I want to touch on the Mandy DeGeit debacle that’s been getting so much attention these past few days. If you haven’t read about it, I’ll wait while you jump over to Ms. DeGeit’s blog and read about her ordeal. No rush.
Michele Lee covered this with what I thought was very good insight. Essentially, what she said is that publishing is a gamble no matter how you roll. Whether you publish indie, with a small or mid-sized publisher, or a major New York outfit, you are putting your work in others’ hands, to greater or lesser degrees. There’s no escaping that. And even if you’re going “all indie” you’ll still need to get an editor and cover designer onboard, so…yeah, no author is an island. Trust me on this.
And there are also no assurances. You can get screwed on every level. This is a possibility you need to be aware of from the start. Even big names like Josh Whedon have been screwed over by the companies they work for. However, knowledge will help you. A lot. If you’re publishing indie, you need to learn how to publish a book beforehand–or at least have a basic idea of how to launch your book in a fairly professional manner. The same is true if you’re publishing with another, outside outfit.
You need to do your own research. That means setting time aside to Google the names of the publishers you’re thinking of publishing with, or those who are trying to contract you. The publisher in question, Undead Press, had red flags all over the internet, and even had to change their name at one point in order to cover up some bad business practices.
People, let me be frank. Publishing your book is a little like having sex. You have can have protected, safer sex, or you can do the jiggy without protection and hope for the best. I don’t recommend the latter, because you really don’t know where your partner has been, even if he/she gives you a nice sob story about how clean and careful they are or how they’ve never done it with anyone else ever before. You need to protect yourself, because you are responsible for your own safety, not your partner, not your publisher, not your parents, not your upbringing, not your schooling or the little devil in your shoulder that tempted you. Not anyone else. If you do something stupid, something stupid will likely be done to you. Capishe?
This is not rocket science. This is just the law of averages. Or maybe it’s Murphy’s Law I’m thinking of, whatever. But please, for the love of the gods, stop being victimized by shoddy publishing outfits because you don’t want to take a few moments to go to such places as the Absolute Writer forum or to Preditors & Editors, or just do a general Google sweep of the people you will be handing your hard work over to.
It doesn’t take long to figure out if the publisher is on the up-and-up or if they’re a troubled fly-by-night outfit. Some things to look out for:
- A publisher who has changed their DBA (“doing-business-as”) name for no discernible reason, not including reasons of incorporation.
- A publisher who creates extremely amateurish covers. Covers are often a very good indication of how much a publisher cares about the products they’re producing and selling.
- A publisher who operates out of a country where it would be very difficult to have a public accountant examine their books of account. And yes, this is your right as an author to request in a book contract.
- A publisher who’s CEO presides over other companies that would be considered a conflict of interest.
- A publisher who is not forthright about the CEO or the staff behind their company.
- A publisher who has received complaints about service from customers or overall bad publishing practices from other authors.
- A publisher who stonewalls you after your project has been accepted for publication, who cannot deliver a contract or other documents in a timely fashion, or who begins to bully you into paying any kind of fee.
- A publisher who asks for money. Money should flow to the author, never away from him/her.
- A publisher who displays unprofessional behavior in a casual setting, like a convention, forum, etc.
To make things even safer, contact a few of the authors who have published with your potential publisher in the past and get their opinions on their experiences with said publisher. Isn’t the work that you labored to create over days, weeks or even years worth an afternoon with a few search engines?
Consider it “protection”. As we say in the industry, it’s better to not be published, rather than to be published badly.
Please…do it for the kittens.