So remember that publishing deal I was gushing about just last week? The one I wanted so desperately?
I’m walking away from it.
I know, I know. I can hardly believe I’m doing it myself. The company seems like a good one. I adore the person who was my contact. (For legal reasons, I’ll be naming no names.) I was so exited. I was going to be published! I celebrated when the contract arrived in my mail box.
Tonight I turned it down.
There are a lot of reasons why. Some I won’t go into. I will however address the reasons that were independent of the publishing company themselves (or which would be true of any small indie press, which this was). On investigating the contract and doing some hard analysis of risk/reward and ROI, I came to some conclusions regarding my own personal situation.
- I’m a graphic artist. Technically, I used to be a graphic artist, but I did it professionally for twenty-years. A print graphic artist. I know layouts, typography, pagination, and trim like woah. I’m utterly confident of my ability to layout both print and e-book versions myself and get it right.
- I’m also an illustrator. I have also done this professionally.
I am an editor. Okay, no, but I’m married to one, and I’m friends with a few others besides. The point is, I have options for this. FREE options.
Most authors out there just simply don’t have these advantages but the reality is that I do (for which I’m very grateful, and never before have I been so appreciative of the life journey that’s brought me to where I am,) and that means that, were I to handle all these elements of book publication myself, my overhead would be almost entirely sweat equity save for the few costs I can’t circumvent (ISBN and copyright.) This means that for a publishing company to provide a better, more irresistible deal than the one I can give myself, they would need to provide me with:
- At least as good a job on the above items as I could do for myself. (Hey, there are plenty of artists and graphic artists better than me. I’m focusing on writing for a reason.)
- Marketing. (And not just on their own web space or instructions for me to do the marketing on my own behalf.)
- A presence in stores. Something other than print-on-demand (which I can also do myself.)
Unfortunately, my investigations led me to believe that my would-be publisher wasn’t going to be able to meet these criteria. From a practical point of view that meant that even discounting contract concerns and disagreements over terms, it wasn’t in my best interest to move forward with this, because what they were offering me wasn’t worth the percentage I would have to give up to purchase their assistance.
That is an important point to keep in mind, btw. You always pay for the services a publisher provides. No publishing company is just giving these things away for free. If they tell you this is free? Of course it’s not free. That would be a very poor business model. Traditional publishing simply folds those costs into their own overhead, but it’s your book that brings in the revenue that pays for it. For most of us it’s just far less painful to suffer these costs invisibly (we don’t miss money we never saw, after all) than to have to pay out of pocket in advance. And for most authors, it’s a fair trade. Why waste all this time trying to master skills you’re not good at when you could be writing? This is what these people do! They’re good at it! Respect the skills. I certainly do.
Don’t get me wrong: I’ll be paying too, of course. With TIME. How much time? Probably all of it. (Ask me again if it’s worth keeping control in six months: I may have a very different opinion.)
The result of all this is that I had an option I would not have had just a few years ago: the ability to walk way.
It may not be the best decision for everyone, but in this time and place, I’m quite confident it was the best decision for me.