LEST WE FORGET 3:
THE PATH TO THE PUBLISHER’S VILLAGE IS FRAUGHT WITH THORNY BUSHES!
Literature on publishing is overflowing with tips and advice: how to search and find the right publisher, avoid predator publishers, and much more. But it all sounds academic until the budding writer experiences the REAL thing in REAL time. Such was the case for me when I launched into my attempt to publish my maiden picture book.
I was a published academic before I turned freelance: I wrote articles and contributed chapters in text books for my profession. The path to publication was tough but clear; there were no thorny bushes or fallen tree trunks to be cleared. I wrote my drafts (in long hand), a secretary did the typing. When the manuscript was ready, I submitted it the magazine editor or the book’s author, and sat back: I had done my part, and left the rest to the trusted editors and publishers.
That was then.
Publishing was a “gentleman’s business”; author and publishers trusted each other and the business was conducted like a relay race; the writer did his/her part and handed the button to the publisher who took care of everything until the book was published and was on shelves in book stores. When I turned freelance, I had this picture of a relationship of trust between the writer and the publisher in mind.
I was naïve.
I wasn’t aware the publishing industry had been infiltrated by individuals or companies who behaved like street hawkers selling tomatoes. They were determined to make a fast buck off the backs of newbies. They promised the unsuspecting new writer they would do everything: publish the book, market it, do the promotion, and sell the book. They also promised (in writing) a hefty royalty percentage. None of this happened and in the end they told me the book wasn’t selling (how could it sell without promotion?), it would be dropped but they held on to the contract that gave them the right to be the sole distributor for a specified period.
And then they cut off communication with me. All my e-mails, snail mail, phones and faxes went unanswered. I was devastated. I was left in a latch. I was down but I not beaten. I was determined to rescue my book but I had to wait for the contract to expire and then started my relentless fight. I flooded them with all means of communication. Realizing that I wouldn’t give up, they responded, in writing, and confirmed that with the expiration of the faulted contract, they had nothing to do with the book anymore.
I won the battle. I republished the book. But it was a costly victory. The struggle had taken five years out of my time for doing what I love most: writing stories for children; I had gone through periods of extreme anger, frustration and exhaustion. Plus the publishing industry had changed drastically in response to technological
Advances and putting the book back into the new publishing environment cost money. I learned a bitter lesson. I came out of the experience with deep scars, a warning to wannabe authors.
The path to the publisher’s village is fraught with thorny bushes!
LEST WE FORGET 3: