Many authors spend years (if not decades) seeking a traditional publishing deal. Unfortunately, when the offer comes, it isn’t always a good one—and knowing when to walk away (and having the strength to do it, despite the steepness of the road) is one of the most important business skills an author can develop.
While no one can, or should, tell you when to refuse a contract, let’s look at a few situations when wise authors should consider walking away from a publishing deal:
1. When the publisher is a vanity press, a scam, or taking advantage of authors.
Legitimate traditional publishers never ask the author to pay for anything out-of-pocket (and should pay royalties based on gross receipts or sales, without deducting publishing costs or expenses before calculating the author’s share). If the publisher asks the author to pay expenses or purchase “mandatory copies” of the work, bullies the author during negotiations (it happens!), or does anything else that suggests the publisher or the deal is not legitimate, the author should refuse the deal.
Investigate publishers carefully before submitting your work or signing a deal. If the publisher’s reputation isn’t squeaky-clean, or if anything seems “off,” don’t be afraid to walk away.
2. When the publisher won’t offer industry-standard terms or negotiate a reasonable contract.
Sometimes, even legitimate publishers’ contracts don’t meet industry standards for fairness. Most publishers are willing to negotiate, but if the publisher won’t budge on terms you consider vital, it’s better to walk away than to sign a contract you consider unreasonable or unfair.
I strongly recommend that authors obtain professional assistance with contract negotiations. Hire an agent or publishing lawyer who knows the industry to advise you or negotiate on your behalf. That said, each author has the right to determine the business terms (s)he is willing to accept. You have the power to refuse any deal that doesn’t meet your business standards.
3. When the publisher lacks the experience or capacity to publish and distribute the author’s work appropriately. [Read more…]