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August 11, 2015

5 Things I Learned When My Publisher Went Under @kellyleefiction #amwriting #myWANA #failure

There's nothing like the first time you sign a contract with a publisher. There's this heady sense of arrival. Of validation. Of overcoming your insecurity about whether anyone other than your mother or best friend will like your book. It fills your chest to bursting.
But what happens when that publishing experience isn't what you thought? (Hint: it never is) Or worse, when your publisher closes its doors forever? The latter happened to me, and after I stopped crying, drinking, and cursing….I settled down and learned some things. Important things. About the world of publishing, failure, the kinds of people I surround myself with, and most critically - myself.
If this has happened to you too, listen up.

Lesson #1: It's not because your writing sucked.

Image result for insecurityYou didn't cause this to happen. Your book did not singlehandedly sink an entire company. In fact, there are probably several (if not many) award winning, bestselling authors who signed with your publisher. You can bet something was happening with the publisher you didn't know about and couldn't have predicted – like poor leadership, crappy business model, or ineffective execution. But know this: as a rule, publishers don't fail because they signed bad authors. Generally, the writing community knows this (thank goodness), but the people in your life don't and it can be hard dealing with sympathetic eyes tinged with a touch of suspicion.

Lesson #2: A publisher's failure does not diminish your accomplishment

Image result for failureLet me say that one again. You wrote a book (maybe more than one), and it was published. That's a big deal. When I dried my eyes and looked at the 2 books on my shelf that had already been published, I realized how lucky I was. How proud. You wrote books and they were published, sold, and people read them. Whatever may or may not happen next, you achieved something most people will not.

Lesson #3: Rights, and proper documentation, is paramount
Image result for bookWhen you sign a contract, the rights to the work are assigned to the publisher. When a publisher goes out of business, do not assume automatic rights reversion will be a given, even if it's written into your contract. Future publishers want a written document, on your failed publisher's letterhead, that you own the rights to your work. That's not to say publishers won't talk to you if you don't have such a letter, but without it the conversation is more difficult. And when you're trying to sell your work to someone new, you want to remove as many barriers to "yes" as possible.
Lesson #4: Publishers aren't human, but the people who work for them are. 
Image result for be kindNo matter how shabbily you may feel treated, direct your anger to the person who committed the act. Not the administrative assistant, not the promotions director, and definitely not the payroll clerk whose hands are tied. Some wonderful people were roasted on  social media and on blogs of my fellow authors who had absolutely no hand in decisions made by management, and ultimately were more harmed by their company's failure than the authors. A business failing means employees lose their jobs. More than one of these unfortunate people reached out to me and thanked me for being kind, and offered their names as references on the quality of my work to future publishers if I wanted it. THAT, my friends, is class.

Lesson #5: You did it once, you CAN do it again

But it will take work. A lot of it. Unless you wrote your story perfectly the first time, which has happened, like, never… you can improve your work. Take this time to look at your book with a cruelly critical eye. It's not your baby. It's a collection of words that you need to make better. Stronger. Tighter.  When you snuggled into your favorite chair to read your published work on your e-reader for the first time and cringed a little at; a phrase you overused again and again; the 3 pages you used for a scene that could have been done in 1; or God forbid; noticed some typos…. This is your chance. Strive for perfection. Make it better than it was before, so it will go farther than it could have without this opportunity.
Because make no mistake – this IS an opportunity. Make the most of it.
With much love,
Kelly is the author of the Four Realms series, and has re-released the first book in the series with a fabulous new publisher, with the next two books in production and scheduled for release soon.
 Exiled to magic-barren Earth Realm, Whit Blackstone has resigned himself to never seeing his family or clan again. But when a mysterious woman appears, wielding as much power as the goddess who banished him, primal desire and his desperation to return home collide.
Immortal… After twenty-nine years of believing herself human, Eve Moore can’t wrap her brain around the word. But even immortals can’t always cheat death, especially if a bloodthirsty God of War threatens your soul. Betrayed and hunted by a relentless assassin, newly immortal Eve Moore has no choice but to trust the heart-stopping stranger she’s been tasked to find and return to Olympus.
As their chemistry ignites, Eve discovers the depth of her emerging powers, and the inescapable connection she and Whit share.  When the time comes, will Eve hand him over and walk away? Or will the long buried secrets of her past doom both their lives, and their very souls?
Buy Murdering Eve at:
Pre-Order Battle Heat in advance of Sept. 4th release date at:

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Kobo / All Romance Books / Bookstrand

Holly Okeanos is alone, held against her will by the immortal that destroyed her people. Desperate for revenge, she vows to fight until her last breath to regain her freedom.
The beast inside Ares must feed. His family knows darkness lies within him and they equally fear and hate him for it, but he’s the first they call when the Olympus throne is threatened. He’s struggled to control the bloodlust since the dawn of time, but only carnage sates the monster within. 
 With an escalating rebellion and a resurrected Scarab to defeat, Ares doesn’t have time to deal with his infuriatingly beautiful captive, whose mere presence strangely calms the beast and settles his mind. She detests the very air he breathes, but he finds himself assailed by feelings that haven’t surfaced in over a millennia. Could Holly be the woman to finally quiet the beast inside him?
 How to find Kelly:


Elizabeth Essex said...


What a wonderful reminder to keep you sense of humor, dust yourself off, and live to write another day.

Thanks for sharing your story.

Cheers, EE

Liese said...

The same thing happened to me in February--my publisher folded as well. While I wasn't thinking all too clearly (mostly I was in shock), they were. I did get my reversion letter immediately (bless them!). My agent is now shopping it around some and that was the first thing she asked for!


Kelly L Lee said...

Thanks Elizabeth. A sense of humor is necessary no matter what, but in the publishing business, it's critical. :)

vicki batman said...

Wow, Kelly, that is a powerful blog and am so proud of you. I had a feeling the publisher would fold and my priority was getting my rights back--which they did in a timely and good basis, for that I am grateful. Hmm, maybe I should bring the sexy back. lol

Kelly L Lee said...

So sorry it happened to you Liese, but honestly, you have to view it as a blessing in disguise. In retrospect, my experience certainly was.

Kelly L Lee said...

Vicki - thank you! It's important for us to share our stories, because somewhere out there is an author who thinks she (or he) is alone in their misery - and they absolutely are not. *singing kumbaya*

Melissa Keir said...

Well said Kelly. I've been there, done that and have two t-shirts! I think the best part is to pick yourself back up and put the work out there again. After all, it was good enough one time, second time's the charm!

Kathy Ivan said...

Sometimes we forget we're not the only ones being affected when a publisher closes its doors. Many other authors as well as ancillary staff are part of the bigger picture and we sometimes forget that in all the drama and post-traumatic stress.

I'm so happy you were able to find a new home for your books, and hopefully for many more to come in the future.

Keeping a sense of humor is critical in this business. Otherwise, the stress can eat you alive. You've got the right attitude.

Patricia said...

Yep - mine went under too! Seems like there's a lot of us around. I received my rights back immediately as well. It's funny. I didn't take it personally but I was bummed out for them because they really did try to make it. However, we all know how hard it is to publish books and make money. Lucky for me, my present publisher said she'd gladly re-publish my book for me, so I'm okay with it. And, you're right. It was my chance to re-read the book and make sure that all was perfect before it went out again. Nice post.

Kelly L Lee said...

Couldn't agree more, Melissa. The path to publishing success never runs smooth, and if it does, come on over here so I can slap you. :)

Thanks Kathy - I'm happy in my new publishing home.

Kelly L Lee said...

Patricia, your constitution is stronger than mine. I took it very personally, even though I shouldn't have. Lessons learned - bigtime. You're absolutely right, making money in this business is hard, and that's just a damn shame in my opinion because I can't think of anything that takes more time to do, and do WELL, than write a book. Sad state of affairs that books, and art in general, has such a low perceived price tag. Onward and upward!

Red L. Jameson said...

It happened to me too! It was my very first step into publishing land, and--wham!--my publisher folds. My former publisher gave me my rights back immediately and was awesome, even apologetic. Hey, who said the publishers had the easy job? :) And I have to say my former publisher gave me a lot of confidence. Honestly, now that i'm looking back, I'm very grateful for the experience, but it was a doozy!

Michelle Miles said...

Great post, Kelly! While this hasn't happened to me, I have had some terrible luck with my publishers. I'm in the process of trying to get my rights back and it's a huge pain but will be well worth it in the long run. I'm glad to see you keep going :)

Cathy McElhaney said...

I never tried 'traditional' publishing and went straight to self publishing. Not sure how well that is working for me, LOL! Many people have said they liked it (when they got to read it for free), but only 11 people put out the .99 to buy a copy. I just went through Create Space and got a print version, but I have only sold 1 of those!
Good luck with your books!

Kelly L Lee said...

Hey Red, if its going to happen to you, I'm sure glad it happened the way it did for you!

Good luck getting your rights back Michelle. It's well worth the effort, and thanks for the kind words.

You know what they say, Cathy...never, never, never give up.

Angela Adams said...

Helpful post with great information. Thanks so much!

Pamela Stone said...

Great post, Kelly. Like Michelle, it hasn't happened to me, but I haven't had great experiences with my traditionally published books. And like Cathy, I've had mixed luck with self-publishing. The first two books did great, but the third only limited sales. Hard business. When I talk to new writers trying to break into the business, all I can tell them is to write for the love of writing. The business is iffy at best. Just my two cents.