The Sudden Demise of BookTrope has Left Authors to Clean Up the Mess

27316131066_ce9123fa12_bWhen Booktrope launched its publishing service five years ago, this hybrid publisher offered authors the best of both worlds: a five-year contract with no costs for the author, and pro quality work on the book.

But when the publisher suddenly shut down at the end of April, authors were abruptly saddled with all of Book trope's obligations to the pros who had worked on a book.

You see, BookTrope was based on a revenue-sharing model where everyone who worked on a book would get a cut of the net revenue (less 30% to Booktrope). The authors had even signed a contract (PDF) with the rest of the team, so even after the author got their rights back and Booktrope shut down, the authors were still required to pay the rest of the team.

And that's causing a lot of stress for the several hundred authors who had published nearly 1,000 books with Booktrope. Elizabeth Barone detailed her experiences on KBoards:

On April 29th, my small press publisher announced they were closing on May 31st and authors' rights would revert June 1st. The catch: because their model was team publishing with royalty split, the contracts we'd signed mandated that authors need to continue sharing royalties for the duration of the term. Each book's agreement was for five years.

Cue the panic attack. I'm broke. Being with small press publisher actually resulted in a hit to my income. (They didn't distribute to Kobo, and previously, Kobo was paying my bills because of their majestic indie promo list.) Re-publishing would cost me more (I had to update four books' ebook files (fees to Vellum), paperback files (free; DIY), and covers (fees to designers) to remove all instances of the publisher). I knew I couldn't afford to LLC and hire an accountant. There was no way. (Side note: some authors' team members started demanding payouts rather than royalties, which they weren't entitled to. This was another panic attack. Other authors' team members absolved authors from any further payment.)

Someone suggested I use Lulu to self-publish, because they distribute everywhere and also have a nifty feature that allows you to share royalties. But of course, there's a catch.

I'd settled up with my team -- who were all wonderful about the whole thing -- and was ready to go at midnight. I'd gone direct with Kobo (to take advantage of those promos), and logged into my Lulu dashboard just to check everything over and uncheck Kobo from the distribution list. Unchecking Kobo resulted in Amazon automatically being unchecked, too.

What a mess.

A lot of these authors had signed with Booktrope because they didn't want to be self-published authors, and now they're finding themselves stuck with obligations to pay a whole team of people.

Fortunately for the authors, most of the contributors are apparently willing to release the authors from the contract and write the losses off as a learning experience., but the authors are still left with the headache of recording the quitclaims and republishing the book(s).


What's even worse is that this is a problem some former Booktrope participants saw coming a mile away. Ally Bishop and Patricia Eddy published a post on Medium in late April where they explained how the shared royalty model was doomed.

What’s worse?—?it failed phenomenally. “Almost 1,000 books” published, yet they couldn’t make their go-for-the-bottom-of-the-pile book marketing plan work.

Why is that?

Because Booktrope never placed a priority on qualifications when hiring. The people at the top had little-to-no book publishing or editing experience, yet those same people were their acquisitions team.

“‘I really feel like literary snobbery is not what the public needs,’ Sears said…Booktrope’s approach is all about letting readers, rather than editors, provide that filter.” Somehow, expecting and producing a high quality, well-written, and polished book became defined as “snobbery,” and releasing books that often received substandard services was the grassroots approach.

Booktrope had no editing or graphic design test in place for bringing on new talent. They didn’t ask, didn’t check backgrounds, didn’t require their book marketing managers to have any previous marketing experience. When Ally was brought on, she received a cursory interview by a woman who was gone from Booktrope’s population the next week. As editors, our preference for proper grammar was called “archaic” and unnecessary, and our suggestions for authors’ stories were deemed optional. ...

Booktrope was never going to pay off.

What they preached was a “five year plan” of making $20/month on a book and building a portfolio of work. As though one book will always make the same amount every month. As though authors who stop writing or books that aren’t marketed properly will continue to roll over low profits month after month.

What a mess.

image by Aussie~mobs

About Nate Hoffelder (11473 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

1 Comment on The Sudden Demise of BookTrope has Left Authors to Clean Up the Mess

  1. Sadly, one of the nicer experiences you can have with a vanity press.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.