Okay, I admit it. This is a weird topic to write about. And, if it had only happened to one or two authors I’ve known over the years, I wouldn’t be sharing it. But, it’s happened to a couple dozen writers I’ve known. And, it’s a very sad scenario.
We writers are a funny bunch. Raise your hand if you’re more emotional than other folks. Yeah, my hand is up, too. Raise your other hand if you’re more empathetic than most. Being artistic, as well as world observers, writers tend to pick up on other people’s emotions, even those we aren’t in close proximity to. This affects me every single day, and always have. I can’t even watch the news without being emotionally affected by what I see. If I see a conflict in person, I can have pretty severe anxiety. I’ve been that way since second grade. I saw a bloody fist fight. A bad one. I vomited right there on the playground. I then had recurring nightmares about one of the boys stabbing the other one. To this day, I still have that nightmare on occasion. It wasn’t the blood. It was the hatred and rage I felt coming from them both. That’s what made me sick. If I am near sick or hurting people, I feel sick and hurt, too. It’s supposedly a “gift.” I’m not so sure about that (it feels more like a curse) but I do know it does make me a better writer.
There’s a fair percentage of authors who are narcissists. If you belong to a writer’s group, or if you work in the industry at all, you KNOW it’s true! You narcissists don’t need to raise your hands. We can all tell who you are based on the expressions you have on your faces right now. 😉
Some have been beaten down by critics over the years. Some have been the subject of expensive lawsuits (or lawsuit threats) through unintended errors in their works. Some have been screwed over royally by previous publishers.
Sometimes, after being beat up by the industry (or life in general), a writer just…plain…gives up on their dream. They (virtually) toss their book in the trash, and never touch it again.
Here’s how the sad scenario usually goes.
1. The author spends months or even years researching and writing their book.
2. They try to land a literary agent and/or a traditional contract (which, in itself, can take years).
3. They get rejected again, and again, and again, and again, and…
4. They decide to self-publish.
5. They sign a contract, and pay for the service, hoping their book is FINALLY going to see the light of day.
6. And then, something happens to delay the process.
This can include, but not be limited to:
a. The publisher finds numerous errors, and either sends the manuscript back to the author for editing, or recommends they have the manuscript professionally edited. (Some mean, nasty publishers upsell authors on this service to the tune of thousands of dollars…even authors who don’t need that type of editing. To add insult to injury, the publisher then claims all rights to the edited file!)
b. The author may have inserted low-resolution graphics in their book and the publisher may need new photos taken (or provided). If an author has collected dozens or even hundreds of graphics, and if they didn’t know that all materials for print need to be 300 dpi, this can be a significant hurdle, and cause a huge delay.
c. The author may have sent their manuscript file out to friends/family for some “reader comments” and they may have subsequently received some feedback that was actually critical (i.e. honest) instead of positive. (All the narcissists reading this just winced!)
d. Something else bizarre may have happened to briefly interrupt the process. Most recently, an author was waiting for her Library of Congress Control Number. Those usually arrive in your in-box within 2 business days of your application but it’s a two-part process. First, you apply for the program and then, after being accepted (pretty much everybody gets accepted), you enter your book’s info. in their system to apply for the actual number. It really is a seamless online process.
In this case, the LCCN never arrived. The author checked her in-box and her sp*m filter. Nothing. She contacted the Library of Congress. They responded, but didn’t send the number. I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t sending her the number. I asked the author to send me the name and email address of the LOC employee. She did. I sent an email to the LOC, and copied the author on it.
Before the LOC could even respond (it was a weekend), the author finally threw up her hands, and gave up on publishing the entire book…all based on the errors (I thought) of a federal employee (or a computer system owned by the feds).
The LOC wrote me back less than 24 hours later. Turns out the author only completed step 1 of the process. She apparently never actually logged back in after being accepted to enter her book’s information. I don’t know if she just didn’t understand and got frustrated or if the LOC employee was vague in her explanations. Regardless, it was a quick fix. I offered to finish the process for the author.
Unfortunately, she hasn’t responded to my latest message, despite the fact that the print proof (the first printed/bound copy of her book) could be on her doorstep in the next five business days. Seriously! That’s how close we are to the finish line! The interior file was already formatted. It only lacked the LCCN. The cover was already designed as well. The fees were paid and the work was DONE!
I’ve seen this before. The author grew so frustrated with an external force that, instead of counting to 10, or waiting a day or two to think it over, she let her emotions guide her actions and she killed her entire book.
She’d come to BookLocker under our “Returning Author Discount“, and had only paid $518. Yes, that included everything she needed to get her book on the market – interior formatting, original cover design, listings on Amazon, BN.com, and numerous other online stores across the globe, distribution by Ingram (the largest distributor), etc., etc. I say ONLY $518 because the “other guys” charge upwards of $1000 or more for the same service (even firms that use the same printer). We offer a big discount to authors on their second and subsequent books with us and, with this author’s first book, everything had gone fine. No delays (from the feds or anyone else).
So, is this martyrdom…or something else?
Believe it or not, here are some other excuses I have heard from authors who have abruptly abandoned their book projects altogether…forever.
1. “I should have never started the publishing process when Mercury was in retrograde!” (Yes, this was a real excuse, given by an author who found out the vast quoting she’d done in her book really was copyright infringement.)
2. “God obviously doesn’t want me to publish this book!” (I have heard this from several authors over the years when minor problems occurred, like not citing the correct Bible on their copyright page, which is an incredibly easy fix.)
3. “The universe is telling me not to publish this book!” (This was after one author’s mother sent him a list of typos she’d found in the book.)
4. “My ex-husband says he’s going to sue for half of my future royalties! I give up! I’m going to delete all my files and forget about being an author!” (A phone call with her attorney could have given her a different perspective. Since the book wasn’t published until after the split, he may have not been entitled to anything at all.)
I’ve heard a couple dozen other excuses over the years as well.
As a publisher, I approach these authors gently. If you’re too motherly to them, they get embarrassed. (I have six kids – four of them are adults now. I do tend to mother people when the situation warrants some gentle, maternal advice.) If you take the professional route, and don’t show at least some personal compassion, they might interpret your comments incorrectly, and they may get angry with you.
So, I figure…when this happens in the future, I can send this link to authors who are on the verge of throwing in the towel. Of course, it might offend AND embarrass them but, doggone-it, somebody has to say something because this scenario continues to occur. When it does, I may offer to take on some of the author’s tasks myself in order to help them stay on track with getting their book on the market. It kind of feels like emotionally pulling a sprinter around the very last lap.
Like I said, we are an emotional bunch and sometimes we have to don our virtual cheerleading outfits, and jump through some virtual hoops, to help each other get past the bumps we might encounter on the road to getting our books published.
I’d love to hear from any authors who have abandoned projects in this manner (your anonymity is guaranteed). I’d also love to hear from any publishers who have experienced this with any of their authors.
You can contact me directly RIGHT HERE .
AUTHORS, REPEAT AFTER ME: “I will NOT give publishers ownership of my production files!”
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For more emotional fuzzy-wuzzies from Angela, check out her New From the Home Office column here:
Got questions about Print On Demand and Self-publishing? Ask Angela Hoy.
About The Author
Angela Hoy is the publisher of WritersWeekly.com, the author of 19 books, and the co-owner of BookLocker.com (one of the original POD publishers that still gets books to market in less than a month), PubPreppers.com (print and ebook design for authors who truly want to self-publish), and Abuzz Press (the publishing co-op that charges no setup fees).
Angela has lived and traveled across the U.S. with her kids in an RV, settled in a river-side home in Bradenton, FL, and lived on a 52 ft Irwin sailboat. Angela now resides on a mountaintop in Northwest Georgia, where she plans to spend the rest of her days bird watching, gardening, hiking, and taking in all of the amazing sunrises.
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Quote: “The LOC wrote me back less than 24 hours later. Turns out the author only completed step 1 of the process. She apparently never actually logged back in after being accepted to enter her book’s information.”
For their pre-publication LCCN program, the LOC also claims that future participation depends on supplying them with a copy of the book shortly after publication. That is so they can assign Dewey decimal and LOC numbers to it. That’s the entire point of the program. I’m not sure how strictly they hold authors and publishers to that rule, but just to be sure I never get backlisted, I follow two rules:
1. I don’t apply for a LCCN until a book is almost done and thus certain of being published. As you note, once signed up, you’ll typically get that number in a couple of days. Getting it can be part of the wrap-up phase for a book.
2. When I publish POD, I order several printed copies. I make sure the LOC gets one of those.
I’m the stubborn type, so the more opposition I meet with, the more I plunge ahead. But I will offer thanks for all the authors that you have encouraged when they were ready to give up. That’s going the second mile. Not all those in your line of work do that.
Also, for some would-be authors, halting just before publication is the writer’s equivalent of stage fright. Before those final steps are taken, they freeze up, fearing failure. The reasons they offer are often just a cover for the real issue. Pushing them through that moment of hesitation often brings relief. For good or ill, that book is out.
Interesting, entertaining, informative read! I look forward to Thursdays for my weekly dose of WritersWeekly.com! Thanks!
Thank you, Angela, for being there for authors and standing up against the bullies!