The comments for my last post were fantastic—thank you! The range of opinions really got me to think deeper about the traditional vs. self publishing issue.
Many people wrote in with circumstances for when self publishing works (and possibly works “better”). Others noted situations where traditional publishing is the only way to go, one being category romances (where the readers do buy based off the publisher or imprint) and the other being literary novels (where it’s harder to find and connect to readers).
Tom Honea wondered in the comments of the last post:
[I] can’t imagine that a writer who has the choice will go the self-publication route…
I understand his point. If we really love writing, why would we take on the designing, promoting, and distributing that would negatively affect our writing time? This was the main reason Amanda Hocking cited for her choice to pursue a contract. But then you have Barry Eisler’s choice…
Can you hear the wheels turning in my head? I love when comments force me to think, so thank you, Tom!
Would You Ever Turn Down a Contract?
Let’s say you were offered a contract with a traditional NY publisher. What would make you choose not to sign that contract?
- Mid-list Author
She’s right, that is huge. This one probably depends on the imprint. Some imprints are almost all mid-list releases, so they’ve learned how to promote and distribute those better than an individual author could do. I’ve already mentioned the Harlequin situation, and I think MacMillan is trying to promote more as well, with genre-specific blogs, etc.
But if you’re looking at a contract with a publisher/imprint that doesn’t promote their mid-list authors at all, would you consider turning them down? What if you knew there was a good chance they’d cancel your contract early (which happens with mid-list authors who don’t meet sales goals)?
- Series Authors
I mentioned this situation in my reply to Laura. If you had a series planned for a certain number of books, would you look at the contract in a different way to ensure the series wasn’t left in limbo?
Maybe you’d look more carefully at a contract for less than the full number of planned books. Maybe you’d ask around to see how often they canceled contracts. Maybe you’d double check that nothing in the contract would prevent you from continuing the series on your own. Or maybe you’d want rights reverted to you within a certain time period if the contract was canceled to make sure the full series would always be available for new readers to catch up.
You knew this reason had to be listed somewhere. *smile* Would you ever turn down a contract because of the low advance? What about lower-than-industry-standard royalties? Or maybe the contract requires you to pay back part of the advance under some circumstances.
- Contract Clauses
This one is becoming more of an issue with the now-common non-compete clause, as discussed by Rachelle Gardner. Someone who has multiple series and genres might find their hands tied for years while waiting for their debut publication to release and produce sales figures before the publisher decides whether to exercise their right of first refusal.
Or maybe the deadlines for the rest of the books under contract would be impossible for you. Or maybe the rights clauses were out-of-line (like with James Frey’s publishing company). I’m sure there are plenty of nasty contract clauses out there.
- Bad Reputation
A publisher might get a bad reputation because of canceling contracts, paying late, bad editing, bad covers, etc.
- Editorial Difference of Opinion
Victoria Mixon had an article a few days ago about agents who might ask an author to “dumb down” a story, but the same thing could happen with a publisher’s editor. Or maybe an editor wants to change too much of the story’s theme or emotional heart so the essence of the story would be lost. We trust editors to help us make our stories better, and maybe the changes would make it more marketable, but what if you didn’t like the direction the changes were taking your story?
- Too Risky
Usually self publishing is thought of as riskier, but what if you suspected the publisher was the next Dorchester?
Know What Your Goals Are So You’ll Know If the Contract Meets Them
Just as we should know what will make us happy if we ever want be happy, we should know our goals. Someone who had a goal to have a bestseller would evaluate a contract differently than someone who had a goal to see their book in a book store.
If a contract doesn’t meet our goals, we might choose to turn it down even though many others would think us crazy. And that’s okay. We all have different goals.
Some would keep looking for a different NY publisher and hope for a better contract. Some would go the self-publishing route. Some might choose to go with a smaller/independent publisher instead. Some might re-evaluate their goals. Some might sign the contract anyway.
The important thing is that if we know our goals, we’ll understand the choices we make. We shouldn’t sign a contract against our better judgment out of fear. We need to choose what will be best for us, our stories, and our career.
Can you think of other reasons you’d turn down a contract? Do any of the examples above resonate with you? What would make you turn down a contract?Pin It