Just recently I had a publishing contract for my first book, the first in a series of two. I say just recently, because yesterday we (the writers) received word that the publishing company was "restructuring", and it was going to gear toward "creating our own imprint" or help getting a different publisher.

In my contract, I was offered an advance. In a separate message, I was told that due to financial difficulties, the advance couldn't be honored, only given as credit toward the start-up costs of my own imprint.

Being broke, many of the obvious options are out of reach (legal action, etc.). My only desire in this is to get picked up by another publisher; I'm just unclear about what is meant by my publisher's "assistance" in getting another publisher. And I've had a miserable time writing query letters for this series. I've tried, believe me.

So, any thoughts? Ideas?

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Cancel the contract. If they don't pay your advance you should be able to walk away from them. The "restructuring" thing, and using your advance money to start an imprint has bait-and-switch scam indications written all over it.

Now, I'm open to the idea that (not knowing who the publisher is) it may not be as cut and dried as that, but you do not want to be with a publisher who isn't honouring their contract from the very beginning. If they're having financial difficulties, an imprint could be lost at any time if they go under. They'll have difficulty doing print runs, have problems with distribution and they won't be in a position to do any marketing. Your journey to publication will be one disappointment after another.

As for helping you find another publisher, you want to see the fine print on that. My guess is that they mean to act as an agent and would then take a cut of any advance you received.

Unless this is a well-known publisher who has had a solid reputation in the past I wouldn't continue to deal with them. A lot of the established publishers prefer dealing with specific agents and unless this publisher knows people they may not be able to place you with someone else. Furthermore, if you have an agent shopping your work you have to have a query letter and synopsis anyway - there's no way around it. I am aware of small publishers (Ugly Town) who have successfully placed work with other publishers but not often. Unless the publisher has a top-notch sales team they understand buying work, but not selling it.

One other thought: Try to get in touch with an author who has been with this publisher for feedback. Everything we say is speculation to some degree, but they'll steer you in the right direction. Often, authors who are with publishers who may not be fulfilling their contractual obligations or doing well don't speak out publicly because they can get a bad reputation for being difficult, even if they're in the right. I urge anyone considering a lesser-known publisher to try to get in touch with an author who has been with the publisher and ask for an off the record opinion. If you see small publishers where none of the authors are staying past one title, if you can't find their books on bookstore shelves, if they aren't getting most of their books widely reviewed then you need to take those things as warning signs.
Unfortunately, I don't have any great suggestions as I really don't have enough information. However, I can commiserate. Over the years, I've had dealing with two crooked publishers, and I've had two publishers pass away--sad.

Marilyn
are they canceling your contract?
from what you said, it sounds like they are.

publishers cancel contracts all the time, usually for financial reasons.

unfortunately contracts are written for the publishing house not the writer, and i really doubt you would be able to squeeze any advance money out of them even with a lawyer on your side. usually once the advance check is cashed, you can keep it if they cancel your contract, or even if they end up turning down the manuscript once it's completed.

so sorry you're going through this.

the assistance thing is weird. sounds like they're just saying that so everybody doesn't get pissed and so they don't look so bad. yeah, we're kicking you out of the house, but look at how nice we are -- we're helping you find a new place to live. i can't really imagine that they would go to the trouble. maybe make some weak attempt, then forget they ever screwed you or knew you.

i think it's good you're done with them. the only thing more heartbreaking than not selling your book is selling it to the wrong place.
I'm also sorry. It happens more frequently than one thinks. A friend of mine has lost several publishers this way. I don't know what to suggest except starting the process again. I will say, however, that it is getting harder all the time to get reviews, even if you are published by one of the big houses.
Unfortunately, none of this sounds good. And Sandra is right that any advance used to "credit" toward an imprint sounds like a scam. They may ask for more later down the line, using the logic that since they were willing to kick in the advance, you should be willing to do more. Then again, I'm a flag waving cynic.

I would exercise my rights to get out of the contract and send a formal letter (certified mail) requesting to do so. Don't just walk away. Make it formal and per the contract terms, based on the fact that they breached the deal in the first place. You don't want your book rights tied up. Not doing anything will leave the ball in their court and you don't want that if you plan to shop other houses.

I'm so sorry you are going through this. Something similar happened to various authors when Triskelion folded shop this year and the Romance Writers of American advised all its members to execute their right in the contract to terminate the deal and get their books released--and to do so in writing.
Yes. Get the hell away from them NOW. You don't want your own imprint with them -- they sound dreadfully like a vanity/self-publishing company. Unless you are doing a "How To.." book to sell at your live seminars, stay away from self-publishing. Your work, if read-worthy, belongs with a publisher, not a printer.

Burl
Thanks Burl, and to all of you.. I have NO intention of having my book on an imprint. Though it will be difficult to start the search all over again, I'll do it. I've had regular readerships; shouldn't be that bad.

Thanks again.

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