About that Publishing Contract

When I began my foray into self-publishing, I did so with one intention: to strike a deal with a publisher. I had been invited to resubmit my manuscript of Charlotte Collins for consideration after proving that it was marketable by selling 1,000 copies. Read about it from the beginning here.

I read up on self-publishing. I created a platform, and I made loads of wonderful new friends in the Austen community. And an amazing thing happened: the “unsellable” book started to sell.

And even more miraculous, I discovered how much I love being independent. I love being in control of my book, the pricing, the cover, and the marketing. I had always believed that I was no different than other Austen fans and that they would want to read the same things I did. And I wanted to have a Jane Austen experience. I wanted the same feel of Pride and Prejudice in the sequels I read. That is what I attempted, and despite the publishers’ words to the contrary, it was gratifying to see that I was not so dissimilar from other Austen fans.

I also started to love being a part of the revolution in publishing that is happening right now. It is an exciting time to be in this industry. I can read the writing on the wall: traditional publishers are in trouble. They continue to cling to an outdated business model in a rapidly changing climate. I knew that the mid list was shrinking and so were advances. In addition, I saw the amazing success of other independent publishers, and I was starting to see those same things happening for me. It was beyond incredible. Individuals, whose books had been rejected by publishers for similar reasons–good but not right for this market, etc–had taken a risk and published themselves. And they were selling hundreds and, in some cases, thousands of these worthy, but supposedly unsellable, books. I was proud to be counted among those enterprising people.

Still, after selling my requisite 1,000 copies in 4 months and 2 days, I resubmitted the manuscript of Charlotte Collins. I was no longer desperate for a contract. In fact, I had my doubts about the wisdom of signing away my rights, but I sent it in anyway. After all, it had been my dream for so long.

In the meantime, Charlotte Collins sold 841 copies in January alone, and it will break 2,000 total sales by the middle of this week. February is also on pace to match January. And I am incredibly grateful to everyone who has made these insane numbers happen. It is still humbling every time I see another copy go out. You, my readers (holy cow, I have readers!), have made this dream possible. I may say that “I” sold this book, but the truth is, YOU were the ones who made it happen. I cannot thank you enough.

So, whatever happened to that publishing deal?

Today, Charlotte Collins was rejected for the final time.

The reason?

Can you guess?

They would not be able to sell enough to meet their benchmarks!

I kid you not.

So, what does this mean for me? Honestly, it reinforces many of the new opinions regarding publishing that I had formed during my indie journey. The climate is changing, bookstores are going under, and returns are skyrocketing, and publishers are unwilling to take a risk, even on a book that has clearly proven itself.

What does this mean for you other writers? Well, you’ll have to decide for yourselves.

I tell you all this in the spirit of openness and honesty with which I started this blog. I failed to get a publishing contract.

I announce that loud and proud: I failed.

But you know what? I also succeeded in ways I never imagined possible. I saw my dream come true. I even got a few fan letters. It’s been incredible, and I thank you all for your support.

So congratulate me. Today, I announce my intentions not to continue to seek a traditional publisher. Instead, I will continue to write (hopefully) good books. I will have them professionally edited, formatted, and designed. I will sell them at good prices, and I will try to help other aspiring writers make their dreams come true.

Again, I thank you all for making Charlotte Collins the success that it is.

15 thoughts on “About that Publishing Contract

  1. Bravo, Jennifer! I think you’re making the right decision for the right reasons, and it’s just what I’d be doing in your shoes. You’re succeeding on your own. You go, girl!


  2. Christa, thank you very much for posting. I am thankful for everyone who read and enjoyed Charlotte Collins. Hearing such nice things about the book makes my heart swell with gratitude.

    Abigail, thank you for your encouraging words. I appreciate your support of my decision to go it alone. Hey, maybe I can coerce you over to the dark side of self-publishing with me. We have cookies. 🙂

  3. Jennifer, I am completely thrilled for you and proud of you. I am also incredibly inspired by you. I am naive when it comes to all this. When my time comes, I will appreciate any guidance you have to offer. My best wishes for you on your continued journey!!!

  4. Thanks, Kelley. I’m here to make all the mistakes so that you don’t have to. I know that your book will be just as successful, if not more successful, when you are ready to release it.

  5. Oh my god, did you hear that?!? That was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor. What is wrong with these people?

    On a congratulatory note: yay for those kick-ass sales! You rock!

  6. Jessica, you make my happy! I look forward to promoting your book here on the blog too.

  7. Thanks, Meredith. I have hoped to be published for so long that I thought I would be disappointed if this didn’t pan out. But it’s hard to be sad when the book is doing so well and seems to be making people happy.

  8. YAY for you and your success! Sounds like going ‘indie’ is the way to do it!

    Thanks for this series of articles. I hope to one day be on this road of discovery. I have submitted my first short story to the Jane Austen Made Me Do It. I hope to make at least the top ten…. I look forward to more news on this topic, and cannot wait for Caroline’s story, as I have LOVED Charlotte’s!

  9. Couldn’t agree with you more about self-publishing. My agent tried for over a year to get me a traditional publisher. Funny thing was, no two publishers rejected for the same reason. I decided to go it alone. Or so I thought. There are so many wonderful writers out there who are publishing on their own, and they love helping each other. I feel like I’ve joined a community.
    I sometimes worry about taking this route, (I certainly haven’t reached the 10,000 mark!) but I recently saw a wonderful interview with Bob Mayer. He has gone self-pub, too. One of the points he drove home was that even if you get a traditional publisher, you’re going to do all the marketing yourself. And then they’re going to take a big chunk of your profit–for doing nothing.

    1. Congratulations on your decision to self-publish! I hope you will soon reach 10,000 sales. Mr. Mayer is right. I have several traditionally published friends who see very little real help from their publishers once the book is on the shelves and end up doing all their own marketing . The only advantage trad pubs have these days is the in-house editing and cover generation, but, of course, we can just hire independent contractors.

  10. Jen, I loved your story about self-publishing. Very encouraging to a fledgling like myself. I have been working/re-working my own book. You know, another road to Pemberly… I plan to at least put it up on Amazon e-books in the late spring. Since I’m a music teacher, you can guess the connection. I’ve recently recorded the songs mentioned in the story and can’t wait to post them on youtube. I thought it would be kind of neat to have the links in the e-book, if that’s possible. My sister, Melody, has been the inspiration for the story. Mel died suddenly in the fall of 09. She was a real sweetheart and a person who would go out of her way to help someone in need. Any profits will go to her scholarship fund. Charlotte Collins is definitely a favorite. Oh…just downloaded your southern thriller. Can’t wait to read it as well! Congrats to your success! ~Jen Red~

  11. I love this! You’ve gone out there and made your dream become reality. I’m really delighted for you. There’s a real sense of empowerment from your words, congrats!! R.

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