It's been nine months since I knew I was pregnant with a book to deliver to the world. I had just written "The Church Girl - The Guardian", the last series in the saga about the beautiful orphan girl who fell in love with a bad boy. I hadn't yet published the series, but the Spirit of God was helping me to re-work what I was about to publish.
It was then I knew this story had to be in a book. It was too potent to leave on my blog, hoping for people to come across. I began to publish "The Guardian" series from December 3rd 2016, and began work on my first book, The Church Girl.
I had already written most of it... It should have been easy to get the series converted into a book, and into people's hands and devices. Apart from adding a few more chapters and a prologue, all it really needed was a bit more editing, design, formatting and book publishing...and maybe some promotion. So I got started, and in January, I officially launched what I thought was the best media advert about my book - a Facebook group dedicated to the book/series and its readers.
The group grew and many people joined and affirmed that they were eager and ready to buy. I was so encouraged and motivated. But I still had no idea whatsoever about book or ebook publishing. I didn't understand how self-publishing worked, nor did I want to be bothered. I had done the hard work, and I believed in my book, and wrongfully assumed anyone who heard the storyline and what it was about would too.
I searched the Internet looking for publishers, preferably international publishers, because I felt they would be more reliable, experienced, trustworthy, and also get my book out on the global market faster. I had discovered Author Solutions, who went by the public name of Partridge Africa, the year before, when I had contemplated book publishing, but was surprised that I had to pay to be published. They tried to sell me on a package then, and even enrol me in an Author Learning programme, but I wasn't ready, nor did I think I needed that at the time.
However, they were my first go to company when I was ready to publish. They had a fantastic website, with lots of packages to help new and inexperienced, and overwhelmed authors like me, by doing the hard work of publishing and marketing for us! I was thrilled!
Sure, their prices were much, but what did I expect? I wanted the best, and was willing to pay well for that. Plus, I didn't really have much to compare them to. When I searched for publishers online, they had no competitor. I only discovered another publisher in Nigeria, who I found through a site called Brandini, which offers promotional services for businesses, and also claimed to do book publishing and printing as well.
It was weird, I didn't understand it, but I contacted the person, whose number was available to contact on the site. We chatted on Whatsapp, and he spoke as one experienced in the industry. He said he worked for Moonlight Publishing, and explained the difference between self-publishing and traditional publishing, and said that they actually help self-publishing authors publish their books easily (like Author Solutions), and charged only a small fee of N45,000 for publishing the book in ebook format. If you want to print, they offer printing and distribution services, but their main business was in marketing, which was where they hoped to make their money.
They seemed legit too. But they didn't have a website. They were still constructing their website, he said.
After discussion with my dad and husband, I decided to go with Author Solutions. I chose their second level (Topaz) package, with offered a bit more than the first. They also said that with the Topaz package, I get one book free, but only at the first level (Coral) package. It seemed great, since I also intended to print An Emotional Affair, so I accepted their offer.
It was after that that I experienced the first hell, in realising that I had not only surrendered $1600 into their hands, which was the cost of the Topaz package, but I had also entrusted my book to people who only had a desire to use me. I never imagined that people could be so wicked. And the truth was, I saw the signs...
I saw how eager they were to collect my money. But really, who wouldn't have been? Yes, they called and emailed often to check on my decision and status of the money transfer. Isn't that being professional? They had always been professional from the beginning, letting me know my calls with them were being recorded for quality assurance, stating things "off the record", sending me documents to sign etc. All legit...and I wouldn't have expected less.
Yet, there was a part of me that thought, "don't trust them". My husband even asked me to do my due diligence and check them out. I had, as far as I was concerned. Their website was the biggest advertiser for them, and it was awesome. And for some strange reason, nothing bad came up on my search for them until I had handed the money over. Maybe it was only then that I thought to add 'scam' to my search terms, and surely, they came up! But it was too late by then.
They actually breezed through the important part that ensured that they 'legally' could keep my money! This was the part where I submitted my manuscripts to them. After submission of the manuscript, I was no longer entitled to a full refund. And after they carried out their "Content Evaluation", they could retain a fixed fee of $400, no matter the outcome of the evaluation.
They had the right to reject my book, if they believed it didn't comply with their standards, which were not actually stated explicitly on their website or any emails (apart from when they rejected me). I had to search for this criteria and found it only on their Indian site, and one of the things was about not speaking badly about the Indian Government. No problem there, I thought!
Not surprisingly (in hindsight), my book failed their evaluation, which didn't appear to pass the first six chapters (Volume One). They made an issue of the fact that I referenced these words in my book: bra, abuse, brother, sexual, breast, liar, stealing, affair and corruption, amid other random words. It was like they ran a spell check or word check on my book, and it wasn't actually read by a human being to understand context!
They asked me to re-write my book without using any of those words, as they couldn't publish anything that is "morally degrading" or invokes hatred against the Government!!! For real? My book doesn't provoke hatred against any government, and corruption was mentioned just once, and it was not in respect to the Nigerian Government, but the state of my country, where everyone knows corruption is a problem even at the market level! And regarding the sexuality of my book, I told the salesman who called me almost daily that my book dealt with child sexual abuse and infidelity!
How did he expect me to write a book that addresses child sexual abuse without mentioning ANY of those words??? I knew immediately that they had no desire to publish my book and that I had been duped, and after confirming my suspicions with a bit of research online, I requested a refund. Fortunately for me, I had only submitted one manuscript, but they were not too ashamed to ask me to submit the second book, because it COULD be approved! I stuck to my guns and requested a refund, and they said they would get back to me after processing the fees I had incurred!
As you can imagine, they were not as swift about refunding my money. Thankfully, they answered my calls, even though the man who attended to me at first, Henry, suddenly went on holiday. That was his reason for not picking my calls or replying my emails, and why I had to deal with another person, Eric.
They actually billed me separately for the two books, when one was supposed to be FREE, and I hadn't even submitted that book! I had told them I would take advantage of the promotion later. I was lucky that they even returned $1034 to me. It could have been worse. Authors BEWARE!
So, that was a major embarrassment for me... To realise that I had so easily fallen for a scam, and that I still did not know how I was going to get my book published, and who I could trust. I had thought since they were American, international and established, I could trust them, but I could not.
BRANDINI OR MOONLIGHT PUBLISHING?
So, I went back to my humble friend at Brandini/Moonlight Publishing, thinking I would just settle for his help to get the ebook out. N45,000 didn't seem much compared to what I had been prepared to pay. Still, I told him I would only pay half first, and half after getting my ebook. He agreed, and understood that I had trust issues (even though I didn't recount my experience with Author Solutions to him). He said he would like to impress me.
We signed a "non-disclosure" agreement that said that he would use my manuscript only for the sake of editing, design, formatting and publishing, and I retain all rights to it. It looked legit and my husband co-signed it. I thought it was weird that I was asked to pay my deposit to a company named Orange Nova, but I was told that they are all under the same management. This really should have been a glaring sign that the person I was dealing with was a deceiver working under various aliases, like Author Solutions (who are also known as Get Published! LLC "a Delaware limited liability
company") were. However, since the amount was small, I took a chance.
In the agreement, I was promised that within two weeks, I would have my ebook. Well, that didn't happen, and when it didn't I understood. Sometimes things take longer. He wanted to do a good job. It was actually a DOUBLE book. So, I understood it would take longer.
It took more than a month for me to get the sample versions in my hand! I had paid the deposit in February, and settled the balance in April (to the personal account of SANNI-ANIBIRE, TESLIM A) after I had the samples, which still needed work, but were enough to convince me that this guy was serious, and I would soon be holding my book in my hands. Apparently, they still hadn't registered a company bank account for Moonlight Publishing. Perhaps that should have been another clue, but I know many genuine people who do not have official accounts for their businesses, so this was also overlooked.
He produced the ebook towards the end of April, and I published it on Okadabooks.com on the 1st of May. However, the conversion was bad. It looked awful on their platform. He said it was the converter that had the fault. But this was his business, surely, he should have a top-notch ebook converter!
While we were correcting those issues, I decided to see if there was any other way to get the book properly converted, and that's when I discovered Smashwords.com. I finally went to the trouble of reading their ebook formatting guide, and decided to implement their directions on my book, which had been formatted by Moonlight Publishing.
I was surprised to see that they had formatted my ebook like it was a printed book! They had NO IDEA how to format an ebook, and that an ebook does not have: 1. page numbers, 2. page breaks, 3. tabs and needless spacing!!! No wonder the conversion kept failing!
And most importantly, an ebook needs a CONTENTS PAGE, which they had failed to include, and so the converter had no idea how many chapters where in my book, and where they began and ended. I had to strip the book down and format the whole thing myself. I spent one whole week correcting their formatting, because I couldn't use my manuscript because of the many changes in editing and script I had already implemented.
After this tiresome but fulfilling work, I uploaded my ebook on Smashwords, and it was immediately accepted into their Premium Catalogue, with zero issues! I finally had an ebook. Since then, I have published five other ebooks! So, thank God for the lessons 🙂 I also figured out how to publish ebooks directly on Okadabooks.com.
However, this experience should have told me that they didn't know what they were doing trying to publish my book. But I had become friendly with the person, who I had been talking to via Whatsapp. I could see that they COULD print the book (as I'd seen the first sample), and format it accordingly, so I overlooked that, and decided to continue talks with them on printing the books. I didn't want to have gone all that way with them, and then have to start again with someone else.
I thought it would make me look flaky, unserious and probably wicked too, because it would appear that I led them on, took advantage of their support while editing and formatting, and then going with someone else to print. So, I decided to work on printing the book with them, and didn't make an issue out of the fact that they knew nothing of ebook publishing.
We spent the whole of May formatting the book for printing. I read through my book so many times (but I never got tired!). For about two weeks, I kept editing and correcting things I was seeing. The other two weeks, they kept repeating mistakes I had corrected over and over. It was a very tedious process. All that was needed was for them to get the numbering right, and certain graphics in the right places.
Eventually, I decided that I had done my best to perfect the book, and even though they hadn't produced a perfect pdf version (again, the converter was blamed), I agreed to get started with the printing, and paid my deposit of 70% for a 1000 (Book One and Book One - 2000 separate books) copies on the 1st of June 2017. Even though I wasn't comfortable paying to yet another company name, Silverwhite Studios Ltd, who I was told were the ones handling the printing, I did so. It was a decision I felt I had to make in faith, trusting God that my book was in His hands, and He wouldn't let me suffer the hell of fraud I experienced with Author Solutions again.
THE LONG WAIT
When I paid the deposit for printing, I was told that it would take two weeks. I knew it might take longer, so when two weeks had passed, I didn't make much of a fuss. After three weeks, I started getting nervous. After one month, I became angry. I was also a little suspicious, but I was invested, and thinking negatively about them and accusing them wasn't going to help.
The "Project Manager" who I dealt with the whole time, Adetilewa aka Teslim Sanni, kept telling me "by the end of the week!" He started saying this from week two! Six weeks later, I was done hearing that!
The man came up with endless reasons why it wasn't ready. That they were working on the ISBN for the book, and I needed a certificate that they needed to get after submission of the book. That they were at the cutting phase. That they were packaging the books. He even told me my books were in his house, because he couldn't leave them with the printers, where they would be damaged!
Of course, I asked for pictures of the books in the house, after getting angry at the idea that the books I had been waiting so long for were sitting in his house for whatever reason. He first said he wasn't at home, but would send them later. The pictures never came. Days later. And I knew the man was a liar.
I should have known before! I had a chance to discover this in May, before I paid my deposit. He had told me he used his own money to print a copy of my book to deliver to Laterna Ventures, because I said that I wanted to host my Launch with them. This was part of Laterna's process, and he told me that they had told him that they needed two weeks or so to read and review the book before acceptance. He had also said he would run the book by me before giving to them, but he didn't.
However, I didn't suspect him. I didn't suspect that he would be cooking up a story, so that I would believe he was serious. I thought he was just eager, like me, to get my book printed. I should have gone to Laterna Ventures to confirm that they had received my book from Moonlight Publishing BEFORE I made payment. I didn't.
So, when six weeks had passed without my book being released, and without a word from Laterna about my book being approved or denied or anything, I decided to check on it myself. I'd asked him to check on the status, and he'd said he'd sent somebody. Still he never got back to me on their feedback, and when I prodded, he gave me old information about what they said about their review process. Well, you won't be surprised, as I was, to discover that Laterna had no record of my book being submitted to them!
Adetilewa actually blamed it on the person who he had sent to deliver my book to Laterna. He said they went to the wrong branch! And I queried him on how he didn't discover that when I had asked him to check on it severally? No sensible explanation, except for him to get angry at this person, and say he's going to fire her, because she keeps messing up!
The messenger was apparently the same person he had sent to deliver samples of my book case that I was hoping to print with them too, who was clearly incompetent, as she failed to meet or call me, despite several calls from me. However, I have no idea what she does for him or Moonlight Publishing, but when this thing eventually blew over, I called her to confirm their address (since Adetilewa had told me they had moved, which I now suspect was so that I wouldn't visit their office again), she was still there!
So, I had to admit that I was dealing with fraudsters again! WOW!!! It was just too embarrassing.
How can I be on the Lord's mission, and be facing these types of people??? How could I be so easily duped, not once, but twice??? It really made me question whether or not I was doing this whole thing in my own strength. Especially as I was doing some really good marketing for the ebook version, and the sales were woefully disappointing.
What was I missing? What did this all mean? Was God involved in this or not?
Looking back, I realise that I had acted foolishly and hastily, as I was blinded by my passion for my book. I didn't do my due diligence. I didn't get references or even rely on referrals before I decided to trust an obviously new and inexperienced publisher.
I thought since I had been scammed by a big fish, I couldn't use that yardstick to judge a small fish. I thought everyone deserves a chance. But mostly, I thought I would have the same insecurity and uncertainty no matter who I went with. Or maybe I was just being lazy.
It was hard when I eventually had to admit to myself, and then my family that I had been defrauded again, and ask for their help. It was hard admitting it to the world, and hard writing this post. But it needs to be written... For other authors like me, who may fall for such schemes.
I've learnt soooo many lessons from this whole experience, and have shared some of them on my blog previously. I have also learnt new skills in ebook publishing and marketing. I am a whole lot wiser, and stronger for this.
I believe that there were three things that God wanted me to learn and develop through this. Patience. Humility. Submission.
Over the past nine months, I've learnt the hard way that impatience doesn't pay. My pride about how fantastic my book is and how easily it will sell has been smashed. And I'm learning to rely on others, especially my husband...to do this not only with his permission, but with his contribution and support. At the end of the day, he has risen to the occasion, and redeemed my investment for me.
Yesterday, he brought home 500+ copies of Book One of The Church Girl, and I am expecting 500+ copies of Book Two tomorrow. The book is not perfect. There are issues with quality of printing and binding. But the content is all there, and it is beautiful, and I am finally happy and fulfilled. I have delivered my baby, after a LONG and painful pregnancy!
Thank God! Thank you. Your support and belief in me means everything. God bless you!
Originally published on www.patreon.com/ufuomaee
Update: I now have 500+ copies of Book Two. Moonlight Publishing still owes me a refund of N150,000.
You can order your copy of The Church Girl direct from my website at www.ufuomaee.org/get-the-church-girl or get the ebook version from Amazon by visiting my Author page - www.amazon.com/author/ufuomaee.