In my home office, I am literally surrounded by books. Young Adult, autobiographies, horror, fantasy, true crime, and even more genres and subgenres than I can name. I’d be able to list more, but my caffeine levels have dropped. If I want to sleep tonight, coffee is out for the moment. Coffee is a big part of my life, probably about as much as books. Books and coffee kind of go hand in hand, as I’ve found over the many years I’ve been both a reader and a writer. I love books, and I love being surrounded by them like they’re my own private barrier against the world. When I first fell in love with books, it was for the reading of them, which later turned into the joy of writing my own.
However, there are times when I just want to set fire to every last one of them and watch their charred scraps fly into the wind.
Don’t cart me off to the nuthouse just yet. I haven’t yet explained why I sometimes regret the day I ever opened up Green Eggs and Ham as a toddler and discovered that this thing called a book could be my very best friend.
Here’s the short version: indie author exploitation.
Here’s the long version: I’m an indie author, and I just want to actually get paid for my work. Instead, the printer I went with gets most of the dough. How do I know this? Because the amount of sales in my records should match the number of copies I’m seeing for sale on Amazon’s website by various independent sellers. When they show X number of copies available, and you know you haven’t seen that many showing up as sales in your records, there’s something very wrong. I ought to be getting paid each time a retailer places an order from my printer, but I don’t.
I can only draw the conclusion that I am being robbed, exploited, and cheated out of the money I ought to be getting for my hard work. As an indie author, I am involved in every aspect of the publishing process. I write and edit the book. I design the cover and do all the formatting, a fate that may render me bald one of these days from all the stress it causes me. Let’s not even mention marketing. The point is, independent authors work their asses off to create a finished book, and what is out there waiting for us?
The scammers, the publishing package sellers, and the “publishers” that tell you your book is great, but since you’re a first-timer, you need to contribute funds because you’re unknown and therefore a bad risk.
I went on my Twitter feed this morning and read that one of my followers was offered a publishing deal, but her asshat of a publisher wanted money up front. Nearly everyone in the comment section told her to run far away and not look back. I just wanted to cry after seeing this. This kind of publisher makes me sick. First, they get an author’s hopes up, and when the author is busy doing cartwheels on Cloud 9, they present their “contract” in the hope that the poor writer will be too drunk on excitement to realize that they’re about to be scammed into signing something that will leave said writer broke, and the publisher in a position to pad their already-fat wallets.
It seems like being an independent writer these days has become a joke. I've been writing books for roughly half my life. Two are written, but not edited or published (because I refuse to unleash them to the public in their current condition). Two were published, but I've pulled them from the market for drastic rewrites. One is published, but now I'm considering pulling it off the market because I'm not getting paid for its sales to retailers. My mother has put her own writing career into my hands because of what I know and what I've learned about the publishing industry. Together, she and I have busted our humps to get her manuscript in pristine condition. I don't know how to tell her that for the first time in ages, I have no idea what her publishing path, or mine, should be. Should we go traditional, or stay indie?
I've dragged my heels for years about going traditional with my work, and I really believe that I could do it. But I happen to love being an indie author. Proud of it even. I enjoy having complete creative control over my books, not having to work according to someone else's deadline. But I don't love being scammed. I don't love not being able to help my mom, who after only a short time, is becoming a fantastic blogger on the low-carb lifestyle. I feel like a complete failure for suggesting that she write a book about "living la vida low-carb," because she's done her part, and I'm trying desperately to do mine. I want to help her succeed, but how am I supposed to do that when no reputable printer seems to exist?
Here are just some of the things that bad printers do that are disgraceful:
1. Not giving you a free ISBN number for your book. We already have to pay for everything else (editing, cover design, etc). Why should we pay for that as well? It's just a stupid little number, not a marriage license! Why do I have to pay a double-digit price for a number?
2. Not offering enough distribution choices, or any choices at all. I'm sorry, but I don't just want to sell my book on Amazon. I want to sell it through every online book distributor I can. I believe I have that right.
3. Having a minimum order quantity. No, I don't want 200 copies of my own book lying around the house. Not only do I not have the money to order that many, but I don't have the space as well. I also don't want my family thinking my ego is that big.
4. Not giving us enough control over the cost to print the book. I thought it would be a great idea to design and print journals to sell. They look good, but but to make even the very lowest profit, you want me to sell a 250-page BLANK BOOK for thirty bucks if I sell it anywhere online but your site? Seriously?
If you don't believe me, take a look at this:
Even with the "discount" on "their site," $17.40 is still pretty pricey for a journal. You tell me how I'm supposed to make a living this way.
I've worked hard on my books. You’ve worked hard on your books. Do you really want someone else to get the money that you earned? I sure as hell don’t. I want my money, and I want the right to create and to actually be paid for my work. The truth is, I can’t fight this battle alone. I need other indie authors to join me and do something about it. Call out these con artists who scam and steal and ruin our literary careers before they’ve even had a chance to take off. They need to be publicly recognized for what they truly are. The exploitation of authors will only end if we make it stop.
Are you with me? I don't know what's going to happen in the future, but I know this for certain: If I have anything to do with it, #EndAuthorExploitation is going to become a lot more popular.
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