Just kidding on that headline … but someone has garnered my interest. This past week, I read several posts written by Joe Konrath (thanks to B passing them on) and he struck a chord of deep-seated memories.
His blunt writing style made me laugh out loud many times as I read. He doesn’t mince words one bit. But mostly, he made me remember. Remember all the reasons that my writing partner and I decided to give up on the traditional publishing world. Everything he said rang true.
Are writers exploited in an unfair industry? Yes sir, indeedy.
Are contracts obscenely slanted to the publisher’s advantage? Absolutely.
But, it’s not something I’ve said out loud, until now. You see, when we (I am including B in this) published our original books, there were no other options available; you either signed a contract with a house, or your work languished in a drawer never to be seen in printed form. So, we accepted the shitty terms of outlandishly one-sided contracts. Being published outweighed all common sense. It was, after all, what writers did … so shut up and sign on the dotted line already.
Between the two of us, we published ten historical romances, five each, and B is also credited with a novella and contributed a chapter in a nonfiction how-to-write book. But, despite writing for several different publishers, our journeys, our endings, seemed similar. So much so, it forced us to rethink about the business of writing. After many years invested, we had to make a choice. Go back down the predictable road of exploitation, disappointment, and no money … or not.
We chose not.
When we first decided to resurrect Brit Darby, we discussed at length about whether to submit our manuscript to legacy publishers. After months of debate, we came to the decision to bypass traditional publishing altogether and self-publish. In the end, it was the best decision, and one we still feel good about. No regrets, no looking back.
I love hearing writers speak out now, declaring war on the stodgy old-world tradition of publishing. It’s a strange business that takes advantage of writers, trampling their dreams into dust. The heartbreak is devastating, I know. It was hard to explain to friends and family why I walked away, because unless you’ve walked down that path, others cannot truly understand. There are so many nuances of the old-school publishing experience that can only be felt, and putting it into words is difficult, even for a writer. It’s like selling your soul to the devil, but in this case, he does not deliver on his part of the bargain.
As I think back on those years, I remember spending a lot of time with other authors and finding it odd how certain things were never openly discussed. Contracts, royalties, or money earned was taboo. It was as if it was a company secret, so only the vaguest of references were made and always in a general context, never specific or revealing. Perhaps each of us believed we were the only ones getting screwed, and by keeping quiet, our dirty little secret was safe. We’d pretend all was well and no one would be the wiser. We never suspected the other author we spoke with was probably in the same sinking boat.
Success may or may not find Brit Darby—it’s a struggle to be discovered among millions of other books in any form. But it’s a challenge, an adventure and we’re doing it together, our way. We are in control of the process, not a publisher who doesn’t give a damn about us. We stand proudly and will mount a great fight to achieve our elusive dreams.
So thank you, Joe Konrath, for speaking up honestly, truthfully and with passion. Thank you for being fearless and revealing the twisted, unfair practices of the legacy publishers. They are ugly monsters to be vanquished by heroes and heroines alike. I consider you a real hero for your honesty.