As I mentioned last week, my publisher is going out of business. It's a struggle to adapt to the changes the marketplace has faced in the last several years. I know other authors will be or already have been in my position. There are a lot of options for us after we are given back our rights. I'm not sure there is a single correct path. The only wrong answer is to give up.
Before you begin the quest for your book's next life, review your contract for any ongoing obligations and determine when/how creative rights are returned. A contract lawyer can help walk you through the details and draw up any necessary paperwork. In my case, my hybrid publisher used a creative contract and split royalties to compensate team members over five years. If the author or publisher wanted out of the agreement, the author inherited responsibility for compensating team members for the duration of the agreement. This means teams can attempt to agree to a flat rate, a new publisher can pay off the team members, or the author can continue royalty distribution (the author can form a business that allows 1099 contract work for royalties or find a similar publisher that is willing to carry the torch).
Which Publishing Model Next?
Moving from one publisher to another isn't simple, especially when your sights are on a large traditional publisher. If you have a book that has hundreds of reviews, consistent sales, and can boast about impressive social media stats; you're in great shape. In fact, interested parties probably emailed you when official news of the publisher going belly up hit the wire. If you have multiple books with mediocre or even good stats, it's going to be more difficult. If you're just starting out, you may need to accept that what one publisher deemed acceptable may not appeal to another. It may take a different twist in your genre or another year of writing experience and a new book.
Fortunately, our creative rights are being returned promptly. Many of the Booktrope authors had previous experience with self-publishing. Some publishers with similar models stepped forward and offered to take complete teams (and distribute royalties) for approved books. Others are taking time to send query letters, pitch in person, and evaluate next steps. A few have decided to throw in the towel. Hopefully temporarily.
What Did I Decide?
Self-publishing makes sense to me. I'm accustomed to operating in a business environment, and I believe I have the maturity to stay motivated and on task. My one worry is my ability to market (it's not my strong suit!), but this is something I'll have to learn anywhere. I've got my business licenses, negotiated rates, have a marketing plan for relaunch, and am ready to dig in to learn what there is to know about ISBN options and layout programs. I used to do graphic design and I'll get there. Self-publishers who are dedicated to producing a high-quality product blend in with the traditional market. I'm determined to meet a high bar.
I've been warned that I'm shooting myself in the foot and traditional publishers will shy away from me. This may be true. But it might not. The market is changing. If I work hard, I'll build momentum. I'll keep learning, work at a rate that's sustainable with a day job, and ask for help when I need it. What's important is that I know I can't give up.
Resilience is the key to survival. When faced with major change, you alone have the power to choose whether to give up or keep fighting.