I've been writing for ten years and been published for six, not all that long a time, yet I have experienced my share of publishing disasters. The worst came this week. An Ashy Affair, a companion piece to Trashy Affair, came out last Friday. Pre-sales were good. While an author doesn't always know how a book will be received, this was my sure thing, a funny, sexy book with a happy ending and a little mystery and pathos thrown in. As usual, I awaited my first review--which said the book was terrible with an awful ending. Huh? It ends with an HEA wedding. I thought the person must be a troll as she gave no details about the story and reported the abuse to Amazon.
Next review, not as bad, good characters, etc. but made no sense, went nowhere, abrupt ending. Now, I am totally perplexed. Finally, a loyal reader contacted me personally to say she didn't understand why I ended the very short book of 122 pages so strangely during a lunch between two sisters. Ah-ha! The book has 342 pages and 29 chapters. Readers and worse, reviewers, were getting less than half of the book. I reported this immediately to my publisher, their fault, a computer glitch, but the damage has been done, I am afraid. Who is going to look at those comments and want to buy the book? Some good reviews are filtering in, but it may take months to repair this damage. Often people buy and store books on their readers and might not get to the defective copy for a long time--and then there will be more bad reviews. Of course they can trade it in for a good one, but will they bother? Worse, Ashy Affair was sent to NetGalley, a review source from which came some of the worse remarks. I did notify those reviewers that their copies had been faulty, but so far none have changed their opinions. Yes, I shed some tears over this. Ashy will never be the book it was intended to be.
I've talked about being orphaned when a publisher shuts down. This happened to me about nine books into my career. The day that small e-press shut down, six of my titles disappeared. The authors hadn't received royalties for half a year, a sure sign of upcoming trouble. In my circumstances, the publisher did everything she could to make things right for her authors. She returned rights immediately, tried to place her writers with other presses by making wonderful recommendations, and saw that we all got part of the remaining assets to make up for lost royalties. Still, though all my titles were picked up fairly rapidly (most of the Sinners series), two book, one newly under contract and one lacking only its cover were in limbo for over a year. First, I had to have all the others re-edited and re-covered by the new press. This is akin to putting out six new books in one year and was exhausting before the two new ones could come out. So, reset my writing career back a year. Believe me, I was lucky. Some orphans never receive the royalties owed and don't get their rights back without a struggle so that they can move on. They are left in the cold and dark searching for a new publisher.
I might have mentioned before to always personally correct your galley copy and send in those changes. This is the last time you see a book before it goes to print. No one will do this for you. It gets published flaws and all if you don't do the work of rereading every word in a book that you might be thoroughly tired of by now after several edits. Usually, I find an average of twenty-seven errors, and my books run long. Some are tiny and probably wouldn't have been noticed by the readers, a comma here or there. Some are huge like half the book having quotation marks turned backwards as happened in Wish for a Sinner, a novel of 103,000 words. I noted every time this happened, and the corrections were done, but how stupid would the book have looked if this hadn't been caught. In both this case and above, these were computer errors, one of the chances you take with e-publishing.
If a cover is wrong, do speak up. Twice, my light-hearted books received creepy covers. Once the title was misspelled. Another time, my blond, Nordic clean-shaven hero appeared swarthy with a black goatee. You aren't supposed to fuss about your covers. No, they can't get a model who looks exactly like your hero or heroine, but they can conjure up the right mood and get the spelling correct. One author I met admitted she had a cover with woman who had three arms. It's still out there, but she had made a conversation piece of it.
I have experienced all these horrors, but not, thank heaven, having my pen name taken away permanently by a publisher and having to start all over with a new identity and no name recognition. Nor have I had to sue for long overdue back royalties which the publisher continued to receive but never distributed. These things could lie ahead, but I certainly hope not.
If you are an author who has experienced a publishing disaster, please feel free to vent here with your comments. If you are an author who has never had a printing disaster, I envy you.