Potholes on the Road to Publication - The Long and Winding Mystifying Mystery Tour - Part 3

Woman throwing dice at a craps table

I should never roll the dice. I'm a lousy gambler.

After finding out that my mystery had been chopped up into little bits and e-published I got in touch with the publicist at the publishing house who had been assigned to me/my book to ask her what was going on.

She told me that they’d had “considerable success” with serializing the e-book editions of their mysteries; that breaking my book up into six parts was a good thing. I believed her and hoped that some of that "considerable success" would rub off on my now serialized e-book.

That hope died two hours later when I was talking to another mystery author who also had her first mystery coming out with the same publishing house around the same time. She, too, had discovered that her book had been serialized into six parts for the e-book edition … yet … when, like me, she asked her publicist (who was also my publicist) why that had been done she was given a very different answer - “We’re trying out something new with your book and a couple of other mysteries to see if it works.

Because of the contract we’d both signed the publisher wasn’t required to tell us about the serialization and there wasn’t a darn thing we could do about it ... or about the chunks of our books that got lost between bits when our manuscripts were broken up ... or about the numerous negative comments from readers on Goodreads, like "I hate it when they break books up like this" and "The story doesn't make sense". (Thankfully, there weren't any missing chunks when they printed the paperback editions of our books.)

That was just the beginning of many eye-opening disappointments. And many self-inflicted swift kicks ... because my lawyer had warned me. I had no one to blame but myself. I should have stuck up for myself and my book and I should have tried to negotiate changes to the contract. But I didn't. After years of rejections I'd let myself be blinded by the big publication carrot that had been dangled in front of me. With each new disappointment I forced myself to remember that I'd agreed to the terms, I was learning invaluable lessons about mystery publishing and, the most important reminder of all - my book had been published. 

It was a struggle to keep feeling positive about the potential of my now published book as more disappointments piled up, such as:

  • Submitting for awards: Before my book's publication day I asked my publicist who was responsible for submitting my book for awards; the publisher or me - she assured me that the publisher would submit it to any awards it was eligible for – and she promised to let me know in advance if the publisher decided not to submit it to an award so that I could then submit it myself. Sounded good to me, but then …

    • two weeks after the submission deadline for the one award that my book was most suited to I found out from a friend that the publisher hadn’t submitted my book - I asked my publicist why and why I hadn’t been told before the deadline (because I definitely would have submitted it for that award myself) - I was told that the publisher had decided not to submit it, no reason given - nor was I given an explanation for why I hadn't been told in time to let me submit it myself - my book was only eligible for that award in the year it was published, so my one and only chance at that award was gone

    • a few days later my publicist emailed me with an olive branch (she knew how disappointed I was about missing out on a chance for the award above) - they'd just submitted my book for another award – I'd never heard of that award so I researched it - my book wasn’t even eligible for it - it was for an entirely different category of mystery

    • then came the icing on the cake – I was contacted by someone who'd heard from a member of the selection committee for the award that I'd so wanted to try for - the committee wasn't happy with me - they'd been told that I'd had my publisher try to get my book submitted even though the deadline had passed - my publisher had claimed that “the author is suddenly insisting that her book be submitted” … great ... I was just starting out and now my own publisher was making me look like an entitled pain in the butt to an award committee, not exactly the best image to have in the tight-knit mystery community … I hadn't insisted anything when I was talking to my publicist and I never asked my publisher or publicist to try to squeak my book in after the deadline, the only thing I’d asked for was an explanation – the award committee rightly turned down my publisher’s request for a late submission

  • Promotion: I’m sure most people assume that publishers take care of all the promotion for each and every one of the books they publish - that’s not the case. In the case of a new/untested writer, the writer has to do a significant portion of the legwork. Publishers make it very clear to their new writers that they will be expected to work hard at promotion. I was assured that my promotional efforts would be supported and that the publisher would use their many social media platforms to “actively promote” any events that I scheduled. I believed that promise, or assurance, too. It made sense. It was in both our interests to get the word out and sell as many copies of the book as possible. What didn't make sense was …

    • I managed to snag an on-air interview on a morning talk show on a television station in Toronto (the largest market in the country) and told my publicist about it weeks beforehand so that the publisher could “actively promote” the interview – they didn’t do anything to promote it and when I called my publicist after the interview had aired to ask why I was told that they forgot

    • I was able to arrange a book reading/signing at a well-known bookstore for myself and another mystery author from the same publishing house, the publisher didn’t do anything to promote it – they forgot (They kept forgetting to promote several other reading/signings that I'd arranged, so I just stopped telling them about them in advance.)

    • the publisher encouraged all their authors to consider having a book-trailer made for their books - given my background in television production I knew I could produce a nice book-trailer so, at my own expense, I produced one and then sent the media file to my publicist – a few weeks later the publisher still hadn’t promoted the trailer through any of their social media platforms - I discovered a website that selected and then promoted a “Trailer of the Week” - it took several emails to my publisher to get them to submit my book-trailer to the website – I was excited when the website chose my book-trailer to be the “Trailer of the Week” ... but my publisher forgot to promote that, too

Little did I know that the toughest part was yet to come …