How Being Published by the Big Six Fucked Me Up.
Shaunta Grimes

I respect your journey, but as a fellow writer who too experienced disillusion with trad pub — and became a moderately successful indie, so you never know what life has in store for you! — I think this is the kind of article that should be written… and deleted. :)

I know where you’re coming from. You just got back on your feet, you feel bitter, you’re still angry at Penguin even if you try to smother it into positive, inspirational vibes — especially in the second half of this article. You don’t want to go over everything they did wrong, and how they sunk your series… but you do anyway.

I have been in every place you describe in this article, and I connect with your experience at every level.

But in retrospect, I still think it’s best to just drop the long, cathartic posts, leave the whole experience behind you and keep writing. You say you’ll never team up with a publisher again: what if you feel differently in two years? You clearly slam Penguin in this article, what if your new agent wants to submit with them again at some point?

You have my sympathy, my empathy, and I wish you the best in your indie adventure, but I think you can do great even without the leverage and exposure that kind of embittered post will no doubt bring you. Next time you feel like pouring your heart out and slamming your publisher publicly like this, breathe in, breathe out, and ask yourself what purpose it serves, whether it’s a smart professional move, and whether it will help you heal.

I personally gave up on the vendetta, deleted any content related to my dispute with my publisher, and yet, recently, a reviewer left a positive review on my third book, but mentioned that she had decided to follow through and buy that book to support my indie efforts, in spite of the drama which surrounded the release of my second book. I was utterly ashamed of myself, and I’m happier than ever that I put it all behind me. I’m afraid you’ll eventually come to feel the same way when re-reading this particular piece… which sounds exactly like the one I deleted. :)

Also, and just to be clear, your story, or mine, or that of a million others, doesn’t teach us anything about what should be expected from a publisher, what they can or can’t do: all it teaches us is that:

  • It’s not about the publisher, it’s about having a good and passionate editor who will do anything for the book to get as much exposure as possible.
  • When it comes to commercial fiction, if the first book in a series doesn’t immediately hit big (30/50k digital sales is a minimum), the publication of the second one will invariably be expedited with minimal effort and no marketing, and the publisher will end it here. Aspiring writers: keep that in mind when you sell a series. It doesn’t mean you’ll never be successful, but rather that in the current market, a traditional publisher likely won’t give you time to grow an audience and some numbers over several books if you’re not immediately successful, and that you’ll have to achieve that on your own in the long run.