Well, it is done. My publishing agreement with Christian Faith Publishing (CFP) has officially ended and all of the digital files that I own have been returned to me. My book is not in distribution currently because without paying them the 100 dollars, they won’t distribute it. What’s next for my book and The World of Ternaro? Do I have any regrets? Was CFP everything I hoped it would be? Ladies and gentlemen, it’s story time.
The Beginning: Writing and Starting with CFP
I’ve talked some on the Facebook page about how “The High Queen” and Ternaro came to be, but to sum it up, it was a dream I had one night about 7 years ago. It was so vivid and so captivating, I knew I had to write it down. It took almost 2 years as I was working on my Master’s degree at the time, but in the winter of 2016 I finally finished. On a whim, I decided to try submitting it to a publishing company. I will admit, I did not do enough research before blindly sending my manuscript to various places. I had no idea what a vanity publisher was nor what the various avenues of publishing were. I had seen commercials on TV for CFP since at the time it was a new company. My book does have some Christian themes, I’m a Christian, I naively thought that label meant something. Therefore, CFP was the company I sent it off to. Now I am well aware that traditional publishing companies do not typically accept unsolicited manuscripts. I also know that they don’t require you to pay anything and they pay you for the rights to your book. I was very protective of my work and when I saw in the commercial I kept the rights, I was super excited about it. I really did think CFP was a traditional publisher that just allowed you to keep your rights. Their website claimed they only accepted the best submissions so I truthfully was not overly optimistic. However, three days later I got the call that they had accepted my submission and were willing to move forward with the publication. The catch: I had to pay a few grand to cover the editing, ISBN registration, etc. since I would be keeping the rights. CFP would keep no part of the royalty until I recouped that cost. It sounded like a great deal to me. They did all of the work, but I got to make all of the choices. My fiancé at the the time (now my husband) was skeptical. There was little to no information on CFP because it was so new and the president had recently left a publishing company that was similar but was in hot water for unethical business practice. CFP claimed he left when he saw the problems at Tate Publishing and started his own. I was convinced. It sounded great! A Christian company that allowed me to retain the power. The only problem was the money. My fiancé was not for it. When my dad offered to pay for my book to be published, I took the offer gratefully. My book was about to become a reality.
Publishing and The First Two Years
The publishing process was truthfully very easy. I worked with their editing team to do any editing. This is something I have no regrets for because my book has gotten good reviews for great editing. A well edited book definitely is not a bad thing. I was not overly impressed with their graphic team’s work for the cover art and still don’t love it, but it sufficed. I handled none of the nitty gritty involved with copyright and such. In May/June 2016, “The High Queen” was a reality. I even gave copies of it out to the ladies in my wedding as a thank you. I saw the press release made when the book was officially launched. I was told it was distributed to bookstores nationwide as well as most online markets. While I never saw it in the nearest Barnes and Noble, it was online as promised. I figured I just didn’t see it. Shortly after it was published, I started a new job and got pregnant with my first child. I had figured everything was being handled by CFP, so I didn’t think much of it. This was a rather dark time in my life as highlighted in a previous blog. I definitely was not in a space to focus on being an author. I did receive a (albeit small) royalty check in 2017 so I figured it was doing ok. I never checked in with any sales sheets because my mental health was down the toilet. Once I started stabilizing, I realized CFP did absolutely no marketing for my book. I looked into it and was told that for an extra fee I could get some marketing materials from CFP, but I would be in charge of distributing it. I also was eligible for a discount with the preferred marketing firm they used. Well, I wasn’t about to pour more money in. I began to get a little skeptical. It was at this time my website and Facebook page were created to help do a little marketing. I do actually have a minor in business so I put what very little extra time I had into setting that up. CFP wasn’t at fault for my poor mental health so it was my fault sales weren’t great, right?
Second Wind: Trying Again
Around this time, the publishing agreement was up for renewal the first time. My husband was not thrilled with how they had turned out, but I wasn’t willing to admit defeat just yet. I decided to give it one more go. After signing the agreement and paying an additional $100 that hadn’t even been recouped from royalties yet, I was determined to really put in the effort to market my book. I started posting much more frequently on the Facebook page. I paid to boost the posts so more people saw them. At the time, Facebook allowed you to schedule posts so I had things set up to
post almost daily. I was pregnant with my second child at the time so I made sure posts would still be going up after she was born. Once she was born, I went on Facebook live to introduce her. I continued to push the book. Money was paid so my book could be officially reviewed by Online Book Club. It received a great rating. When Nina was about 8 months old, COVID hit so I began to put even more time into promoting my book. I started the YouTube channel to make videos there instead so more people could access it without me paying money. I got the idea for Magix Marketplace to help with promoting the book (which will still be continuing). Almost exactly one year ago, I did an interview with the marketing company CFP uses and got a free professional video out of the deal. What better time to promote a book than during a global pandemic!
A few weeks after doing the interview, I learned I was pregnant with my third child. Having a 3 year old, 1 year old, morning sickness, and preparing to teach in person during a pandemic meant I again needed to take a step back. Once I was able to keep food down consistently, I went back to posting more frequently and making some videos. When school started back up I wasn’t able to be available daily anymore, but I still was available. How many more royalty checks had I seen? Zero. Now I knew there were sales due to having friends and family purchasing as well as purchasing some myself for reviews and other marketing things. I finally looked into the sales report from CFP. Something was NOT adding up. They claimed only 15 books TOTAL, including both print and ebook, had been sold. Keep in mind, more than that had been purchased by myself and people I knew. I began to take a good hard look at this “publisher” I had signed up with. It seems others had been having a problem with sales reports not adding up a well. CFP always had some excuse how it was the distributor or Amazon only reported that many or something stupid like that. I began researching this “hybrid” publishing company and learned about the term vanity publisher. Turns out, this is a pretty unethical form of publishing. Sure, you keep your rights and they do all of the initial leg work, but they do Jack squat for marketing so they can pretty much keep the thousands of dollars you sunk into the project while you have to foot the bill for any marketing… but they don’t tell you that. They rope you in with, “keep your rights”, “we distribute it to all sorts of retailers”, etc., etc. CFP uses the term “Christian Faith” to promote themselves as more trustworthy. Y’all, I had fallen hook, line, and sinker for a marketing scheme.
Cutting Ties and Moving Forward
Obviously from the end of February onward, my life has gotten exponentially busier as my third child was born. My second was only 20 months old and my oldest was 3.5. I did begin to look into what other publishing routes were available as I was pretty sure I would not renew the publishing agreement. When I got the letter to renew in May, I tried to call the company. No answer and there was initially no returned message. I tried emailing, dm on Instagram, leaving a review on BBB. Yeah, that didn’t work. This is when I really began researching what I could do. I knew self-publishing was an option. It wouldn’t change much from before, but I would no longer have to pay CFP. Not ideal, but doable. I could find a traditional publisher, but I likely would need to find a literary agent first. A lot more work upfront, but likely would show more results in the long run. When CFP finally returned my call, I gave them one last chance to make things right. Nope. Same old excuses that everyone else had talked about. I officially told them I would not be renewing the agreement and began to wait for my digital property to be returned. I learned my book would be pulled, but I knew I could self publish once I got it or send the manuscript then. Given I have no literary agent at this time, I’m likely going to need to self publish for awhile until I find one. I may also need to pay a marketing firm for a bit to get sales rolling. At least then I’d see the return. My end goal is still to publish with a traditional publisher. Free batch of custom soap to anyone who can get me a literary agent or publisher to take on my unsolicited manuscript. I’m not even kidding. I really would like that to happen. But as of now, it’s like I’m almost at square one.
What can we expect from you now?
It is still summer break, so I plan to really look into the self publishing this week. I received the digital property today, so I can hopefully get that started relatively quickly. Hopefully by mid-July, my book will be available as an ebook again. I’ll have to look into the marketing side of things. Truthfully, I don’t know what I’ll do there. Once I have that set up, I’ll begin the process of finding a literary agent. I’m hopeful I can find one. Again, any and all advice is appreciated. I messed up with the initial launch. All of these things should have been done 5 years ago. If anyone knows my husband, you can say I’m publicly admitting he was right and I was wrong. CFP totally fooled me. But I’m not giving up. I’m going to keep trying. Quitting is not something I typically do and I don’t feel like changing that now.
Would I do things differently? Absolutely! Am I happy with CFP? NO! The editing and initial logistics were awesome, but aside from that it was not worth the 3 grand. Have I seen any more royalties since the first $50? No. Even though they still owe some. Will I fight that? I’m not sure yet. Would I recommend CFP or any other vanity publisher?