Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

About Self-Publishing from two examples; Kiana Davenport and Ric Locke

with 6 comments

Today it’s time to talk about self-publishing — the good, and the bad.

First, unfortunately, is something bad that happened due to self-publishing (which is, in and of itself, a generally good thing writers do when they’ve exhausted all other avenues of getting their books or stories out).  Kiana Davenport, a writer with many awards and sales to her credit, had a novel scheduled to come out in 2012 with a “Big Six” Publisher (she doesn’t, or can’t, name which one), but that contract was canceled after Ms. Davenport self-published two collections of short stories the very same publisher didn’t want.  (Hat tip to Sharon Lee, who posted about this on Twitter and Facebook.)

Here’s the link, and a relevant (unfortunately quite lengthy) quote from Ms. Davenport’s blog:

In January, 2010,  I signed a contract with one of the Big 6 publishers in New York for my next novel.  I understood then that I,  like every writer in the business, was being coerced into giving up more than 75% of the profits from electronic sales of that novel, for the life of the novel.   But I was debt-ridden and needed upfront money that an advance would provide. The book was scheduled for hardback publication in August, 2012,  and paperback publication  a year later.  Recently that publisher discovered I had self-published two of my story collections as electronic books.  To coin the Fanboys,  they went ballistic.  The editor shouted at me repeatedly  on the phone.  I was accused of breaching my contract (which I did not) but worse, of ‘blatantly betraying them with Amazon,’ their biggest and most intimidating  competitor.  I was not trustworthy.  I was sleeping with the enemy.

My lawyer  quickly pointed out that the  first collection, HOUSE OF SKIN, PRIZE-WINNING STORIES,  had been e-published  in December,  before I signed the contract with the publisher,  so they immediately targetted the second collection, CANNIBAL NIGHTS, PACIFIC STORIES, Volume II, published recently in July.

Most of the stories in both collections had  each been published several times before,  first in Story Magazine,  then again in The O’HENRY AWARDS  PRIZE STORIES anthologies,  the PUSHCART PRIZE stories anthologies,  and THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, 2000, anthology. And, over  several years  both collections had been submitted  to each of the Big 6 publishers in NY.  I still have their rejection letters,  including one from the house I was now under contract with.  So you might say these stories were, in a sense,  recycled,  sitting  in my files rejected.  Yet,  as published collections,  this Big 6  publisher  suddenly found them threatening.

So, here  is what the  publisher demanded.  That I immediately and totally delete CANNIBAL NIGHTS from Amazon, iNook, iPad, and all other e-platforms.  Plus,  that I delete all Google hits mentioning me and CANNIBAL NIGHTS.  Currently,  that’s about 600,000 hits. (How does one even do that?)  Plus that I guarantee in writing I would not self-publish another ebook of any of my backlog of works until my novel with them was published in hardback and paperback.  In other words they were demanding that I agree to be muzzled for the next two years, to sit silent and impotent as a writer,  in a state of  acquiescence and, consequently,  utter self-loathing.

Note that Ms. Davenport is fighting back, as well she should.  Because to my mind, this sort of attitude makes no sense whatsoever; if Ms. Davenport’s short story collections do well in any format, anywhere, that can only help raise the name recognition for her novel in 2012.  And while I realize the “Big Six” publishers are nervous and don’t seem to completely understand the e-book revolution, why on Earth don’t they realize that any publication in any format, especially from an award-winning writer, can only help them down the line?

This is a short-sighted, self-serving attitude at best, and completely stupid at worst, from the “Big Six” publisher in question, which is why I’m making sure that anyone who reads my blog knows about this as a possibility with regards to self publishing, even though I hope it will not happen again to anyone else due to the utter stupidity of this happening at all. 

Ms. Davenport has the right to earn a living; it is absolutely, positively wrong for any publisher to try to keep her from doing so.  Period.  (And if you want to help her earn some money this quarter — I have no money or I’d throw some her way — go buy one of her short story collections, here or here.  That’ll help her, and spite her idiotic “Big Six” publisher, all at the same time — the very definition of a win/win.)

My hope is that by writing about this, and all the discussion of it (here, at Ms. Davenport’s blog, at Passive Voice, by Sharon Lee, and by many, many others) has to help get the word out that some publishers are just plain crazy.  And that “sisters have to keep doing it for themselves.”  (Or brothers.)

Now, on to a very good example of self-publishing that has worked well.

Ric Locke, who was a good friend of my late husband Michael, self-published his novel, the milSF TEMPORARY DUTY, at Amazon.com and other places.  (Here’s the link to his book at Amazon.)  Locke dedicated it to Michael, which I greatly appreciated once I found out about it (through correspondence with Locke, which I didn’t see for months due to not checking my e-mail as regularly as I should).**  I’ve read Locke’s novel — it’s excellent, and I don’t say that lightly — and believe it should’ve been picked up by someone in the mainstream, mainline publishing world.  But since it wasn’t, I’m glad he published it himself.  So far he has around 11,000 downloads since he put it up at the end of May of 2011, and that’s great.  98 reviews to date at Amazon.com, too — most of them positive.

All of that said, I’m still a bit leery of self-publishing even though I have seen it work for Ric Locke and have seen it work for a few other friends.  But it has become a worthy option for many, and it’s much better to have good novels like Locke’s coming out somehow rather than being forced to the sidelines because none of the “Big Six” liked what Ric was doing.

So, there you have it.  Self-publishing is how more and more authors are making a go of it to attempt to pay the bills, and it’s here to stay.  So let’s hope that whichever publisher Ms. Davenport was dealing with will get with the program and realize that, as the old adage says, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

—————

** Note that Michael helped to edit Ric Locke’s novel.  (Which should tell you how long Locke tried to get his novel published before finally taking the plunge and publishing it himself, as Michael has been dead for nearly seven years.)  I read it and commented, too, but compared to Michael’s comprehensive efforts, it was nothing.

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6 Responses

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  1. Barb, it’d be interesting to see the differences between this published version and the one I have from February 2004. Even in reading the preview, I can see some major changes early on. Unfortunately, it’s only available in Kindle format, and my e-reader is a Kobo.

    If nothing else, it’s probably very much tightened up as there’s a difference of almost 400k between the version I’ve got and what Amazon is listing as download size.

    William

    William Katzell

    September 11, 2011 at 12:15 am

    • I agree, William. Ric suggested to me that the free Kindle reader can be downloaded for computers; I don’t know how that would work considering you already have an e-book reader program (I don’t, _per se_). I’m unsure why he doesn’t have this formatted any other way, but it seems to be working for him.

      Barb Caffrey

      September 11, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    • there is a web site, http://calibre-ebook.com/ which converts most ebook formats to another format, might try checking that out,

      John Cunningham

      March 6, 2012 at 4:06 pm

  2. Self publishing is a promising option an author can take a look into. There are credible self publishing companies who authors can work with in making their dreams into reality.

    Ishmael Draco

    September 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    • That’s certainly true, Ishmael. Amazon.com seems to make it fairly easy from what I can tell . . . there’s also Smashwords, Lulu.com and a few others, and all of these listed are reputable places.

      Barb Caffrey

      September 15, 2011 at 9:37 pm


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