Clarissa Johal: The Revolving Door of Publishers & How to Survive With Your Sanity Intact - 10 Tips for #authors

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Revolving Door of Publishers & How to Survive With Your Sanity Intact - 10 Tips for #authors

Photo courtesy of  Danielle Darling via Flickr

The publishing world is a tough business, and many small publishing houses fold after several years. I've seen authors hop from one publisher to the next, myself included, in the hopes that one will stick like spaghetti. It isn't a surprise that many authors throw in the towel and go indie. It isn't a surprise that others throw in the towel altogether. Please don't. You have something to say, so say it. The platform may change, but your stories will remain the same. Life goes on.

Here's what I've learned over the years regarding the revolving door of publishing houses. Most of these tips are for those who have considered (or are considering) going indie. If they help one person, then kudos to me. If not... hello! Thank you for stopping by. My books are for sale on Amazon. Several have made the best seller list and won awards (bragging rights). Okay, I'm done now. 

So, here we go. Here's what you can do ahead of time just in case something goes belly-up later.

The Revolving Door of Publishers & How to Survive With Your Sanity Intact 
10 Tips for Authors 

1) Check your book contracts to see what you've signed. This may seem like a no-brainer, but you'd be amazed how many authors don't read the fine print. If the publisher goes out of business or declares bankruptcy, do you get your rights back? What happens to your edits, cover art, etc.? If you can't find these things in your contract, email your publisher and ask. Get it in writing so there's no surprises.

2) Always have a Plan B. What will you do if your publisher folds? Think about it. I mean, really think about it. Do as much as you can regarding Plan B ahead of time. If the worst happens, not only will you have a Plan B to fall back on, but some of the work will be done already.

3) Reconsider your promotional materials. If you're designing promotional materials you may want to leave off your publisher. I know, I know. It's exciting to show off a publisher. I get it. But after one of my publishers folded, I was stuck with 500 business cards and a stack of very expensive rack cards I couldn't use...right down to the QR codes. I could have kicked myself.
(If you lose your cover art, then obviously, everything must be tossed.)

4) Keep a copy of your original submission. Keep a copy of your final edits. Keep a copy of your final PDF after your book is published, if you get one. Keep a copy of the photo-stock that was used in your cover art. Keep a copy of everything. You never know what you might need, and sometimes, publishers who go under won't supply it. You might also want to take a screenshot of all your reviews. Amazon will roll those over to a new edition of the same book - as long as you have the old ISBN/ASINs.

5) Keep track of all the blogs you've guested in. If your publisher folds, you can approach these blogs when it comes time to re-release your book. They've already accepted you once, right?

6) Consider using your Amazon Author Page as a buy link. Speaking of blogs--you know those book buy links? Those become defunct if your publisher folds, which sucks for you. Consider using your Amazon Author Page instead. That way, potential readers will not only see all your books, but the link will always be viable.

7) Keep a contact list of freelance cover artists and editors. That way, you won't be scrambling all over the internet if you're handed a pink slip.

8) Familiarize yourself with self-publishing platforms. Check out Createspace, Smashwords, Lulu, or whatever platform you'd consider. Go through all the steps to publish now - even if it's for something you aren't intending on publishing. You always have the final say whether it goes up for sale, so it's no biggie if the unpublished project sits there. That way, you've done the homework ahead of time, and will be familiar with the system.

9) Familiarize yourself with a PDF creator. There are a ton of programs to choose from, and it's going to be a heck of a lot easier (if you decide to self-publish) if you know how to create your own PDFs. Some programs to consider are; Adobe Acrobat DC (free 30-day trial), Calibre, and MobiPocket Creator.

10) There is strength in numbers. If you find yourself in a position where your publisher has folded, allow yourself some time to cry into your pillow. It's disappointing, but it's not the end of the world.  Grab your Plan B and band together with those in the same boat. Organize a re-release party and rise again!

Several (free) sites I've found helpful in the process of self-publishing:

Bookow Make your own ISBN Barcodes. This site also has Amazon Createspace book cover templates. 
QR Code Generator Create those funny little squares that send people to a site via their iPhone.  
Convert Town  DPIs (dots per inch) affect how clear images are. Most self-publishing sites ask for images to be 300 DPIs or more. Enter your desired DPI, upload your image file and your image will be adjusted instantly.
PicMonkey Super-easy photo editing program to design your own banners, social media cover photos, logos, collages, etc. Free to use, but a $33/month subscription allows for more photo editing tools.
Unsplash Creative Commons Zero high resolution images you can use for book trailers, etc. "You may copy, modify, distribute and use the photos for free, including commercial purposes, without asking permission from or providing attribution to the photographer or Unsplash."
Pixabay Another Creative Commons Zero photo site. "All images and videos on Pixabay are released free of copyrights under Creative Commons CC0. You may download, modify, distribute, and use them royalty free for anything you like, even in commercial applications. Attribution is not required."

Final Words of Wisdom

If you're a traditionally published author - please don't stigmatize self-published authors. I've heard traditionally published authors slam indies and there's really no need. There are a LOT of indie authors who write better books and make more money than you do, so shut it. You never know when you may decide/need to take the leap and become indie yourself. I've been on both sides of the fence - traditionally published and self-published. In both situations, my books got equally good reviews and sales. It didn't seem to matter either way. The bottom line was that "I" did all the work when it came to marketing. Being traditionally published has done little for my career other than give me a headache once they closed shop. Food for thought.


Unknown said...

Excellent post Clarrisa

Dominique Eastwick said...

You are right its a tough world out there and you have to protect your book, your baby. Great blog post.

A. F. Stewart said...

Great advice.

Greg Jolley said...

Thank you again, Clarissa
My current traditional publisher might be folding. At the very least, they have gotten eerily quiet and unresponsive. Thanks to your advice, I've begun cobbling together my Plan B.

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone :)
Greg, I'm really sorry to hear that. I'm glad that the post was helpful, though. :) Keep writing.

Rhea Rhodan said...

Great post, Clarissa! I learned how to self-pub in eight days after my publisher went under (though they did it with class). Yikes. I was lucky to have the guidance of more experienced indie authors. I'd never thought of my Amazon Author Page as a buy link. Great idea, thanks!

Clarissa Johal, Author said...

You are very welcome, Rhea :) Your books are fab

Unknown said...

I'm totally with you. My publisher didn't fold, but I didn't renew the contract. Now I'm trying to get brave enough to self-pub, while working at a new publisher with a new book. Thanks for the links!

Vonnie said...

Absolutely true, Clarissa.