For the last three years of my author life I’ve felt like Sisyphus pushing a stone up a hill, only to have it roll back down, thus negating any progress. It has been very frustrating, to say the least. Instead of writing, I’ve spent time and energy (and money) republishing novels and stories. Too often, I think I have given a story a good home, only to find it orphaned.
Republishing involves: re-editing (sometimes editing out a publisher’s style and reasserting my own); new covers; possibly new blurbs; ebook formatting; paperback formatting; new ISBNs (stupidly expensive in the US); uploading to retailer sites; plus promotion, promotion, promotion.
Basically everything an author has to do when self-publishing, except all of that stuff had already been done and now you have to do it all over again. Sigh.
The Harwell Heirs
In 2013, I signed a contract with Ellora’s Cave for a three-book Victorian erotic romance series, The Harwell Heirs.
The story of the downfall of Ellora’s Cave is well-known in the romance publishing world. I will not go into the details here. I’m going to state this plainly: my editorial experience with Ellora’s Cave was not as terrible as that of other authors. To be honest, they let me write the stories I wanted. Plus, they promoted my books. However, by the time they closed, they owed me money. I have no idea how much, because we authors were not given statements. I am still owed money.
The Pleasure Device was published in November 2013 — my first novel published by a publisher. I was ecstatic. But by June 2014, after EC changed my editor and missed deadlines for my third book, I suspected something was terribly wrong. Other EC authors were having problems, not just with editorial, but with missed and late royalty payments. Later in 2014, it became public knowledge in the romance writing community that EC was not honoring contracts and not paying royalties in a timely manner. The third book in my Harwell Heirs series, Where Destiny Plays, was finally published by EC in April 2015, a good six months after it was supposed to have been published. I stopped receiving royalties in January 2016. I stopped receiving responses to my email messages soon after that.
I received rights back to all three Harwell Heirs books in 2016. Not all at once, mind you. I got Book 1 The Pleasure Device, and Book 2 Disobedience By Design, back in February. I had to forfeit all royalties to Book 3 Where Destiny Plays to get it back earlier than my contract allowed; by that point I had realized EC wasn’t going to pay me royalties anyway. I got rights to Where Destiny Plays back at the end of December 2016 and republished immediately.
So from the end of 2015 to the end of 2016, I spent a lot of writing time republishing these three books. I’d only had a backlist of two books, so needed to add these three as soon as I could.
The Naughty Literati
The Naughty Literati was formed as a positive, creative response to all the negativity surrounding the demise of Ellora’s Cave. By the end of 2016, we had published ten boxed set anthologies. Life was great.
Then, one of our original packagers decided she no longer wanted to handle packaging. This packager decided she would continue to handle the anthologies we already had with her, but not do any new ones.
A “packager” is someone who uploads your books to the many retailer sites and distributes royalties to individual authors in exchange for a fee or percentage of sales. This arrangement works very well for a mutable group of authors and guest authors.
Luckily, we found a new packager, Seaside Publishing, and published some more anthologies with them.
By 2017, our old packager decided she did not want to be in the publishing business at all. Suddenly, we needed to find a home for eight of our thirteen anthologies. Those eight anthologies included stories written by authors no longer with The Naughty Literati. We had to regroup, re-evaluate, re-strategize.
We decided to repackage all the stories in those eight anthologies — minus guest author stories — into four new anthologies (Naughty Phantasia, Naughty Beasts, Getting Naughty, Naughty Spice). As the person who compiled the anthologies, specifically concatenating all the stories into one volume and adding front and back matter, plus compiling blurbs, I had a lot of work to do. By the end of it, I was completely burned out. I left the Naughty Literati at the beginning of 2018.
For some unknown reason, because Amazon never tells authors the real reason, Imperial Warriors: Two Scorching Tales of the Roman Empire was shoved into Amazon’s Erotica Dungeon in May of 2017. If you’ve read Imperial Warriors, you’ll know that the two stories in that mini-anthology are not erotica, but are rather “sexy” or “high-heat” historical romance. My initial contact with Amazon’s author support (which is pretty terrible) stated that the book was placed in the Erotica category because of the shirtless male model on the cover. I was livid. Shirtless male covers are pretty much the standard for romance, and Amazon knows this. Turns out the real reason was that the book was caught up in one of Amazon’s quarterly (at least) Erotica sweeps whereby they toss random romance books into the Erotica category for no apparent reason.
And good luck getting out.
After a month of emails, including messages to a member of Jeff Bezos’s “executive team” (who was useless), Imperial Warriors remained in the Erotica category. Amazon’s terms of service state “when books are placed in the correct category it increases visibility to customers who are seeking that content.” Amazon placing my sexy historical romance in Erotica violated their own terms of service. Amazon doesn’t give a fuck about any of this. I was angry. I just had to take a breather from it all.
Finally, at the end of February 2018, I took Imperial Warriors down from Amazon and republished it with a new ASIN. I lost all rankings, but I regained the placement of the book in the proper categories: Historical Romance > Viking, and Historical Romance > Ancient World. So far, the book is still in these categories, its proper place.
The Westerman Affair
Sadly, Loose Id has closed, another victim, like Samhain, of Amazon’s bullying, monopolistic tactics. As Loose Id stated in their farewell post, “The market has changed over the past few years, and a four-person company can no longer compete effectively with a mega-store.”
The Westerman Affair was published by Loose Id on November 21, 2017. Eleven days later, on December 1, 2017, Loose Id announced they were closing.
You betcha I have some thoughts about this.
First I want to state that the cover was top-notch, so much so, I bought the rights to re-use it. The editing was very good, although I was not happy with some elements of house style. Promotion sucked. Now maybe it sucked because by the end of November the staff had given up, or maybe it sucked because that was how they did promo (i.e., pretty much non-existent). If the latter, then I can see why the company was not making any money.
But here’s what I don’t understand: all my interactions with Loose Id happened in the 4th quarter of the year. Well, except my submission to them. If a publisher is considering closing at the end of the 4th quarter, why bother taking on new authors and new books at the beginning of the quarter? Especially a novel they considered, while very good, deviated from their brand?
I never wanted to self-publish The Westerman Affair. I wanted it to be publisher published because I was reeling from self-publishing burnout. But, what’s done is done. I got the rights to The Westerman Affair back in May 2018, and self-published it as Book 1 of a new series, Art & Discipline. I have three more books planned for that series.
But wait! There’s more! Amazon just announced the closure of their Kindle Worlds program. My rights for Undamaged: A Dallas Fire & Rescue Kindle World Novella will return to me in mid-July 2018. I’ll republish Undamaged as soon as I can after that.
The lead author in the Dallas Fire & Rescue Kindle World, Paige Tyler, is handling this in a very generous way. I don’t have to change anything about my story. Many Kindle Worlds authors are finding they have to re-write their stories to take out the lead author’s world elements.
Once I am free from the exclusivity of the Kindle Worlds contract, I plan to go wide with the story, making Undamaged available on all retailers. Plus, as it is part of my Stories from the San Juan Islands collection, I will be able to publish the collection in one volume!
Taking the “Re” out of Republishing
I am still moving forward. I’m working on new books. I have a historical erotic short story releasing in December 2018 in Best Women’s Erotica of the Year Volume 4. But that’s it for new works in 2018.
I had wanted to publish a new novel a year. All this republishing has put a dent in that plan. I’m hoping to get back on track in 2019.
The good news? Every rights reversion means the story is under my control. This includes pricing, distribution, editing, and artwork. I also get a bigger chunk of royalties.
The world of publishing is changing every single day. My brilliant career is proof of that.