Dave Freer’s Dropped Book
Author Dave Freer has a post at the Mad Genius Club talking about the mass market edition of his book CHANGELING’S ISLAND…which was supposed to be available in February…
…except that the mass market was cancelled in fall of 2016.
From what Freer describes, there were multiple major communication failures. Starting with the failure to notify the author that the mass market edition had been cancelled.
The fact that Freer received page proofs in December — for a book cancelled months earlier — suggests internal communication failures as well. The book was listed for pre-orders on Amazon. It was posted on the Baen website. Freer had promoted the release in good faith.
This is prime author nightmare material.
Freer at one point compares his distributor to Hitler, which seems a bit much, but I can understand his frustration and disappointment. Reading about his experience with this book, it stuck with me enough to inspire blogging. I hate being reminded that other people’s mistakes can have such an impact on my career and success. The fact that yes, things can go very wrong through no fault of your own…it’s scary.
I should note that in my experience, and from authors I’ve spoken with, this is not normal.
Freer mentions never being told the release dates for his books. I sympathize — I usually find out when my books are coming out when they pop up for pre-order on Amazon. Overall though, most of my releases so far have been thankfully drama-free.
So what’s the takeaway here? What should authors do to protect ourselves?
The short answer: Hell if I know.
The longer answers: I’m not sure we can. One suggestion in the comments on Freer’s piece was to go indie, which obviously gives the author much more control, and eliminates much of the potential for miscommunication and other people dropping the ball. With indie publishing, you pretty much hold your own balls.
I should probably rephrase that, but I’m not going to.
Realistically though, self-publishing isn’t for everyone, and isn’t going to work for everyone. With my writing pace and day-to-day schedule, it’s not an option for me, and I know that. If it works for Freer, then I wish him all the best on that road.
I also find myself thinking about Baen and my own publisher, DAW. Both are in some respects small, family-type companies. They’re distributed through larger companies, but they have a little more of the control and freedom you’d find in a smaller business. In some ways, this is an advantage. I love the relationship I have with DAW. I love the loyalty they have for their authors — and I’ve seen some of that with Baen and their authors, too.
At the same time, I know there are times when DAW gets crunched. Having fewer people seems like it could increase the possibility for things to fall through the cracks.
Not really an answer at all: Publishing can be a rocky business. Sooner or later, things go wrong. I don’t believe this is generally out of malice, or even incompetence. (Easy for me to say, when I’m not the one dealing with the fallout.)
There’s no lesson here, really. Nothing I can point to and say, “Hey authors, if we avoid doing ______, we’ll be safe!”
…but maybe that is the lesson.
April 4, 2017 @ 8:43 pm
It sounds like he’s already doing all his own publicity and editing, so he might as well go indie. Esp. if he thinks he’s working with bad people.
But since the distributor was working with the info from the publisher, same as him, why is he calling them Nazis? They’re victims too! It appears to be entirely Baen’s fault due to lack of internal communication.
April 4, 2017 @ 11:03 pm
I now have 2 new ebooks to read.
D. D. Webb
April 5, 2017 @ 11:34 am
My take as an indie author is that you don’t want to put all your eggs in either basket. The marketing resources and connections that come from working with a big publishing house are unlike anything you can arrange by yourself, but they do come with some loss of control.
It’s always been my intention to publish conventionally, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop putting some of my material out there myself. In this day and age, I think authors are better off doing a bit of both. Done right, that can maximize the advantages of both approaches while minimizing the drawbacks.
April 5, 2017 @ 9:56 pm
If I may suggest some of the steps I take:
1)Always check whatever you can (even if going Indy). It isn’t actually your responsibility, but you’re the one who will suffer. Over the years I’ve had cover typos three times, and getting them corrected can take time, so the sooner you pick up an error, the better chance. Start nagging for author copies soon, and buy an e-arc if possible. This is the only way to find if your corrections to proofs are inserted. Keep the list and check at least some of them. (one of my books has sliver instead of silver – which I had corrected – in the hardback).
2) Always insist on a received receipt. Keep resending until you get one. Publishing houses are chaotic (I’ve dealt with three, including DAW, and all of them have lost material somewhere down the line. They’re busy and there are few employees and far too many meetings) — but it still helps when you get an irate “Where is your manuscript?” to send them a copy (always keep copies) AND the receipt acknowledgement. “You’ve had it for three months, here is another copy.” I am always polite about it, but they know that I do my side and I keep track.
3) Always remember they care less about you than you do. It’s your name, which is your brand. If you wear your publisher’s errors as your own, they won’t repay you for it, so when readers freak about something outside my control, I, without being nasty, let them know it’s not my choice of cover etc. Use them as much as possible to build that (I always advise anyone to try traditional pub first, unless they have a substantial ready made market.) I am sticking to a hybrid model for now myself. It’s about reaching new readers – and keeping them and your old readers. Promoting your own work and networking with other authors to help market their work (because turn-about is fair play – besides the fact we’re all in this together) is probably as important as writing. I suck at it.
4) Get your friends and fans to order trad pubs from brick-and-mortar bookstores if possible. At one stage -and this may still be true at some Independent book-stores, they would order a couple – getting your book onto the shelf as well as to the customer. But enough orders will spring an order. Getting your book into brick and mortar depends on the distributor’s ‘push’. Often that is no more putting it on a catalogue.
And (5) as a point I fail completely at, being an egalitarian Aussie, who wants everyone to have a fair go regardless of background, religion or politics, and not much good at keeping my mouth shut or kissing up – you can work at being ‘teacher’s pet’. I hate saying this, but it is true enough – publishers have offices with staff. It takes one cock-up to hurt your book – and those happen in the best of places. But they happen less and are fixed when an important-to-the-editor author is involved, because there may be consequences.
Finally, Jim, I am not comparing S&S to Hitler ;-/ I said they did for my distribution what Adolf did for Synagogue building in Berlin in 1941. I base this on advertising one of my early books as being available in book-stores on Baen’s Bar, and having fans start saying it wasn’t. So I started searching bookstore by bookstore for availability. B&N had the book available in about 10% of stores. We sold around 20K copies, and got 95% sellthrough (which is way too high. It means we sold darn near everything available). What sort of numbers would it have got if it had been a little more available? Who knows. But S&S distribution didn’t help.
April 7, 2017 @ 2:39 am
That’s awful! I got the ebook of Changeling’s island, and liked it just about the best of all mr.Freer’s books I’ve read (together with the Dog and dragon duology), so I was planning on getting the paperback as well.
Are they going to bring it out later, in the next opening in their planning, if it was internal miscommunication that caused this?
Loose-leaf Links #37 | Earl Grey Editing
April 11, 2017 @ 6:04 pm
[…] C. Hines takes a look at what lessons writers can learn from the recent kerfuffle surrounding the mass market paperback edition of Dave Freer’s book […]