Wednesday, October 24, 2018


My YA novel CONTACT has been through the wringer. It was first published back in 2014, I think, with a brand new small press called Hallowed Ink. After a few months, the publisher closed its doors and I had what they call an orphan book. I considered self-publishing, and now looking back, that's what I should have done. But I naively believed the best route was to find another publisher for that book. I was thrilled when Evernight Teen agreed to take it on.

So, in February 2016, my book was reborn. But from the start, something was off. First, the cover. I've never liked it. It's just an image picked up from some photo site. In fact, there's another book on the market with the exact same cover!!!

But what really threw me was the interior of the print edition. It's terrible. There is no title page, the copyright information is a mess (some of it actually is printed on the first page of the first chapter), only every other page is numbered. The headers with my name and book title appear on every singe page, including the chapter title pages and front/end matter. The text is only left justified. And some of the chapter titles are off-center. Finally, there was no effort to design the interior to look good at all. It is as blah as you can possibly get.

When my author copies arrived in the mail, I thought there had been some mistake. These must be ARCs (review copies), because never in my whole life had I seen published printed books look this bad! I contacted my publisher about it, and even offered to design the interior myself (that's what I do!), but I didn't hear back.

The publisher is quite successful with e-books. Their other covers are really fantastic, and they have many authors who have published multiple titles with them. Was my book the only one that looked like a 2nd grader put it together?

I have several other books I've considered publishing, but I didn't dare send them to Evernight Teen for fear the quality would be just as bad. I'm literally embarrassed to sell CONTACT. As a result, Evernight Teen has sold around a dozen copies (mostly digital) in the 2+ years since they published it.

Yesterday, I emailed the publisher asking if they would consider letting me out of my 5 year contract. The contract stipulates that the publisher can end the contract for any reason, including poor sales. Well, I haven't sold a single copy of CONTACT in months. The owner, Stacey, said no. She told me that I need to write more books if I want to keep up sales.

I explained that I've been hesitant to send them more of my material because of the poor quality of the one they've got. She seemed offended. I described the problems with the interior of the book, and she responded that all their books look like that! What? Her other authors haven't complained.

Well, maybe that's because they don't know any better and are just happy to be published. I have been published by two high quality small presses before (Tanglewood Press & Hallowed Ink) who took great pride in their products. Also, when I publish my own books and other other people's books, I make sure they are just as beautiful and well-designed as any book you'd pick up in Barnes & Noble. Readers and authors deserve that. So, I guess according to Evernight Teen, my expectations are too high.

Not to give up that easily, I took two hours last night and designed a lovely interior for CONTACT and emailed the document to Stacey. I outlined the differences between their version of my book and mine:

* It has a title page
* Copyright info is on the back of the title page
* All text pages are numbered
* Headers are on proper text pages, not on front/back matter or the first pages of chapters
* Chapter titles and title pages are aesthetically decorative
* Both right and left margins are justified

I sent both a word doc and PDF. Literally, all Evernight Teen would have to do is upload my document and replace the existing one, with a few minor tweaks with cover dimensions. But so far, I've heard nothing.

I'm really astounded that a successful publisher like Evernight Teen would not take the visual appearance and overall quality of their books more seriously. I'm also disappointed and irritated that they would rather hold my book captive rather than either make my book look nicer so I can sell it in good conscience or revert the rights back to me so I can do with it what I want.

The lesson learned from this experience is NEVER AGAIN. I will NEVER AGAIN hand over any of my books to a small press. As far as "writing more", I am not in this business to crank out a slew of 2nd rate stories to be read today and forgotten tomorrow just to make a buck. I spend an average of 5-7 years on every book I write! My goal is for every story to matter, to reach readers' hearts.

In the future, my choices are either to publish with reputable publishers (for which I need an agent) or self-publish. When my book ends up in readers' hands, I want them to at least feel like they've gotten their money's worth, and also that the time they are about to invest in reading it isn't going to waste.

Advice to new authors, don't throw away your stories on publishers who produce shoddy books. Period.

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