Saying No to a Book Offer Pt. 2 (Author Mills and Bad Publishers)

I wrote another piece a while back on an experience I had with a sketchy vanity publisher, while seeking publication for a novel I wrote. I received quite a few emails about it from other writers. Several of them asking if it had to do with another publisher we’d had mutual interaction with. So I thought perhaps I should share another story of when to say NO when seeking publication.

I won’t name names, because this is my personal opinion on them, and I have spoken to other writers who were happy with being published at this house, and I don’t think it’s very nice to blog-bash.

I was very excited at first to get a full request from this company. They had some very nice looking covers and were YA focused and, by all ways of telling through email, seemed very friendly. I eagerly sent off my manuscript with that incredible roller coaster feeling in my stomach of being excited and terrified simultaneously. They had commented that, though my manuscript was a little on the long side, they were excited to read it.

I waited and waited, for the entirety of three weeks before hearing back. The publisher was offering me a contract. I could hardly believe it. But perhaps this was for a reason.

Dun_dun_duuun_tshirt_design__by_Ticketless_Aplause

Now, to be fair, this was a genuine publisher. This wasn’t vanity. They did not want any money from me. They had some e-book sales high on Amazon. They were legit. They asked if I was still interested. I said yes I was, and they drew up a contract.

But there were warning signs.

Warning #1: Short and Vague

The offering letter was short. Now I am not against succinctness, but there was much left to be desired in this offer. Essentially, they said they wanted to publish it, along with two sequels. They did not say how perfectly my novel would fit on their list. They did not say how they couldn’t wait for the world to see it. They just wanted to publish it. It was all pretty vague.

Nevertheless, I said I was interested and asked to see a contract, thinking perhaps there would be more details then.

Warning #2: Shorter and More Vague

Nope! The contract was no better. It was very generic, which is not too strange. I find all contracts in any respect to be this way to an extent. But it was also very short. The last contract I’d been offered was probably fifteen pages. This was four. There were no details on their plan for my book. No marketing plan from their end, though they said they expected me to be a part of the marketing. They had no expectations for dates for the sequels. And they wanted an answer in three days.

Warning #3: No Personal Contact

Along with the ultra-succinct contract was zero offer to call me and discuss the details of it. They said I could contact them with questions. But there were answers I needed, and they seemed to be hoping I would just sign and perhaps then we’d talk later. After I’d given them the rights to my book for five years.

I could have called them, sure. But I just felt like if they wanted my book, they should also be personally offering to walk me through these steps. It was all pretty impersonal. This didn’t seem to bode well for how they would handle marketing and distribution.

So I dug deeper. You should investigate as much as you can about any potential publisher or agent.digging-hole

Digging:

  • I contacted a few of their authors
  • I asked other writers
  • I researched their books and sales on Amazon
  • I read about small-house publishing experiences

Results:

  • The authors had nice things to say. The publisher was nice. It had gotten their work out there. Mostly e-book stuff. The payout was higher than many houses. Some of the writers had moved on to self-publishing instead.
  • Other writers had submitted. Found out the publisher made quite a few offers. Many writers shared my concerns.
  • They had some sales that were decent. They also had a crap-ton of books out there and coming out soon, and they were a pretty new publisher.
  • This was not that normal for small publishers.

In the end, after three whopping days, I declined the offer.

Though there were many authors who seemed content with the publisher, I also felt like I could do nearly as much as the publisher by self-publishing.

They wanted me to help market (not abnormal for small publishers), but they also didn’t seem to distribute much off-line. And didn’t do much beyond arranging blog-reviews and things like this.

They had a crap-ton of books they were releasing, and I knew of several others who had gotten offers recently or were being considered.

Along with their short consideration time, and vagueness, and quick response to my full manuscript, I concluded….

That they were an author mill.

They made good-looking books and generated sales, without doing a lot of marketing outside what the authors were doing online and such (They did do some, however). They threw a lot of books out there, and got sales from them due to a lot of books generating semi-decent sales. They did some print, but it was largely e-book focused.

I concluded that, though they might help me reach an audience and sell some books, and get going. I could easily get lost in the slush of many new releases. I would have to put a lot of work into it. And if I am doing that, then why wouldn’t I just self-publish, and get more of the money?

Best of luck to you on your writing and publishing journey. Be discerning, and don’t rush!

Don’t be afraid to say no!

*I would love to hear from you if this was helpful to you, or if I can be of further help!*

*Please leave a comment about your own experiences!*

*If you’d like to check out the first few chapters of my novel, The Lingering Shadow, go here.*

Cheers!

S. Andrew

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