Writer Nightmare: Your Books Disappear from Amazon
Within the span of a week, two of my standalone stories disappeared from Amazon. One of these had almost 100 reviews. My heart dropped thinking about how much time I spent contacting reviewers and promoting the book. Word on the street was that the publisher closed for good. The same thing happened with my other book. This whole thing got me wondering: how I could save other writers from going down the same path? Let’s turn lemons into lemonade, shall we?
Before submitting to a small publisher, do some research. Many writers are so anxious to appear in print or in digital books that they rush this part. Trust me, it can be very tempting, especially after getting rejection email after rejection email. And, don’t avoid small presses. There are some amazing ones out there—editors who will understand your work and what you are trying to do with your writing and will see you through the process with patience and support.
Here are some signs that should make you wary of choosing a publisher:
The small pub has little or no presence on social media. I’m assuming you’ve already checked to see what their company website looks like. (Okay, good.) Look them up on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other major platforms. The amount of followers is not necessarily a red flag, but that’s something you can determine. You can see how many Tweets an account does, for instance. You can also use Twitter management websites to see how active an account is. This matters. It also matters when it comes to getting the word about your book. You don’t want to see tumbleweeds on their social media page, unless that’s the theme of their next anthology.
No Amazon or Goodreads reviews. This is similar to the above. No activity here can mean that the small press is not lifting a finger to get the word out about their publications. Now, if a company is just starting out, that’s one thing. And, many publications run with very small staffs or volunteers who are willing to do thankless work to jumpstart things. However, if there are zero reviews going up for their releases, that’s usually no bueno. Remember, you want readers to see your work. And, reviews are key to word getting out there.
The editor or publication is not returning your emails. This is obviously after you’ve taken a chance on the small press (which, remember, can be a great thing). Keep in mind many of them are busy as hell and will need time to get back to you. But, after you have waited a reasonable amount of time and have even sent gentle follow-up nudges inquiring about either payment or other pressing concerns you might have, you might have to read the writing on the wall (sorry, not sorry about the pun here). The whole press might be about to abandon ship. Or, maybe the ship has already sunk. Know when to accept defeat.
You never get a check in the mail. No one wants to think about this. You’ve sweated at your computer, sometimes with little or no sleep, cranking out your literary masterpiece. Someone actually published it. You remember the thrill of seeing the book cover and the finished product posted for sale online. Perhaps you became your own hero with promo. Yet no money ever comes. Sorry, my friend. You might just have to face the facts: there is none to be had. I recommend cutting your losses. Your emails are already not getting returned. And, if you Tweet your anger, chances are you just end up looking like an ass. The good small presses will remember your name for the wrong reasons. Don’t be that person. I have yet to hear of any success stories going that route. And, you’re already a struggling artist and probably don’t have the money to get a lawyer. That small press probably has none to give you either. Take a metaphorical memory loss pill and forget about it.
Other writers ask you about the ghost publisher that has disappeared without a trace. No one really wants to make a friend this way, but hey. Make the best out of it. At least you know that you are not alone in the sucky circumstance. You were not the only one with mistaken judgement. And, quite frankly, you might have been really cautious. Maybe none of the above red flags happened. Sometimes you can do everything right and it’s not your fault. Publishers go defunct. And people survive it. Back when Samhain Publishing went under, its writers were traumatized. But many of them have bonded over it and all of them have moved on with their careers.
Publisher Closed=You Are Free
Recap: Take these 3 tips with you.
1. Forget about it. I know this sounds terrible, but chances are no one was seeing/reading your book anyway. If the press was shutting down, they weren’t worried about you and your book. It’s okay. But let it go.
2. Keep going. Don’t let a bump in the road derail you. Take that book and revise it, if you want to. Submit it to another publisher and explain your situation. Another press might be willing to release it as a reprint. They might even ask you to write a sequel. Stranger things have happened.
3. Network. Keep those connections with writers and editors you’ve met along the way. It’s a small world and often good can come of it. You sew what you reap. That is all: no more clichés left to share. J