The Worst Case Worst Case Scenario for Authors

Happy Friday Kindle-ites!!! I hope you week has treated you well.  Today’s guest, (a very interesting one I might add) is brought to you by the lovely Kat Lively. Yes…the same Kat that honored us with a great review about a week ago.  Missed it? Well, here you go.  For those of you that don’t have the time right now here is what I know about Kathryn.

Kat boasts a pretty hefty string of writing/editing credentials (ForWord Magazin, AOL DigitalCities, Envoy Magazine…etc) and has written a whopping 13 novels (including Dead Barchetta, Pithed and Little Flowers) More importantly however, is that she is an EPIC Award winner! (I’ll pause for a round of applause.)  If you would like to get to know Kat better you can visit her on her main site or stalk her on Twitter at @MsKathrynLively. Happy Reading! 

The Worst Case Scenario for Authors: Torn Between Two Lovers


20110624-011537.jpgI’d like to thank Kindle Obsessed for this opportunity to guest blog again. I thought today I would discuss a situation some authors may experience during the submissions process. This is sort of a continuation of a series of blogs from my home blog, and you can read the first such post here. Having worked as a publisher and editor for a small eBook house, I’ve learned quite a bit about the industry and am happy to share.

Scenario: You have simultaneously submitted your manuscript to several publishers – your absolute first choice dream publisher and other similar houses. One of the smaller publishers comes to you with a contract offer which, since it’s been forever since the book went out, you accept. Shortly afterward, the Number One Dream Publisher comes back and is interested in the book…which is now contracted elsewhere.


I can’t say I was ever placed in this situation. However, twice I have had this situation foisted upon me by authors who, after agreeing to work with us, asked for their rights back. No reflection on the house where I worked, of course, it’s just that when the Big NYC Publisher knocks on the door and wants to invest the contents of your piggy bank, you might realize the pennies will multiply more under their watch. In my situation, I released the authors. In this industry, it is better to act professionally and with courtesy – I like to think these gestures are remembered more often than those borne of ill will.

What to Do: Obviously, the thing to do in this situation is to take measures to ensure it never happens. As you research publishers, take care to know if simultaneous submissions are permitted in the first place. When I say “simultaneous,” I refer to the act of sending the same book to more than house. Some publishers are cool with this, given the lead time on turnarounds. Of course, you should note in your submission that another publisher is reading your work – this may work to your advantage if the editor believes he/she should move your book up the slush pile for consideration. Also, disclosure is simply good manners in this business. Think of the time invested in reading your work: if an editor spends day reading a book he/she can’t ultimately contract, you have wasted that person’s time.

Though the cancellation of a contract can happen quietly and amicably, it won’t always occur without some degree of embarassment on the part of either or both parties. And remember what I implied above, too, about long memories. Let’s say you manage to get released from Small House to go to Dream House, then something happens (poor sales, Dream House folds or is bought out and books are canned)…what then? Would you still be able to pitch your book? Even if you don’t approach the house that first contracted you, what happens when you go elsewhere and the editor/publisher discovers your history (people the industry do talk to each other, some listen more than others)? Quite possibly you might be fine, but there’s always the chance you could be viewed as a risk – an editor might worry that he/she will invest so much work in your book only for you to pull it from them.

You may attempt to appeal to the editor in this situation. Given their knowledge of the industry, an editor may understand the opportunity of publishing with a larger house – a nice advantage and first printing, and the greater probability of national distribution in stores. If your editor turns out to be sympathetic toward your writing goals, and assuming not too much work has begun on your book, you may be able to execute a painless release. However, if your contracted publisher decides to uphold the terms of the contract, you are legally bound to comply unless you can find a loophole that allows you freedom. If that takes too long, though, it will jeopardize your other opportunity.

One thing I can say with conviction if you are held to a contract: comply with grace. You may feel tempted to drag your feet on edits or do other things in hopes the house will release you, but playing bad author could gain you a reputation that could harm your career later on. As soon as possible, have your next work ready and, if you have managed to stay on good terms with that Dream House editor, offer a new book.

Also remember, don’t feel as though you must leap on the first contract offered to you. If you find more than one house is interested in your book, you have the advantage. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the publishers regarding royalties, distribution, and other aspects of the author/house relationship. You will work together to earn your success, so find the right match.

About Misty

Your friendly neighborhood narcissist. I'm sarcastic, cynical and a bit cranky. I own a soap box so big that sometimes I have difficulty stepping down off of it, and I'm about 94% certain I have multiple personalities. I don't sleep enough, and I read more than any person should ever consider normal. I have anger management issues, especially when I'm stuck in traffic and I have an unhealthy obsession with my Kindle. I am a vampire lovin', zombie obsessed, book-in-hand, iPod freak. You either love me or hate me. You be the judge.