What happens if your book gets cancelled or series doesn’t continue to get published?

contract signingThere are many reasons to have an agent in your corner, but the dreaded book cancellation–or having the plug pulled on your series–is a big one. Your agent will be your shoulder to cry on and help you with next steps.

Unfortunately, it happens and it’s not fun for anyone. This is not legal advice, but some experiences that you might have heard about.

Here are a few scenarios: 

1. Your book gets cancelled before you sign your contract. This is heartbreaking, especially for debut authors. You’re so thrilled to have a book deal. Your agent negotiated the terms and accepted the offer. Next is the contract. However, sometimes things happen in this stage that stop it in its tracks (the publisher gets bought, the editors leaves, the publisher shutters an imprint, you can’t agree on terms etc). This is why agents usually like to wait until publishing contracts are signed to announce deals: to prevent this heartbreak from being too public in case we need to shop it again. But yes, we can shop it around again. Until the contract is signed, it’s nearly impossible to keep anyone accountable without suing them and even then you might not win if you don’t have a paper trail. So instead of taking legal action we dust ourselves off and continue to seek out a new home. You want a book deal because a publisher is crazy about your book (and will promote it with excitement), not because they have to.

2. Your book gets cancelled after you sign your contract. This can be a breach of contract if done without reason, but also could be that someone didn’t hold up their end of the bargain. Did you deliver late? If so, you’re the one holding things up, but because publishing is an art not a science editors are usually okay with this sort of thing (for a few weeks, not a few years!). Being honest is always the best policy. Did you deliver really, really late? Then publishers are less forgiving. If you deliver a year late and it’s not quite the book the publisher hoped it would be (more the case with non fiction) then the project can be cancelled. (I won’t get into the scenario if someone cancels a book without reason. That’s another publishing law issue. Follow Susan Spann on Twitter for more copyright law.)

3. Your series stops after a few books and you hadn’t wrapped it up yet. This scenario is hard to attribute to anything other than low sales or a publisher closing its doors. One is somewhat in your control and the other isn’t at all. Publishers will offer a multi-book deal for a series, but that could be 2 books or 10 books and they’re only required to publish those under contract. If your books didn’t find their audience it’s hard for a publisher to continue to invest in your storyline. It’s purely a business decision and not personal. They signed it up originally because they loved it. If so, you can shop around the rest of your series (which can be hard because the new publisher can’t cross promote easily and it’s hard to find a new audience for something they can’t rebrand) or self publish it.

Publishing is time-intensive endeavour and careers are long. The best thing to do is get sad and get mad (to your agent only) and then learn from the experience and start on your next project. Everyone is trying to make the best business decisions they can–even if they’re not the ones you want to hear.

Feel free to share experiences or concerns in the comments below.

Click here for more on US copyright law. And remember each country has their own rules.

If you’re waiting for something to happen in publishing…

timeIf you’re waiting on beta readers…

Throw yourself into critiquing others; attend a writer’s conference, webinar, or workshop; outline your next book; set up your author website.

If you’re waiting for an agent…

Start working on (or finishing) your next book; avoid reading too much into agents’ social media posts; tidy up your author blog or website or revamp for a new look; decide on a blog or social media schedule that you can keep up with.

If you’re waiting for an editor…

Strategize with your agent about next steps; ask your agent questions so you’re up to speed when you talk with editors; avoid reading too much into editors’ social media posts; keep social media contact with editors to zero or a bare minimum; polish up your next project.

If you’re waiting for your book to come out…

Plan your personal publicity and marketing roll out; schedule a call or visit with your publisher’s promotional team; talk to writer friends about what’s worked for them–publicity, keeping your sanity or otherwise!; deliver your second book before your first comes out to keep the noise out of your head.

If you’re waiting for reviews…

Step away from the comments, I repeat, step away from the comments.

Q: What do you do when you have to wait in the publishing industry?

5 Things You Didn’t Know About Querying as a Debut Author

I really enjoy talking about debuts.

Many debut authors are nervous about their credentials (do I have enough? do they mean anything?), their contacts (who do I have to know? what if I don’t “know” anyone?), and their book (what if it’s not good enough? what if it’s the best I’ve got?).

I think it’s time debut authors gained their confidence and started to tap into the excitement that agents feel for them.

Here are 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Querying as a Debut Author:

1. Agents look forward to your work. Any agent who is building a list is looking for work. Not all agents are building a list however, so save yourself the heartbreak and query agents who advertise that they’re looking for new talent.

2. Your credentials aren’t holding you back. No bylines? No problem. I never brush off writers who haven’t been published in literary journals or newspapers. Everyone starts somewhere. And, as an agent whose talent is breaking out authors, I’m looking for writers at the early stages of their careers. It’s okay to tell me in your query that this is your first novel.

3. You don’t have to know anyone. Yes, referrals get you in the door, but agents still have particular tastes. The best way to get an agent is to query properly. The only people you need to know are authors whose work you love and then see who represents them. Start there.

4. You’re the best advocate for your work. (Don’t hire a company to query for you.) I feel sad for writers when I see that someone has queried on their behalf. If you’re too busy/scared/uninformed to query your own book then agents aren’t inclined to work with you. You, the writer, are always the most passionate about your own work so why would you outsource it? You can’t outsource ambition.

5. Someday you won’t be a debut anymore. Yes, I’m sure you knew this, but what I mean to say is right now it feels rough. But, the most important thing is making good business decisions early on in your career to set you up for success later. Don’t be swayed by short term gains for the sake of your future career goals. A bad agent fit (either not passionate about your work, doesn’t have time for you, or doesn’t share the same vision) is worse than no agent.

3 Great Things about a First Draft

It’s easy to lament about first drafts. The blank page is one of the hardest things for writers. So let’s take a spin on first drafts and think about the great parts of writing your story the first time around. Because there are a lot! You’ve got a world in your head that demands to see the light of day.

1. Inspiration is still there. No matter where that first draft takes you it’s easier to plug into where the idea came from. It’s like an energy source full of power that you can tap into. You can go back to the originating idea or outline and remember why this story needs to be told.

2. It can still go in different directions. Like an infant, you don’t know what it’s going to be when it grows up and that can be liberating. There are no mistakes because there is no end yet. So don’t be hard on yourself, just get those words down.

3. You’re proving to yourself you can (still) do it. If this is your first or fifth book, many writers question whether they can do it (again). Writing a novel is an exercise in patience, foresight, discipline, imagination and so much more. Novelists are sensitive but tough super-humans. 

Q: What’s your favourite part about your first drafts?