Friday, August 2, 2019

Getting Dumped aka Kicked to the Curb aka Hung out to Dry.

You’ll find someone else.
He was an ass.
You deserve better.
It wasn’t meant to be.
I never liked him anyway.

Since I was last on Do Some Damage, my whole writing life has been turned upside down.
I went from being completely entrenched in the traditional publishing world to not really knowing what's going on there anymore.
It all began when I got dumped by my publisher after they published four books.
It kicked off my indie career and I've never been happier. 
I'll tell you my story in case it happens to you.
For some reason, few people in the publishing world seem to want to talk publicly about getting dumped by a publisher. Which is bizarre because it has happened to so many authors I know.
But it's not the end of the world, trust me.
I’ll start at the bright and shiny and hopeful beginning:
A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have the very first book I ever wrote picked up by a Big Five publisher.
And not only that book, but three more after it.
Then I was lucky enough to be nominated for a bunch of cool awards in the mystery community for those same books.
The best, hands-down most wonderful part of all, was having people read my books and not just like them but love them.
I thought my books were selling decently. Two of my four eBooks sold more than 10,000 copies each.
But when my agent pitched book five in the series we were told that while they “all loved” me—Really? —they couldn’t offer me another contract because, well, to paraphrase them, my sales numbers sucked ass.
To be honest, I was slightly shocked. These books were Anthony, Barry, and Macavity finalists—which come to think about it just proves that means nothing.
And I thought that selling 10,000 copies of one book was pretty damn amazing.
Not so much.
I was told not to bother writing book five because no publisher in her right mind would buy a book in a series that began at a different publisher. (I’ve since realized that’s not quite true, but whatever.)
So, I wrote other books to keep me busy while my agent got me the MASSIVE BOOK DEAL IN THE SKY for a new series. When that didn’t happen, I “parted ways” with that agent and got a new one. During one conversation, I told my new agent I had this book that I loved, but that I wasn't sure it was a good fit for the Big Five. My character drank too much, smoked a lot of weed,  and fucked strangers she met in a bar. I thought I should self publish it.
My agent said she wanted to take a look at it first.
After reading it, she said she had been surprisingly touched by certain parts of the book but that she agreed it was not a book for the Big Five.
Meanwhile, I had written the fifth book in my traditionally published series anyway, even if I’d been told no publisher would ever buy it.
You see, after receiving dozens of emails from readers asking about the next book in the series, I thought, what the hell, I’ll just write it and publish it myself. So, I did.
That damn book sold better than the first four books in the series. And the best part? I got every flipping cent of royalties. What was this madness? Who knew this was even possible?
I started studying self-publishing and learned that series do best so I decided to take that one book—with the train wreck character—and make a series of it.
After we disagreed about another book, I parted ways with my second agent and decided to not look for a third agent.
I have to say, I’ve never looked back.
Full disclosure: If a publisher offered me, let's say, enough money to retire, I’d sign a book deal. 
But other than that, no publisher could possibly entice me away from self-publishing.
Why is that, you ask?
Um. Let me think ... oh yeah, that's easy ...
There I said it.
In one month—one of my best months, I admit—I made more money in that month than I had in four years with four books at a traditional publisher. Enough about that.
EVERY SINGLE book I publish has the cover I want, the storyline I want, the editor I want, and I get to decide when and how and where to publish it and promote it and advertise it!
I hated not having control of my books.
For instance, to this day I CANNOT FUCKING STAND the cover of my second HarperCollins book, Blessed are the Meek. 
Do you know that blog posts have been written about how butt ugly that cover is? Reviewers have confessed they initially wouldn’t read the book because the cover was so hideous? Do you know that once I went to a book club and started to tell the story about how traditionally published writers don’t have control of their covers and the group burst into laughter? (They then confessed that during one meeting they had to discuss cover design, they held up my book as an example of an awful one?)
I am not making this up.
The Indie Community.
Let me preface that by saying initially this post was going to be about how some people in the mystery community gave me the cold shoulder when I began self-publishing.
But then I realized I no longer cared about it enough to write an entire blog post on it. However, I’ll sum it up by saying that people have given me the cold shoulder now that I no longer have some book people in New York validating my writing ability.
(Speaking of cold shoulder is it true that Indie writers aren’t welcome at Bouchercon anymore? If it IS true—that’s pretty fucked up. Either way, I quit going years ago because as fun as it was, there was no ROI in spending a lot of money to drink booze with other mystery writers in different spots across the globe).
Back to the Indie Community. 
Holy shit. 
What a supportive group of writers—everyone genuinely wants to help each other. It’s insane. And wonderful. And I love it so much. 
I’ve finally found my tribe. And we are building each other up every day, sharing the ins and outs of running a small writing business (cause that’s what we’re doing). I’ve never worked harder in my life but I love every minute of it. And you know what, like many blessings in disguise, I can honestly say I’m truly happy I got “dumped.”
I don’t think I would have had the guts to venture into self-publishing without have the rug ripped out from under me.
So, I’m grateful.
And I’m all in.


Dale T. Phillips said...

Welcome to the "your control" side! Saw this happening more and more years ago, and decided Indie was the path for me. Have not regretted it one bit, as other authors have had their series yanked as well. Am happy to do things my way, my schedule, and will hold my books up to any Trad mid-list. If B'con doesn't grab you, try Crime Bake- I'm on a panel about "self-pub" (whereas it's really the team YOU pick), or Killer Nashville- both WAY more Indie-friendly.

Holly West said...

I'm so happy for your indie success. Thank you for talking about your experience. To me, you've done indie just the way it's supposed to be done (and by "supposed" I mean that your efforts to build an audience are evident, your consistent brand and publishing schedule, etc). I'm not sure if I have all of that in me. But if I had a character like Gia or a series idea that I think would work I'd probably give it a try (using you as my inspiration, of course).

Scott D. Parker said...

Best thing I've read today. Love the indie spirit. And as a fellow indie, I've been taking notes on how you run your business. Thanks.

Kristi said...

Dale, good to know! I like Indie Friendly! I agree the majority of people serious about writing have high quality books that can totally stand up to trad pubbed books - pro editing is a must, though!
Holly, thanks sweetie. I appreciate that. I know you have it in you if you wanted to do that - you would kill it
Scott, thanks. I appreciate that!

Dharma Kelleher said...

I had a similar experience. I was two books into a series with a Big Five publisher when they cut me loose.

After that, I went indie and havent' looked back. In fact, I just got the rights back to my first trad-pubbed book and hope to get the rights to the second one early next year.

The Indie Community is amazing, especially the people at the Alliance of Independent Authors. Such a great resource. Very positive. Very helpful. Up-to-the-minute info. And active advocates for its members.

Holly West said...

I keep thinking I need to at least try to get the rights back to my Mistress books but that would mean they'd be out of print and I have no immediate plans for them. And so, I put it off.

James W. Ziskin said...

Great post, Kristi! You rock!


Kristi said...

Hi James! YOU rock! And thank you.
Thanks for commenting Dharma. I do need to join Allie.
Holly and Dharma, I don't think I'll ever get any rights back. : (

Michael W. Sherer said...

Love this story, but can't help wondering if both the awards and the audience you built with your traditional publisher was the catalyst for your success as an indie. I've been dumped by a few publishers, too, once after three books in a series, another time after the first book in a series was nominated for a Thriller Award and sold 50,000 copies. It wasn't enough to ignite sales of the three subsequent books in that series that I self-published. I'm not sure what the secret is, but I'm glad it worked out for you.

Kristi said...

Michael Sherer, You know I think having that audience and those awards gave me the confidence to go Indie, but what somewhat surprised me is that very few of those people transferred over to become readers of my new series. Most of my readers are brand new ones. In fact, along the way, I did hear from some disappointed readers of my old series that the new character was not their taste at all!