by Camela Thompson
I took a break from my day job on Friday to check my personal e-mail. I had a suspicion the note from my publisher wasn't good news, but Booktrope's announcement still came a shock. They are going out of business and nearly all books (mine most definitely included) will no longer be available for sale as of May 31st.
My first reaction? Disappointment. Then I texted everyone I know and scoped out Facebook. Not everyone took the news well. I vented a bit in private, but ultimately life as an author is not for the faint of heart. I'd like to point out that this is a very difficult time to be in the industry as a publisher. The ease of self publishing and sheer volumes of titles per year have made it critical to hang on to proven authors and shy away from the risk of new talent. Success as an author is greatly determined by perseverance. I know many very talented authors who have given up after years of rejection where others succeeded because they moved on and kept trying. It didn't take long after receiving that ominous email to realize that it was time to roll up my shirt sleeves and make the most of what has happened.
Booktrope had a unique approach to publishing. They screened incoming novels then stepped back and allowed their authors to negotiate and develop their own teams. From start to finish, Booktrope provided little interference, allowing the team members to work together and decide on the final product. Team members received compensation over time from royalties. The driver to success had to be the quality of the product put out by the team.
I don't know what drove the decision to close shop, but I could see a few flaws with their approach. Leaving a team alone to produce a product doesn't always work out. Sometimes there needs to be a bad guy who holds a person accountable for not doing their share (fortunately, my teams were wonderful). The biggest issue had to do with the compensation model for the team members who were not authors. Productivity, or enough sales to generate sustainable revenue, has a very slow ramp in this industry. This penalized creative team members who agreed to work with new authors. The adage is that an author will experience consistent sales after five quality books are published, but this takes time. It could be years for team members to see a profit, and sometimes good books fail. They couldn't make a living while they waited for sales to ramp.
When you decide to self publish, you assume liability. You choose how much time and money to invest. Your decisions ultimately determine success. Traditional publishers assume a lot of risk by paying the editors, copy editors, cover designers, marketers, and distributors up front. They must be picky about who they accept if they have a chance at succeeding. The wonderful thing about Booktrope was that the risk no longer fell squarely on the author or the publisher. Unfortunately, this meant that those of us who were new, niche, or non-compliant dragged others down. As someone averaging one book per year, I felt guilty that I didn't write more, market more, sell more.
I've met the people who were at the heart of Booktrope, and they cared deeply. They wanted us all to succeed and they had an innovative approach. They gave me my first break as an author, and I've learned so much. I'm thankful for all of the connections I've developed because of Booktrope. I have no complaints and regret that things didn't work out.
I'm responsible for negotiating with my creative team members to come to an agreement on compensation for their contribution if I wish to use their work. Because the majority of my team members preferred up front compensation, my out of pocket expenses and the short amount of time to turn a product around make self-publishing the most logical choice.
There was a bit of pride in having a publisher. Someone chose my work and gave it a stamp of approval. The longer I write, the less I need the added pat on the back, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't sting a little. That said, I'm in a better place than most because of the connections I've made through Booktrope. I'll have help from people I respect.
I'll do my best to get All the Pretty Bones and Blood, Spirit & Bone back online as quickly as possible because I don't want to lose the momentum I've worked so hard for. It's going to be a bumpy road, but as I joked to my editor, this was the kick in the pants I needed.
It's time to note the lessons from this chapter and move on.
Camela spends her days as an operations analyst looking for potential pitfalls and creating efficiencies, driving results with the numbers to prove that change is worth the discomfort. She realized early on that a company's success is entirely dependent on people. Product and planning mean little without proper execution. In the evenings she writes about things that go bump in the night with her adorable terrier mix by her side.
Freelance writer and Dark urban fantasy author featuring vampires with bite.