Many years ago, from around 1997 to 2003 I spent many a long night over extended periods of time editing my first novel, The Long And Winding Road. When I thought it was “ready” I did my research and sent it out to the big wide world, expecting it to be snapped up and a healthy advance winging its way to me.
It didn’t happen. I have a spreadsheet somewhere in my backup with a list of nearly 50 publishers and at least 25 agents that declined it. I was distraught.
Then, someone mentioned a publishing house to me that I hadn’t heard of and so I sent it off to them and I got a hit. They liked it and said “it deserves the chance to be published.”
They got the full manuscript and a short while later then sent me my first publishing contract. I was so overjoyed it is difficult to put into words, ecstatic doesn’t do it justice.
Then I calmed down. I printed off the contract and started to read it. Alarm bells began to clang and with some experience from my work in contracts I got that feeling of something isn’t right.
Then I did the wisest thing I have ever done in my writing. I phoned the Society of Authors and asked then about one or two clauses that I just didn’t like. They cautioned me not to do anything rash and asked me to send it to them. A few days later I got an e-mail from them that went through the contract line by line.
It was damning and could be summed up in one line, “don’t touch this with a barge pole.”
One at least two clauses they said something like “an author should never relinquish these rights.”
I phoned them, thanked them and sent a short email to the publisher declining the contract. Since then, this publisher, who shall remain unnamed, has had “issues” shall we say with their contracts and relationship with authors.
The moral of this story, no matter how euphoric one is when an offer to publish your precious book lands on your desk, read it carefully and if you are unsure, seek professional advice before agreeing to anything.
It saved me a huge amount of grief and disappointment.