(Also posted at One Bite at a Time)

Well, someone finally offered me a book contract, with an advance and everything. There were a few caveats.

Among the documents I received were instructions on what I should do to promote the book, all on my time, at my expense. Okay, small publisher, this is the direction
things have been moving the past few years. It’s not unexpected.

This publisher uses the big distributors, but says up front there won’t be any books in big stores. People can special order from Borders or Barnes and Noble, but
they won’t be stocked. Too much piffle with returns, and Borders is a slow pay.
Again, not unexpected, but disappointing to have it laid out so starkly.

It’s up to me to get the books into independent booksellers, too. By now I’m getting the distinct impression the publisher’s sales staff is me. This, too, is not wholly
unexpected, though the luster of getting a deal is officially fading.

Then I got to the good stuff: the contract itself. The publisher gets, for ten years, the right to publish or assign, without limitation, all hardcover, soft cover, and
electronic version (including “mass market”) editions in all print formats
(large, small, or condensed). They also get all audio, electronic, television,
movie, cinematic, and other versions, as well as general licensing rights to
merchandise and other items based on the work. They’ll split any secondary
rights fees with me 50-50.

I am required to buy one hundred copies of the book, at a discount of 50% from the publisher’s recommended retail price.


10% of list for trade paper.

3% of list for hard cover copies sold at discounts less than 40%.

25% of e-book sales.

25% of any hard covers sold at 40-60% discount, after the publisher’s expenses for producing these copies have been deducted.

Finally, we get to the good part: the advance.

$25.00. They even spelled it out for me, so there would be no confusion: TWENTY-FIVE DOLLARS ($25.00).

I’m not arrogant about my writing skills. (Hard to be when I’ve been trying to get published for ten years.) This is not a guaranteed best seller. It’s not going
to make people cast aside their copies of the new Robert Crais or Lee Child or
Ken Bruen so they can read it when it becomes available. But I’ll be damned if
I’m giving it away unless it was my idea to do so in the first place, just to
see my name in print. I’m a whore, not a bimbo.

It’s tough, reading their guarantee to have the book in print within eighteen months of a signed contract after ten years of trying. For the first time, I truly had an inkling
of how virgin authors must feel when they hold their first copy of their first
book. It’s nice. For a few seconds I looked forward to it. Then I realized this
is no better than vanity publishing, and a lot more expensive than going POD. I’m
not saying I’ll never do that, but I’m not going to delude myself into thinking I really “sold”
a book.

I’m alleging no misconduct on the part of the publisher; they’ve done everything they said they’d do to this point, and have been up front about it. (I’m not going to name
them, so don’t ask.) I just thought some other fledgling author might come
across this and get a better idea of what he or she is up against, maybe have a
benchmark against which they can compare their offer. Or decide I’m an
arrogant, self-centered prick who’s walking away from a chance to get in on the
ground floor. I’m not saying I’m right. Everyone can decide for themselves.

Just don’t be surprised.

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Comment by Dana King on March 5, 2010 at 9:28am
Thanks to all for your comments and support. I received an email from the publisher today, saying she understands completely, and wishes me luck with the book. So no hard feelings, either way, which is how it should be.
Comment by I. J. Parker on March 5, 2010 at 1:18am
Oh, I don't like this either. Why not go directly to Kindle? And I'd be very leery of anyone who demands that I buy books. Normally, you get a certain number of author copies free. Be patient, Dana. It will happen.
Also keep trying for an agent. They vet the contract offers and know what's what.
Comment by Jon Loomis on March 4, 2010 at 1:56pm
So, what's in it for you? Seriously. And you never, ever want to give up TV and film rights.

I think if you've been waiting this long, Dana, it's worth waiting a little longer.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on March 4, 2010 at 1:49pm
Walk away from this deal, my friend. I know how hard it is to do so. But it may be the best move for you. (and I've waited as long, maybe longer, in getting books published).
Comment by John McFetridge on March 4, 2010 at 1:15pm
First of all, congratulations on the offer.

And it's good they spelled everything out, no surprises and all that. The first book I had published, "Below the Line," was with a small Canadian publisher and they gave me a kind of FAQ that included things like: "How come no newspaper has reviewed my book," and "How come no bookstore has my book in stock." It was worst case, though, because one newspaper did review the book and my local bookstore ordered some copies ;)

The big difference I think is that I wasn't required to buy any copies. I did buy 25 copies last year when they were being pulped, though.

But like we tell the kids, if it makes you feel funny - don't do it.
Comment by Dana King on March 4, 2010 at 12:08pm
My thoughts exactly.
Comment by Jack Getze on March 4, 2010 at 12:06pm
I learned the hard way. If you're not IN THE BOOKSTORES, you are not published. You've been printed.

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