Whenever writers talk about self-publishing, those on the "pro" side of the room usually point to a handful of fantastical success stories: Eragon by Christopher Paolini, The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans, and most recently, The Shack by William Paul Young. But alas, there's not much love left in The Shack.
In 2008, after the book had sold about a billion copies, Hachette Book Group got involved and cut a deal to market and distribute The Shack. At that point, contracts were finally signed. But now, several million dollars in royalties later, there is no joy in Shack-ville. You can read the whole sad tale in this Los Angeles Times article, but suffice to say, there's a whole lot of suing going on.
What had become the shining example of how successful a self-published author could be has now transformed into a cautionary tale. The fairy tale has become something of a Greek tragedy. To me, it's just another example of how important it is to have an agent (or at least a lawyer) represent you. Part of the mess going on right now seems to be because these three men signed a standard contract that they did not fully understand. Now that they've taken a closer look at how the money's split, they don't like it. Getting someone who understood contract language involved up front would have eliminated those issues.
I wish everyone in this situation well. While I wasn't wild over The Shack like many of my friends were, I still recognize that it ministered to a lot of people. And now it gives those of us in the publishing industry (and those hoping to break in) a brand new lesson. Sadly, one it never intended to teach