Writers put their heart and soul into their projects and the debut novel is always the most treasured, irrespective of whether it does well or not.
The sense of joy and accomplishment one feels on seeing their own name in print is indescribable. It is like leaving a forever mark of your presence in this world. Your words resonate with others, and the feeling of having achieved something grows. For authors, writers and poets, there is nothing more fulfilling than realizing that they have been able to make a difference through their words.
But what happens when this experience, that should be cherished turns into a nightmare and the author begins to feel trapped and helpless?
Covid has changed the way the world works. And working virtually has become the new normal. A writer no longer gets the chance to go to the publisher. Everything is discussed either over the phone or via email and text. And this lack of physical contact leads to numerous problems.
Not all authors have the wherewithal to spends lakhs on getting their first book published and look for more reasonable packages. And this is when the publishing predators sweep in. They have a fancy social media presence and very well made ‘professional portfolios’ to reel first time authors into their web of lies and deceit.
Now imagine this – A first time author, with very little know how of the workings of the publishing world, does a lot of research before selecting a publisher. They reach out to family and friends and after a lot of consideration put their trust in one publisher. A publisher who is a sweet talker and an acute businessman, picks up on the author’s naivety and spins a mighty tempting yarn about how they are the only ones who can ensure that the book in question gets the right kind of exposure and attention.
The author is reeled in with a lot of fanfare. A variety of services are offered, and the stage has been set. In the initial phase, the publisher is in constant contact with the author, assuring them and assuaging their fears. And once, the author finally gives in and submits the manuscript – all goes dark.
There are no calls, just Whatsapp chats. The so-called publishing agreement turns out to be bogus. It really does not give the author any power to take any legal actions. And honestly, for someone who was looking for a reasonable package – legal fee is not an option.
After thousands of messages – the author finally manages to get the book published only to realize that it has been listed under the wrong category on Amazon. Another set-back, which leads to another flood of messages to the publisher. Why doesn’t the author just call and get it sorted, you ask? Well, because the calls are unanswered.
Family gets involved; friends get involved – but what can they do? The manuscript is being held hostage by the ‘Publishing Giant’. Social media posts are created, but not uploaded for the fear of what it would mean for the debut novel. A dream has now been turned into a living nightmare just because people no longer have the sense of professionalism as before.
After countless attempts, the author continues to face one issue after another. And to top it all, the publisher has the audacity to ask the author to pay for services that have not been provided yet. When asked for proof of sales, proof of distribution – very conveniently there is a short circuit at the printing press and all work gets delayed.
But the question arises – How does a fire at the printing press happen at the exact same time as the author’s demands and how does that affect the sales report? It would disrupt the future distribution, but how does it affect the sales of the past month?
One lie after the other is quoted by the ‘team’ which makes it obvious that they are all just trying to pacify the poor soul whose debut novel they just destroyed. How does one know that these are truly lies? Maybe it is just a coincidence. A mishap is a very real possibility, and it doesn’t come with a warning attached. Suffice it to say that when people in the same team, give different ‘excuses’ for the delay, even a ‘naïve’ author sees the truth.
Imagine the anguish and disappointment being experienced by the writer. They have been trying to market their book by personally messaging all their contacts – but now a bigger question looms. Will the royalty be paid? And will the author ever really have any control over their own work?
For someone who has invested all their time into writing, with dreams of one day becoming a well-known writer – this experience is not just about being fooled, it is about losing their dream.
And while there are more books that will be written and published in the future, none of those will be the first. And like they say – the firsts are always the most special. The first love, the first kiss, the first heartache, the first job – the first everything.
But for this poor soul, the first is a dark cloud just threatening to burst and drown away all hopes of ever writing again.
Or maybe this experience will help write a book titled ‘The Horrors of Publishing’. Whatever the future may hold, currently the writer has just one wish – to find a way out of this nightmare. Cut her loses and run. But she can’t give up on her manuscript.
A few scenarios come to mind – either she can reveal all on social media and hope it doesn’t backfire. She can tell the publishers to stop all production and distribution.
She can look for another publishing house to take up her book and relaunch it. But all these options would mean more expenditure.
Trapped, helpless and distraught – these are the emotions that run through her veins these days as she struggles to find a way out of this. If you have any suggestions that could help, please feel free to reach out to her on Instagram @soulresounds. Any help would be welcome.
~ Neha Sarah