The Down Side of Signing a Book Contract 

I agree with this writer, we spend a lot of time talking about how to get published and not enough time about what to do after you sign a contract with a book publisher.

This author got into hot water thinking she had made it; she signed with one of the big 5 publishers and then another publisher. She got a nice, big advance and was working hard on her craft. What is so bad about that? I’d be excited too. I’d have thought I’d made it too! But she tells us what happened next.

Source: How To Lose A Third Of A Million Dollars Without Really Trying

Are these reasons to avoid traditional publishing. Mostly, I’d say no. But it does help you understand how the traditional book world works, and if you end up signing a contract that is associated with an any kind of an advance, you need to know what to expect and not expect from that publisher or agent going forward.

The decision to pursue self-publishing over traditional publish still is mostly about your goals, your time, and your budget. But it is good to know what you’re getting into when you sign the dotted line!

8 thoughts on “The Down Side of Signing a Book Contract 

  1. You write “She got a nice, big advance and was working hard on her craft. What is so bad about that?” Answer: That she WASN’T just working on her craft, but living in THE most expensive city in the U.S. and blowing money on cocktails that cost more than a meal.

    I mean, the very obvious financial mismanagement is making me wonder… is she for real?

  2. The reality of writing, even when contracted to one of the ‘big five’, is that it’s a gig job. I wrote many books for Penguin Random House (both separately and then after they amalgamated) and it wasn’t continuity; it was a succession of one-offs in which I was only as marketable as the sales of my last book. And sales targets dictated when a title would be pulped.

      • That’s the one. Luckily I was able to get most of my licenses back from Penguin Random House – bit of a relief as I had around 30 contracts with them, which is a lot of IP, so I’ve been able to offer some of my back-list elsewhere for reissue as second editions. I have the page proofs for one of them in my writing office right now – turns them into a kind of a gig-and-a-half really! 🙂

        • Matthew – since I don’t know how this works, do you mind sharing a bit more information? Did you have to pay to get your licenses back? And I’m assuming with the re-issue you gave the books a new ISBN. Doesn’t that confuse bookstores that are looking for the book(s)?

  3. I’m wondering if her (and other authors’) reluctance to ask questions of her agent and publisher might have been due to the god-like status of agents and publishers. Writers metaphorically approach them on their knees, submitting their manuscripts with trembling hands. When the gods finally grant you largesse, there’s a tendency not to start asking them tough, businesslike questions. It’s good to hear this author is working to enlighten others.

    • Audrey, THAT could very well have been part of the issue – don’t make waves or if I piss them off by asking questions, they won’t pick up my next book or… It also sounds like part was that she didn’t think to ask until it was too late. She made assumptions, like we all tend to do. I’m glad she’s sharing too. Gets us talking and sharing information.

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