7 Ways to Kill a Publishing Deal

First published Sept. 27, 2014
© Copyright Andrea Reynolds 2012-2017 All rights reserved.

You may know that a few years ago I launched the second book publishing company in my career:
Bitango Books. After both parents passed away in 2011, my mother’s copyrights to her two successful books passed to me, as did her unpublished manuscript for a “racy” novel, as well as my father’s letters home from the Pacific in World War II. So I thought it made sense for me to create a new publishing vehicle for their works, my own future books, and works of other nonfiction authors.

I brought to the table 4 critical skills:

a) The ability to successfully fund publishing projects from angel investors before the book is written (3 times),

b) My 33 years’ experience marketing authors and their books in the national/international press and media,

c) My 12 years of editing books for other authors, and

d) My 21 years’ experience representing and negotiating better contracts for speakers (fees, amenities and terms).

I self-published my first book in 1982 so I think my qualifications speak for themselves.

My publishing company was somewhat unconventional. (Bitango means rogue or gypsy.) I offered a small advance against bigger royalties than most traditional publishers and offered contracts that are fair to authors. (I’m a member of the National Writers Union myself.) Not only did I offer to advocate for authors as paid speakers, but I also offered to create a free-standing web site for each author on which to promote their book.

In return I wanted to see authors make an effort. So when they did some of the following, I had to believe they were standing in their own way and could be difficult to work with... or were “high maintenance.”

Here are some behaviors I saw that will turn a publisher off:

1. Don’t have a body of written and published work that can be easily accessed. Publishers need to see that you can write well consistently and that others have deemed you publishable.

2. Don’t send a copy of the manuscript when a publisher has invited you to send it for consideration. How else can we evaluate your book and offer you a contract?

3. Don’t tell us your web site address, Twitter name, or Facebook link. Keep them secret so we can’t follow and friend you.

4. Don’t tell us the size of your manuscript so we know how big or small it is in words or pages.

5. Say, “No thanks, I want to secure an agent first” when we say we’d like to see your manuscript. The point of having an agent is to get publishers to ask to see your manuscript. You got us to do that, why reject the invitation?

6. Don’t have a written marketing plan for your book. If you don’t have an inkling as to how to get your book into reader’s hands how will a publisher know you have written a book that is marketable to your audience?

7. Don’t trust the publisher’s expertise and experience. Some authors have submitted manuscripts for which they have paid dearly for very bad editing, ugly cover design, and a messy layout and insist we not change anything prior to publication. And, if a manuscript gets the message across in 50,000 words, why insist on publishing 90,000 words?

These seven behaviors and others seem to be prevalent among new authors. At first I thought perhaps I should think about teaching seminars and offering one-on-one (paid) consultations for new authors to stop them from getting in the way of their own book publishing success.

Think like a publisher. Authors, the less you do to provide what a publisher needs to know, the smaller the advance and the lower the royalty payment. And the reverse is true: the more you provide to a publisher, the greater the possibility of a signed contract, larger advance, faster publication and larger royalty.

Update: When, after first posting this, author behavior didn't improve I decided to close Bitango Books to new authors. The four domain names I purchased are now for sale. If you want to start your own publishing company or bookstore, I'll even rebuild a website for you. Make me an offer. No reasonable offer refused.

Your comment/feedback? AndreaReynoldsPR@gmail.com