A Cautionary Tale for Authors by Regina Jeffers

Recently, romance author Regina Jeffers has been through something which no author welcomes. Last year, her trusted publisher revised their mission, which had the result of ending her long and happy relationship with them. Suddenly, this popular, award-winning author had to find a new publisher. And, in today’s new publishing landscape, that was far from a simple task, even for an author with her track record. As my guest today, Regina has kindly shared some of her experiences along the rocky road to a new publisher.

I think all authors, those just starting out and those who have a substantial backlist, will find Regina’s cautionary tale rich food for thought.

With the changing world of the publishing business, authors must learn new lessons or be left by the wayside. Over the past year, I experienced more than one "lesson" as I moved forward in my career.

Since late 2008, I published my novels with Ulysses Press, named five times as one of Publishers Weekly’s ten "fastest-growing small publishers." My time with Ulysses was wonderful in the aspect they took a complete unknown and presented her multiple contracts. They financed many of my public appearances, including one at the Smithsonian, and I would be happy to remain with them, but they made a business decision no longer to publish fiction. As such, we parted ways in 2014.

That left me with the choice to either self-publish or look for a new publisher. I am not opposed to self publishing, having released a number of titles on my own, most prominently, the later part of the "Realm" series after Ulysses decided not to continue with the books, but I wished to prove to myself that I could locate another publisher willing to contract my work. I realize it was a bit egotistical, but I knew I had nothing to lose. I am not overly agitated when someone tells me "no." I cut my losses and move on.

All that being said, in my search for a new publisher, I discovered some cautionary tales that I would like to share.

1) Many of the larger publishers now have "side" POD (print on demand) presses that they use for those who they think will require a bit more work to bring to the table. These subsidiary POD presses charge the author for editing, cover design, interior design, etc. Be aware as a beginning author that you know the parameters of what is being offered before you sign anything.

2) Most publishers are converting files to POD to eliminate the cost of books setting in a warehouse. This affects the contract and the possibility of the author purchasing the hard file for the book when the contract expires.

3) Many of the contracts for a book are now only for 2 — 3 years rather than the traditional seven years.

4) The author is expected to generate outlets to publicize his/her book. Smaller presses, but large ones, as well, have cut their staffs, and there is no one to assist with publicity. Generally speaking, I find most publishers are willing to assist, but the responsibility for generating the ideas come from the author.

These are some of the questions I was asked as part of several different marketing surveys sent to me by potential publishers:

  • What is it that makes your book compelling, special or unique?
  • What is the author’s backstory? What makes you uniquely qualified to tell your story?
  • What inspired you to write the book? How will your story inspire readers?
  • Do you expect your book to be financially profitable for you? Do you understand how royalties work? What are your financial expectations regarding your work?
  • Do you have a plan for marketing your book? If so, please elaborate on your plan?
  • Do you have a budget for marketing your book? Have you set money aside for this purpose? Are you prepared to purchase no less than fifty copies of your book for personal marketing?
  • Have you determined the primary market for your book? Is so, please describe your ideal reader. Is there a secondary market? How will you reach these readers?
  • What is the age demographic? Gender? Culture? Political? Professional? Describe your ideal reader in those terms.
  • Does your book have a "built-in" demographic? Students? Schools? Employees? Professional Organizations? Social Networks? Book Clubs?
  • Do you have any background at public speaking? If so, please detail experience.
  • Do you have any background at marketing? If so, please detail experience.
  • Do you have any background at running a business? If so, please detail experience.
  • Do you have any media connections? Newspapers? Magazines? Television? Film?
  • Detail an experience in your life in which you have demonstrated tenacity and ingenuity.
  • Can you demonstrate how many books your title will sell within the first ninety days of publication?
  • On what date will you be ready to begin marketing your book?

5) Many publishers expect the author to purchase large quantities of books for giveaways, other promo items, etc. They are sold to the author at a reduced price, but some demand the author purchase as many as 1000 copies. This goes beyond the customary purchases. I do LOTS of book festivals, author events, etc., and regularly purchase copies for those book-signing opportunities and for giveaways, but I balk at the idea that I must purchase 1000 copies of a book before the publisher will consider me as an author. It is the blending of the POD presses and the traditional publishers that is creating such issues.

6) Several publishers do not offer complete copyediting. They will edit only the first 50-75 pages and then send the author a "summary" of the type of mistakes he/she regularly commit. I spent years in years in an English classroom, but I do not catch ALL my errors. We all know we read what we think is on the page. If the author wishes for another to edit the full book, then the POD business model kicks in again, with a charge for the services.

7) Up front royalty payments are becoming a thing of the past being replaced by a higher percentage of the sale, with no holding funds for returns, etc.

8) Many presses will no longer accept returns, which makes bookstores hesitant about ordering the book. This affects the choices readers experience at a bookstore. Fewer "new" authors are showing up there. Only tried and true authors appear on the shelf.

I have a few more horror stories to share from my search, but I will save those for another day. I did find two new publishers, and the books will soon be released, but I made concessions based on MY needs. Not every format works for every author. We are individuals and must discover what works best for each of us.   Happy Writing!

Editor’s Note:   As you might imagine, Regina’s search for a new publisher put something of a crimp in her usual release schedule. Therefore, once she made arrangements with her new publishers, the books began to flow rather swiftly. Below is a list of all of Regina’s books which have been published so far this year, to be sure you won’t miss any of them:

Brunette woman in profile with Regency hairstyle and an ivory clip in her hair.

Released April 13, 2015

Elizabeth Bennet’s Deception:   A Pride and Prejudice Vagary

What if Fitzwilliam Darcy refused to approach Elizabeth Bennet when he observes her upon the grounds of Pemberley? What if Elizabeth permits Mr. Darcy to think her the one ruined by Mr. Wickham? What if love is not enough to bring two souls together? FITZWILLIAM DARCY’s pride makes the natural leap to ELIZABETH BENNET’s ruination when the lady appears, without notice, upon Pemberley’s threshold to plead for Darcy’s assistance in locating his long-time enemy, George Wickham. Initially, Darcy cannot look beyond the pain of lost hopes, but when Charles Bingley demands that Darcy act with honor, Darcy assumes the task. Even so, the idea of delivering Miss Elizabeth into the hand of Mr. Wickham leaves Darcy raw with anguish.

Yet, Darcy loves Elizabeth Bennet too much to see her brought low. He sets his heartbreak aside to save the woman he loves, but it is not long before Darcy realizes Elizabeth practices a deception, one Darcy permits so he might remain at her side long enough to convince the lady only in each other can they find happiness. Their adventure takes more twists and turns than does the original "Pride and Prejudice," but the reader will enjoy the devotion displayed by Darcy and Elizabeth as they bring Wickham to the line in Lydia Bennnet’s defense, as well as their working their way through multiple misconstructions and vulnerabilities. Darcy’s final wooing of Elizabeth brings two very private individuals to a very public declaration of their love.

*         *        *

Silhouette of a man in a Regency overcoat against a backlit forest.

Released April 16, 2015

Mr. Darcy’s Fault:   A Pride and Prejudice Vagary Novella

What if an accident prevents Elizabeth Bennet from reading Mr. Darcy’s letter of apology? What if said letter goes missing and ends up in the hands of George Wickham? What if Mr. Wickham plans to use the evidence of both Georgiana Darcy’s ruination and Darcy’s disdain for the Bennets to his benefit? How will Darcy counter Wickham’s plans and claim happiness with Elizabeth Bennet?

When he notices his long-time enemy in the vicinity of Hunsford Cottage, FITZWILLIAM DARCY means to put an end to an assignation between ELIZABETH BENNET and Mr. Wickham, but Darcy is not prepared for the scene which greets him in Rosings Woods. Elizabeth lies injured and crumpled beneath one of trees, and in order to save her, by Society’s standards, Darcy must compromise Elizabeth. Needless to say, Darcy does not mind claiming Elizabeth to wife, but what of the lady’s affections? Can Darcy tolerate Elizabeth’s emotions being engaged elsewhere?

Compelled into an engagement she least desires, Elizabeth Bennet thinks it impossible she could ever care for the arrogant Mr. Darcy, but the man proves more irresistible than Elizabeth first assumes. Yet, just when Elizabeth begins to believe happiness is within their grasps, Mr. Wickham reappears in her life with a "proposal" Elizabeth cannot refuse, and it is all Mr. Darcy’s fault.

*         *        *

Woman with her long, dark hair around her shoulders, wearing a fur-lined hood and looking to her right.

Released May 12, 2015

His Irish Eve

When the Earl of Greenwall demands his only son, Viscount Stafford, retrieve the viscount’s by-blow, everything in ADAM LAWRENCE’s life of dissipation changes. Six years prior, Lawrence released his mistress, Cathleen Donnell, from his protection, only to learn in hindsight that Cathleen was with child. Stafford arrives in Cheshire to discover not only a son, but also two daughters, along with a strong-minded woman, who fascinates Stafford from the moment of their first encounter.

AOIFE KENNICE, the children’s cousin and caregiver, appears impervious to Stafford’s masculine charms, as one of England’s most infamous rakes. In truth, Aoife is not immune as she pretends; rather she cannot imagine herself as the object of more than a flirtation on the part of the viscount. On balance, they are worlds apart: Aoife is the daughter of a minor Irish baron and the opposite of her beautiful cousin Cathleen, who possessed all the skills to lure in a handsome viscount. To make matters worst, Aoife maintains the family’s sheep farm to support Stafford’s family. A “lady” Aoife is not.

Set against the backdrop of the Peterloo Massacre, a battle begins: A fight Adam must win-a fight for the heart of a woman worth knowing, his Irish "Eve."

*         *        *

Brown-haired woman with her hair swept up and wearing a necklace of lilac beads.

Released May 27, 2015

His American Heartsong

LAWRENCE LOWERY, Lord Hellsman, has been the dutiful elder son his whole life, but when his father Baron Blakehell arranges a marriage with the insipid Annalee Dryburgh, Lowery must choose between his responsibility to his future estate and the one woman who makes sense in his life. By Society’s standards, MISS ARABELLA TILNEY is completely wrong to be the future baroness-she is an American hoyden, who demands that Lowery do the impossible: Be the man he always dreamed of being. (A Companion Novel from the Realm Series)

*         *        *

Side view of a man in a brown Regency-style coat, looking over his shoulder at the viewer

Arriving June 16, 2015

The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin:   A Pride and Prejudice Mystery

Fitzwilliam Darcy is enjoying his marital bliss. His wife, the former Elizabeth Bennet, presented him two sons and a world of contentment. All is well until “aggravation” rears its head when Darcy receives a note of urgency from his sister Georgiana. In truth, Darcy never fully approved of Georgiana’s joining with their cousin, Major General Edward Fitzwilliam, for Darcy assumed the major general held Georgiana at arm’s length, dooming Darcy’s sister to a life of unhappiness.

Dutifully, Darcy and Elizabeth rush to Georgiana’s side when the major general leaves his wife and daughter behind, with no word of his whereabouts and no hopes of Edward’s return. Forced to seek his cousin in the slews of London’s underbelly, at length, Darcy discovers the major general and returns Fitzwilliam to his family.

Even so, the Darcys’ troubles are far from over. During the major general’s absence from home, witnesses note Fitzwilliam’s presence in the area of two horrific murders. When Edward Fitzwilliam is arrested for the crimes, Darcy must discover the real culprit before his cousin is hanged for the crimes and the Fitzwilliam name marked with shame.

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of 25 novels. She writes cozy mysteries, Austenesque pieces, and Regency romance.

She welcomes you to join her:
Facebook:   https://www.facebook.com/pages/Regina-Jeffers-Author-Page/141407102548455?ref=bookmarks
Twitter:   https://twitter.com/reginajeffers
Website:   http://www.rjeffers.com
Blog:   reginajeffers.wordpress.com


21 thoughts on “A Cautionary Tale for Authors by Regina Jeffers

  1. I have a friend who was expected to do all her own publicity; in my book, the only advantage of handing over your work to a publisher is to get rid of the tedium of [1] editing [2] paperwork and [3] marketing. Any publisher who does not offer those as a given does not, to my mind, deserve to be allowed the first slice of the royalty pie.

      • So sorry your relationship with them came to an end. Maybe it’s time for authors to start putting together publishing consortiums, each doing their bit towards the publishing side. I’ve got enough friends who have been daunted and also who have had poor experiences from small publishing houses, including the said companies going belly-up and leaving their authors unpaid, that if I wasn’t chronically ill and tied in other ways I’d be considering seeing which of them might go into business with me to do the editing and publishing for those with cold feet. As it is, I’ll stick with self publishing. I wish you all the best with your new publishers.

  2. Wow, Regina!!! You have certainly clarified and answered many questions that have lingered in my brain about going with a publisher to get my stories out. While I am so very sorry you had to go through this, I thank you and am grateful to know this.

    • Joy, it was not all bad, but it was VERY different from my first experience, which was only a little over six years prior. “Darcy’s Passions” came out in February 2009. How much has changed is mind boggling.

    • What I know of publishing, I learned from Ulysses Press. They were most encouraging for a woman who stumbled into the publishing realm. I came to the new publishers with preconceived ideas, which I soon found out were not part of the ways the other publishers did business. It was not that they were bad, it was just simply EYE OPENING.

  3. Were these small presses? Or vanity presses? Because they don’t sound like small presses. Or the divisions of POD many of the big publishers utilize. Some of the big publishers do offer a self-publishing POD service as their way to get a slice of that pie, but that’s a whole different thing from, say, Kensington’s POD Imprints (Lyrical Shine being the one I’m with.)

    I, personally, have never been required to buy books in any quantity. Yes, authors are expected to do a lot of their own promo, but that’s across the board. The top 10% bestsellers in any house are going to get the bulk of the promo budget, but the authors are still required to get out there and be seen. Requiring the author to purchase a certain amount of books is an old vanity press ploy, as a way to make up production costs. Any “small press” that requires such a thing is not a small press by any definition, but a vanity press. Same goes for a “small press” that charges for any part of the production process. Or one that only edits the first 70 pages. Again–vanity press. A very simple rule that will always tell you the difference between vanity and small press–If a press is charging you anything, it’s a vanity press. When in doubt, go to Preditors and Editors and look them up.

    No up front royalties, using POD, no returns–these are the things that make small press possible. There is a reason why some of the big presses have gone this route. It allows “new” writers to get a chance they’d not otherwise have gotten, because a small press without all that overhead can take those chances. It’s why small press dominates what is new and different in the genres. Some of the most exciting stuff comes out of small press.

    I worked with a very small press for many years before going bigger. I’ve worked with and come to know the ins and outs of many other small presses, and not a single one of them is anything like the horrors above. Some are better than others, but that’s true in all of publishing.

    It’s unfortunate that you’ve had such a terrible experience. Of course, you can’t list the publishers you have had experience with (thank goodness for Preditors and Editors!) After a long and happy career with a press you love, that had to come like a bucket of cold water. Not thrown in the face, but trickled down your back over a long period of time. Shudder-worthy. I’m happy you’ve found a new niche.

  4. I originally self published my first book with a vanity press because I did the book as a tribute to one of my classes that I taught. I never thought to follow a career in publishing. I read all the bits and pieces, but I was not interested in such expenses as paying to have the book turned into a screenplay, etc., etc., etc. Ironically, the book went to number 8 on the Amazon sales list, and Ulysses Press picked it up. Ulysses is one of the larger small presses that you describe in your response. Never once was I charged for editing, asked to purchase copies of the book, or asked to pay for promotional expenses they arranged. The only reason we separated is Ulysses’s main focus has always been nonfiction. They chose not to accept any more fiction submissions. Theirs was a business decision to carve out their part of the market, and I respect that.
    I wrote this piece not because I was taken in by these less than scrupulous groups, but as a warning to others to be aware of what some ask when the author is offered a publishing contract. I can tell you from experience that LOTS of people get sucked into the “buy me” offers on vanity presses. I do tons of book festivals, etc. Inevitably, I have at least one (usually more) person approach with horror tales of vanity presses.
    I know one woman who shared her difficulties with a vanity press. She spent well over $7000, and all she has is a few hundred books in her garage to show for it. No promotion. No hopes of being a best seller. No prospects of turning the book into a TV movie. Etc.

  5. Your report was very interesting, very helpful, Regina. As you know, I don’t write; I edit and proof. But it is certainly important to me to have a better understanding of what authors deal with. . .out side of me, that is.
    Betty Campbell Madden

    • Good day, Betty. My comments are of the challenges in wadding through all the types of publishing offers. It’s like eliminating the word “had.” LOL !

      • I now think of that every time I see it in another’s author’s works. And more laughs.

      • I am actually wondering whether to contact Ulysses press, as you give them such a glowing report, regarding my serious research publishing with regards to the history of names [for writers] and a blow by blow weather 1785 to 1820, with moon phases and Easter, also for writers. I had been going to self-publish, but a reputable press that does do non-fiction sounds attractive.

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