It's no secret that the small press I'm signed with is having problems. Despite rearranging its entire production schedule (and pushing my crime novel back seven months), it continues to miss publication dates.

Books are still being published, but not when they are supposed to and not with distribution in place. I don't mean "I can't find my book at Barnes & Noble." I mean "The book isn't listed on Ingrams like it's supposed to be, so physical and online retailers can't fulfill orders for the book."

I keep telling myself that by the time the press gets to my book (I'm last on the list to be published), things will work out. But the more I learn about the distribution problems, the more nervous I become.
Do I really want to wait until July 2011 for something that might not happen?

My options are:

1) Keep with the publisher and hope things work out by mid-2011.
2) Jump ship and shop for a different publisher.
3) Self-publish the damn the thing and get it over with now. It's not like I'm going to miss out on marketing from the publisher.

None of these options sound particularly appealing to me. So I ask you, denizens of CrimeSpace. What should I do?

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Staying with the publisher will be the least work for you. Doing nothing usually is. But you may continue to feel miserable about the connection, and if the publisher folds, you'll still have to move on to 2 or 3.

Searching for a new publisher is something you could start doing now. Unless there are contractual obligations, the new publisher will then take over.

If you go it alone, you have the job of formatting and cover design, plus probably some publicity work ahead.

It all depends on what you want to do with your spare time, I think.
The thing is, I could go it alone and be fine with pre-press formatting and publicity. That's my day job anyway. It's tempting, but I don't know if it's worth it.

What's really holding me back is this notion stuck in my head that having a publishing house attached to a book holds more street cred than going it alone.
I feel your pain, Benjamin. I.J. gave you good advise. Your choices will depend upon your contractual arrangements with the current publisher. Also, giving what is happening in the market over the last couple of years, you may want to follow Joe Konrath's blog (if you don't already) about the eBook movement and self-publishing. Just another option if authors are willing to change their mindset about reaching their readership. Good luck.
I wish I had something to contribute, but I have nothign to add. I'm chiming in here to wish you luck, and to tell you I feel for you. This is one of those rock and a hard place situations.
Benjamin: I don't know what publisher you're with, but the best use of your time is to Work on that next book, make it even better than your debut and get it in the hands of a larger publisher. When your debut comes out, promo the hell out of it. Being published is always a better platform to build upon than being self-published. Joe Konrath can work the self-publishing machine now because he built a following from his published books first.
Grant has a good point, Benjamin. Very good luck!
If you're on the schedule, you must have signed a contract. Unless there's mutual agreement between you and the publisher not to go forward (or failing that, legal action), you're pretty much stuck with the deal you signed. If you can get them to agree to return the rights to you, I'd think about going back to the drawing board and shopping the book elsewhere. No distribution=no sales, and there's no reason I can think of to settle for that--partly because it's a waste of your current book, and partly because it establishes a very negative track record that could follow you as you try to shop the next book. Not your fault, but then it never is, right? You're right to be unhappy--and my guess is it's going to get worse. Next they'll want you to buy x-number of your own books, and pay them to "promote" and "distribute" the book for you.
Hi Ben,

Forgive me if you've already done this, but have you voiced your concerns to the pub first? I would definitely talk to them about it and tell them that you are seriously considering terminating the deal. So if you haven't, talk to them first and then see what's really going on. This doesn't sound good at all because usually when pubs start pushing stuff back and not releasing books on time, I'd worry about how long they are gonna be around. Seriously.

You gotta protect yourself and your work before anything else. You need to find out how they are doing and if they are about to go belly up so you can make arrangements. You also need to see why the heck they are having these issues.

Don't make any decisions until you've talked to them and voiced concerns. Sure pubs sometimes have to delay books but the issues you are saying seem to have been going on a while. Also, I don't see why they'd have to push the book back THAT long. Usually when a pub pushes you back it's a month or maybe two or three but seven? I don't know.

If I were you I'd be thinking they might be getting ready to go down the toilet. You don't want your work tied up with them when they do. So talk to them and tell them all your concerns. If you don't like what they say, pull out (if possible).

About your options:

You don't have to self-publish (unless you want to). I am sure if a publisher felt your work was good enough to give you a contract, another will. Don't doubt yourself and don't sell yourself short. You deserve to be with a publisher that respects you and values your work. Don't think you gotta sit with a publisher if you're not happy and have them treat you like crap. Nope. You hold the cards. Just talk to them and go from there.

I'm sure there are many pubs who'd want your book if you and this pub part ways. Sorry you're going through this sucky situation.

So I too agree with I.J.

Best Wishes!

http://www.stacy-deanne.net
Thanks for your input, everyone, I appreciate it. I do have the option of leaving the contract I'm in, so it leaves a lot of things wide open.

I've got some hard thinking to do about all this.
You need an agent. Try Fiction Addiction, or the Jeff Harmon guide. Keep writing and work on getting an agent. Isolate a half dozen agents who will take three chapters or the first fifty pages or whatever. The heck with those who just want a query letter. The only thing that will sell you is your writing itself. I had 22 agents turn me down before one showed any interest. And he is one of the best in the business. You have to have a little talent, but you have to have a LOT of persistence.
I would suggest getting out your contract and reading it. Find out what ways are available for terminating your contract if you choose to. Usually if your publisher doesn't fulfill certain requirements, like publishing your book within a certain length of time after contracting it, you can legally get out of the contract. But you have to check what your contract says to know.

I don't know who you're with, but it sounds like your publisher is in trouble. In the current economic climate, it's probably not going to get better. If your publisher goes down the tubes, you're going to have trouble when they declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy courts view book contracts as publisher assets, and they will keep them tied up in settling the company's debt. The company has to have let you out of your contract over six months prior to declaring bankruptcy before the courts will let you alone, according to the experiences of a number of authors with e-presses that went under.

If it was good enough for one publisher to pick it up, shopping it around is a viable alternative, but of course you have to get out of the contract first.

On edit: Checked to see who you were with. Checked them out on Absolute Write. I have one word for you. Run.
Yep.

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