Friday, August 22, 2014
I'm Too Desperate to take a Bad Deal.
I finished my novel. I read and researched. I read the entire Ms. Snark archives. I read the entire Query Shark/Janet Reid archives. Multiple times. I have read the entire Rejectionist, the Editor Anonymous, Victoria Strauss' Writer Beware, and various agent blogs around the internet. I painstakingly researched agents and shopped my novel. A couple partial requests from blog contests, and one shiny "You Don't Suck" button from Liz Norris' Pay It Forward contest, but otherwise, nothing. I joined Twitter. I am an introvert. I hate Twitter. But that's where agents and editors live, so I joined. I made Twitter friends.
I joined Sisters in Crime, and made good friends. One of those friends recommended I submit my novel to a small press. I did, and they accepted it.
I was elated. I got validation that someone thought my work was commercially viable!
They sent me a sample contract. I also read Chuck Wendig, and John Scalzi, and I bought Mark Levine's How to Negotiate a Book Contract book. I spent four hours writing a changes requested letter.
The entire time, my heart was in my throat, because I was afraid that I would offend them. But I was more afraid that they would refuse the changes I considered non-negotiable for me based on all the advice I had read. I dithered, I fretted, I cried once or twice out of sheer helplessness. I asked my friend what she did. She had accepted the contract as was because she wanted to be published. But she also has a successful career to "fall back" on if the writing doesn't pan out. I don't.
While I was waiting, I stumbled across Kris Rusch's business blog. I started reading, and I didn't stop. Because here for the first time that I had found on the internet was a prolific, recognized writer saying that any writer who didn't take responsibility for their writing career was asking to be screwed financially, ethically, and artistically. That even if you have an agent, you STILL need to be in charge of managing your business. You can't just go be a sheltered artist in a delicate cave of writer happiness protected by your agent. I'm sure others have said it, but this was the first time I found it.
She made a painfully-accurate point about deciding whether you wanted to have a book published, or if you wanted to have a writing career. Because if all you want is a book published, then you can take whatever horrors are called a contract. But if you want to have a writing career, then you can't afford to take a bad deal. And you can't wring your hands and blame your agent or your editor or even the publisher. They have their own businesses to care for, and if you don't take care of yours, that's your fault. Not theirs.
The $1000 advance glittered in my dreams. I wanted it so badly. But it came on a hook that I couldn't swallow. All of my requested changes were rejected, and with condescension and lack of sensible explanations that told me exactly where I stood with the people who were supposed to be a business partner with me. I'm too desperate to take a bad deal.
For me, the deal was the wrong choice. If I took the deal, I wouldn't see the first book in my mystery series until 2016. I write fast, and I will have finished the next four books by then. They would all have to wait for the first one. And then what. They come out two years apart? I'd end up sitting on a pile of unpublished manuscripts all delicately waiting their turn, while they slowly either sold or faded away.
Or I can self-publish the books myself. And the first one will be out this month. The next one will be out around Christmas if I can get my editing done by then. By the time that first book would have been published, I'll have received royalties on several books for three years.
I did the math. To make more than that $1000 advance, my break-even numbers are smaller than the numbers of my Facebook friends, while maintaining all my rights, and publishing sooner so as to start ticking royalties up sooner. This is the right choice for me. I'm willing to shoulder the belief in the quality of my own work and take the risks.
Two years ago, if you'd told me I'd be turning down my first book deal, I'd have laughed hysterically. Now, I only regret that I didn't start this process two years ago.
I'm not afraid any more.