I know that for a lot of us, getting a book contract is a dream come true. This is true for first-time authors and just as true for those of us who are multi-published. So the thought of turning DOWN a contract may not have even seemed like an option.
So is there a time you SHOULD turn down a book contract?
Not only is it an option—it can sometimes be the BEST career decision you can make.
Today I want to share some good reasons to walk away from a book deal.
1. When a publisher claims to be a ‘traditional’ publisher, but requires ANY KIND of financial investment. This is a big red flag. Traditional publishing NEVER requires an author to participate financially in the publication of a book. This even includes a stipulation that the author must buy a certain number of books.
I’m not talking about a publisher charging you a discounted price to buy books. All publishers do that. I’m referring to a clause in the contract that stipulates the author must buy, in advance, a certain number of books. Essentially, the publisher is using this money as capital to cover at least part of the invest for publishing. Any time an author contributes financially to the publication of the book, it’s a version of self publishing
SPECIAL NOTE: I am not saying self-publishing is bad. Far from it! But why, if you’re going to invest financially in publishing your book, why would you be willing to give away the majority of the profits and settle for just royalties? Not to mention giving away the copyright to your material.
2. When the covers produced by the publisher are poor quality. A book cover doesn’t have to be stellar to increase sales, but it DOES have to be good. And beyond that, it should NOT look like a self-published book. Again, do your homework.
3. When the list price of your book is significantly higher than comparable titles. A publisher can set the price of your book at any price. BUT the price can affect your sales. This is especially true with ebooks and with buying books online. Some publishers will inflate the price of a book for a lot of different reasons—ranging from ignorance to trying to make more profit. Do your homework and investigate the list prices for books offered by a potential publisher.
4. When you haven’t even tried the bigger publishers. A BIG publisher is one who can get your books in bookstores, like Barnes and Noble, LifeWay, and others. Lots of independent publishers have good distribution channels, but the bookstores still have to ‘discover’ your book. These smaller publishers doesn’t have the sales and marketing force to get your book shipped to all the stores out there. Some of the big name publishers even have trouble with that.
5. When the contract takes you in a different direction than where you want to go. Okay, I have to admit I'm personally struggling with this one. I want, more than anything, to write fiction. But I'm also drawn to certain non-fiction subjects—specifically those relating to military families. With the fact that I have several non-fiction books, I've had other opportunities to write non-fiction books that aren't related to my passion. It's hard for me to turn these down. But the truth is, I have a finite amount of time. I need to focus on the direction God has for my writing, not just chase book contracts.
This is where a good agent comes in. My agent, Jessica Kirkland, with the Blythe Daniel Agency has been a godsend. She helps me take a step back and evaluate the path before me.
I know that getting a book contract, especially that FIRST contract, seems like the most important step in an author's career. But truthfully, if the contract isn't a good one or even the right one for you, it may be the worst step you could take.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Would you ever turn down a contract? If so, when?
Don't forget to join the conversation!