that if you are one of the lucky authors who is savvy enough to create your own cover art work and do all the PR work yourself, then you cut out a huge chunk of costs that you can’t cut out if you go the traditional route.

I know, this has little to do with the title of the article. But I’m getting there. As I have outlined above, I have more than 3 DECADES of experience with traditional publishers and nearly ten years experience as an independently published author who owns her own publishing house. I shouldn’t have to constantly repeat to everyone that I KNOW what I’m doing and I KNOW how the traditional publishing model works. Yet, I find myself constantly having to repeat this to fledgling authors on FB all the time. They keep asking for advice, and when I give them the straight-up dirty truth on how it all works, they immediately turn on me, screaming that I don’t know what I’m talking about because I didn’t give them the rose-colored happy ‘now-I’m-famous-and-rich’ ending that they keep dreaming about. Those authors who don’t know any better are bad enough, but when I’m also constantly being told that I am not a ‘true’ writer because I no longer seek out traditional publishers and also told that I would suddenly become a well known author if I would just try to get a mainstream publishing deal by authors who claim to actually BE in the mainstream publishing business, then that just pisses me off. I may not can account for what someone else knows, but when I have already been through the process more times than I can count and I know FIRST HAND how it all works and they still want to sit there and tell me I’m wrong, then sorry, no, I will no longer put up with your delusions of grandeur.

Which brings me back to the whole point behind this article. After all, I did say it was an open call to all publishers, and it is. I am sending out a major SOS call to ANY publisher, be it small, indie, large, whatever, who is willing to prove me wrong. You read that right. I want to sign a publishing deal with any house that is willing to put up with me. I want a publisher to prove to me that I’ve been wrong about them. I want a publisher to prove to me that everything I just posted above is wrong, that I am delusional, that what I wrote is not the way the publishing world works. I want a publisher who is not going to just take my work, slap it up on Amazon, and walk away with half my royalties. In other words, I want a publisher who is actually going to help me get my work out to the masses, support me, and not just have me do all the work.

So here is the deal. I’m willing to come off my most popular erotic romance, Vindictus, The Dark Lord to whichever publishing company can do the following:

1. Advancements are up for negotiation. Whether you offer them or not is up to the rest of the contract and are not a deal breaker.

2. Marketing and promotion plans are a must. Even if you do not plan to put any financial backings into the endeavor, you must at least provide a detailed marketing plan that you plan to use to market and promote the book. There also must be a separate or joint marketing plan that I can follow as well as I do not expect the publisher to do all the work. HOWEVER, if you are not putting up any financial backing into either the marketing of the work or advancements, I expect you to take on the majority of the marketing. This must be provided prior to any contracts are signed so I know how much work is expected from me and how much work the publisher is goingto put into the marketing. Again, if you are not actively marketing the product then what are you doing for me as a publisher?

3. Limited exclusive printing rights. Unless you are willing to offer me a half-million dollar advancement or are Random House, I will not sign any exclusive printing rights contracts. I know this is not the norm for most contracts, but if you are a small indie house then I am not about to sign away my printing rights in hopes the book doesn’t bomb and then never be able to take it to another publisher. I am, however, willing to sign a limited printing rights contract. Basically, depending on any advancements and your overall marketing plans, I will sign a limited time exclusive printing rights contract. I will give the publisher up to 3 years of exclusive print rights on the book dependent upon how well the book is doing. In other words, if the book is doing well then I am willing to extend the print rights to the publisher indefinitely, but if the book is not doing well we are both going to cut our losses and allow me the chance to take the book to another publisher if I so wish.

And that’s it. I don’t ask for much. Advancements are not needed and honestly not expected, but I expect a marketing plan to be in place prior to any contracts being signed, and if the book is not doing well I reserve my right to terminate the print rights agreement and take the book to another publisher.

So traditional publishers, prove to me that I have been wrong about you all this time. Prove to me that you are not out there just taking authors’ works, slapping it up on Amazon, taking royalties, and not providing any type of marketing and promotions. Prove to me that you are an actual asset to authors, that you are needed, and that you can do for authors what they can’t do for themselves self-publishing. Or have I been preaching the gospel this whole time?

I’m interested in finding out……

Guess What Publishers? You Need US, Not the Other Way Around


In the old days, before becoming an indie author was possible, authors and publishers needed each other.  Publishers liked to think that they didn’t really need authors, that we writers would fall all over ourselves and bend over backwards to conform our written works to whatever “hot ticket item” the publishers were pushing at that particular moment in time.  Publishers not only believed they did not need us, but they actually had all of the writers convinced of this as well.  It’s why writers would sit around silently while editors and agents ripped all of their hard work into shreds and then reassembled it not only into what the publishers believed would pass as a money-making book, but also into a shadow of the book’s formerly written glory.

Thanks to print-on-demand services and vanity presses, these days more than ever, publishers are waking up to the very real fact that authors no long need them for anything.  Gone are the days when publishers sent us and our work through the shredder, allowing editors who had failed as writers to go through and reassemble our work into what the publisher thought the readers wanted to buy at the local Barnes and Noble.  Gone are the days when authors were made to believe that even after they spent years of their lives hammering out every minor detail of a story, they would still be expected to advertise their own work.  As an indie author, we may have to peddle our own wares, but at least we do not have to share in the spoils with anyone other than ourselves.  Best of all, it is allowing us to tap into what readers really want to read about and ultimately giving them their hearts’ desire. 

It’s a win-win situation for readers and writers alike.  Writers are able to keep complete artistic control over their work.  Sure they are having to work harder by learning to become better proofreaders, editors, learning how to format PDF documents, designing and creating book covers, coming up with advertising plans and implementing those plans.  But in the end, our knowledge base is broadened and we can bask in the glow of having really accomplished something, making our success all the more sweeter for having done the whole project on our own.

In this day of technology, publishers are realizing that authors do not need them.  In fact, it is the other way around.  Publishing houses are becoming a thing of the past.  Authors can now write, format, design book covers, print, market, sale, and implement their own ideas and plans for their novel.  Publishers, however, simply cannot exist without authors.  While authors can now do everything that publishers and editors are doing, publishing houses are not authors, and without authors submitting their written works, publishing houses may find themselves going the way of the 8-track tape. 

The really sad part is that publishers have their heads buried so far in the sand that they are not going to realize that their very livelihoods are in jeopardy until it is too late.  They are still demanding that authors allow them control over what storylines make it into print, demand that the novels get rewritten a dozen times, and keep insisting that they, not the authors’ themselves, know more about what the authors’ readers want to read about than the authors. 

But that is all perfectly fine, because one day the ostriches will finally come up for air, and when they do, they will realize that books are still being printed and sold and read, only it will be the authors who are in control of the whole project, and it will be the authors, not the publishers, who are making the money and who still have a job at the end of the day.