I recently had a near thing going with a small publisher who offered me a contract for a novel of mine. I was ecstatic until I discovered that they wanted me to front over £1000 to invest in the publication of it. Now this wasn’t some shoddy vanity press type of thing. Despite being a small publisher, they put out some quality stuff (some of which I have seen in Waterstones) and run a very smooth operation. They offer several levels of contracts, the highest levels require no financial investment from the author and unfortunately, as I am as yet unestablished in the field of historical fiction, my novel was offered one of the lower end deals, despite some in the company thinking its quality was worthy of a higher contract.
To me a grand seems a huge amount to hand over to a publisher that claims to be interested in my novel. Paperbacks sell at about £7, of which I would receive 10% with this deal, so 70p per book. Middling novels can sell around 1000 copies, and that’s doing pretty well for an unknown author. Even if I take into account ebook sales (of which I would receive 50%), it seems unlikely that I would get much of a return on my £1000+ investment. Financial concerns aside, there is the principle of the thing. I take a lot of pride in my work and paying somebody a grand to get it out there just doesn’t seem right.
Although it’s crushingly disappointing to turn down an honest-to-god contract, I have to get published on my own terms. And I’m taking many positive things away from the whole experience. For a start it was the perfect kick up the arse I needed to get networking. After many years of reluctance, I am now on Twitter and am trying to tweet regularly. I’ve made inroads into the genre via other blogs and planned a marketing strategy. I’ve also got a killer book trailer under construction. Most importantly, I’ve had my novel read by four people in the publishing industry who, although some had their criticisms, generally liked it and two had some very encouraging words about it. One even said that with a back list of similar titles I could make an impact as a good mid-list writer and that I should ‘please keep writing.’
I will never give up.