Killing A Dream

Lately I’ve been obsessively (as in staying up way too late) reading The Business Rusch, a business blog maintained by a gal who has been in the publishing industry for thirty-odd years. Really and truly, I’ve learned a lot from Kris, even though I disagree with her about some things. She definitely has me looking more into the future for my writing than I ever though I would.

Reading that blog has come with some disappointments, however.

In the last few years, my dream of publishing went something like this: Continue publishing short stories. Self-publish some novellas. Publish a few novels with small Christian presses. Eventually publish a series with a big secular fantasy company like Bantam or Del Ray or one of those ones that publishes big-name secular fantasy authors.

I knew I would probably have to deal with people who didn’t have my best interests in mind. I also knew that a huge advance was just a pipe dream. But I always thought, “How cool would it be to see my stories published by the same people who publish Orson Scott Card? Robert Jordan?” I wanted, in this age when many are complaining about the quality of Christian books, to prove that Christian books were just as good as any secular authors.

As I’ve read more of Kris’ writing, especially when she writes about some of the horrible contracts and clauses she’s seen in publishing, the more that dream has shriveled and shrunk. I know I could do it. I know I could negotiate a good contract or that I could hire someone to do it for me. I would be willing to walk away from the contract if I couldn’t get decent terms. Heck, I’m even willing to receive a teensy advance if I could get a good contract with decent royalties. That would be worth it to me.

What’s not worth it is the hassle I’m reading it could be. Between e-books rights and publishers fibbing on royalty statements and legal jibber-jabber about different royalty rates for different kind of books and agents and print runs and lawyers and losing input over layout/cover/marketing ideas and picking apart each contract since publishers like to hide nasty clauses in places you wouldn’t think to look for them…

I just made your head spin, didn’t I? I know mine was.


All of it sounds like I would be way too stressed out. I probably wouldn’t breathe easy until the rights reverted back to me, five/ten/twenty-or-however-many years down the road. Big publishers pretty much sound like they’re treating their authors like crap right now. Kris says to pick whether you do traditional publishing or another option per book, asking what the publishers can do for you.

At this point, I’m thinking the only thing a big publisher might be able to do for me is give me exposure…maybe. IF they thought my book had the potential to be a bestseller. IF I wasn’t too much of a troublemaker (and I have a feeling I would be).

At the moment, the dream of ever signing with a big publisher is essentially dead. If I go with a smaller press, one where I know the people, I have a much better chance of not getting gipped. I know I’ll have more input on the cover/etc, and, while I’ll be forced to do most of my marketing, that’s okay—I know a lot of people who can help. I’m even seriously (more seriously than I was before reading The Business Rusch) considering self-publishing.

I know some want a big publisher because it feels validating. Honestly, I don’t want that kind of validation. A big publisher is just a group of people who think they know and can dictate what will be a big seller within the next few years. I feel validated when my husband celebrates about a publication with me, or when a teenager from my church comes up and gushes about how cool my latest story was. The readers are validating for me, and I can get readers with whatever option I decide to go with.

About H. A. Titus

H. A. Titus is usually found with her nose in a book or spinning story-worlds in her head. Her love affair with fantasy began at age twelve, when her dad handed her The Lord of the Rings after listening to it on tape during a family vacation. Her stories have been published in Digital Dragon Magazine, Residential Aliens Magazine, and four anthologies: Alternative Witness; Avenir Eclectia Volume 1; The Tanist's Wife and Other Stories; and Different Dragons Volume II. In December 2013, her short story "Dragon Dance" won Honorable Mention in a Writers of the Future contest. She lives on the shores of Lake Superior with her meteorologist husband and young son, who do their best to ensure she occasionally emerges into the real world. When she's not writing, she can be found rock-climbing, skiing, or hanging out at her online home, hatitus.wordpress.com.

7 comments on “Killing A Dream

  1. I learned about this in researching how the publishing industry worked, at first through Jeff Gerke’s site, then especially learning and confirming details from Chila Woychick’s blog. (She owns Port Yonder Press) At first when I started writing I thought it would be cool to give it away, just get exposure and get others to see and enjoy it. Then I realized how impractical that was. Lol. Then I learned about small presses and how they actually work with you in a family-style setting and I decided that would be a really cool way to do it. As I don’t want to write full time, I don’t think self-publishing is right for me for the most part-I just don’t have time for it. I do enjoy writing though, and I love it when others love what I write and love my characters, so if I can get that, I’m good. I don’t want my books being advertised for a month in an ad then being put on a backlist and left in a warehouse because they’re only going to push their best-sellers. And while loopholes and legal stuff does interest me, I can assure you I do not have any training in it and would probably kill myself trying to catch everything. 😛

  2. Here’s how I figure it. Know what you want, set your goals, and pursue them through which avenue works best. Set records and be a trailblazer! 🙂

  3. You? A trouble maker? Really? Surely not the Heather I know… : P
    I totally know what you mean, though. For a long time my dream revolved around ‘making it big’. But this little country girl who mostly just wants to live in peace and quiet is not thrilled at the prospect of trying to please some monstrosity of a publishing house with how many ten-thousands of copies I sell. I just want to tell my stories.
    When the idea of publishing with a comparatively tiny indy publishing house first blipped across my radar, my first thought was ‘No way! There’s no future in that!’ It took me a while, but eventually I realized that that all depended on how I defined ‘future’. Sure, I won’t get rich and famous. I won’t be featured on Good Morning America. But I can tell my stories, and I can still have my peace and quiet. And at the end of the day, that’s what I want most.

  4. Yeah, this meshes with a lot of stuff I’ve been reading in various places. Big press or small press, you’re still expected to do your own marketing. Big marketing is reserved for the tiny 1% of bestselling authors. Know how those authors got to be bestsellers? They wrote gobs of books. They might be churning out bestsellers now, but only because their early works were obscure but solid.

    Besides, publishing and distribution are changing. The best marketing always has been and always will be word of mouth.

    I’m leaning very much toward small press, myself. As long as they edit. I know I need an editor but I can’t afford one.

    • Glad you pointed out that a lot of best sellers have written a lot of books. That’s very true, and another reason that I’d rather chose a low-hassle publishing option–more time to write more books instead of messing with pain-in-the-butt legalese. 😉

  5. Heather,

    I had to see a lawyer about something else yesterday. I handed him a letter from someone nameless who had scattered case law numbers among the paragraphs, and the lawyer raised his eyebrows.

    He said, “(blank) thinks (blank) is a lawyer…”

    It’s a sad commentary on what the world has come to, that we each feel a desperate need to know all of that information, a need to be fully informed; not because the knowledge brings us joy, but because the trust that we should have for each other has become so desperately misplaced.

    And amazingly enough, while I had read that letter seeing something else entirely, both of us immediately recognized the confusion and desperation of the writer embodied in those marching lines of print.

  6. Big Press, Small Press, Indie Press… none of it matters until you write 3 or more books anyway. Not really, well kind of. Don’t spend too much time worrying about which path, because not many find success on any until they have a decent catalog to build word of mouth.

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