I’ve heard a lot of publishing horror stories from talking to other writers, but one stood out to me in particular. This didn’t happen to me, but I think the tale is worth retelling, just to make people aware that even the most reputable houses can offer really crappy contracts.
Once upon a time, there was a young woman. She was a newly-fledged author, without an agent. She approached A Very Big Publishing House with her manuscript. A few weeks later, she received a letter from the Very Big Publishing House with an offer of publication.
In her excitement, she signed the contract without negotiating with the help of an agent. She received a small advance for her novel, and a book deal. These two things are something many authors dream about and very few actually get.
At first, everything seemed okay. The writer had a novel out in the wilds. She was even earning sales. All looked well. The Very Big Publishing House was happy. She thought she was happy.
Then she received her royalty statement, and everything changed. According to her statement, she was making $0.05 per paperback sale.
That was what was written into her contract, and because she didn’t consult with an agent or other traditionally-published authors, she had no idea that this was not a normal royalty rate. An agent would have caught this and fought it tooth and nail, and experienced authors would have noticed the abnormally low (and horrific) royalty rate.
The moral of the story?
Never sign anything without doing your research first.
As a hopeful author, it is really tempting to go with the first contract you receive. Making the right decision about the first contract you sign can make a huge difference on your career. Advances have to either be paid out or repaid. In the case of this young author, in order for her to actually earn any royalties, she would have to sell 40,000 novels if her advance was $2,000, which is pretty close to the average starting advance.
Considering most new authors only sell a few hundred copies at a maximum, she’ll have to worry about other elements of her contract. For example, does her contract require her to repay the advance? Once a contract is signed, it is very, very difficult to have it changed, especially without the assistance of an agent or a contract lawyer.
Contracts, in other words, are serious business and need to be handled in a professional manner.
There are a few things that you should do before you sign a contract, be it with a publisher, an agent, or a print-on-demand service.
First, read the entire contract. Don’t skim it. Actually read every single word of the document. If you don’t understand something, ask someone who is in the know. Research standard royalty rates. Understand your obligations.
Second, don’t sign a contract right away. Sleep on it overnight.
If in doubt, and you have a contract in hand from a publishing house, approach agents on your short list. An agent may have more interest in you as a potential client if you’ve demonstrated that you have a viable novel.
In any case, don’t be afraid to ask advice from other published authors. If they don’t have an answer for you, they may know someone who does.
Good luck with your publishing ventures!
Kalen’s throne is his saddle, his crown is the dirt on his brow, and his right to rule is sealed in the blood that stains his hand. Few know the truth about the one-armed Rift King, and he prefers it that way. When people get too close to him, they either betray him or die. The Rift he rules cares nothing for the weak. More often than not, even the strong fail to survive.
When he’s abducted, his disappearance threatens to destroy his home, his people, and start a hopeless and bloody war. There are many who desire his death, and few who hope for his survival. With peace in the Six Kingdoms quickly crumbling, it falls on him to try to stop the conflict swiftly taking the entire continent by storm.
But something even more terrifying than the machinations of men has returned to the lands: The skreed. They haven’t been seen for a thousand years, and even the true power of the Rift King might not be enough to save his people — and the world — from destruction.
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Genre - Fantasy
Rating – PG - 13
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