Whether you’re an indie author, traditionally published or somewhere in between, there comes a point in every writer’s quest to publish when they have to deal with contracts and negotiations. These contracts could range anywhere from simple paperwork to uploading an e-book, to negotiating international sales territories and optioning rights. For some of us, staring down at a book contract is the realization of years of hard work. For others it’s a huge gulp of reality that their hobby has just become something MUCH bigger.
Currently, I have no signed contracts on my book, but that doesn’t mean I’ve had no dealings with them. I few months ago I was all signed up and ready to self-publish with a reputable Canadian publishing service. I was weeks away from submitting my manuscript when a friend pointed out a few things in my contract. I’m glad I looked in to them further! I found two details, that for me, where deal breakers. Now… I’d like to say, said details were hidden in the fine print of the contact, but no; the font was all the same size. (Ha ha! Writer joke.)
I didn’t cash in my chips straightaway on that contract. I tried to negotiate with them or at best find reasons for their stipulations. I learned a lot about self–publishing that day. Long story short… that publisher wasn’t for me. I cancelled out of that agreement with no hard feelings and a few lessons learned.
So – Next time I stare down at publishing contract… because there will be a next time! I’ve written myself a list of things to think about.
- Leave the emotion out of it. I’m sure almost every writer can sympathize that their manuscript feels like it’s their baby. You wrote that thing through blood, sweat, and bouts of carpel tunnel syndrome. It might be the manuscript only it’s mother could cherish… but it’s yours, and you love it. Yeah… BUT publisher are in the business of selling books and making money. Trust me, they like it. Otherwise you wouldn’t even be talking about a book deals. So, take a deep breath and keep an open – not so emotional mind. Little ‘Manny’ might need a haircut and braces before he hit’s bookstore shelves.
- Be knowledgeable about what each party brings to the table. If you’re an indie author, shopping around for a printer or distributor, you bring everything to the table, including your wallet to pay for the services you can’t do yourself. You are your own publisher, PR, marking, website designer, content writer, etc., etc…
A traditional publisher, in most cases, is looking for a stellar manuscript with a marketable author. Sounds simple, but let’s make things a little more challenging. The landscape of traditional publishing is changing everyday. So add to that list, that traditional publishers are now looking for authors with solid author platforms, ability to self-promote, and a vision as to where they want to see their careers go… with evidence to back it up. All that extra stuff has got to be worth something, right? Unfortunately, I don’t have a crystal ball, but I suspect it could be with honest and well thought out negotiation.
- Know what your goals are with publishing a book. Are you looking to be the next J.K. Rowling? Or do you just want to give it to your family and friends? Are you willing to give it 110% to pump out a sequel? Or is this the only book you’re ever going to write?
I could go on and on about the intricacies of publishing, contracts, and trying to find the right fit. As a lot of writer’s do… I have publishing on the brain. So just remember – Next time you’re staring all doe eyed in to the blinding light of a contract, remember… Stay cool. Be knowledgeable. And know what you want. I’m sure you’ll do just fine.