The untold story of publishing

Mar 14, 2019 · 6 min read

5 pitfalls for idealist authors

Many of you were wondering what happened with the OUKAS, these wonderful characters from the climate change awareness book THE OUKA WORLD. LET’S SAVE THE CLIMATE for the 4–8 year old kids (

book cover, ouka
book cover, ouka
Book cover. All images are all rights reserved. © Ouka & Co. Stora-Calté. Illus.: Fisson.

Now here we are: the OUKAS are BACK!

Up on a cloud

ouka clouds
ouka clouds

In 2015, I feel like on a little cloud:

  • My book has been published in only 4 months, a performance! (It usually takes 12 to 24 months). In addition I found a sponsor, so no need to pay any penny from the publisher.
  • It get the forward of 3 celebrities in ecology: Peace Nobel Prize J. Jouzel, future French minister N. Hulot, and the defender of the birds A. Bougrain-Dubourg
  • The book is noticed by the political class, with a public presentation at the CESE (Social Economic and Environmental Council in France)
  • UNESCO exhibits the book’s images at its Paris headquarters
  • The words of the book OUKA OUKA are projected on the Eiffel Tower (yes!!) on the occasion of COP21
  • I make a speech before 300 teachers of Essonne Area, invited by the French Academy
  • I am invited by schools in France, England, Belgium
  • I am offered to finance the publication of my book in other countries: Brazil, Italy.
  • Theatrical adaptation is requested by municipalities, even before it exists
  • I am invited to book festivals in France
  • I get coverage of the press (Libération, Le Parisien) and media (RTBF report — national Belgian TV, France 2 — national French TV, Ushuaia TV etc.)

Very excited, I call my publishing house to capitalize on all these opportunities.

ouka fruit tree
ouka fruit tree

5 lessons from the chaotic publication of my book

Madame Fleur, Editions Bazouka (of course the names have been changed!) had appeared to me the most philanthropic person when I met her “As a publisher, we are here above all for the authors. In addition, we donate some of the money to an association in India. And actually, I have enough money, I am not doing this job for that at all.” So I come back to Madame Fleur: “You have seen all these events, will you help me? “

  • Selling books: “No, I have already done an event with you and I do not have only your book to sell”
  • Financing the trip so that I can sell the books: “No, we cannot afford it”
  • Authorizing the associations to do the translation for the schools in Brazil and the universal exhibition in Milan, Italy: “no, even if you got a sponsor to finance this book, I want to get more money (in any case I will not give anything like this)”
  • Sending to the press, bookseller, library: “No, it’s up to you to do it, we put it in the contract”
  • The book on the FNAC platform and in the hypermarkets: “No, my distributor does everything he can, but it is not big enough and your book is not interesting enough”. Oh really? But why did you publish it? Answer: “By generosity, I made you a favour”. What a favour, Madame Fleur! Real answer: this enlarges the catalogue of the publisher, who does not even have to give a penny, thanks to the sponsor who financed it (and with the bonus of my rights ceded for 75 years, all countries, including adaptations).

Lesson # 1 for authors who want to be published: never take a word for it … and look carefully at the details of the contract. I thought that once the book was published, with all my enthusiasm and dynamism, we were on the road to success: it had the effect of a cold shower! Publishing a book with a publisher does not guarantee at all its promotion.

ouka peasants
ouka peasants

Despite these refusals, I decide to take over the promotion, assuming the financial costs of travel expenses. I always have a great feedback. Enthusiastic adults and big hugs of children. But, hugs feed the soul, not the body. And in any case, it never pays the rent. A total of 308 euros for 340 copies sold in 2015, and 88 euros the following year. In fact, several relatives have tried to get it, including on the publisher’s website, but this not working well and the distributor not being represented in the large FNAC-type platforms, most of them end up to abandon the purchase.

Lesson # 2 for authors who want to be published: Despite the best efforts and the great feedbacks, it is extremely complicated to become a diffuser / distributor for his/her own book. Trying to compensate for the failings of others does not pay when you no longer have the rights. And it is better to inquire before, about the diffuser / distributor of the future publisher.

So I am trying to see if I can get the diffuser / distributor percentage for what I do. Madame Fleur stonewalls. I am then trying to recover my rights: Madame Fleur refuses! The reason: she never wanted to take care of it, but once the rights are transferred, game is over!

ouka surprised
ouka surprised

Lesson # 3 for authors who want to be published: the book is published, but that does not mean the job is over … very far from it.

Compelled and forced, I decide to leave the book dormant. I have regular demands for the book, but I cannot say yes, since I no longer own the rights and have no desire to work for a Madame Fleur who is not following and supporting… The project sleeps for 2 years … until I meet Gloria, the saving angel of the OUKAS, with an unwavering determination. Gloria works in the field of art in intellectual property: they are used to have their work stolen, but they do not let anything pass. Especially Gloria !!

Lesson # 4 for authors who want to be published: without hesitation, consult a lawyer who specialized in publishing, to read the contract (I signed for 75 years for all countries and with adaptation rights, while the publisher had no specific commitment … a completely legal trap for idealist authors). Nevertheless it is never too late: the author may feel lonely, but he/she can be surrounded, both before and after the signing.

This is a huge relief for me. So what to do now? Once again, I contact publishers. I also have a very positive feedback from an agent (in France, the agents in the cinema or singing industry are many, but in book publishing it is very rare. So it is a huge chance to find an agent who is interested in this work). But giving up my rights again: it sends chills up my spine. All that for that …

ouka assembly
ouka assembly

Lesson # 5 for authors who want to be published: In the end, if you want to be free in your work and get a percentage higher than 10%, the only solution is to do it yourself. So to become your own publisher.

Launching the operation SAVE THE OUKAS

After this life-changing experience, I decide to re-publish the book myself!

But an author cannot do everything alone. That’s why YOU are so important.

Here is the operation SAVE THE OUKAS!

ouka goodbye
ouka goodbye

To follow me and participate, here it is: (ENG/FR).


Author and editor of the Ouka World

For any remark or question:

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch

Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore

Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store