How Out of the Ashes of an Awful Experience I Started My Own Book Publishing Company
Posted on 10/18/2018 Evan Swensen
Forty years ago I had an idea for a book: The Insiders Guide to Alaska Outdoors.
I wrote inquiry letters to 34 publishers and received 34 rejections. I was disappointed, discouraged, and disheartened.
I thought I’d have 34 publishers scrambling to be the first to send me a book-publishing contract. I had no idea how tough it was to get a publisher to publish a book.
I was so discouraged I gave up and forgot my The Insiders Guide to Alaska Outdoors dream.
Nearly a year after the last rejection arrived I received a call from an editor for a small book publisher.
They were looking for someone to write The Hiking Guide to Alaska. I explained to them that I did a great deal of hiking, but my hiking was to go fishing or hunting—not just hiking.
The editor told me they were also considering an Angler’s Guide to Alaska and asked if I was interested.
Not realizing how much work researching and writing a book was I told the editor I would do both the fishing and the hiking guide.
I signed the contract and proceeded with writing the books. My late wife, Margaret, a great researcher, did the research and I did the writing.
At the time, I was publishing Alaska Outdoor magazine and producing an issue every month.
It was then I found out just how much more difficult writing a book is than publishing a magazine.
It took almost a year of hard, concentrated effort to write both books.
I remember the ecstasy I experienced when I received my first copy of Hiking Guide to Alaska and Angler’s Guide to Alaska.
I celebrated my success as a writer. It was wonderful. I was a book author!
But then it happened. After the books were published I discovered I was at the bottom of the publishing food chain and my publisher cared little about me.
I found that in the contract I had signed away all my rights to the book.
I didn’t even own the copyright.
My books were not mine—they belonged to the publisher.
It was discouraging to realize that in my innocence I had relinquished all rights, in all markets—forever.
I even had to get an attorney to get them to honor the terms of their contract. For example, they changed the title name of Angler’s Guide to Alaska to Fishing Alaska and cut my royalty by one-third.
But, then it got worse.
The small publisher sold to a larger publisher and as bad as the small publisher treated me, the new publisher was so bad they made the first publisher look good.
My contract provided for royalty based on what the book sold for. Consequently, if the book sold for the retail price I got paid pretty good and made a respectable amount of money.
That all changed with the new publisher. They sold all my books to their in house distributor for a discouraging discount, which decreased my royalty even more.
I couldn’t even buy my own books at that discount. It was horrible.
But that’s not the end of it. I began receiving, meager information, royalty reports only twice a year, and royalty payment once a year.
If they did that to every author, it amounted to financing their business, in part, with author’s royalties.
Being a published author was no longer fun—every time I saw or heard about my books it was an unpleasant experience.
I didn’t own the copyright, my royalty had been slashed, regular reporting was diminished, and keeping what was left was reduced to attorney enforcement.
But, out of the ashes of my awful experience, I started my own book publishing company.
Today, Publication Consultants, a debt free, financially stable company, publishes books the way authors want to be published. We believe in the power of authors.