Monday, 6 July 2015

Why I Walked Away From A Publishing Contract

A few weeks ago I received a publishing contract in the mail - a contract enabling paperback and hardback copies of 'The Perfectionist' to be distributed to the likes of WH Smith and Waterstone's across the UK, supported by a traditional pre and post launch promotional push, and with a mention of what I could expect, should the book be exported or considered for a movie adaptation.

I turned it down.

I assure you, the decision wasn't an easy one to make, and I was torn.

Before I explain why, it is important to stress that it is an honour for me to have reached such a level of recognition and to be offered a legitimate publishing contract. I was (and I still am) excited by the opportunity and thrilled to know that ‘The Perfectionist’ was an enjoyable read for the aforementioned publisher who reckoned my work deserved to be published.

However, having read through the contract, I was rather disappointed to find out that the publisher was offering me an author contribution type contract based on the fact that I am a debut author without an agent and a public track record of prior success. The contribution requested by the publisher is a lot of money. And despite having been offered interesting royalty payments, I calculated that it would require a fair amount of book sales to cover my initial expense. I reckoned that a proposed 1,500 paperbacks, 500 hardbacks, + ebooks wasn't ambitious enough for a first print run.

The publisher is an independent organisation based in London. And due to its smaller size, I understand that they face more risks when publishing books than their larger rivals do. However, my concern wasn't so much the financial aspect (though, I did think of eating potatoes for a year to afford it!), it was more to do with the uncertainties related to the type of promotion I would be getting and with the ethics of the publisher's agreement (after all, aren't all debut and untested authors a risk, no matter how big the publisher is?).

Obviously books shipped to stores by indie publishers aren't featured on the shelves as prominently as let's say, the new releases from HarperCollins or Hodder & Stoughton. Nevertheless I was concerned that 'The Perfectionist' might just end up on a bottom shelf somewhere at the back of the shop. I do appreciate the fact that stores rotate their stock regularly, and this is down to the individual store managers. Therefore it is impossible to guarantee which books will be held by which stores at any given time. But having said that, I wasn't entirely convinced by the publisher's arguments with regard to their marketing to keep my book in stores.

So in a nutshell, I wanted to avoid falling into the trap of what increasingly seems to me like vanity publishing. I must think bigger and more long-term. Sure it's a wonderful feeling to know that my second novel is deemed worthy of publishing. But by accepting such an offer, I am afraid that I would be setting the bar too low. I think I was right in rejecting the contract and not being lured by the singing of the sirens.

As I said before, I dream of blatant commercial success. I wished for it for 'Out of Bounds'. I still wish for it for 'The Perfectionist'. But maybe I have to wait some more and wish again for novel number three, or maybe number four, or five, or six? I think I'm capable of greater things and I have set my ambitions high. I must continue the work and persevere. Basically, I must continue to write and send samples of my work to those who could possibly promote me best. I must hold out for a better contract and dream big. That is my take-home message.

These words are slogans. In turn, the slogans become my mantra. And I continue my quest.

Confucius once said, "The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones." Well, it certainly does feel like that sometimes.

I too will get there one day. But here's a brief update for the time being: At the end of the summer, I shall make another crucial decision concerning the outcome of 'The Perfectionist'. And at approximately 85,000 words so far, I am near to the completion of novel number three. Additionally, I have a cultural side-project in the town where I live which is taking shape little by little, and could be in full swing this autumn. I hope to disclose more details soon.

So what do you think about my decision to reject a publishing contract? Good or bad idea? Will I later regret what I've done? Are my reasons valid? What would you have done in my situation? Feel free to share your opinion and drop a comment.