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Monday, September 6, 2010

The Justified Rants of a Full-Time Writer

Authors haven't received royalty checks from a few of their publishers. Please don't mention publisher names here. Right now there are several under the umbrella of suspicion for their payment policies. In light of recent blog topics, it seemed like a good time to ask writers to post their opinions on the subject of royalty payment procedures and how they spot red flags—the early warning signs of a publisher in trouble.

Some very talented writers pace the floor waiting for their checks to arrive. In the distance we see another crowd forming, a large group of authors waving new contracts high above their heads. And there they go. They’re off, forming a long line behind another new publisher pitching more promises than a politician.

I watch industry blogs and shake my head when the topic open for discussion is another publisher, one finding the spotlight because of their inability to pay their authors. This wouldn’t happen if authors conducted a little research prior to submitting their manuscripts.

Fortunately, there are respectable publishers out there, publishers with proven track records and years of experience to back up the contracts they issue to their authors. Best of all these publishers pay their authors a nice lump sum every pay period.

These are the publishers authors tend to remember when submitting their manuscripts, or at least we should. That’s why I’m asking—why would any writer ignore or make excuses for a publisher unwilling to pay authors their fair share of earned royalties? I’d love to hear from you.

If you're new to the business and want suggestions about where to submit your manuscript, drop an email to and I'll send you a list of recommendations. I support and remain loyal to reputable publishers. However, regardless of who signs my royalty checks, the fact remains—I’m self-employed. If I’m not seeing a return on my books, I can take appropriate actions and call for an audit or pull my books.

I’ll never show loyalty to a publisher unwilling to follow his or her own payment policies. If there’s reasonable doubt over monetary relations, authors should investigate. If their suspicions prove justifiable, then they should pull their contracts and go. If a publisher is smart, they’ll let their authors leave quietly and get their act together.

Self-employment brings a little independence and in the publishing business, it brings the freedom of choice for authors and publishers. Authors choose where they submit their manuscripts. A publisher has the right to choose whether or not they want to publish an author’s books.

Like many of you, I’ve been burned a time or two and I’m not one to leave my palm on a hot stove. I don’t join a new army and follow an inexperienced leader just because it’s the thing to do. Writing is an obsession but it’s also my full-time J-O-B, a career I never take for granted.

I’m very serious about the business behind the writing and feel it's very important for authors to form professional business relationships with their publishers. If you look into past promotional efforts, you’ll see that I truly enjoy seeing other authors succeed. An author isn’t able to find success if they don’t receive royalties. They’re too busy chasing down payments. Very often, once this process begins, great writers become discouraged.

Writers work hard for sales and because they do, most of us never lose sight of what’s important. Today, I hope my attitude will rub off on some mighty fine writers who need to see the spotlight glowing at the end of the tunnel.

By the end of this post, new publishers will realize one thing if nothing else—they shouldn’t sign me or any author like me if they don’t plan to pay their authors. Believe me, it’s hard to pitch a line of “oops, sorry, no royalties this month” to someone writing books in several genres under four or five names.

For those of you interested in the check amounts you should be cashing from the publishers refusing to pay you, I keep up with book ranks. If you’re interested in numbers and would like a rough estimate of what you should expect, ask me. I don’t mind to give you a ballpark figure and it will be pretty darn close. Chances are pretty good I have a book ranked somewhere near yours. I’ll be happy to provide whatever information you need.

I read several blogs over the weekend. I’m curious why any author stays with a publisher clearly operating in the red and unwilling to pay royalties due. Right now, a couple of publishers are cashing in and talented authors aren’t seeing their earned royalties. Below, I’ll explain what I would do in a similar monetary relations situation. This may enrage a few folks but a few points need to be made regardless of toes stepped on.

Writers are involved in a writing business. This isn’t a tea party on a hot afternoon down in Louisiana.

First, let me give you an example by using a fictitious author: Jane Smith publishes one book. Her title is about forty thousand words and this little book that could sells for $5.50 on Amazon Kindle. Jane notices a #2000 rank on Amazon Kindle. Her publisher sends a statement and sure enough Jane’s book sells 777 copies the first quarter on Amazon. At $5.50, this e-book should produce somewhere around $1,709 for the 777 copies sold on Kindle assuming Jane is paid gross royalties. She’s excited and can’t wait to see her first royalty check.

Then, catastrophe strikes. *And the crowd gasps in anticipation*

Jane receives the statement but royalties never materialize. Unfortunately, Jane and her fellow authors are learning the hard way and the old adage “here today and gone tomorrow” rings loudly in her ears.

It’s difficult to tolerate nonpayment from any publisher and when the lame excuses begin, it’s all over. The reason I have a hard time believing any excuse given by a publisher failing to pay authors is because they have the money to pay their authors. Why? Someone paid them for the book sales you received at third party distributors.

Publishers receive their checks from third party outlets and some publishers receive very large amounts. Sales materializing from third party distributors is money in the bank. Whether that cash makes it to your bank account or not is the question, but when you aren’t being paid by a publisher, stop and think about those third party websites where your books are sold. Third party distributors pay your royalties to publishers believing on good faith your publishers will pay you.

Watching the loops and blogs, I’m amazed at what is considered acceptable in this industry. New writers seem to feel an overwhelming amount of gratitude when they’re published. Some new authors rise to the top and have no idea they’re even dubbed as a heavy hitter for their publishers. They haven’t cashed a check worth mentioning.

I don’t consider myself a heavy hitter but last year, two different publishers made a very nice profit or income from sales generated from my books under several pen names. I never expected a thank you note. As far as I know, they didn’t expect one from me. All I ever expected was my cotton pickin’ check delivered on time and guess what? These publishers deliver every single time they pay out royalties. To repay them, I promote myself and their authors as often as possible.

Back to what I would do about unpaid royalties. I would consider the contract null and void. The publisher would be notified and asked to drop the book from their inventory. A cover artist would be hired and a few days later, we’d slap a new title on the book and format for third parties. Within one week tops and—BAM—the book would be released to every third party distributor accepting self-published authors. This is one reason I find self-publishing so attractive.

Now, some of you may be thinking to yourself. “I can’t do that. I’m under contract.” Are you? Maybe you are, but I wouldn’t be. If a publisher doesn’t pay royalties owed, I’m selling the book myself regardless of fits and tantrums. I’ll grin and cash in, allowing my readers the courtesy of knowing why I pulled my books.

Over the last several years, I’ve noticed the gratitude mentality. I once had it too, although I can’t remember a time when I appreciated a publisher delinquent in royalty payments. I have tremendous respect for a number of publishers—typically those paying on time every month or quarter with a no-nonsense approach to doing business but gratitude? Well, I don’t know anymore. In my opinion, that works both ways.

I have a couple of publishers I wouldn’t trade for any big name in New York—yes, really—and the reasons are simple. I’ve established a strong business chemistry with these publishers and we’re in tune. They know what to expect from me and I know what to expect from them.

At the same time, I don’t rely on one publisher to pay my bills. Publishers don’t rely on one author to pay their bills. If they do, they’re in big trouble. In this day and age, publishing is a partnership. Authors are independent contractors.

I’ve said it over and over again—the only ‘bosses’ I have are my two teenagers and their platoon of friends. When life is better than a chocolate covered cowboy, I can send out six or seven manuscripts within a few months. Best of all, because of the reputable publishers publishing my books, we work as a team and everyone benefits.

When a book or short story is released, we make every effort to produce a good product, earn what profits we can and call it a day. Apparently, there are several misconceptions about the potential for income in today’s e-book industry.

So let’s set the record straight.

It is no big thing—yes that’s southern slang—for authors to take on three or more pen names. I’m open about my pseudonyms for the most part, but others choose not to reveal much about theirs for one reason or another.

In today’s market, savvy authors can, do, and will make six figures while the e-book industry is thriving, depending on what they choose to write. Why is that so hard to believe? Well, I have a theory. It’s easy to believe no one in the industry is making money when a writer isn’t getting paid. It’s easy to assume the publishing industry isn’t profitable for anyone when a writer aligns themselves with a questionable publisher and never sees a royalty check.

The facts are right in front of us but for some reason, many buy the fantasy theory. And man, what a dark fantasy we’ve created.

Independent sales figures aren’t provided here. Some publishers frown upon releasing book sales data. At the same time, authors need to open their eyes.

There are a number of authors in this business making over one hundred thousand dollars a year in e-books and trade paperbacks. Last quarter, one statement showed a total of 10, 384 books sold. I’m not giving out the pen name or the book titles because I don’t have permission to cross post the name with the Destiny Blaine pen name. The 10, 384 books sold were books sold by one pen name with only four titles released by one publisher.

My contract states I receive 50% of the cover price for e-books. You can do a little math and figure out whether or not you think I’d miss that income. I’m not trying to boast about earnings which is another reason why I’m not listing one pen name after the next with the number of titles sold for each pen name and book. Besides, there are several e-book authors selling far more than I am. I’m proud of them and their accomplishments.

This post is for those of you who aren’t seeing these numbers because your books aren’t with the right publishers and you aren’t being paid. Today, I hope you’ll read this blog and see it as your wake up call.

Don’t buy a publisher’s empty promises or listen to their boring excuses because you may throw away a solid chance for a significant income earned through a magnificent career. Writing can be very lucrative.

Authors, you can tell yourself only one in every ten thousand writers are making bank. You can get all cozy with that idea. The truth is several authors in small press cash very nice royalty checks.

For the authors out there unable to see the bigger picture, I’d like to point out that publishing is a business. If you want friends, sign up for a cooking class or join a gym. You can pay twenty dollars or so for a seventeen dollar registration fee and let the instructor keep the change if you’re feeling generous. However, when it comes to business, don’t let publishers pocket your profits. Some of them could buy new cars with the money they aren't paying their authors. My guess is, some of them already have.

Destiny Blaine


Tess MacKall said...

You said a mouthful, honey. And that, as you know, is another Southern expression.

What I'd like to know is when are we going to get a group of authors together and do a workshop on LEARNING THE INDUSTRY INS AND OUTS: MAKING MONEY IN E PUBLISHING....

Yeah, that was a hint. Email me. Seriously. I'm an author who believes in giving back to the writing community and obviously so are you. There are a lot of us out there who'd be willing to participate in this endeavor.

Tess MacKall said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Destiny Blaine said...

Lol, Tess.

I don't rant much but when it happens...look out. ;)) A workshop sounds like a perfect idea!

Oh by the way, click the main page and let me know what you think about the Waking up the Arguably Dead banner.

Sidebar to bloggers: Tess is my editor from Passion in Print. To find out more, submit your manuscript to: ;))

Thank you for posting, Tess.


Tess MacKall said...

Yes, I saw the banner. Gorgeous. I love it. The text fits with the story beautifully.

It's time authors did something about their careers. It's very sad, but very true that too many authors allow the publisher to do the steering. And a publisher should be allowed to do SOME steering. It's a symbiotic relationship. But authors are independent contractors. They run their own business.

And as with any business, research is key. Unfortunately, not all authors do their research. Some either don't understand that you need to while others ignore warnings. I feel like we can help.

We'll see. lol

Hales said...

Tess that sounds like a great class. Destiny what a great blog. one I'll def add as a fav to come back and glance on from time to time!

Serenity King said...

OMG, Destiny! I loved this blog. Very insightful indeed. Thank you for posting. I have a question mentioned self-publishing...a lot of people are against self-publishing, but I know a few authors who are self-published and they are doing very well. The only pitfalls I see so far with self-publishing are the reviews. What do you think?

I absolutely love my publisher and haven't experienced any problems with them at all. However, I am planning on submiting to other pulishers and you've made some very valid points in this blog. Very interesting.

I'm with Tess on this one, every author should read this. I'm new and I read everything.


steph beck said...

Nice. I've been in the writing business for a year, and in that year, I've learned that it is a business. Manners and promises are very important and when promises get broken, then you give the place a chance to fix and if they can't, you take your writing elsewhere. There are smaller presses out there that do fantastic business and respect the pub/author relationship and they are the ones I want to work with.

You're inspiring lady!

Adrianne Brennan said...

Excellent blog, thanks! I'll be passing this one along to others. :)

Eve Langlais said...

That was a great article. Myself, I've decided to publish with 4 companies instead of all in one place. I am still relatively new and wanted to keep my eggs in separate baskets so to speak. I did do my research before hand though as everyone should and went with companies who had great reputations. So far, everything is on the level, knock on wood lol.

The one thing I wish we the authors could see more of is actual numbers. How many copies should a book sell in house to be considered decent? How many should we expect in the other markets like Amazon and FW? And I wish I knew more about the royalty payouts from third party sites. I've noticed publishers group them under one heading so as to make it impossible to see from whom they're from. A shame because some of those third party sites offer advertising, but I'm not willing to pay if I can't gauge the return.

And hey, for your next piece, can you think about writing about advertising for ebooks? LOL. I find marketing takes up too much time :( And does it actually pay off?

Nix Winter said...

I'm one of those writers not making bank, at the moment. I have not had good experiences with publishers. I have a couple opportunities to join new publishers now, but I'm really gun shy. I think I like it better on my own... and I just have to face what I really want and get on with it.

dawn kunda said...

Destiny, Great topic and something I will keep in mind. I haven't reached the date of my first royalty check, but I'm confident about my publisher.
Also, Eve, I agree with your interest in ebook marketing. I'm in the "filtering" stage where I'm checking many avenues and trying not to waste time or money.
Great blog!

Adelle Laudan said...

This is definitely a much needed wake up call given certain happenings of late. I would very much appreciate that list of publishers your will to share.
Kudos for you for telling it like it is. I for one, thank you.

Lisa Alexander Griffin said...

Thanks for the post, Destiny. Very enlightening. Sorta makes me growl knowing a publisher could buy a car with my royalties, and probably has. :(

We do live and learn, and I'm thankful to be with two wonderful publishers now.

Jude Mason said...

Wow Destiny! You've said a mouthful and I applaud you for the determination you have in this insane world of publishing. I'm making money, but with the way the epubs are right now, I'm honestly unsure of where to go next. New ones arrive almost daily, the old faithful are treating their authors like second class citizens, if that. It's incredibly refreshing to hear you're doing well.Congrats and I'll be keeping my eye on you.


Kim Richards said...

One thing I think needs to be pointed out is the time line publishers have to deal with.

Typically authors/artists/editors/staff get paid at the end of the royalty period in which the publisher gets paid. When a particular distributor takes three months AFTER the end of their sales quarter to pay, no one sees any money sometimes until close to six months after the sale is made. It's just as frustrating to the publisher as it is the authors, staff and artists.

Destiny Blaine said...

Thank you for the comments. Keep them coming. If you have an opinion, let us hear from you.

Yesterday, I received over 25 private emails in regards to recommended publishers. Keep in mind, my word isn’t the ‘gospel’ as we say here in the south. The list of recommended publishers was created based on a number of factors including experience and research. Oh, and as some of you may have noticed, the big houses aren’t included. We all know the players in New York. The list compiled only includes recommended publishers in small press.

I'm working on the information requested in regards to Amazon ranks. This takes some time but every effort has been made to prepare comparable data. For those of you interested in more Amazon rank information, you can take a look at: Due to the overwhelming response in regards to Amazon ranks, please limit your requests to one email. This way I can answer everyone in a timely manner.


Destiny Blaine said...


Thanks for mentioning the symbiotic relationship. It’s so important for publishers and authors to find that business chemistry, a professional relationship mutually beneficial for both parties.

I’m infuriated when publishers don’t pay their authors. Often it's nothing more than an act of pure arrogance. Worse, when an author asks to go away quietly, some publishers balk at the idea of releasing books. If you ask me, these publishers have the public humiliation coming to them. In fact, they asked for it by name. :) I’m anxious to get together on the workshop. Thanks, Tess!

Hey Hales~Thanks for dropping by. When I think of new heavy hitters on the scene, your name always comes to mind. I’m glad you were here!

Serenity~I’m the wrong one to ask about reviews. I advertise but seldom rely on reviews to carry my book. TESS~If you’re still around, do you have an opinion on reviews for self-published titles?

I’ll be back in a few to answer more posts.


Tess MacKall said...

Serenity---Reviews seem to be another category within the publishing industry that authors are struggling with these days.

Whether you are self-pubbed, brick 'n' mortar pubbed, or e-pubbed, there is no rhyme or reason as to some of the reviews authors receive. A recommended read on one site and a thumbs down on another one.

Reviews are incredibly subjective. And not all review sites are created equally either. In general, if you send out for reviews yourself,stick with the larger sites and by pass smaller ones. However, it's hard to get a bigger site to review your work quickly enough. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

If you're with a savvy publisher, that publisher has a list of sites and will send out ARCs prior to release for reviews. That's a service the publisher will usually provide. But unfortunately, not all publishers do that.

Self-publishing has been lambasted because it's pretty much on-demand. Anyone can self-publish. And their work may not be up to snuff. So those who are good and self-publish get lumped in with all of that. The other issue with self-publishing is the lack of edits.

My advice is to have your book professionally edited prior to self-publishing--and I mean with a reputable editor you've checked out thoroughly too.

Because if you self-pub and your book has not been edited properly, you'll get burned in reviews. With digital publishing growing at such a phenomenal rate, we'll see more self-published writers. I'm thinking about doing some of that myself.

But like Destiny, I won't ever rely on a review to carry the sales for a book. Name recognition is key to getting your books read. Expending your time, money, and energy to do that is always the best bet for an author.

Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Best blog I've read in a long time. I'm not caught between heaven and hell. I know now to increase my knowledge. I think its the fear of the unknown and rejection that made me put so much work with one and not spread it around. I need to remember fertilizer. Too much of a good thing kills the plant an even coat works better.

Destiny Blaine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Destiny Blaine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Destiny Blaine said...

Steph~ Thanks very much for the compliment. You’re right about giving publishers a chance to rectify problems. However, some refuse, even when they’re asked time and time again. Once the "Sorry, no payment for you" begins, it generally continues and the arrogance intensifies with each passing pay period. That’s something I’ll never understand.

Steph, you’re right about the small press industry—there are some phenomenal publishers out there. I'm signed with some of the best. Talented authors need to know where to find these publishers and that's another reason I went on a rant. It's time someone took a moment to point authors in the direction of publishers with good business practices.

Adrianne~ Thank you for stopping by. I’ve missed *seeing* you online. Congratulations on your continued success!

Eve~ I like how you think. Regarding numbers, here are a few links:

The above link is an old one but if you’ll notice the statement: “The average book in America sells about 500 copies”
Many believe those numbers have remained unchanged for the past few years.

Another link:
Keep in mind, the data found at the above website focuses on the print-on-demand market through self-publishing revenues.

Yesterday, I was directed to The Change Revolution by Phil Cooke:

After glancing at this post, I wanted to share the link so everyone can form their own opinions. I question the bleak findings at #3 but haven’t had the opportunity to read the entire post yet.

Eve, as for your other questions: Let me send a shout-out for publishers to respond.

Publishers, we’d love to hear from you:

What do you consider decent sales for a new or established author?

What do you look for when you sign a new author?

How are your in-house sales in comparison to 3rd party sales?

Eve, in terms of third party sales and how each author receives payment for these sales: Unfortunately, a great number of us signed contracts agreeing to net royalties from third party distributors. Many of us have no idea what net royalties are. So let me explain.

Net can be net of anything. For example: Publisher A pays net royalties. Publisher B pays on gross sales.

100 books are sold at $5.00 a copy.

Pretend Jane Smith signed on for 40% of net royalties with Publisher A and 40% of Gross Sales at Publisher B.

At $5.00 a copy, Jane’s book brings in $500 and she makes a total of $200 at 40%. However, with Publisher A, she may only see about 21% because that seems to be the norm with net royalties so she receives $105.

The net is generally calculated by the gross receipts minus the expenses and the author is then paid on that amount. Someone correct me if I’m wrong or if there’s a better way of explaining this, please step forward and take the floor. :)

Recently, I received a monthly statement from one of my publishers where one book brought in $43.89 and I was paid $4.40.

That same publisher reports 14 books and gross sales of $78.26 where my earnings were $7.84.

Keep in mind, if those books had been at one of three other publishers paying on gross, I would’ve earned between $17.56 and $21.95 where I earned only $4.40 and between $31.30 and $39.13 where I only earned $7.84.

Am I angry over this? Heck no. I signed that net contract and deserve to have my tail spanked.

With the aforementioned, it’s important to point out: Some publishers with solid contracts in place do pay net royalties on third party sales but net royalties are defined and it's easy to interpret where sales are derived.

I assure you, my top three publishers aren’t paying 10% on e-book sales at third party distributors.

Oh and yes…we’ll work on something about advertising and yes, it does pay off.

I’ll have more later….

Destiny Blaine said...

In regards to the publisher list provided:

The list of recommendations includes some of my current publishers as well as publishers I've researched. The list was formed based on my opinion of who in publishing is the best of the best but who am I? One author and one opinion.

Also keep in mind, I have nothing to gain by including publishers on the list provided. I'm already published with some of the publishers on the list under one pen name or another. I'm far too busy to pursue publication anywhere else at this time. I'm booked out until the end of 2011 so there’s nothing to gain by offering a helping hand to those interested in locating reputable publishers.

Destiny Blaine said...

Nix~ Let me send you a list of publishers to consider. Believe me, there are some remarkable publishers out there.

Take it from someone who has been paid all over the board. Some publishers have paid me next to nothing, others send thousands every quarter, some send a few dollars every month. Publishers vary and how your book sells at one publisher isn't an indication of how it will sell at another.

While I’m self-publishing my own backlist titles, I still believe in the reputable traditional publishers and I’ll be happy to share what I know. Thanks for stopping by, Nix. :)

Dawn~ Yes, I see you have a very reputable publisher. Congratulations! I’ll be watching for your book to climb the charts.
Thanks for your post and compliment.

Adelle~ You’re welcome and thank you for dropping by today. I’m glad you enjoyed the blog. Drop me an email: and I’ll send you that list.

Lisa~ Good to ‘see’ you here today. Didn’t you win a contest last week? Hmmm…I’ll have to go back and see what you won.

Yes, it's shocking how brassy publishers can be when they’re not on the up and up. Recently, I had a situation with a publisher who reported very low sales for a book on Amazon. This was an e-book in the top 10,000 at Amazon Kindle and also one that had over 20 pages of “Customers who bought this book also bought…” I was so mad when I saw the statement, I pitched a private fit. Then, I contacted the publisher and in turn received pure arrogance. She refused to discuss it. The book should’ve paid out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. I was paid on ten books or less if memory serves me correctly.

Destiny Blaine said...

Jude~ I understand the concept of second class citizens, believe me! ;) Of course, that’s why I’m not invited to those Louisiana tea parties anymore, lol. Outspoken authors with a 'numbers obsession' don’t sit at the head tables. They need too much room to roll out their spread sheets. ;)

Tess MacKall said...

Woot! They don't like me at tea parties either, Destiny. lol Guess I'm in good company.

Destiny Blaine said...

Hi Kim~ Thanks for posting. I’m glad you mentioned the time line publishers are forced to face. Correct me if I’m wrong, but most publishers, at least those paying quarterly, operate like this:

January—by the end of the month, sales from July, August, September should be paid from ALL third parties
April—by the end of the month, sales from Oct, Nov, & Dec should be paid from ALL third parties
July—by the end of the month, sales from Jan, Feb, March should be paid from ALL third parties
October—by the end of the month, sales from April, May, and June should be paid from ALL third parties

In other words, once an author's book hits a third party distributor, they should see their first 3rd party statement within six months, as you mentioned. Most authors allow for that because we expect it. Most don’t have patience for those taking over a year to pay and while doing so, they claim ‘they’ (the publisher) haven’t been paid.

When one out of ten publishers use the "money hasn't been received from 3rd parties" claim, I feel like contacting the third party distributor and saying, “Hey look, ABCD Publishing says you’re not paying them but you’ve paid all my other publishers. What’s up with that? Do you have something against them?”

You see what I’m saying? It’s an excuse a lot of publishers have used when they’re on their way out so I have a tough time with it because if nine out of ten publishers can pay 3rd party sales on time, they all can.

Thanks for dropping by, Kim!

Destiny Blaine said...

Tess~ Thank you for answering Serenity’s question about reviews. You are appreciated, lady. :) I’m looking forward to the workshop.
Sidenote to bloggers~ Tess came up with a brilliant plan. Stay tuned!

Anonymous~ Thanks very much for the compliment. “The fear of the unknown” is the perfect way of explaining why so many authors often stay where they are, even in bad situations. Thanks for dropping by, Anonymous!

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully informative Post, Destiny, and something that definitely needed to be put out there.

Ive been blessed with 4 fantastic publishers. But I certainly did my "investigations" on them before submitting --- because I was one of those unfortunate authors to be originally caught up in the mess with Triskellion when it failed and went bankrupt years ago.

I hope that new authors will heed your advice, but even more I hope that some of these "dishonest" publishers out there will also think twice about what theyre doing.

hugs, Kari Thomas,

Rebecca J Vickery said...

Hi Destiny,
Very informative rant you have going on and I'd like to join in. You mentioned doing research to avoid signing with a bad publisher and then asked for input as to why you would sign with them. I wanted to address that.

Sometimes, regardless of how much research you do, an author will not find out about a publisher and their "bad habits" until after you sign with them and it's keep their promise or pay royalty time. Many of the tales are only now being told, since authors now have other options. Remember what used to happen to whistle-blowers? Harassment, being ostracized, being given a bad report so they could not get another job or contract in this case. When I signed with a certain publisher, they had a publicly sterling record, no black marks anywhere, a growing list of authors, and increasing sales. Then I became the whistle-blower. Turns out many of the authors knew about the problems, but were too intimidated to ask the right questions or take any action. Had they stepped up and reported the truth of what was going on, I, and several other authors, would not have been suckered in. But their fear of being ostracized and "black-balled" (another good ole southern expression)in the small-press family was an honest concern and with few options they kept quiet. I and these other authors faced being black-balled and ostracized and it's still not over. If you think small publishers (especially the questionable ones) do not spread the word on a troublesome author or ask about authors before signing them, think again. This is a business and they want references. And they don't want to deal with authors who will cause big ripples in their little ponds.

Thank goodness authors do have other options now and they DO NOT have to allow themselves to be cheated or intimidated any longer. But it is like the abusive wife who stays in a bad relationship. Some are too afraid of change and others are emotionally tied and don;t look at this as a business.

I also believe some publishers who started out with the best of intentions got a small taste of money coming in and discovered ways to keep it for themselves (GREED is the only word for it) and they found a way to manipulate and hide the number of sales and such until recent technology began to reveal the true numbers. Other very good presses have been bought out or absorbed into larger businesses and the new owners are not fulfilling the contracts or even interpreting them the same way.

I too believe there are good publishers out there. I agree the best options for any author are diversity and checking into all options. And if one thing in a contract causes hesitation...back up and reconsider signing. It might save you a lot of grief down the road.

Ronna Gage said...

Love the blog. It hits the indudstry right in the 'kisser'. In a business that is full of 'new' talent, the coveted contract is hard to acquire when you have down on the luck publishers producing 'junk'. I think this needs to go back to the old standards of GOOD writing. If you tend to make this a career path for yourself, you MUST be top of your game, know your stuff, and accept nothing less than YOUR very best. Publisher's who contract that kind of work should have no trouble staying afloat and being successful. BUT Agin this is MY opinion.

Keta Diablo said...

Hi Destiny, great Rant!

I left a lengthy comment yesterday and blogger decided to hate me. The post was lost, so will try to resurrect it here.

I've had my share of burns, think Triskelion and another well-known house that is still in operation, so I know a little of what I speak.

There are some very reputable houses (Noble Romance is one) and I publish both ways, traditional and self-pubbed.

About third-party sites -- this has always galled me and those who know me know that I've had several rants about this. It is beyond me why third-parties get 50-60 percent of YOUR book. And I'm a little miffed at the publishers who agree to this. There's strength in numbers and if they would have united at one point and said, "no, my authors are not going to go for that," what do you think would have happened? The third-party sites would have to lower their commission rates or endure "failure to thrive" syndrome. We are the masters of our fate, not anyone else. And if someone can tell me why anyone should get 50 percent or more of a book YOU wrote, then I'll hold my piece (or is it peace?) This is another issue that needs to be addressed and changed in the industry. Sometimes momentum begins on the bottom rung, and make no mistake, we are on the bottom rung when it comes to third party sites making a killing by slapping up your book on a web site.

Don't fall for the "volume and exposure" lecture, because it's been proven time and again, readers do not follow sites or houses, they follow authors. Yes, there are some houses that have garnered a loyal following, but what brought them there to begin with? Content. And who supplies the content? Authors.

Don't underestimate your writing or your ability to stand on your own if that's your dream. Remember, you wrote that baby that the readers and the publishers seem to love. If they didn't, they wouldn't carry it.

Secondly, contracts are negotiable, all contracts. Stand up for yourself, believe in yourself, and tell the publisher, "no, I wrote the book and I want an EQUAL share, not 38 percent, not 40 percent, but 50 percent (the same that you make). Any publisher worth their salt will pay their authors what they're worth. If not, move on. Some authors are so dang happy to be published, they'd sell their granny's wedding ring to see their name in lights. Wrong attitude. You have the product and you wrote the product. Now demand your fair share for selling the product. To do less, you are selling yourself short.

And lastly, someone discussed reviews. Like new publishing houses, reviewers are hanging up shingles left and right. Many are authors who write in the same genre that they review. Now, I don't know about you, but I think it's human nature to keep your competition from outshining you. That's why I don't review colleague's work, and I don't ever want to be put into that position of critiquing on online friend's blood, sweat and tears. Stick to the professional review sites who have no ulterior motive and who share one common thing with writers -- love of the written word.

Reviews should not be biased for or against an author; they should be about the work. And for the readers who put out their hard-earned money to buy your work. Period.

Okay, that's my two cents for what it's worth. You can think about it or discard it.

Thanks so much, Destiny, for opening this discussion. The industry is in a real flux right now. Our moment is at hand. Take charge of your own ship, chart your course and have faith in your abilities.

Happy writing, reviewing and contract negotiating!

Keta Diablo

Destiny Blaine said...

Since posting this blog, a few interesting emails have rolled in and let me tell you I’m really shocked at what I’m hearing.

One publisher is all over the internet right now with recent bad behavior and unprofessional rants. Don’t name them. None of us want their name posted here.

Another one has been all over the internet for several years. I didn’t even know they were still in business if you want to know the truth. Apparently I was wronggggg. Five different emails came in yesterday about this publisher and so help me, they should have a public stoning for what’s going on there. Okay, so that’s a bit harsh. Maybe.

I’ll be back later this weekend to reply to the posts I’ve missed so far but I wanted to drop by and ask a question—why are authors putting up with these unprofessional people posing as publishers? I mean come on. Do you think so little of your work that you accept the fact you aren’t being paid?

It’s been disheartening, to say the least, to discover so many great writers are out there being bullied by a small number of publishers. Here’s a sidebar to those publishers:

1. There are reputable publishers out there. I’m passing around a list to anyone who asks for it. To date, I’ve sent out seventy-two emails. Yep. Ask around. Somebody you know has my list.

2. There's NO reason in today’s market to avoid paying your authors. They have choices, other options. I’m directing each and every writer asking for reputable, paying publishers. Maybe after a few days, a couple of weeks, these extraordinary talents will listen to my recommendations. I suspect it will happen and soon since most people enjoy receiving a check for their hard work.

3. Note to the publishers refusing to pay their authors: It’s a good thing I’m not in your line-up because instead of passing around a list of reputable publishers, I’d be all over your ass telling anyone who'd listen you aren't paying your authors. Heck, considering the money one publisher claims to have made, I'd probably show up at their door and collect my check. Why? Well I’m assuming dollar bills hang from the branches of the trees in one publisher’s front yard. They just haven’t had time to pick the bills and THAT’S the only reason why their authors haven’t been paid.

4. You aren’t fooling anyone. I stay on top of Amazon ranks. If I’m being cheated, I know it in about a minute. Do you think I’m the only one? Uh, probably not.

5. And finally, those of you bullying your authors: I hope they all walk out at the same time. You can go back to whatever it is that you do and they can return to a career they can take seriously again.

Authors: I’m not an attorney but I’m a hard worker.. With that said, there’s no way in hell I’d stay with a publisher refusing to pay me. I don't give a rat's tail what the contract says. If they don't pay they're in breach of the very contract they set in motion as far as I’m concerned. Period.

My advice? Get out. Get your books out. Give them away if you have to. But swat away that hand refusing to help you pay your bills. Smash it. Literally. Get together with authors in your publishing house and ask them if they’re receiving their checks. And if not, expose the publisher. Trust me, they deserve it.

I’m off to write a manuscript that will be sent to one of those reputable publishers on my favorite list of publishers—those that have earned their reputations for putting readers at the forefront of their business while treating authors with the respect and dignity they deserve behind the scenes. Gee, I wonder if that’s why they’re able to stay in business when others around them fail? Hmmm….

Destiny Blaine said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Destiny Blaine said...

Kari~ Thanks for dropping by. Like you, I hope the dishonest publishers will take a step back and consider what they’re doing ‘to the industry’ rather than consider their own personal gain. What I fear is we have too many people opening their publishing doors for business when they don’t know anything about the industry. They haven’t worked ‘from the inside’ out. They’re outsiders—as in they’ve never been in the business at all and only want a piece of the publishing pie—and they’re jumping straight in without any experience.

Thanks for dropping by, Kari.

Destiny Blaine said...

Hey Rebecca~ Thanks for joining us. You’re right about whistle-blowers and this can be a cruel industry when tales start flying.

You mentioned: “Remember what used to happen to whistle-blowers? Harassment, being ostracized, being given a bad report …”

Obviously, authors realize how this works. In this business it can mean bad reviews, horrible ratings, etc. Check my reviews on Amazon and pay close attention to those that include something along the lines of: “I wanted to like this book but…” or “This is my first and last book written by….” After reviewers from the same site reviewed the same series.
But hey, they tried. They wanted to like the books, ya know?

You mentioned the questionable publishers spreading news about an author they want ousted. That may happen some in small press. I’ve been told that it does and experienced it, to some extent, after I left one publisher several years ago. I'd be surprised if this kind of thing happens in New York. Cash is king there. I can’t imagine “Big Brother” placing too much stock in gossip.

It’s hard to understand what a publisher or author hopes to accomplish by trying to oust another author. They want to strip them down to bare bones and then what? Make sure they can’t provide an income for their families? Do these vindictive folks expect the ousted author to sit in a corner and sulk? Do they believe the author will quit writing, perhaps sit on their hands and pout when one publisher rejects them and then another? I mean really? What is the purpose? What do they want to accomplish?

It’s not like we can’t keep coming back again and again, reinventing ourselves with another pen name or two just to keep things rolling.

Besides, look who loses out in the long run—the publisher, other authors, readers, review sites, and the list goes on.

As for ripples in the pond: Cause waves, Rebecca. When you’re right, don’t back down. Don’t swim underwater until you can quietly disappear on the other side. Stand your ground, which you obviously have. Others admire that quality.

You mentioned the abusive wife syndrome. Reading some of the letters flooding my inbox I’ve discovered there are several factors involved when an author refuses to leave an unethical publisher. They’re afraid of being ostracized by their peers and by other publishers, like you mentioned. They’re afraid they won’t be able to sell their work somewhere else, and they’re outright bullied which really grates on my nerves. We’re writers. We’re not thugs in gangs.

Thanks for your input!

Destiny Blaine said...


Thanks for dropping by. You’re right. The industry is full of new talent and an author-friendly contract can be difficult to secure, but as you know the good ones come along and they're worth their weight in gold. :)

Thanks, Ronna!

Destiny Blaine said...

Hi Keta~

Thanks for posting. Blogger had a few hiccups yesterday.

Your ears should’ve been burning. I passed along your Yahoo link to a few new authors looking for an interactive place to chat with other authors and publishers. Ah shucks, let me go ahead and post here too:

Also, thank you for mentioning contract negotiations. As authors, we often forget everything is negotiable.

Regarding review sites: I visit very few review sites on a regular basis and those review sites receive my advertising dollars. All I ask for in return is a fair review, should one of my books come up for review consideration. A glowing review isn’t in order, unless it’s justified, but I’d like to think if I’m advertising somewhere, I’m all but guaranteed the book will be reviewed by an unbiased reviewer. If my book can't receive a fair and impartial review, I’m not spending my money there. That’s a rant for another day. ;)

Thanks for posting, Keta.

joder said...

I'm glad to see authors band together to protect themselves. Being informed keeps authors from being cheated. This topic needs to be discussed more.

Roxanne Rhoads said...

I would love a list of publishers that pay on time and don't leave authors hanging.

I am still trying to track down several publishers who ahve not paid me while always having to remind another that the quarter is up where's my statement.

roxannerhoads @ aol. com

lindseye said...

I have been reading and buying ebooks for three years now and while I will follow an author there are certain publishers I will not buy from since the books are so poorly done. If the publisher can not respect the reader why would they respect the author?

Jennifer Mathis said...

wow I'm not a author but you really broke that down so I could understand it. Great post and I think it's terrible that author aren't get paid for their work I mean ain't it enough that book pirates are already steal so much but so pubs are too. Shameful

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An award-winning, international bestselling erotic romance author, Destiny Blaine writes under several pen names. She lives in East Tennessee and spends a lot of time in Connecticut and Virginia, where her granddoll resides.