Why I left my publisher

To self publish or not? That is the question.

The world of publishing has evolved incommensurably in the past decade. As a result, the number of options presented to fledging authors is mind blowing. Traditionally published? Indie pub? Hybrid? Or self-published? Makes your head spin, right?

At the very least it made me dizzy and being quite insecure in general, but mostly about my authoring talents, I overlooked self publishing and kept trying to land a publishing deal. When the letter arrived at last, I thought I might faint. A publishing house wanted ME! Someone beside myself and my mother thought my novel deserved to see the light of day. A dream come true…

Mostly. I was so elated by their offer I didn’t think to check out the publishing house that I was about to sign with. Well, I did make sure they were not vanity publishers but other than that, I took the plunge gladly and blindfolded.

I didn’t realize that this publisher, no matter how kind and well intentioned, was practically as green as I was and had almost no budget to promote a new title. I didn’t understand all the work that went into putting a book out there and the knowledge required to do it well. Nowadays, anyone can publish a book on CreateSpace but to do it well? To maximize its chances to be known and attract the right audience? That requires skills. Skills that unfortunately my publisher didn’t have and no amount of good will could make up for.


While under my publisher’s wing, my novel A Cunning Plan vegetated idly, while I prayed some miracle would lead readers to it. And it required a miracle. My book cover was bland and generic (I had to pick it from one website offering premade covers), I received no marketing tips or budget to promote my launch, and my publisher had no social following to share with me, a total newbie.

They promoted their large circle of authors but although the advice and kind words of support were greatly appreciated, they were all new like me and their blog posts (just like mine) were only read by a handful of people. Hard to spread the word that way.

In only a few months I was totally disenchanted and ready to quit writing for good. There’s only so many copies of your book your inner circle can buy before getting fed up with you.

Positive reviews kept me going. Reviews are like crack–I’m totally addicted 🙂


Once I took the decision to leave my publisher, I reconsidered all my options.

  1. Traditional route: too long for me, especially now that my novel is already out.
  2. Indie pub: tried that, was disappointed.
  3. Hybrid: I talked to a few of these publishing houses. Their concept is enticing, especially if you’re lazy like me. But they have a cost, usually one pretty steep, and the ones with most experience will ask for the book’s rights. Almost signed with She Writes Press which sounds the most serious for my genre but I got cold feet. There’s a lot of money you have to invest up front and no certitude to get it back. Frightening.
  4. Self publishing: I went with door number 4. The confidence I lacked, I gained once my book was published. I’m no longer an aspiring author but an unknown one. This I’m hoping to remedy to someday.

Only three weeks into self-publishing, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with my decision. Here are 3 reasons why:

  1. Total control: you need to have time if you want to self publish because suddenly you transform yourself from an author to an entire company. From finding your copy editor to doing the lay out of your book, all the jobs are yours. It’s often maddening. It’s also deeply satisfying to own the total rights of your work and see your book become what you had envisioned from the start.
  2. Total gain: whatever meager earnings you make with your book, you don’t have to share them. I can almost buy myself a coffee everyday 🙂
  3. Total freedom: I signed up with KDP select now that I’m not under contract. KDP is great!

Things I’ve done and seem to be working since I left my publishing house:

  1. Sign up with KDP Select: I did a free promo last week. 1,400 downloads in 5 days! That’s 1,400 new readers that didn’t know my book existed just a week ago. I also love Kindle Unlimited. Everyday I can track how many pages of A Cunning Plan were read and confirm that I do have readers. Huge self confidence boost!
  2. 99designs’ contest: I did a contest to pick my favorite book cover for A Cunning Plan. From looking bland and generic, I now have a book that appeals to my specific audience. They even let me poll people to see which one worked best!

  3. New website: I hired my book designer to redo my website. If you want to be taken seriously, it’s important to have the right tools for your trade.

  4. Netgalley: I was on Netgalley before but with the wrong book cover, I attracted the wrong audience. My reviews ranged from ok to bad. With my new cover, I only get favorable reviews. Women who like my genre read my novel now. Sounds simple enough but it wasn’t always the case.

Still learning, still working two thousand jobs as a self published author, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. In the end, self publishing reminded me why I was writing in the first place. Because I love writing of course, but also because I love sharing my stories. I feel like I’m already starting to achieve this goal with self publishing. Incredibly grateful.

What about you? What solution works for you? What have you learned since publishing your novel? What do you hope to achieve with your novel?

Read all comments
  • Astrid, I met you at Matthew and Rebs wedding….and I’ve known Jeremy since he was just a boy. Meeting you and your wonderful children inspired me to seek out and read your novel. So glad I did! Sloan is the woman hidden inside all of us. Of course that makes her someone with whom most of us can relate….if only in our fantices. Look forward to reading ” A Cunning Heist”. Love to you and your family.

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