Reasons NOT to Sign with a Publisher

I hope this isn’t too bubble bursting, but let’s go ahead and burst some bubbles about what shouldn’t be your deciding factor when signing with a publisher. Those writing towards publication tend to get caught up in the fantasy of dream agents, dream editors, dream co-authors, dream cover designers, and yes, dream publishers. (I sure did!) There are already hundreds of posts written up about how you shouldn’t have a Dream Anyone because you won’t know who your Dream Anyone is until after they’ve read and loved your book so I’m not going to sound off on that. But I do want to point out several reasons why these bonuses (listed below) could backfire on you in the long run.

“I want to sign with Publisher X because they publish my favorite author.”

This is totally a bonus for a fan, but in the long run, won’t mean anything. Yes, maybe sharing a publisher could land you a blurb (!!!!), but you shouldn’t expect the same success of this author. You want to sign with a publisher who will make YOU feel like THEIR favorite author.

“I have a friend in publicity/marketing/editorial at Publisher X.”

…For now. There are constants shifts in every department at every publishing house. A publicist might leave Publisher X to accept a better title and pay at Publisher Y. An editor at Publisher X might be offered his or her own imprint at Publisher Z. There’s just no guarantee your friend will be around two years later when it’s finally time for your book to hit the shelves and you don’t want your expectations completely crushed by their move.

The person you obviously don’t want leaving is your editor – and unfortunately, this sometimes happens. I have friends who have been orphaned in the past and it was crushing to lose their in-house champion. If this happens, it opens up an opportunity to meet a new champion who will push you in new ways with fresh eyes. Think of it like another editor being given a chance to wield Excalibur. (Yes, I just compared you and your career to the coolest sword ever. Feeling better now?)

“I like the tour Publisher X sends their authors on.”

Sure, but publishers acquire many, many books a year so it’s always a gamble as to whether or not you’ll be chosen to tour. What you can do instead is plan your own tour and travel with other author friends or even just tour yourself and have author friends join you at various stops. If you’re on top of this, there’s a chance your publisher might be able to support you. (But again, sticking to the message of this post, no promises.)

“The editor at Publisher X edited my favorite book.”

Another bonus. Really cool, but if your book is anything like your favorite book, there’s a chance the editor isn’t looking to work on a similar project. Always great to try, but again, this whole thing with favorites – you want to choose the person who will make YOU feel like you’re THEIR favorite instead of working with someone out of sentiment.

“Publisher X has a lot of bestsellers and movie deals.”

Hooray for Publisher X! Seriously, more movie deals is great for all of us. And celebrate those who break their way onto the bestseller lists. (It truly is a gigantic feat these days.) You might think that Publisher X is better than Publisher A, Publisher B, Publisher C, and Publisher D, but from what I’ve heard, a lot of that money goes right back into promoting that same hit book in the hopes it’ll turn into a mega bestseller.

P.S: Every publisher has their long lists of bestsellers and award-winners. Sometimes one house may appear to be doing better than the others, but there’s more to success than getting a film option or movie made, or hitting the list or winning an award. A lot of author friends (some fortunate enough to have won awards and/or have gone on to become bestsellers) all agree that they felt plenty successful when they just sold their book to the right editor, long before they even had a book cover that would later be adorned with a medal or read “New York Times bestselling book.”

MY ADVICE: Trust your instinct. If the publisher you feel is best for you didn’t edit the book of your favorite author, that’s okay. Just celebrate the fact that you found your literary match who can make your book the best damn novel it could possibly be.


7 Responses to Reasons NOT to Sign with a Publisher

  1. terry jackman Apr 25 2014 at 7:35 am #

    I agree. I had a ‘near miss’ rejection from a big publisher and then a request from a small one, and I’m now really happy with that. They’d seen my work – not in a submission – and were keen enough to ask if I would be interested in sending something to them. They made it clear that if I still wanted to aim bigger they understood. They answered every question very patiently and honestly and they’ve given me an editor I already feel good about. No, I won’t get the big bucks or the big marketing, but I know a lot of that is a myth anyway.But whether the book will ultimately fly or drown I feel I will get a good overall experience.

    • Adam Silvera Apr 25 2014 at 7:16 pm #

      So heartening to hear this, Terry! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. Susan Apr 25 2014 at 9:32 am #

    Fabulous post!! Such good points and I’m so glad you would take the time to compile this stuff. It’s the sort of “real life advice” that no one ever thinks to share but that can be SO invaluable to someone in a position like this. <333

  3. TB Apr 25 2014 at 1:16 pm #

    May the good Lord grant I live long enough to have this problem.

  4. JoSVolpe May 3 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    GREAT post. Such good advice!

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