Monday, 22 September 2014

"If writers stopped writing about what happened to them, then there would be a lot of empty pages."

Elaine Liner

So last week I wrote a blog about my experiences with Damnation Books and quite a few people read it. Including, apparently, whoever manages Damnation Books' Twitter account, because they had this response:

It's reassuring to know they take their authors' concerns so seriously.

The same day I posted that blog, I'd sent an email to Kim Gilchrist reminding her she'd said she would "get the ball rolling" on returning my rights for my first novel with them this month. I haven't a reply yet.

What I did get this morning was this email from Damnation Books admin:

My first instinct was to delete it, because generally speaking when you get an email with no signature, no message, and just a link, it's going to do something horrible to your computer if you open it. But then I thought, "no, Naomi. Don't be paranoid. Maybe it's a really useful and informative article that they're circulating to everyone on their mailing list."

So I sensibly waited until I got to work and opened the link on my work computer *ahem* And it's a link to this post, "Ten Things I Wish I Knew Then That I Know Now," by author PJ Parrish.

It's an interesting read! Salient points:

"You have no control over what your publisher will do for your book and they probably won't do much at all."

Haha! Tell me about it, right? 

"You have to handle yourself well in public."

"Your publisher is not your friend."

I think it's safe to say at this point that Damnation Books and I are no longer even vaguely friendly. We would probably ignore each other at cocktail parties. I'm fine with that. I don't submit to publishers because I want to make friends.

"You won't get rich."

I don't remember ever saying I expected to get rich. I do feel it's not unreasonable to expect four titles in a popular genre to sell more than the equivalent of one bus ticket to Cambridge each quarter, but maybe I'm being unrealistic.

Now, I suppose there is still the possibility that Damnation Books admin are sending this post to every one of their authors, but the lack of any kind of message or signature sorta kinda makes me doubt it. So I have to ask myself what the point of sending it to me is? Am I supposed to feel ashamed of something? I submitted my work to Damnation Books in good faith after chatting to some of their already-signed authors, all of whom were happy and excited at the prospect of working with a new publisher dedicated to dark fiction. Was I naive to go with a new, unproven publishing house? Of course. But I'm not ashamed of my naivety, and if Damnation Books thinks I should be, that doesn't say much about their attitude towards writers.

Am I supposed to feel guilty for speaking up about my experiences? Is this blog supposed to teach me not to bite the hand that feeds? Am I supposed to believe that I'll never work in this town again? Should I sit down and shut up in case I get a barrage of emails directing me to helpful blogs about how publishers don't care about writers? I don't know! I welcome your thoughts and interpretations.

I do just want to point out one thing to whoever at Damnation Books sent the link. The last comment on the blog post is by Kathryn Meyer Griffith, also published with Damnation Books/Eternal Press. I hope she won't mind me highlighting her comment, but I recommend that, if you're going to passively-aggressively contact an author with a blog that's supposed to slap their wrist, make sure it doesn't contain a comment slamming your own publishing house.


  1. Ha! They have no idea how ridiculous they're being - LOL, indeed ;-)

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