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When Zero Is Greater Than One

Flickr Creative Commons: Amtec Photos

During the early days—correction, decade—of my writing career, before I had either an agent or a publishing deal, I often felt a kind of desperation. When would it finally be my turn? When would I see my work in print?

Would my day ever come?

I wrote, I researched agents and publishers, I pitched and queried, and—like everyone—I received rejections. Rejections upon rejections, until I almost dreaded opening my email for fear of finding another missive that began, “Although I enjoyed your work, I’m afraid I just didn’t love it quite enough to take a chance in this difficult market . . .”

At times I felt tempted to stop researching “fits” and simply adopt a shotgun approach in the hopes of finding any agent or publisher willing to take a chance on my stories.

Fortunately, twenty years of experience as a publishing lawyer stayed my hand. Because, despite the temptation, I knew that having no agent and no publishing deal is better than having a deal I would later regret.

The same is true for you.

Before signing a contract with an agent or publishing house, you must take off the emotional artist hat and evaluate the offer with a non-emotional, business manager’s eye. Consider every aspect of the deal. Does it make business sense? Does it fit your plans and desires for your overall career? For where you are now, and where you hope to go?

Beyond that, take the time to consider these important factors: 

Obviously, the list above is not an exhaustive or complete list of the questions authors should ask before signing a publishing-related contract. What factors are important to you? Have you walked away from a deal you’re glad you passed up? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

About Susan Spann [1]

Susan Spann [2] writes the Hiro Hattori Novels (Shinobi Mysteries) featuring ninja detective Hiro Hattori and his Portuguese Jesuit sidekick, Father Mateo, who solve mysteries set in medieval Japan. Her first novel, Claws of the Cat [3]: A Shinobi Mystery (Minotaur, 2013) was a Library Journal mystery debut of the month and a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel. Her fourth Hiro Hattori novel, The Ninja’s Daughter [4], releases August 2, 2016 from Seventh Street Books. Susan is the 2015 Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year, and also a transactional attorney whose practice focuses on business and publishing law. She founded and curates the Twitter hashtag #PubLaw (for Writers), where she answers questions and provides information about publishing business and legal issues. When not writing or representing clients, Susan enjoys traditional archery, reading fiction and nonfiction, and raising seahorses and rare corals in her marine aquarium. She lives outside Sacramento, California, but you can find her online at http://www.SusanSpann.com [2], on Twitter (@SusanSpann [5]), or on Facebook/SusanSpannBooks [6].