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.