Walking Away Can Be Hard
Yesterday I talked about the necessity of reading contracts carefully on Zoe Winter’s blog. Today I want to talk about how difficult it can be (emotionally) to walk away from a deal.
To summarize briefly — last year, I was offered a contract on my contemporary romance novel Carnal Secrets. However, the contract was not only one-sided but contained many unfavorable — and in some cases unfair — provisions. I did my best to negotiate in good faith with the publisher, but we couldn’t come to an agreement. So I turned it down.
Though I didn’t care for the contract terms, I really wanted to work with my new editor. I’d heard great things about her, and I thought it’d be a wonderful opportunity. So if I had acted emotionally, I would’ve signed the contract.
There are a lot of reasons why people might sign a bad deal. Probably the most common one if that beginning writers are just happy that they finally got a yes after getting so many no’s. After all, the very nature of the publishing business conditions writers to expect rejection, and it’s flattering to get an acceptance letter (or call). And maybe some people are afraid that if they walk, they’ll be labeled “high-maintenance” and blacklisted. (BTW — this is a big myth. Writers turn down bad deals all the time. It’s just business, nothing personal. So long as you behave professionally throughout the process, it’s not a black mark.) Maybe some just feel bad about saying “no” in general.
Ultimately, you have to decide how much your career and future earning potential mean to you and those you have to provide for. A bad contract can really mess things up for you. And once you sign it, it’s going to be impossible to un-sign it. Even if you can somehow undo the damage, it’s going to take a lot of time and effort on your part…which of course could be better spent on writing another book or with your loved ones.
This is what I tell myself when I’m faced with a bad deal and there’s a little part of me that doesn’t want to walk away: If you write well enough to get an offer from one house, you write well enough to get an offer from another. If nothing else, you can hire a cover designer and a freelance editor and put the book on Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and other self-publishing platforms yourself. Readers won’t care whether or not you have a publisher’s logo on your cover so long as you provide a good story.
The fact that the indie publishing is an economically viable option for many writers has made it easier to walk away from a bad deal than ever before. And for that, I’m very grateful.
About Nadia Lee:
Bilingual former management consultant Nadia Lee has lived in four different countries and enjoyed many adventures and excellent food around the globe. In the last eight years, she has kissed stingrays, got bitten by a shark, ridden an elephant and petted tigers.
She shares an apartment overlooking a river and palm trees in Japan with her husband, an ever-changing collection of winter white hamsters and an ever-widening pile of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found digging through old Asian historical texts or planning another trip.
Carnal Secrets is her latest work. You can find the blurb and excerpt on her website or purchase a copy from All Romance eBooks, Amazon Kindle US, Amazon Kindle UK, B&N Nook or Smashwords.
Lovely cover, interesting post! Thanks.
No matter how hard it is to walk away sometimes we have to do it. We work way too hard to destroy it all with one bad deal.
First of all, we need to have an idea of what good contract looks like compare to a bad one.
I agree. That’s why I tell people to get a copy of NEGOTIATING A CONTRACT (2nd edition) by Mark L. Levine. He’s a very good literary attorney, and he goes over all the main clauses and tells you what is fair and what is not. I found the information in his book to be current (standard royalty % for all editions — hardback, trade, mmpb, e — and so on).