Holy butts, Batman! One of Montlake’s editors (the Amazon romance imprint) emailed me last week:
I wanted to reach out to you because I read Me, Cinderella? and thought it was fantastic. Do you have a few minutes this week to chat on the phone? I’d love to know more about the rights to your wonderful novel and tell you about our imprint.
Naturally, I was thrilled. A real publisher wanted my work! I chatted with her briefly on the phone and asked her a ton of questions: What kind of cover would they create for me? What promotions would they do? What control would I have over everything? Although I was excited to work with Amazon, I wanted to know that they would treat my book right. She told me my novel was a great read and very clean writing, and that she would love to “partner” with me in relaunching my book through Amazon’s imprint.
However, she couldn’t guarantee anything – from cover image to pricing to marketing. The advance they offered was less than I had made in my first month of sales. As I looked through the Montlake catalogue, I saw a mix of breakout hits and complete flops, with some recent books that just had the worst covers imaginable for romance. And I would have to pull my book from every publisher except Amazon.
It was hard for me to say no. Ever since I was a little girl I’d dreamed about being a ‘published author‘. However, I needed to make the best decision for my book and for my fans. I realized that although the praise from the editor boosted my ego, the praise that really matters comes from my readers. They are the ones who’ll make or break my books, and I want to make sure that I’m always doing the right thing by them. If I mess up, I want it to be something I can fix. I’m a control freak like that.
So sorry, Amazon. It’s not you, it’s me.
edit: I wanted to reply to this comment, since I realized that the cover links might be misinterpreted.
“However, I think your blog does give one fairy serious piece of misinformation.
None of those covers you link to are Montlake covers. All of the covers linked to are former Avalon books which Montlake bought the rights to. No, they didn’t put the money into re-doing the covers. Should they have? Perhaps or maybe the readers of the old Avalon books would look for the old covers. I really don’t know.”
I did realize that those were all books from the same old publisher, though I wasn’t sure Amazon hadn’t already redone all of the covers with a new (crappy) designer. However, when I raised that concern with the editor (and specifically about the books from Avalon), she said she wasn’t able to guarantee anything about the covers. That gave me great pause, although I realize now the covers were from older editions.
My bust, Montlake. But hey, you’re publishing books with crappy covers under your imprint, whether or not you plan to redo them later. Maybe don’t publish something until it’s ready to be published… that’s the first thing they teach you in self-publishing school ;)
Of course, I linked the worst offenders in my post – many of Montlake’s covers look just fine. However, I combed through a lot of the Montlake books, and while there were a lot of good traditional romance covers, there were very few “New Adult” – style looking covers. And my main character Brynn is a curvy girl – and most of the Montlake covers have very thin women on them. As a writer of BBW romance, I’m acutely aware of the limited amount of cover material available to us and I DO NOT want a thin girl on my cover.
There were so many factors going into this decision that I didn’t mention in my original post, and perhaps I would be remiss in not adding them. Pricing was a major major issue – I couldn’t do a ton of promotional stuff I had planned if I couldn’t control pricing, and Amazon gives no say in how they price their work. This deal was Kindle-only, so I wouldn’t be getting the benefits of paperback publishing, which to me is one of the greater advantages of a traditional publishing deal.
I contacted quite a few Montlake authors to ask about their experiences. Many of them said they had a good experience but would not be publishing again with Montlake, and I talked as well to authors who had turned down Montlake deals for similar reasons. I also discussed the offer with a literary agent from a major agency who helped guide me through my decision, and while she would have profited from me making the deal with Montlake, her advice guided me towards a clear “no”.
This was not an easy decision by far, and while it may come back to bite me in the butt, I would rather take the chance on letting my fans promote me instead of Amazon. I think in the long run that’s the right decision for me.