Based on the quiz and your own perceptions of what you can and can’t tolerate you have determined your publisher sucks. Now what? Of course the no brainer answer would to be get out. However there are some activities and some conditions to be aware of when you do.
One thing to do is to rescue your brainchild: your book. Don’t leave it there to drown when you walk away from your publisher. If it’s your first book or your fifteenth, it doesn’t matter. All books are a part of you!
I have done this myself, so I know how to do this first hand. I was in the worst case scenario of leaving a publisher, but I was able to survive. I was in a fight for survival at that point. I do carry a scar from that bull shark bite, but now I share my knowledge with others to prove it can be done!
Look Before Leaping
Try to look for a better publisher before cancelling out unless it is the last straw and you have absolutely had it. My camel’s back was broken, but I have kept my book listed just until I could move it elsewhere. My book wasn’t out long when I decided to abandon the SS Xlibris ship and go to another/better one. Someone may have wanted to buy it even though I was thoroughly displeased with it. You can do this if your contract is nonexclusive.
If your contract is exclusive, then you must terminate after the life of the contract term first and then follow the terms for termination before moving on. Not obeying the terms will land you in the courtroom no matter how peeved you are at your publisher or how rotten they are. The court looks at contracts, not people skills. Unless you can nail them for more dire transgressions like fraud or theft, you won’t win the round in court. Bad customer service is not a viable excuse for breach of contract in court. Reread and pay close attention to your contract terms.
In my scenario, my sucky publisher had a nonexclusive contract that I could cancel at any time. This was the only thing that was good about it, so I didn’t have to worry too much about that so terminating was easy compared to the other things I had to before terminating. I’ll get to that shortly.
Also, take note of the mistakes you made that landed you in this situation. You don’t want to publish with another publisher that does the same thing. Think about what you want done differently and find the publisher that meets those needs and makes a better score on your quiz.
Ask other authors on forums or in your network. Article I in Part I: A good reputation among writers in the quiz is very important in finding out if a new publisher flunks out on that article. You don’t want to pick out another publisher that sucks. If you don’t have a network yet or don’t know where to find forums pick up a copy of The Fine Print of Self Publishing where most of the work was done for you. Please note that Mark hasn’t listed every single publisher that exists in the industry. New ones pop up every week, but what he teaches you in his book will help you dissect any self publishing contract. There are a lot of options for help, and you don’t have to be alone forever. Reach out.
I Found a New Publisher So What’s Next?
Okay, get in touch with the submissions department and determine what steps you need to take to submit a previously published book. The website may only go into detail about the submission process for brand new, unpublished books. Also determine what you need/want from this new publisher in marketing, publishing, etc. Also this all depends on what files you have to submit to them which can involve a different schema than that of a brand new manuscript.
Double check your editorial quality if you have doubts especially if this new publisher is choosy about quality in where you need to go. If you worked with a real, professional editor during your first run before you published at the previous publisher, then you are in the clear. If, however, you have doubts about the editors at your previous publisher, by all means get it checked out. It can save your life, and I can say this from experience. I can also tell you that not all publishers hire or work with high caliber editors. Find an industry professional or reputable editor to give you an assessment.
If you have to start at square one with the editing, do it and postpone republishing if you don’t have the budget to publish again. Get the badly edited book off the market sooner rather than later or it will damage your reputation. My zero sales at my previous publisher were actually a blessing in disguise because of this discovery.
Get What You Can Prior to Leaving
**Insert Mission Impossible song here***
This part of the process can make you feel like you’re a spy. It did for me! Anyway here we go!
Getting what you can from your soon to be ex publisher will cut your losses significantly or greatly—maybe that’s why bad publishers put the screws to you here. There will be less you have to do over. If you can get your printable pdf files from your ex publisher, then you are in luck (highly unlikely by a universally sucky publisher). This will greatly reduce your losses and stuff to be redone. If your book needs a better edit, but you have these, then ask the staff at the publisher what you need to do next. They should tell you step by step in a clear concise manner.
If your publisher won’t give you your printable pdfs then that really sucks, and so do they. This is where I was during my move. Some publishers make you pay a king’s ransom for those files, and some won’t give them to you at all. My ex publisher won’t give them to you at all. They force you to buy a CD archive of the book for $99 which is overpriced and almost useless. However, for me, these came with the package I bought, so I didn’t pay anything extra here. I got these packages buy one and get one free, so I have them for both my books.
If you have images and/or illustrations try your best to get the high resolution pdfs of these—I succeeded here. Your new publisher will need these to recreate the book’s images. Also, try your best to get the high resolution pdf to you cover. This can be tricky. High resolution means that the image is clear and is at 300 dots per inch (dpi) or better. They may not be printable, but the new publisher can recreate the cover. However, if the publisher will not give them to you come hell or high water, don’t loose heart. If there is a will there is a way.
Scan your cover at high resolution instead (300 dpi or better) on your own scanner or go to theUPSor Fedex store if you have to. Do anything to get it. Then upload and send it in to the appropriate person/department by email or through the automated publishing system whichever the case is. Scan it front and back and the publisher will do its best to recreate the concept.
However, the back cover copy and author bio may need tweaking, but for me that was the least of my worries. I was pretty sure the original sucked just like everything else did except the front cover, but my new publisher made sure that it was attractive and appealing to readers. In case you’re wondering, these needed tweaking and they are better. It meant much to me to preserve the front cover that my readers loved than the text on the back.
Lastly, cancel any outstanding services that have not been fulfilled yet. You should get your money back. If you are with an unethical publisher, then you will have to fight for it since they will try to play games with you to make you throw in the towel. I cancelled the outstanding services and demanded my money back. I was too ticked off and determined to back down despite how frustrating the games had become. I was able to get enough money back to republish and edit Neiko’s Five Land Adventure, but book #2 had to hang out in limbo until I could budget the money to republish it, and it also needs an edit.
Any services that have commenced and your publishing fees are you losses. The point of this section will help lower your losses some. You have to eat it and move on. Counting you losses and living with them is better than staying with a bad publisher. You and your book will die a slow and painful death if you stay here. Don’t pine over a sucky publisher’s “hard work”. They didn’t work hard at all—they mainly slapped it together and jerry-rigged it and it shows. Sucky publishers don’t work hard; they hardly work. Keep that in mind.
Terminate Your Contract
Always remember this is the LAST step!
Now that you have all of the materials and money in your hands as well as your plan of execution and a new publisher destination, now it is time to terminate your contract with your ex publisher. Read you contract CAREFULLY in how to do this. If you are in an exclusive contract, then you’re stuck for the life of the contract which is spelled out for you in the terms. If you are in a nonexclusive contract that can be cancelled at any time, then you can proceed unhindered. Follow the instructions precisely. If you are stuck in an exclusive contract for X years, still gather your things or duplicates of them, and don’t buy any more services. Save back money for republishing or publish another book in the meantime if you have one on deck. When the contract ends, then you can proceed and pull your book out.
Terminating the contract is usually done in writing. Follow the instructions the publisher gives you if there are any on the website or in the contract. Don’t ask a staff member at an unethical publisher in how to terminate or they will know what you are up to. Don’t let that publisher know you are out the door until your letter of termination arrives at the front desk. If they find out you are leaving, you may not get your stuff back or they will make it harder for you to get your stuff back. In the letter be sure to include the title of the book or any other numbers or identifying information that the publisher uses to locate the book.
Don’t cancel the contract via email. It can be conveniently misplaced or deleted, and then you have to play a new game. They know what’s up and may try to stop you. Nip it in the bud. Write the letter, print it off, sign it, tromp to the post office, and send it by certified mail. That way, you know it arrived there because they had to sign for it, and you get a slip with the signature on it, and they know you mean serious business.
Don’t hesitate to ask for email confirmation that the termination and removal of the book is being carried out and who has received your letter and handling the process within the letter. Keep the letter file on your computer for your records, just in case. If no one sends an email with a week or two, call in. Ask about the letter, and you demand that someone email you to confirm they are carrying out your wishes, and you know the letter was received because of the slip of paper. They can’t say they didn’t get it or they’re lying.
Also, about a month or so after termination, double check to make sure that your book has been removed off of their online bookstore, online retailers, etc. Bad publishers are not always upfront about this.
Republish with Your New Publisher
You have your materials and money, and you have either had your book reedited or plan to use the new publisher’s inhouse editors. Your prior engagement is terminated. Now it is time to republish your book with your new publisher. Take time to read the contract to understand what is going on. The publisher took the time to write it, so take the time to read it…again if need be. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, but don’t be boorish either. Sure, you have had a bad prior experience, but if you are working with people who are really trying to help you have a better experience, then don’t rude. Any changes made will make you put out a better product. Trust me on this one, and I can say so for myself.
After you new venture commences, take time to compare your experience and your final product. Are you glad you did it? Was/is everything better than last time? Do you feel empowered in a position that you can now turn things around and have a better chance of success? A new publisher, a new version of a book, and new marketing services do not equal guaranteed success. You now have better stuff to work with, so now you must get out there and market you book! Being an author is a job and it takes work. It’s not magic. You don’t build it and they come running to it. A book is not a magnet; it is a light. Let people see it and draw their attention to it.
That is how I felt after republishing. I had better things to work with, but everything was still up to me. Not only that I had industry professionals to ask questions if I needed help. Also, I am not hitting barriers and brick walls at every turn every time I try to do something. My publisher’s name is not like skunk spray on me and my book. That empowers me just as much as my book becoming a real piece of art that I am proud of.