Hello, everyone! Lucia here. I’m so excited to finally have Path2pub up and running. It’s been under construction for some time, and when the ladies of Path2pub showed instant interest in it, I knew it just had to be actualized. To learn more about what we hope to offer at Path2pub, check out our About page! To meet all our awesome writers, check out the Contributors Bio. And to put forth questions you want us to answer collectively about the path to publication, check out the Ask Us Pub Questions. To learn about how I got my agent, here’s the story. I’m looking forward to this journey with you all!
Now on to the post:
Don’t Sign Contracts
Post by L.O. Nobi
No, no, I don’t mean don’t sign contracts with the agent of your dreams. Or a six-figure book deal with one of the Big Fives!Those are the legit stuff, and essentially, every writer’s dream, so yeah please sign those.
On a journey to publication, chances are that you’ll come across a variety of persons or groups that swear they have something to offer you. It could be a French indie publisher offering to acquire the translation rights for your self-published books. It could be someone who wants you to help them write a book. It could be a new press ecstatic to publish your book after just two days of submission.
It could be anything really. But chances are that once you join the writing community long enough, you’ll come across offers along this line, and what ties them all together, especially in the context of this post, is that they’ll present you with contracts.
Do Not Sign!
At least not until you’re 100% positive you’re pleased with the terms. By this, I don’t mean in a ‘well, what do I have to lose?’ way or ‘oooh my prose would look sexy in French.’ But an active ‘okay, this seems like a fantastic, highly-beneficial, unregrettable opportunity to advance my writing career. And I’m certain like never before that I won’t come to regret this decision’.
Because contracts are binding. And there are no do-overs. No ‘oh shucks, I don’t want my self-published book translated into French anymore because I want to take it off amazon to query. Let me tell them to terminate!’. And certainly no ‘wow, this manuscript I just ghostwrote is even better than my three books combined! Let me tell the payer I no longer want to give them (my) book’.
Nope. With contracts, once you’re in, you’re in, my friend. I certainly wish I’d seen advice like this when I started down this road! I previously signed a contract for a self-published book, giving over the rights for another language to this upcoming publishing house that reached out to me online. I’d been super skeptical at first but then I asked on Quora and the writers’ responses said I had nothing to lose, and for a self-published author having my book translated to Portuguese was a chance I should be grabbing. So after ensuring the pub house was legit, I naively signed the contract. Why? Because I never thought that someday I’d seriously pursue traditional publication, hence thought I truly had nothing to lose.
As the months wore on, the publisher/editor wasn’t communicative at all. Whenever I reached out for updates, they’d say I’ll get some at so-so date, but I never did. If I didn’t send occasional emails, I wouldn’t hear from them and pretty soon I stopped asking. I wasn’t that keen on them publishing the book and parts of me already suspected it would go down like this. After the month of the decided book release passed and I still didn’t hear from them, I knew then that I no longer wanted to be affiliated with the house. I’d keep my book in English, thank you. (Good thing there hadn’t been any advance paid/received!) Still, I had signed a contract and when they emailed me many months later that they were finally ready to publish, it wasn’t easy untangling myself from their figurative web. And now, I wish I’d seen some advice somewhere, warning writers about this so the encounter wouldn’t have happened to begin with!
BUT, that’s what Path2pub is about. To share every lesson we ladies learn along our paths with you. The next time another group came to me with a contract, this time concerning ghostwriting, I was knowledgeable enough to say no, thank you. I won’t be signing nothing. In that vein, here are more tips to consider when approaching bookish contracts.
A Few Morsel-Sized Tips Concerning Signing Contracts
• DON’T sign contracts unless you are certain (or maybe get an epiphany).
• Have a legal practitioner read through the contract and advice you thoroughly before you choose to sign. Don’t have the funds to hire a lawyer? How about that friend that went to law school? *wink wink*
• Consider the long-run results of binding your writerly soul to those terms (long-run as in years to decades, not weeks to days!). You’ll be surprised how time flies when you have something to lose.
• Don’t sign too many contracts. Even if you ultimately disregard this advice and decide to sign the contracts offered you, try not to go beyond one. Otherwise, they may tangle up and someday, place you in a serious bind.
• Make sure the termination clause works in your favor!
Something I learned from reading a super-old-blog-post-I-can’t-find-else-would-link is that agents aren’t crazy about too much baggage. And that’s what signing too many contracts on impulse can become—baggage. Because chances are that once you get an agent or that Big Five book deal, you won’t want to be juggling contracts with the ten other personnels or groups you encountered on your way there. Also, (and most importantly) you don’t want a situation where you unwittingly break a contract because you have so much on your plate, and then find yourself entangled in legal issues. And the less contracts you sign, the less likely this is to happen. So be very attentive, and at least try not to sign contracts.
What do you think about signing contracts? Any interesting experiences to share with us?
L.O. Nobi is an avid writer, one of her prominent projects being DESTITUTES AND FIENDS, a regency retelling of the Beauty and the Beast. She’s a lover of words, Disney, and represented by her awesome agent. You can find her tweeting here, or visit her personal blog here.