Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Importance of Being an Informed Author

I am reposting a guest blog I did recently because I think the information could be valuable.  Please let me know what you think.

Blog Post:  On Being an Informed Author

I haven't been publishing long, but what I have learned about the publishing game recently, well, I could write a book.  I've been scammed, duped, taken advantage of, however you want to say it.  And all because I trusted.  My blind faith is partly to blame for my current woes.  Let me explain.

I had published my first book, Spellbound, with an incredibly professional and truly wonderful house called Astraea Press.  As an illustration of my satisfaction with them, I have published one more, Ghostly, and have another coming in January, Everspell, the sequel to Spellbound.  I am more than happy with them and had no reason to look for another publisher.

Except one:  they don't publish horror.  And I had a new manuscript I wanted out there, The Detention Demon, a middle grade horror story I was, and still am, especially fond of.  So I did my due diligence online and found a new house that took horror submissions.

I was thrilled when Aspen Mountain Press accepted me and offered me a contract.  I was a bit taken aback that it was for seven years.  My works with Astraea Press are all for three years.  But I didn't question it.  And besides, as soon as I was accepted, things whipped into motion.

They had an author site I was registered for, where I could track the progress of my publication.  Several dozen books were already listed there, I could see when I signed up.  I was immediately contacted by staff about my editor and artist assignments and given a release date of October 3, 2011.  It seemed so professional and together, I was impressed.  That ended quickly.

Shortly after I was accepted, current staff walked out due to an inability to work with the publisher, Sandra Hicks.  I would later learn that this was the same personnel responsible for the quick assignments, the release date, and the organized and methodical way I was accepted into the house.  At this point, the house collapsed.  Actually, it imploded.  It wasn't gradual.  The only thing gradual was my dawning realization that I totally picked the wrong horse.

As of this writing, 42 authors including myself, have their books stuck at the non-operating house.  The publisher, Sandra Hicks, refuses to release us, or communicate at all regarding returning the rights to our books.  Mine never even published.  Others were published, rights expired, and she continues to collect money for their sales.  Authors have taken to their OWN websites and begged the public NOT to purchase their books.  it is a catastrophic mess and we authors are the victims in the middle of it all.

I'm writing this blog in hopes that future authors will be forewarned.  Although I truly believe there was no way to foresee this, other situations are not so difficult to see through.  I implore every writer to READ every line of that contract you've just been offered.  If you don't like the terms, even one small thing about it, DON'T SIGN IT.  My contract with Aspen Mtn. Press stipulated we could request our rights back if the company failed to operate by sending a certified letter.  Great, except she refuses to accept them.  Look for any loophole you think favors the publisher and not you, and lobby for it's change.  If they want you, they'll change it.

Or do what I did.  I have submitted my new speculative fiction work to a new house, formed by the incredible staff that left AMP, Musa Publishing.  For everything wrong at AMP, Musa is doing everything right.  Clear, concise contracts, terms that favor the author, and above all, transparent accounting of sales of books.  There is no reason every author shouldn't be demanding these anyway.

The bottom line is, you need to be aware of what you are signing.  Don't be in such a hurry to see your words immortalized that you settle.  Never settle.  Your work, your words, your craft is important enough to you that you have sacrificed for it.  Don't sell yourself short. 

Lastly, if you have been wronged, make sure you tell the world.  You have a voice, you're a writer for crying out loud....put that talent to work.  Avail yourself of every social network out there and expose those with no integrity without reservation.  We authors trapped at AMP are doing that for you now....I hope you never have to do it for me.

Write, publish, and BE INFORMED.

Samantha Combs


  1. I'm sorry you went through that- great advice!!

  2. You send the certified letter and also note under cc on the certified letter that you sent a letter by regular post. You also post this letter in the notification column of her hometown newspaper - the biggest one, or all of them, and also note THAT on the cc portion of the letter. In this letter you quote the terms of the contract and explain that if you do not receive your rights back within 10 days (or whatever the contract says if it specifies), you will consider the rights reverted. And since this work has not been published, is it too late to copyright it?

  3. Samantha~

    I'm sorry you're having to deal with such a mess! At least we do have the internet and places to out those types of people. I wish you well and pray you'll successfully reclaim your book rights. Thank you for sharing, and good luck!



  4. Wow. Thanks for the warning! Sharing this.