S.M. McEachern with the Pronoun Team, NYC, July 2015
Macmillan Publishers sent me an email yesterday, November 6, 2017, to let me know that it will be shutting down its self-publishing platform, Pronoun.
The news kind of choked me up, with a heavy emphasis on the kind of, because after my initial shock, when grief and abandonment began to set in, I realized there weren’t many people left at Pronoun for me to hug goodbye.
Sure, there have been a lot of personnel changes since I signed the Sunset Rising trilogy over to Vook in the spring of 2014. In fact, my journey with them started off a little rocky when my sales took a nosedive in the post-KDP Select weeks and didn’t really recover until Vook morphed into Pronoun in early 2015. That’s when they acquired Booklr, and the real business of creating a self-publishing platform that could rival all others began in earnest.
Over the next year and a half, the Pronoun team did some pretty impressive things with Booklr—their proprietary data and analytics program that they used in tandem with updating keywords and category selections to give titles more visibility on the Amazon bestselling lists. My book sales picked up and coasted around 15-24K in Amazon rankings, so my marketing efforts (giveaways, Bookbub features, etc) always sent the books into the top one thousand, if not the top one hundred.
So despite my initial misgivings about signing on with Vook, what Pronoun did for my books and for me went above and beyond. You see, I live the kind of life that sometimes gets romanticized about in literature, but if I were to tell you about it I would paint a picture of a life that is both demanding and emotionally draining. Unfortunately, time and emotion are two key strengths that I need in order to be a storyteller, so there was an extended period during my time with Pronoun when I didn’t write. (As an aside, I know dear readers that you were hoping for the follow up series to Sunset Rising, and I apologize I came out with Shag Lake instead, but I really needed to write about something a little less dark and a lot more fun than a dystopian, and Geri and Sean navigating their way through my twisted sci-fi world was it.)
Anyway, all of the above to say that if it had not been for Allison’s many emails questioning me about what I need as an independent author to be successful in publishing, sharing with me the innovative things they were working on, always keeping my books front and center with readers (which in turn lead to a lot of relationships I currently have with you guys), and Jeffrey’s personal support of the Sunset Rising series that buoyed my confidence, I may very well have stopped writing.
Pronoun truly was my publishing partner, until they were no longer Pronoun.
Macmillan purchased them in May 2016, and despite assurances from the team that Macmillan was excited to get into the indie publishing-space, I had my doubts. I was thinking it was more likely they were attracted to Pronoun’s proprietary data analysis engine to use on their own books. However, I tapped into my inner optimist and tried to convince myself that Macmillan would see the value in hosting a pool of authors they could cherry pick from, as well as getting an insider view of the indie publishing world. But that became increasingly difficult to do when it became known that not everyone from the original team would be moving into the new offices in the Flatiron Building, and even more members left the company after the move. Oh, and my book sales tanked. They began a steep downward spiral sometime in January 2017.
Today, there is only one name I recognize from the old Pronoun days. Communications with the company have become slow and impersonal, which is to be expected since I don’t really know anyone working there anymore. My Sunset Rising trilogy is still stuck in the old Vook dashboard, even though my contract ended last July. And getting control back of them has proven to be a complicated issue that’s not without risk. In fact, I was working with Pronoun on that very issue last week, and they told me they would have my books transitioned to the new platform by March 2018.
Now I know that’s not going to happen. Pronoun is closing its doors by January 15, 2018, bringing an end to my three-year journey with them.
So, yeah, I’m kind of choked up about it. But it’s not really about the loss of my publishing partner because that happened back in 2016. It’s about the loss of a painstakingly constructed publishing platform that empowered independent authors by giving them the tools and knowledge they needed to be successful.
But ever the optimist, I’m holding on to Macmillan’s closing statement, “Macmillan is unable to continue Pronoun’s operation in its current form” and crossing my fingers that we haven’t seen the last of it.