Book Deal Fail: Lessons in Publishing Every Writer Needs to Know

I think would-be authors spend so much time working on their masterpieces that they may well be blind-sided when their book deals fall apart. It can happen to every author and aspiring author.

This past summer a book deal of mine fell to pieces in grand fashion over the course of a week. It was quite difficult, but at the same time I think matters ended on pretty good terms for all parties involved.

The planets had aligned perfectly for the deal to fail. So it goes.

Here are a few lessons to save in your bookmark folder so that you’re prepared should this ever happen to you:

Book Deals Can Fail, and It’s OK

Your career can survive and you can end the deal on good terms with your publisher. Really, I mean it. It can be a bit embarrassing to admit that your deal fell apart, but you can survive it. If you’re approaching your career wisely, you’ll already have another project or two in mind that you can jump into.

Give Yourself Time to Process

I needed about three days to process my situation before I felt able to have a constructive conversation and make a good decision. Expect to be angry and a bit low. It will pass, and in fact, it has to pass. You have books to write!

Seek Advice

In my own case I consulted my agent and several other agents at her firm. They helped me sort through my options and the appropriate responses. Every e-mail I sent to the publisher was filtered through them first. In addition, there were other authors and publishing professionals who offered me some good advice and even did some helpful research on my behalf.

Know Your Publisher’s Interests and Trends

If a publisher wants to terminate your book deal, take some time to look at it from the publisher’s perspective and examine the publisher’s concerns and goals. Perhaps you and your book aren’t a good fit with this publisher for the coming years anyway.

Prepare a Plan B, C, and D

Your book project does not have to die with this contract. Spring into action and seek out other publishers and if not another major publishing house, look into smaller press, ebook, and self-publishing options. The technology and marketing tools are out there for many authors to sell quite a few books on their own.

Even if your book never sees the light of day, you can always cannibalize chapters for submission to magazines that may provide a larger audience of readers and a comparable amount of money in the long run. Perhaps you can also steal a few chapters and stories to write your next book, which you should have already been working on anyway.

End On Good Terms

Life is too short to play the blame game. Publishing is a really tough business and sometimes book deals fall apart. Maybe it was your fault and maybe it wasn’t.

You gain nothing by burning your bridges with your former publisher, and you also never know how well connected they may be in the larger publishing world. Even if you lost the deal, you can still hold your head up high by moving on and resolving to make the next deal work.