A book lost – a book found

My last post about the awful publishing fail my book experienced at the hands of the publisher (it’s here if you missed it) went viral and I received SO many lovely emails and messages of support from complete strangers, that I have been spurred into action. Now, instead of the devastation and betrayal I’d been feeling over the loss of my book and my royalties; I’m feeling energised and excited. I've made some monumental decisions about the next stage of my publishing journey.

But before I tell you about those decisions, I want to say a few things to indie authorsthanks-1004050_640 everywhere. Firstly, thank you to all those authors, publishers, and readers who emailed, messaged, commented, tweeted, and facebooked me in response to the post. I very much appreciated the support and encouragement. I love this industry. Writers are an awesome bunch of people. I’m sure it has to do with the sensitivity it takes to be a writer.

I was, however, just as upset to hear from others who had experienced similar issues with the same publisher. I would like to encourage authors who may be feeling isolated, blaming themselves for the treatment they are receiving at the hands of this publisher, or any other publisher for that matter, to seek advice and take control of the situation. Check the terms of your contract, if it is being breached take action to have the rights to your book returned to you. Contact the Australian Society of Authors (if you are not a member, JOIN NOW). Even if you are not ready to take action, please let them know what is going on so they can build a profile of these kinds of dodgy practices and inform other authors. Don’t stay silent about your experiences. That was my mistake. Writing that blog post was the best thing I could have done. Sure, it upset the publisher, but it also seemed to have paved the way for others to talk about what was going on, realise that it wasn’t about them, and find camaraderie. It also served as a warning to those authors about to pitch. That’s a good thing! No point letting anyone else fall in to the same trap if it can be avoided.

So, what happened when that post went viral? The publisher contacted me, made a small payment against the royalties owed and promised to withdraw the book from sale and continue with weekly payments until royalties were paid in full. I was relieved, but wary. I really wanted to believe him.
screenshotbookBut actions speak louder than words (I know, terrible cliché, but oh so true!) so I decided I’d just wait. And I did. For three weeks. I received no further payments, and though the book was removed from the publisher’s site, it’s still for sale everywhere else. How do I know this? Well, this (see screenshot) popped up in my Facebook timeline as a Booktopia ad. It's not their fault, Booktopia lists their products in good faith.

Then another publisher informed me that it was still on the distributor’s site for sale, so I checked other online repositories as well, and yep, it was still out there. The eBook had been removed from Amazon, but the paperback was still there. The publisher is still selling my book - still making money not being shared by way of royalties. I was bitterly disappointed that he had not followed through. But not surprised.

It was then that I realised, I was never going to get Fake Profile back. I had to let it go.

But I believe in this book. I know it has a market in schools. I can feel it in my bones. It has some great reviews. I’ve received some fabulous emails from teachers who are using the Social Media Matters stage 4 teaching program that goes with it. I’ve even received some fan mail from kids who have read it. I don’t want to let Fake Profile go. I really don’t think it’s over for this book.

And, I’ve worked too hard for too long to let some dodgy publisher steal my dream. So Fake Profile is undergoing a revamp. How?

We, as authors, are writing and publishing in an exciting time in history. The industry has changed. Traditional publishers don’t need to be the gatekeepers anymore. Authors can get their work out there independently. They just need the tools, the drive, and the perseverance do it.

Regular readers of this blog will know I’m doing my PhD in Creative Writing (some people go to extreme lengths to make sure they keep writing, don't they?), and they’ll also know my area of interest is multimodal text. I had planned, at some stage in the future when the PhD was done, to use my research to inform, and start, my own publishing house focusing on publishing multimodal and transmedia books.

That time is now. I am going to rebrand Fake Profile. I’m going to revise the text – a few years is a long time in the world of teens and technology – rename the book, redesign the cover, and rerelease the book ready for the 2016 school year under the new publishing house’s banner. I’m also going to rewrite the teaching program to build on the multimodal activity focus and include a transmedia text adventure assignment.TPlogo

The publishing house is called Typology Publishing. And I plan to launch it very soon. Stay tuned for more news about this exciting venture!

 

So, what about my former publisher? Many people still ask what I’m planning to do about them. The answer is: nothing. I don’t need to. They’re doing it all to themselves.

Authors beware – a cautionary tale!

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The road to publication is long and, sometimes, fraught. And in the context of a constantly changing writing and publishing industry, it is all too easy for unsuspecting authors to fall into traps. I did.

As many of you would know, my previously self-published novel, Fake Profile, was picked up by a small publisher operating under a traditional publishing model at the end of 2013, and released in August 2014.

Those of you who follow this blog would also know how exciting that was for me. The work that goes into writing a novel is such a small part of the whole story, and for many writers, a publishing contract is validation that the effort was worthwhile. I was no different.

After many unsuccessful submissions to publishers, I released the novel myself. I had a cover designed; I wrote a teaching program, complete with resources, to accompany the book; I designed and developed and printed a schools information sheet, which I then mailed out to English departments. Basically, I worked really hard on getting the book out there. And it paid off. Fake Profile started selling. It sold well. It sold so well that I started struggling to keep up, particularly as I got further into my PhD studies, and had to balance employment, PhD, and writing, with maintaining the momentum of book sales.

When the publisher picked up Fake Profile. I was so excited! I was not under the illusion that I could back off from promoting my book, but I (naively) thought that at least I might now have a bit of support to do so. The contract was sound; I was happy signing it.beware

The publisher asked for the teaching program I’d written, but I told him I didn’t want to sell it, I wanted to give it away free-of-charge with every class set of books sold. In hindsight, this was a good move because schools then had to email me to ask for it, and in doing so, told me how many books they’d ordered. It meant I had a bit of an idea of sales.

An early indication that something wasn’t right came when I received the first statement of sales and royalties, and only two book were recorded. I knew this was incorrect because I’d already had requests for the teaching program from a school that had ordered 30 copies.

But I gave the publisher the benefit of the doubt and simply reminded him about the other sales. I heard nothing back. For months. The next statement due date came and went (six months) and I emailed again to get an update. No response. Another few emails, another seven class set sales later, and still no response. I started getting worried.

I contacted the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) for advice. They were fantastic. They had a look at the contract, confirmed that the publisher was in breach of his own contract, and advised on a reasonable but firm course of action for a dissolution of the contract under its own terms. As a result, the rights of my book were returned to me.

But still no royalties.

The ASA suggested I notify the publisher of intent to lodge a dispute in the small claims court to recover the royalties. I did this via email, and (surprisingly) received a reply telling me that they could not pay the royalties because the business was in trouble.

I suspected that this may have been the case, and, being a reasonable person who understands the nature of an industry in flux (it is, after all, the basis for my PhD study), I gave him the benefit of the doubt. Again. He told me that I would be paid eventually (though provided no payment plan nor any indication of when or how that this might happen). Nevertheless, I decided not to proceed with the claim lodgement. I could wait for my royalties.

Until today.

Today, I got the shock of my life, and was really challenged to confront my own readiness to trust and/or give the benefit of the doubt. Today I was told that MY book, the book that I had written, the book for which I had received a mentorship award from ASA in 2010, the book that I had worked so hard to get off the ground and get out there – was on Amazon as being co-authored by me and SOMEONE ELSE.

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At first, I was confused. Who is this person and why is their name of MY book as a co-author? I investigated a little further, clicked through to the actual entry, and unpacked the listing. MJ Ormsby is named as the illustrator. Strange, as there are no illustrations in the book. Fake Profile is a YA novel but NOT a graphic novel. There are NO pictures at all. Except for the cover.

But that didn’t make sense either. I had paid a graphic designer to design the cover back when I released the book myself. And the publisher used the same cover, albeit with a few minor adjustments to the files with which I’d supplied them. Surely they wouldn’t have claimed authorial credit, either writing or illustration, for that!

original cover

But I was wrong. That was exactly what the publisher had done. The listed co-author was a member of the publisher’s team. And they were claiming authorial credit.

publisher cover

I was gutted. I felt betrayed. I had trusted this publisher. I had given them the benefit of the doubt throughout the whole period they’d had the book; against my better judgement.
And they took advantage of that. Every step of the way. I’ve asked them [again] to take the book down. But typically, received no response.

I’m at a loss. I don’t want to give up on this book. I’m conflicted about my next course of action.

What would you do?