Don’t Burn Your Bridges With A Publisher

I’ve learned a lot since becoming the Editor-in-Chief of Summer Solstice Publishing. One of the most important is often made by former self published authors, or those soon to be releasing their first book.

These people are often determined to control every aspect of the pre-publication process, from choosing the cover art to the final author check. They will become unreasonable if told no they can’t do this or that. Never once does it enter their heads that they are in fact making it impossible to offer them a second contract for their work, no matter how good it is.

When an author signs a contract with a publisher, they often overlook phrases that don’t interest them. Most will scan the contract, concentrating on their responsibilities and the royalty rates and payout schedule. They don’t once think of concentrating on what the publisher’s responsibilities are, nor do they concern themselves with what the publisher can do without their permission.

It never dawns on those authors that they might not have the right to say “Do this or I won’t give approval for you to publish my book.”

I never entertained the idea of self publishing. That meant I spent many, many years submitting to publishers, pouring over rejection notices to see where I went wrong, revising my work, and submitting to yet another publisher. When I received my first publisher contract in 2010, to be part of the Passionate Hearts Anthology, I read that contract over several times. I made sure I knew everything in the contract and what I was responsible for, what the publisher was responsible for, and what could happen if I didn’t cooperate with the pre-publication process. I even spoke with an attorney friend, who assured me that I was doing excellent due diligence in ensuring this was a contract I could live with until it expired. Eventually, I signed and returned the contract, and lived up to my end of the bargain.

Recently, I’ve seen a spate of authors who become churlish when it comes to cover art, what their editor is telling them must be fixed (they are assuming their book is perfect and requires no editing at all), or deciding revisions must be done during the final check. These authors will become stiffly formal in their communications or even angry when told they can’t have their way. They will threaten to hire an attorney or that they won’t allow their book to be published unless the publisher goes along with them. A few wheedle and attempt to strike a deal.

What happens to these people? For those who start this type of problem before the cover art is made or any edits have started, they may find themselves offered two simple choices: they can either cooperate or sign a release of rights back to them and the publisher is finished with them. Most of the time, the author understands they are about to make a fatal mistake and cooperates. Other times, they are on the outside looking in, and bitter at how this “uncooperative publisher didn’t recognize the genius of their work or that it was a best seller, more than likely to hit the New York Times list within days of publication.

Your best bet as an author seeking a publisher with your work is to remember this piece of advice.

A publisher is in the business of making money, just as you are. They want the best book possible, from the cover art to the story itself. They have invested a lot of money in you and your book from the moment you signed the contract. Therefore, they don’t want to have to release your rights back to you. They will, though, if you are too much trouble to deal with. And that publisher will soon forget your name, the title of your book, and probably your angry words about their company because they have moved on and are taking other stories as good or better than yours.

You, on the other hand, are probably still seeking a publisher who can put up with your demands, because you believe your book is worth special treatment. Eventually, you will decide that publishers aren’t for you and self publish. Unless you have the deep pockets necessary to do all the things you want from professional cover artists, editors, proofreaders, and copy readers, you will soon discover why having a publisher wasn’t all that bad after all.


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