Last week I was surprised when I decided to submit a tweet for December’s  #PitMad exercise.  I had sent a few tweets in the past, but they had never been favoured by any agents.  However, to my surprise, within a short while of sending my tweet, it was liked by somebody I assumed was a literary agent.

Having been stung in the past by a few small publishers eager to make a fast buck, I decided to do my homework and check this person out.  I found out the ‘agent’ who liked my tweet is actually an ‘acquisitions editor’ from yet another small publishing company, where there is a distinct overlap between the authors and the staff members..

The write up by Victoria Strauss on the threaded view in the Absolute Write forum says it all really:

I just reviewed an I……. W…. contract, and it’s pretty bad. Among other problems: an agent-of-record clause that empowers the agent in ways that may exceed the actual author-agent relationship; editing clauses that empower the publisher to edit and make abridgements without the author’s consent (the author’s only recourse is to walk away); vague language that makes it hard to figure out the meaning of some of the clauses, including the actual term of the contract; and language that empowers the publisher to bill the author for unspecified editing and production costs if the publisher decides the author is in breach or has missed a deadline. There’s also language that suggests that they compensate “referral agents” for sending authors their way.

I……. W…. appears to have published just 10 books since its 2016 startup. This is a really, really slow publication schedule–kind of hard to understand, given that there’s a pretty big staff for such a small press. The publishing schedule is also troublingly irregular, with several months’ gap between releases in some cases. For instance, they released a book in November 2016, then nothing until March 2017, and then nothing until August. It’s just not very professional.

The books’ Amazon sales rankings are dire, especially the Kindle rankings. Doesn’t look to me like a publisher that’s putting a lot of effort into marketing and promotion.  

So authors, beware when you take part in #PitMad next time.  It’s not always literary agents who favour your tweets;  sometimes it’s an ‘acquisitions editor’ from a small publishing company that Victoria Strauss has already checked out and given the thumbs down to.  You need to do your homework and find out if it’s worth sending off that manuscript you’ve worked so hard to create, or whether it’s better to self-publish.

From what I can tell by using a print-on-demand publisher/distributor like Ingram Spark and then registering my books with Nielsens, it’s only the same thing that many small publishers do anyway, and so you might as well pay Ingram’s fees, do it all yourself, and be your own small publisher and cut out the middle man/woman/person/ who is after a slice of your royalties.  Nielsens then add your books to Gardners, and hey presto, your books are then able to be seen by buyers from the big bookstores.  I’ve sold far more paperbacks via Ingram and their Advance catalogue in the past couple of months than any other sites where my books are on sale (one morning I checked my Ingram dashboard and I’d sold 27 books overnight!).

Of course I’m sure that there are wonderful small publishers out there who do care about marketing your book, and who do not want you to sign away the rights to your work for 5 years or more.  Also I’m after the one whose top priority is not how much money they can make from my work.  As I said before, I’m sure there’s a lovely small publishing company out there –  it’s just that I haven’t met them yet.

I’m still going to increase the word count on my story and send it to a few chosen literary agencies.  I’ll even take part in the next PitMad exercise on 7th March.  You never know, a bona fide agent might even ‘like’ my tweet!