My Last Letter from a NY Publisher

I know, I know, I’m behind on blogging. Things may be quiet around here, but trust me, there’s a flurry of activity going on behind the scenes.

I’m in the middle of a massive revision of FALCON ON THE WIND, my first published novel. I just did a light edit on HIS FORBIDDEN TOUCH, and FOREVER HIS will be up next. My formatter is scanning and proofing like crazy. I have a top artist working on a trio of gorgeous covers. And my new website designer is creating an all-new that I think readers are going to love. So “Team Shelly” is crazy-busy right now.

But in the middle of all this madness, I got some amazing news today that I just had to share right away.

That WAHOOOOOO you heard this afternoon? It came from the direction of Minneapolis. When I went to the mailbox to get my People magazine, there was a skinny little envelope from Random House on top.

As I mentioned in my last post, I already own the rights to all seven of my Avon books. When I decided to launch this new indie adventure, I sent a letter to Random House to try and reclaim my two Dell books. To be honest, I didn’t have high hopes. My Dell books were lead titles, and fellow authors warned me that Random House is taking a tough stance on this issue. Writer Beware just reported that Random is in a bare-knuckled brawl with agents over backlist rights. Plus, they’re planning to launch RomanceAtRandom this summer to promote their romance novels directly to consumers.

All in all, I thought Random House would put up more of a fight than Avon did. Still, it was worth a shot, so I mailed my letter April 7. I figured it would take months to get a reply, if they bothered to reply at all.

But I’m holding in my hands right now a letter from an Executive VP at Random House, who has signed over all rights to my two Dell books. No fuss, no fighting, just a simple little one-paragraph letter saying the rights “are hereby reverted to you.”

I got tears in my eyes when I read those words. TIMELESS and INTO THE SUNSET are all mine. They’re two of my personal favorites, and it would have killed me to lose them.

But this letter makes it official: I now own 100% of my backlist. Every published novel I ever wrote belongs entirely to me. This is rather rare among traditionally published authors, so I’m astonished and overjoyed by my good fortune.

I’m free. Completely free. This will most likely be the last letter I ever receive from a New York publisher — because I’m done with New York. I no longer care what New York wants, what New York thinks, or what New York does. The traditional New York publishing industry broke my heart, kicked me in the teeth, and left me in a ditch.

If any man ever treated me that way, I’d get a restraining order.

But for years, I kept signing contracts and accepting this treatment as “normal.” Because there was no alternative.

Now there’s an alternative. Maybe going indie isn’t for everyone, but it fits me like a custom-knit sweater. Zero deadlines plus total creative control is an intoxicating combination. At this point, I have no idea if I’ll make one dime from this new career. I haven’t even uploaded my first backlist books yet.

All I know right now is that I wake up happy, every single day. I’m eager to get to the keyboard. I’m ready to tackle whatever challenges come my way. Writing hasn’t made me feel this good in years.

I’m not sure why Random House let me go so easily. My guess is that I’m a has-been with a capital “H” in their eyes. They probably thought, “Meh, she’s been out of print for years. Let her have her books back. She’ll never amount to anything.”

I hope to prove them wrong about that.

I certainly wouldn’t be the first.

  • Brava, Shelley! Great feeling, isn’t it? Freedom. Liberté. I reverted all of mine years ago. Kept thinking one of my publishers would want to release my backlist with a new hard cover launch. Dumb me. Never happened so I got pissed off & reverted them with no idea of what I could do with them.

    And we know what happened next.

    Only one I didn’t revert was MODERN WOMEN (NYT bestseller, fab reviews etc etc) published by SMP. I wrote snail mail to the editor who (supposedly) loved me requesting the reversion but she never bothered to reply. So I got a lawyer. He warned me they might print 6 copies to meet the in print clause. They made me wait the full six months but at the end they gave me back my rights!

    MODERN WOMEN is now on Kindle. Refreshed, re edited, professionally formated. Cover’s a million times better too.

    Who knows if we’ll ever make any money but it sure feels good, doesn’t it?

  • Meg

    WOOOOOOOO-HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO is right!! You deserved far more than a kick-in-the-teeth, being such a savvy author! Start raking in the new royalties! Best wishes riding “Into the Sunset” and the rest of your backlist to glory! :-D

  • Way to go, Shelly! I’m another one who has all my rights back and I love it. Those books are my babies and now I can dress ’em up anyway I want and put them out there for others to admire or scorn as they like. I’m not making much money yet, but some. If I did more promo, I’m sure I would, but right now I’m too busy doing edits for others and loving that, too.

  • Wow–how incredibly inspirational. In the words of the immortal Dr. Seuss, oh, the places you’ll go! Congratulations on your little paragraph of freedom.

  • Congrats Shelly! I think Random House is doing a bunch of cleaning out because I recently got my three Dell books back–after years of begging, pleading and asking and then all of a sudden-voila, the letter came. Hurrah.

  • Your post makes me cry. I’m really happy for you.

  • Congratulations, Shelly! Welcome to the brand-new world. The sun is out, the water’s warm and the ocean breeze smells like freedom. :D

  • You made me yell “HooRah!” and I don’t even have a backlist.

  • That is so great. Congratulation and best of luck with your indie releases. Control is bliss!

  • Congratulations! Being an indie author is empowering.

  • Woo-hoo! An uncontested divorce. What could be sweeter? Best of luck on the whole new venture. We’ll all be watching. You’re one of the pioneers.

  • Congratulations! Can’t wait to see them back in print.

  • Your post made me cry, too. Thank you, Shelly, for putting my feelings into words! I have the rights back from RH for the 12 historicals I wrote for them over 20 years (at the end of which I was in that ditch, suffering from PTSD!) This summer I’m getting the first 7 e-pubbed and I can’t remember feeling so excited and empowered as a writer! It’s a brave new world – so happy we’re in it.

  • Hear us roar! I’m still working on half of my backlist. You are an inspiration. Good going, girl!


  • Thanks so much for the good wishes, all! I never would have had the courage to attempt this wild & crazy adventure without the encouragement of my readers and fellow authors. It’s great to know that I may be “indie,” but I’m not alone out here on the e-pub frontier. :)


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