Where Did Solfleet Come From? – Part 5: Delivery
It didn’t take long for me to realize that I had made a big mistake. I had been so excited at being offered a publishing contract that I had failed to thoroughly research the company that had made me the offer. I never had to pay any fees or other costs, so I assumed the publishing company was a legitimate one, and in some ways it is. This company does not charge authors a fee. This company does publish the author’s work in book form. This company does assign an ISBN number and make the book available to all of the major wholesalers and retailers.
The publisher started by pricing the book much too high—$39.95 in United States currency. Yes, it was 662 pages long, but it was published in soft-cover form and I was a new and completely unknown author. I knew without a doubt that it would sell very few copies, relatively speaking, and I fought for months to get them to drop the price to $24.95, which I believed to be much more reasonable. The publisher eventually did drop it to $29.95—not what I wanted, but better than nothing. Unfortunately, that drop was only temporary. A few months later the publisher jacked the price back up without warning.
In addition to overpricing the book, the publisher failed to follow through with many of its promises. I will not go into details here for the simple reason that they have at least one lawyer on retainer and I do not. What I would write in this space, were I to go into details, would be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth…but when has the truth ever gotten in the way of a potentially ethically-challenged lawyer arguing his or her way to victory? Suffice to say that the publisher made several promises beyond simply publishing the book and making it available, and did not follow through with any of them.
Over the next couple of years things only got worse. The publisher started running one promotion after another and inviting me to participate…for a fee. They would send my book to celebrity so-and-so…for a fee. They would display my book at this-and-that event…for a fee. They would add my book to this-and-that list…for a fee. To this day I still have well over 100 emails from the publisher relating to those promotions. I finally had enough and decided that the publisher could take its promotions and…well, you get the idea.
On November 6, 2009 I contacted the publisher and requested that my rights be returned to me, explaining my reasons for making the request. I admit that I was not as polite as I could have been in that communication, but I was angry. Not surprisingly, the publisher completely ignored that communication, so six days later I contacted them again. I advised them that I knew they had received my communication because their system had auto-replied and confirmed receipt, and then asked them if they simply intended to ignore me. I also asked them to let me know if they were looking into the matter because as angry as I was, I still wanted to give them a reasonable amount of time to respond. The publisher ignored that communication as well. I contacted them a third time on December 12, 2009 and repeated my request to be released from my contract, and asked them to please respond. Once again, the publisher ignored me. Finally, on April 4, 2010, I contacted the publisher one more time and demanded that my rights be returned to me immediately, advising them that that was the last time I was going to ask nicely. As they had three times before, they ignored that communication as well. Strike three-plus-one. They were out. I decided to file suit for breach of contract.
I do not know if the publisher got wind of the fact that I actually was going forward with a suit, or if they just got tired of hearing from me, but on January 6, 2011 I received an email from them in which they offered to sell my rights back to me. My first reaction was to experience a sudden and very primitive desire to go to their offices and blow them up. Fortunately, that desire faded quickly—I’m really not a violent person—and I sat down to think things over. I could refuse to give those lying sleaze-bag killers of authors’ dreams a single cent, haul their collective butts into court, thoroughly crucify their shady character to the best of my ability, and then maybe win my rights back. Or, I could just buy my rights back and be done with them forever.
I bought my rights back that same day, and the book officially went out of print. The fact that I gave that company money still irks me sometimes, but the buy-back fee was really not very much, and having avoided the hassle of a long, drawn-out legal battle makes it worth the price.