When You Turn Down a Publishing Deal and Your Book Never Gets Published
You’ve completed the writing of your novel. You’ve written, rewritten, and have paid good money to a professional to edit it. You’re pleased with how it turned out and how you managed to stick with a project and see it through to the end.
There are many publishing options these days: you could self-publish it, go with a hybrid publisher, or if you’re feeling super-confident with your finished product, you can go the traditional publishing route.
It’s always been your dream to work with a traditional publisher, so you start to create a strategy.
Before you start the querying process, I suggest sitting yourself down and getting clear on what you want, what you’re prepared to do, and what issues you’ll be able to let go of.
Deals of any kind require bargaining and sometimes the deal that you make is with yourself.
I was very excited when I finished writing my first YA novel. Like so many first novels, it was based on my own story of growing up with a schizophrenic brother. There was a lot of humor in the book which I felt was needed so that the story didn’t get too dark or depressing.
I went to an agent- workshop where I paid to get some helpful tips on how to proceed with my novel. Once I was seated, the agent launched into the many reasons why the humor didn’t work in the book and the many ways my book sucked. She wasn’t kind with her notes and even brought me to tears.
I hadn’t paid to be ripped a new one.
In case, you think I’m exaggerating, the school behind the workshop stopped using this particular agent because they wanted the agent to give their students helpful advice regarding their manuscripts, and this woman had done the opposite with all the writers in the workshop.
There are lots of people out there who genuinely want to help you and there are also many people who just want to make a buck.
However, the agent had helped me in a way, because she made me see what I was willing and not willing to do to my manuscript.
If she had suggested a more original B-storyline or a different ending, I would have done another rewrite, but I felt her notes had very little to do with my manuscript and more with her own frustrations.
I ignored the agent’s advice and looked to other people for their thoughts and ended up adjusting some of the scenes in the book. I had readings of my manuscript as if it were a play, had someone try to turn it into a T.V. show, and got a few bites from other agents — all of which gave me the energy to keep going.
I was contacted by an independent publisher who was interested in reading my book, so I sent her the completed manuscript. After the publisher and I had a great conversation, I was excited for it seemed as if she not only loved the book but understood how much it meant to me.
The publisher wanted to publish my book but she had a condition — she wanted me to put in a spiritual element to the book. She wasn’t talking about something small like the occasional prayer or celebration, she wanted the main character to go through a spiritual rebirth that had nothing to do with the main character’s journey.
I believe in God, but my religious knowledge is limited to what happens in Jesus Christ Superstar.
If anything, my lead character was even less religious than I was, and to include a whole storyline about her finding her spiritual side would change the entire narrative in a way that I wasn’t willing to go.
There was some back and forth, but ultimately the deal never happened.
My book was never published, but I’m not sorry I refused to squeeze in a religious transformation where there was no place for it. I’m sad that the book wasn’t published, didn’t make me a ton of money, and that I never got to go on a book tour for that novel.
However, I don’t regret staying true to my vision for that book. I don’t know what the future holds for me and those things I wasn’t able to do for that book might be something I do for another.
I understand the temptation to take the first deal that comes to you especially if you’re afraid that it will be the only one offered, but that’s when you need to remind yourself that there are still options available for you.
Desperate isn’t a good place to be when negotiating. This is why deciding what are the deal-breakers for you before you start the process of publishing your book is crucial.
If you can’t trust that a publishing company has your best interests at heart, then turn them down. You’re strong enough to handle the consequences.
Even with a team of people helping you, editing and promoting a book is a lot of work and if your heart isn’t into it, it will be a nightmare. Know what you’re willing to compromise on and what you’re not and that way there won’t be any unpleasant surprises on your publication journey.
The takeaway is this, you don’t have to accept any agreement that you’re not comfortable with. You’re in charge of what happens to your book and you need to be able to trust that your editor has your back and that the publisher is in the same place as you are with getting your book out into the world.
If you’re not convinced and feel that a certain doesn’t serve you or your book — then walk away.
Publishing has changed so much since my first book, and who knows, maybe I’ll take another pass at it and self-publish it.