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Author Horror Story #1: The Case of the Missing Books

What happens when a traditional publisher drops the ball?
Jan | 22 | 2024
  Jan | 22 | 2024
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BY Phil Simon
  Phil Simon

Author Horror Story #1: The Case of the Missing Books

What happens when a traditional publisher drops the ball?
Phil Simon
Jan | 22 | 2024

Author Horror Story #1: The Case of the Missing Books

TL;DR: What happens when a traditional publisher drops the ball?
Phil Simon
Jan | 22 | 2024

Catherine arrived a the venue Sunday night, a full 16 hours before her scheduled keynote talk. She was nervous, but not for the reason you might expect. Over the years, she had given dozens of speeches to audiences exceeding one thousand people. On stage, she was cool as a cucumber.

No, her consternation that night stemmed from a niggling logistical issue: She still didn’t know if the 200 books the conference organizer ordered for this event would arrive in time. To state the obvious, she couldn’t very well sign them after her talk if they weren’t there.

By way of background, over the course of the past decade, Catherine had written four books for a traditional publisher. She and her acquisitions editor, Neil, sometimes didn’t see eye to eye on marketing and pricing issues, but their relationship was cordial.

Getting back to the matter at hand, the uncertainty wasn’t Catherine’s fault. She had diligently contacted her publisher’s sales and marketing folks six months ago—even prior to signing the contract for the gig. Never one for leaving things to chance, Catherine followed up with Neil several times to ensure that the copies would arrive at least a week before her keynote. “Don’t worry,” he said. Everything will be fine.

But it wasn’t.

Someone had dropped the ball. Now, everyone was scrambling.

Monday Morning

Catherine woke up Monday morning and checked her e-mail. She immediately read Neil’s note. Unfortunately, the publisher unilaterally refused to pay for next-day shipping. The books would arrive on Wednesday—the third day of the conference. Catherine was furious: She was leaving Tuesday morning for another client engagement.

As usual, Catherine kicked ass on stage. Ever the consummate professional, she didn’t let the book issue affect her performance. After the talk, though, she called Neil and read him the riot act. The gaffe was unacceptable.

Coda: Moving to a New Publishing Model

For her next book, Catherine worked with a hybrid publisher. She has never looked back and, when conference organizers need bulk orders of her books, her team handles the ordering and logistics. Easy peasy.


I’ve changed the names in this story. 

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