Way back in 2009, I managed to finish the novel that had taken me more than twenty years to write. I was proud, I was elated, and I was clueless as to how to get it published. So I paid for a membership with Writers’ Digest and looked on their website for possible publishers. That’s where I found Black Rose Writing. I sent them a query letter and a brief synopsis of my weighty military thriller. Then I crossed my fingers.
A few days later I received a reply stating they would love to publish my book. Holy cow! I was over the moon! My first query letter and I’d landed a publisher. How did I get so lucky? I’d read about numerous authors sending out thousands of query letters only to be rejected by every publisher under the sun. Was my book that good? Or did I have cause to be worried?
Boy, did I have a lot to learn. I was now on unfamiliar turf and at the mercy of someone who must be knowledgeable in the art of publishing — right? Well, mostly. I’d inadvertently stumbled into the realm of vanity publishing. Caveat emptor — or caveat author in my case.
I sent my book to them via Word doc. A couple of weeks went by before I heard they definitely wanted to publish it. I received a two-year contract. Having never dealt with a publishing contract before, I emailed it to my best friend who is a paralegal and asked her to look over it. She’s in California, and the publisher was out of Texas, so there was only so much she could advise me on. But she said the contract looked straight forward enough, so I sighed and sent it back.
More time elapsed and I had several contacts with the publisher to iron out the details of the book. They had NOT asked me for any money — which was a good thing. The only requirement I had, which was in the contract, was to purchase X amount of books from them. I believe I agreed on 60 copies. Hey, I was going to be famous; 60 copies would sell like the wind!
When the time came and the book was ready for publishing, I received a proof copy which I went over. My manuscript was JUST how I sent it to them; there was no editing done. Being the star-struck new author, I didn’t give any thought to the total lack of editing. So I ordered and paid for the copies I’d agreed upon in the contract. Now the headaches began. 60 books in a 6 X 9 format and over 600 pages makes for a lot of boxes. And one of them went missing. I contacted the publisher, who sent them media mail, and informed them of the loss. There was no tracking of media mail, and long story short, the publisher would not replace the missing books. I was out over $150. That ticked me off. And it was money I really didn’t have.
Yes, the book was available for sale on Amazon. The print book. They hadn’t done an eBook. I kept bugging them about doing an eBook to the point that they pretty much started to avoid me. Between that, and the missing box of books, things became weird and strained.
I got very frustrated with the whole situation. I decided to research publishing online and realized I’d fallen in with a vanity press. I learned that a vanity press is only out there to publish books and invest as little as possible in them or the author. Now I understood why they weren’t promoting my book. The more I investigated, the more expensive publishing seemed to be if you weren’t a big-name author. How could I afford that? I couldn’t. So I bought a couple of books on self-publishing and began reading on how to format my own books for print and eBook. My head really hurt, but I thought I could do it.
Maybe had I waited and found a larger publisher things would have been different. Lesson learned the hard way. After two years, I was glad the contract was over, the rights reverted to me, and I republished the book the way it should have been done: fully edited, formatted better, and with a much nicer cover. So if it wasn’t for my less-than-ideal experience with a vanity press, I wouldn’t be as capable of an author/publisher as I am today.