Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Misadventures in Publishing Part 1—Red Flags

I wonder if I should be nervous at all?
No, the point is you don't seem to have read the contract. I don't have to clear business decisions with you, Rob, and what constitutes marketable copy is a business decision.”—Maya the Publisher

Caveat: To be fair, Maya the Publisher (that's not her name but that's the name we'll use) isn't an evil publisher—she's just not a good publisher. She's forgetful, often and overly nitpicky, and when called on a mistake, she was quick to anger.  She cited my contract in almost every disagreement we ever had. A publisher/editor works WITH the author, and in some ways works FOR the author. The goal is to deliver the best product to readers, and hopefully make some money. While fights between authors and publishers is the stuff of legends, usually, it's a much more amicable process.

I was shocked the first time Maya confronted me on what was an altogether very small issue. Her response was far and away beyond what I'd encountered with other publishers and editors since signing my first contract.

Way back in November of 2016, an email went out to all WildChild Publishing’s authors, which included me. WildChild was closing their doors, and we would all be homeless.

I panicked.

I think a lot of us panicked.

WildChild had been our home. WildChild had taken a chance with me, opened the door and let me into the world of publishing. To say that there was a lot of uncertainty is to say that the ocean is wet and space is cold. WildChild’s group forum was filled with authors asking all kinds of questions. Our soon-to-be-former publisher talked with other publishers, and there was a short list of those who said they’d take on our orphaned titles.

I reached out to several, including Maya. I submitted to Maya on December 8, 2016, and received a contract offer the same day. This is where the first red flag of many went right up the pole. 

That should not have happened.

There should have been a request for a sample, or Maya should have said that she’d read my book already, or something.  None of that was the case.

My first cover. I have this framed!
I reached out to my writing mentor and editor. She let me know that several other WildChild authors, including herself, had also received contracts. She’d also been offered an editing position. It felt like everything was going to be OK. We'd move, and there might be a short delay in offering our books, but everything would continue as usual.

It seemed too good to be true.

It was.

We all jumped at the offer without looking too closely at the details.

This is where I made a very common, and very obvious, mistake—I didn’t have an attorney vet the contract. I read through it, and to me it seemed a bit haphazard, but overall standard stuff. I was simply thrilled—and very, very, VERY relieved—that I’d have a home again.

I'd republish TEARS OF HEAVEN and HELL BECOMES HER and release COMPANY OF THE DAMNED.  I figured they'd all come out in 2017.

By the time I learned my mistake, it was already too late. But we’ll get to that later.

There are two main takeaways from this post:

1—A too-quick response is a major red flag. A real publisher will take time to vet your query, and won’t immediately send you a contract. Don’t believe your own hype—even the best authors have been rejected. There are precious few stories of an author being immediately handed a “Rich & Famous” contract.

2—Have an attorney read over your contract. This can't be stressed enough. It’s been said by so many authors on so many blogs and in so many forums that really anyone who doesn’t, deserves what’s coming to them. You don’t deserve it, but once you put your name on that line, everything becomes tricky. Having an attorney look at a contract will cost you, but this is like the money you pay a home inspector to make certain there are no termites in the attic and the foundation isn’t floating on sand, and the pipes aren't all busted.

On January 1, 2017—New Year's Day—in my hope and my joy and my relief, I signed the contract with Maya. I had sealed my doom.  The next eighteen months would be a frustrating, sad, aggravating learning experience.

In my next blog—Misadventures in Publishing Part 2 of this story—we’ll talk about how Maya wanted to change Del’s name. In Misadventures in Publishing Part 3, I'll discuss the importance of cover art and my final takeaway lessons.

Have you ever made a purchase that you instantly, or slowly, regretted?  Tell me about it in the comments below!

1 comment:

  1. Shesh! Looking forward to reading the rest! These are a good set of books!