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« What’s It Like to Be a Writer and a Full-time Student? | Main | Inventing Our Future »
Wednesday
Feb132013

"Buyer's Remorse"

Guest Post by Ruth Dewey

     If you are expecting another cute story, not this time.  It is time to move on to another kind of animal, the human predator.  I have put this off long enough.  I promised Irene that I would blog about this topic, so here goes.

     So you got the letter from Dorrance Publishing Company wanting to publish your book.  You are excited about the prospect of having  your book published.  Stop!  Throw that sucker in the round file.  I didn't and I have lived to regret it.  So what exactly happened, you ask?  They wanted to see my manuscript.  I rarely let anyone see my manuscripts unless I have known them for some time and implicitly trust them, which negates about 99 per cent of the people I know.  Showing it to a complete stranger was going to take some effort on his part.  I never contacted Dorrance, had never heard of them and wondered how on earth they had got my name and number so to speak.   Apparently, they have a scout who peers into the copyrights registered in the Library of Congress.  What are they seeking?  Your work?  In a way --  they use the work as a hook to get your money and lots of it.  You, of course, have done nothing wrong in trying to protect yourself form plagiarists and other intellectual thieves.  They have by seeking out their next victim.

     My next step was to check them out on the Better Business Bureau. They had a B+ rating.  Okay, I think, so send me your brochure.  Several days later I received it and proceeded to pore over it.  I was not impressed.  There were the "testimonials" as to how much they owed Dorrance for making their dream come true.  Yada, yada, yada.  They had published THE CODE BREAKERS, a story about the Navajo signal corps that broke the enemy code during World War II.  It had been made into a movie.  But, and here is the kicker -- most of their authors never gain that much recognition. (page 5 of their brochure).  Most of their authors don't gain any recognition at all is more like it! I  thought that was a rather odd thing to put in a brochure if you are trying to drum up business.  Oh, what the heck?  The brochure said that there was no obligation so I sent a copy of the manuscript to them for an evaluation.  In retrospect, I would have done better to go to a therapist for an evaluation.  They sent back a letter saying they liked the manuscript.  While I don't recall when the contract came, I do recall the hefty fee.  Whoa!  They are a subsidy publisher , which means the author pays them to publish the book, thereby alleviating the risk involved to the publisher should the book bomb.  Okay, one in their favor.  At least they were upfront about that.  They were inching toward me.  But I set the letter, brochure and contract aside.  I wasn't convinced that this was for me.  I had submitted SPRINGBORN to traditional
publishers but it was always rejected.  So I moved on to other more
promising projects and put the cat story in a drawer.  Maybe cats were not in vogue.

     The book was written as a specialized graphics arts project and I never really thought much about publishing it beyond a few Kinko
copies for my own use in a classroom.  The kids liked it and said that I ought to have a publisher do it as a kid's book so I sent it off to a few places and got the rejection slips I always expected.  The book had been worked and re-worked for two years.  If no one was interested in it by then,  no one was going to be.  End of story.  Or so I thought.

      I guess that someone at Dorrance sense my reticence and so one
one day out of the blue I got a call from a woman saleperson who shall remain nameless for now.  She grabbed my ear with "I think that you should do it!  If you don't like the contract, I will
come down there and we can hammer out when you do," she burst into
my bucolic world of goats and horses.  THAT was the last thing I
wanted.  I told her it was a lot of money to risk and politely discouraged her from coming down here.  I did not want her down here.  She was too pushy.  So much for no obligation.  Isn't that what they always say? She did not shut up  and go away as I wished but continued to prattle on about my book, leaving me with the "what if she is right?" feeling. She was good.  She believed in the book more than I did.  I don't know why but I signed that contact and sent in 500 dollars to get the ball rolling.  I got sucked into the nightmare vortex known as subsidy publishing.  I had no rational reason for doing what I did except to shut her up.  Okay, lady, but I better have a good book come out of this. What I learned left both me and my book in shambles.

Ruth D. Dewey is a former English teacher turned gentleman farmer's wife. Her first book is SPRINGBORN, (Dorrance Publishing Co. 2009) a poetic chronicle of a calico kitten's life employing the Old English kenning. She is also a contributor to ANGELS magazine. Her current work-in-progress concerns her recent experience with Dorrance Publishing Company.

Reader Comments (1)

Well, Ruth -- thanks for taking the financial risk even though it may prove to be more headache than you had bargained for. Since I was a young teenager writing with grand hopes of being one of the well-known and well-paid writers of America, I've been getting junk mail from Dorrance, Vantage and other subsidy presses. Thankfully my parents warned me early never to go down that road. But things have changed in the publishing world.

As an independent publisher with 3 award-winning books (Independent Publisher Book Awards Silver Medal, New York, New England and London Book Festival Honorable Mentions, and Pinnacle Achievement Awards), I can tell you that your situation is certainly open for reasonable success. Here are my suggestions for your continuing quest for publication.

1. You've made a deposit which seems high to you, but please look at this as tuition for the learning process. My first book cost over $20,000 to publish in 2008. I did not make the money back, and the inventory of unsold books outnumbers the sold. Long story short, I learned that "reasonable success" with independent publishing means you get to sell about 300 copies. So make sure your investment with Dorrance does not exceed 300 copies. You can always do a second print run once your inventory is down to about 50 books.

2. One of the greatest expenses in publishing is publicity. You will be promised all sorts of press releases (waste basket fodder), calls to radio and TV stations, etc. Don't buy any of them unless you have in the contract a specific date, time and show host for your appearance. Usually none of these will ever happen, so you can use that as your defense should the topic be pressed. This is how I spent the bulk of that $20,000. with a 100% fail rate, so be forewarned.

3. If you have the time and energy, you may want to find a fulfillment house to carry your books. I work with Pathway Book Service of New Hampshire. The service is not cheap, as you pay by the month and you must pay an extra fee if your book is not selling over the minimum monthly expectation -- but for my 3 books in print, the monthly costs average about $140. I use this annoyance to remind myself to keep busy with book store visits and talks, library visits and talks, book club appearances, and donating copies to libraries, hospitals, etc. You may also use Amazon for fulfillment, but I'm not sure they distribute through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, Barnes & Noble, etc., as Pathway does.

4. So grab this opportunity to let the subsidy publisher handle the printing and delivery of the book, and not a whole lot else. Please find a copy editor and a book editor, and invest in the best possible product you can. DO NOT let the subsidy publisher handle the cover design -- the cover is of paramount importance and if it is designed by a pro you'll fare a whole lot better.

Best of luck in your publishing quest!

February 16, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterStephen V. Masse

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