Guest Post by Ruth Dewey
If you are expecting another cute story, not this time. It is time to move on to another kind of animal, the human predator. I have put this off long enough. I promised Irene that I would blog about this topic, so here goes.
So you got the letter from Dorrance Publishing Company wanting to publish your book. You are excited about the prospect of having your book published. Stop! Throw that sucker in the round file. I didn’t and I have lived to regret it. So what exactly happened, you ask? They wanted to see my manuscript. I rarely let anyone see my manuscripts unless I have known them for some time and implicitly trust them, which negates about 99 per cent of the people I know. Showing it to a complete stranger was going to take some effort on his part. I never contacted Dorrance, had never heard of them and wondered how on earth they had got my name and number so to speak. Apparently, they have a scout who peers into the copyrights registered in the Library of Congress. What are they seeking? Your work? In a way — they use the work as a hook to get your money and lots of it. You, of course, have done nothing wrong in trying to protect yourself form plagiarists and other intellectual thieves. They have by seeking out their next victim.
My next step was to check them out on the Better Business Bureau. They had a B+ rating. Okay, I think, so send me your brochure. Several days later I received it and proceeded to pore over it. I was not impressed. There were the “testimonials” as to how much they owed Dorrance for making their dream come true. Yada, yada, yada. They had published THE CODE BREAKERS, a story about the Navajo signal corps that broke the enemy code during World War II. It had been made into a movie. But, and here is the kicker — most of their authors never gain that much recognition. (page 5 of their brochure). Most of their authors don’t gain any recognition at all is more like it! I thought that was a rather odd thing to put in a brochure if you are trying to drum up business. Oh, what the heck? The brochure said that there was no obligation so I sent a copy of the manuscript to them for an evaluation. In retrospect, I would have done better to go to a therapist for an evaluation. They sent back a letter saying they liked the manuscript. While I don’t recall when the contract came, I do recall the hefty fee. Whoa! They are a subsidy publisher , which means the author pays them to publish the book, thereby alleviating the risk involved to the publisher should the book bomb. Okay, one in their favor. At least they were upfront about that. They were inching toward me. But I set the letter, brochure and contract aside. I wasn’t convinced that this was for me. I had submitted SPRINGBORN to traditional
publishers but it was always rejected. So I moved on to other more
promising projects and put the cat story in a drawer. Maybe cats were not in vogue.
The book was written as a specialized graphics arts project and I never really thought much about publishing it beyond a few Kinko
copies for my own use in a classroom. The kids liked it and said that I ought to have a publisher do it as a kid’s book so I sent it off to a few places and got the rejection slips I always expected. The book had been worked and re-worked for two years. If no one was interested in it by then, no one was going to be. End of story. Or so I thought.
I guess that someone at Dorrance sense my reticence and so one
one day out of the blue I got a call from a woman saleperson who shall remain nameless for now. She grabbed my ear with “I think that you should do it! If you don’t like the contract, I will
come down there and we can hammer out when you do,” she burst into
my bucolic world of goats and horses. THAT was the last thing I
wanted. I told her it was a lot of money to risk and politely discouraged her from coming down here. I did not want her down here. She was too pushy. So much for no obligation. Isn’t that what they always say? She did not shut up and go away as I wished but continued to prattle on about my book, leaving me with the “what if she is right?” feeling. She was good. She believed in the book more than I did. I don’t know why but I signed that contact and sent in 500 dollars to get the ball rolling. I got sucked into the nightmare vortex known as subsidy publishing. I had no rational reason for doing what I did except to shut her up. Okay, lady, but I better have a good book come out of this. What I learned left both me and my book in shambles.
Ruth D. Dewey is a former English teacher turned gentleman farmer’s wife. Her first book is SPRINGBORN, (Dorrance Publishing Co. 2009) a poetic chronicle of a calico kitten’s life employing the Old English kenning. She is also a contributor to ANGELS magazine. Her current work-in-progress concerns her recent experience with Dorrance Publishing Company.