Friday, September 18, 2015

The importance of research

I've said many times that I'm a research nut. When digging up information for a story, I can get lost in the process. Only a small amount of what I find actually makes it into the story, usually, but that's okay. It still adds to the foundation. Because the last thing you want is a rocky foundation.

But stories aren't the only reason authors should research. After spending such a long time writing, revising, and polishing up the story, authors should put every bit as much effort into researching publishers before submitting.

2008 was a crazy year for me. I'd amassed a backlog of stories I'd written over many years. Some, I'd subbed to literary magazines and was elated when they were published.

Then, one of my critique partners at the time suggested I try an online publisher. At that time, e-presses were fairly new, or at least unknown to me. So I began browsing, and targeted a few publishers, depending on their submission guidelines, because a few stories were paranormal, speculative and mainstream, and a few were romance.

With so many stories already written, I subbed quite a few. And was over the moon when I had about 14 acceptances. Needless to say, 2009 was a crazy year with whirlwind promo.

Fast forward to 2015, when the contracts have reached their term. Many of the publishers I've worked with since those early times have been wonderful -- The Wild Rose Press, Wild Child/Freya's, Lyrical Press have all been more than professional and generous. Since signing with Decadent Publishing, they've been amazingly professional, friendly and helpful, going above and beyond what other pubs do.

Another publisher, not so much. Beginning in about March of this year, I began emailing them regarding the rights for two stories. The contracts for both expired in July and August, and I wanted them back. Except for one, the email addresses listed on their web site are all invalid, so I tried sending tweets inquiring about who to contact, and had my virtual fingers slapped.

The female publisher is a "friend" on Facebook, so I messaged her several times. No response.

Frustrated, I resorted to the certified letter. When the USPS tracking site confirmed the letter had been claimed from the PO box, I did a screen shot and sent that through FB to the publisher.

No response.

One editor actually answered me, but said she couldn't help.

So I tried the publicity person. She said rights reversions were done in batches, and was sure mine would be included in the next batch. That was Sept. 2.

As of today, my author page is still up and Eternal Press is still selling my books through their site and through affiliate sites such as Amazon, Barnes and Noble, etc. Worse, recently both books have had sales.

I appear to be stuck in this rights limbo. According to Writer Beware, there aren't a lot of options unless I choose to file a legal suit. At this time, I'm still hoping to avoid any ugliness, though it wouldn't be the first time this publisher had encountered legal difficulties. One author was slapped with ridiculous "kill" fees for contract termination after requesting a change in the book cover. Writer Beware listed other problems in this post.

I did, however, file a complaint with Preditors and Editors. Wish I'd checked there to begin with - Eternal Press is listed as Not Recommended. I second that.

The takeaway is this - do your research. There are plenty of resources online to guide you. Here's one with a fantastic list of links. Check it out before signing any contract, and always, always read through every line of a contract before agreeing to the terms. If it doesn't feel right, don't sign. There are plenty of great publishers out there, so just keep looking.


Arlene said...

So sorry you have to deal with this. To have stories stolen by a publisher is disgusting. Keep us posted and don't give up. Maybe someday this 'publisher' will be shamed into sending proof you have your rights back.

Cate Masters said...

Thanks Arlene. I'm hoping if I make a little noise, things will change. Based on past cases against them, I'm not betting on it though.

Kitty Keswick said...

Cate, It might be time to get a paralegal involved. They can do a lot and are less expensive than an attorney. They can draft a letter for you and in some cases file a claim in court for every limited fees. I recently paid one a little over $50.00 to read and advise me on a publishing situation where I am requesting my rights back. The contract was extremely vague and I asked for clarification on it and got a little push-back from my publisher. Are you still getting royalties from this publisher or has that stopped as well? All publishers have to get business licenses if they are legit. You might be able to research where they filed, what state and town and contact a paralegal in the same city to handle the paper work for you. I'm sorry you're going through this mess. And when you find out what city, maybe contact the town's newspaper and have them write an article...nobody wants bad press in their back yard, so they might fix your problem quickly. Good luck! Best, Kitty

Arlene said...

Keep us posted!

Cate Masters said...

Thanks Kitty. I'm hoping if I rattle the cage enough, they'll let me out!

I will Arlene. After posting, I emailed the publicity person again, who said the publisher is "out of town."