Those of you who read this blog regularly know that I'm looking into self-publishing the next book in the Sophie Katz mystery series. I've had six books published so far and switching to self-publishing will be a huge change for me. One of the things that will change is that I'll actually know what's going on.
I've often heard that, "The writer is always the last to know." Usually the people who say that are Hollywood writers but in my experience it's even more true for authors, at least in my publishing house (and perhaps in others as well). It's important to note that while I kept the film rights to all my novels I gave Harlequin (who owns Mira & the now-defunct Red Dress Ink imprint) the world rights to my books. That means they have the exclusive right to publish So Much For My Happy Ending and the five Sophie books I've written so far all over the world in any format (except film) as long as they pay me the agreed upon royalties for the sales. That's not such a bad deal to strike up with Harlequin. They are an international company. They have a presence in (and are tapped into the distribution channels for) Holland, Italy, England, Australia, the list goes on and on. My books have been read in four different languages in eight different countries (that I know of) and I couldn't have managed that without Harlequin.
But there's a trade-off. International companies are, by necessity, spread out. My editor is in New York. When I want help setting up a book signing I need to talk to the people in Toronto (that's also where the art department is). I just got my royalty statement that was printed in Switzerland. When the members of your team are located in several different countries there's a good chance that there is going to be some issues in regards to keeping everyone on the same page and there is NO guarantee that any one department is really clued into what the other department is doing.
My first big surprise when I became a published author was when I discovered that the date Red Dress Ink (and now, Mira) say they're going to release a book is not the real date. For Sex, Murder And A Double Latte I literally counted down the days, hours and minutes to that book's release date, June 1st. I called friends and made a plan to walk into our favorite bookstore with them on that magical date, cameras in hand, so I could actually see my book on the shelves. It was going to be an event!
Which is why I was kinda surprised when I casually strolled into a Barnes & Noble two weeks before June 1st and found my book displayed on the front table. I was thrilled...and very, very confused. I went home and checked my computer and sure enough, Amazon and Borders were already shipping it. I don't know why Mira advertises one date and releases the books on another. Perhaps Mira allows the booksellers to sell their novels as soon as they get them in their inventory. Again, I'm just guessing. I do a lot of guessing. Each year I try to guess when my book will be available and most years I get it wrong.
Then, about eight months after my first book was released, I did a Google search and discovered that Harlequin had made Sex, Murder And A Double Latte into an audio book! I had no idea that was going to happen! But there it was, for sale on Audible.com. About five months after that I got a package from Harlequin informing me that (drum roll please) Sex, Murder And A Double Latte had been recorded as an audio book. They gifted me the recording of it so I could hear it. Again, this is at least five months after they had started selling it. It was nice of Harlequin to give me the recording and I'm thrilled they have turned all of my novels into audio books because those recordings now account for about half of my royalties but if I had known it was going to happen ahead of time I would have promoted the release on my blog! Talked it up to all my friends! I didn't have the chance to do any of that until after it was all a done deal.
It went down the same way with the Kindle editions of my books. I found out that I was going to be published in Holland because one of the editors there left a comment on my blog. When I have asked my editors about these things I usually discover that they were as surprised by the developments in question as I was. It's true that when I ask questions my current editor can usually get answers for me even if he doesn't have them initially but it takes a while because the department that he needs to talk to isn't on a different floor, it's on a different part of the globe. And obviously, if they're going to offer one of my books in a new format or translate and sell it in a different country...well, I can't always predict that so I don't even know what to ask my editor to check on. It makes it hard to do the self-publicity thing because I never know what I'm supposed to be promoting or when I should be promoting it.
I'm constantly getting emails from readers asking, "When will your next book be available on Kindle?" "When will the audio books be out?" "When will the audio recordings of the last three Sophie books be available to purchase overseas?" "When can I buy Vows, Vendettas & A Little Black Dress in the UK?" "When will it be selling it in France?" And my answer to all these questions is almost always the same: "I. Don't. Know." More often than not it's the readers who ends up giving me the good news. You're the ones who tell me that there's a sample chapter of the next book up on Audible.com or that Amazon UK is accepting pre-orders for my latest release and that yes, it will be sold in Britain. You're the ones who tell me when the release date is because you're the ones who get an email from Amazon telling you that your pre-order has been shipped.
When I switch to self-publishing I will lose Harlequin's global reach. That will be a huge loss. But at least I'll know when and where my work is being sold and in what format. I'll finally know what to promote and when. I'll have a measure of control and as a result a measure of sanity. It will probably be a very small measure of sanity but I'll happily take what I can get.
I hear authors complain about these issues all the time but I've never seen them discussed in a public forum. It's possible I'm breaking an unwritten rule by doing so. But if I'm going to be going into business for myself then I get to make up new rules and my rules say that I get tell it as it is. I know a lot of you harbor ambitions of becoming a published novelist and I want you to know that you can come to this blog and get a completely honest account of my experiences within the industry. That way we can all know what's going on.
Bestselling Author of:
The Sophie Katz Mystery Series
So Much For My Happy Ending
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