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View Full Version : A Bad Deal Is Worse Than No Deal?



suzan528
06-29-2016, 10:07 PM
I saw an agent post this sentence on twitter. What does it mean? Wouldn't a new author want some sort of publishing deal vs nothing??

Cyia
06-29-2016, 10:11 PM
You want a good deal.

You DON'T want to get sucked in by a vanity publisher, or a new publisher with no distribution, or somewhere that has predatory clauses in their contracts, etc.

heza
06-29-2016, 10:18 PM
nm.

Maggie Maxwell
06-29-2016, 10:29 PM
There are lots of ways a bad deal is worse than no deal. Cyia's listed a few, but I'll go into more detail.

1) Using a vanity publisher (paying to be published) will tarnish your reputation, no sales (books are almost always overpriced and only sell to family/friends) plus you'll have lost money. If you're one of the people who gets an offer from a vanity publisher but they "honestly will publish you straight, no fees", you still have their bad reputation behind you. You can say "I'm published by Cheatum" but people in the know will immediately think the vanity press and think you paid to play. That's not an association you want with you book.

2) No distribution means no one will see your novel outside of your own effort, which likely means no one will buy it. Any agent or editor who looks you up will see low sales numbers, which isn't what you want them seeing.

3) Predatory clauses. These are honestly the worst, I think. The other two, you've got a chance of getting your book back and reselling or self-publishing it later, even if sales were bad. You can bounce back with your hard work. With a bad contract, you can lose your novel forever, forcing you to watch it languish in limbo with a bad publisher. With a worse contract, you might not ever get paid for it ("We'll pay you once you hit $100." and then that threshold magically never gets reached.) There are lots of scammers, cheats, and well-intentioned people who have no idea how bad they're screwing you over in the publishing industry, and if you accept their contract because "anything is better than nothing", the only person getting hurt is you.

In publishing, reputation is a lot and contracts are everything. Bad ones of either can be anathema.

Richard White
06-29-2016, 10:42 PM
Not to mention, even if it doesn't cost you money, it costs you something more valuable - time. A bad agent winds up wasting your time sending your submission to inappropriate publishers (like a cozy mystery to Baen, or a hard-charging action-adventure story to Harlequin). They submit your book to a publisher you could have submitted to on your own (what are they doing to earn their 15%?).

You want to be certain the agent is strong in the area(s) you're wanting to get published in, has connections with the publishing industry, has sold books to someone you've heard of, and improves YOUR career. There are great agents out there that don't rep what I write. It would be a bad mistake for me to pitch them and it would be worse for them to accept me because they don't specialize in my genre, which means they don't know the editors, what they're looking for, who just bought a book like mine so don't submit to them right now, and so on - and these are established agents with great sales (in their genres).

An inexperienced agent knows even less, so there's no way they could help my career get started or sustain it.

Old Hack
06-30-2016, 11:04 AM
I strongly agree that you're better off not being published at all than being published badly.

For example, if your book is badly published (not edited well, published with many errors in it, badly designed, and so on) then many people who buy it and read it are going to be alienated. And next time you're published, they'll recognise your name and pass over your book, so you'll lose sales.

Or consider publishers which include in their contract that you have to give them first refusal on your next book--and specify that if they want your book, you have to let them have it on the same terms as the first. Your new contract will then contain that same first refusal clause, and it'll go on and on. You can find yourself obliged to publish every single thing you write with that one publisher--and if their publishing skills are poor, your sales will be negligible. It's one of the many issues I have with The Zharmae Publishing Press (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?225203-The-Zharmae-Publishing-Press), for example. There are plenty of other publishers which do this.

PublishAmerica used to put ads into the back of all its books. Those ads were for other books it published. It doesn't sound too bad until you realise that it didn't bother to advertise romances in romance books only, thrillers in thrillers, and so on. Which meant there was potential to see erotica advertised in children's books, slash horror advertised in meditation books. Very difficult.

There are all sorts of reasons why you don't want to be published badly. Hold out for a good deal. You'll be glad in the long run.

Filigree
07-05-2016, 07:00 PM
Another vote for 'Don't publish at all, if you cannot be published well.' From experience several times over.

Langadune
07-05-2016, 07:15 PM
Doesn't sound like a very reliable agent who posted that tweet

Putputt
07-05-2016, 07:32 PM
Doesn't sound like a very reliable agent who posted that tweet

I'm confused by your post. An agent Tweeted sound advice for writers, therefore that agent is unreliable?

Cyia
07-05-2016, 07:39 PM
Doesn't sound like a very reliable agent who posted that tweet

It sounds like exactly the opposite. A reliable agent WOULD give this advice. An unreliable one wouldn't care if a deal hurt their author or not.

Langadune
07-05-2016, 07:44 PM
Sorry my reply was from a hurried glance at the post and title. I thought the agent was saying a bad deal was better than no deal.

whiporee
07-06-2016, 09:52 AM
You'd have to define bad deal. The agent was probably saying they had a book that hadn't gotten the interest that s/he thought, but a deal on the table is better than any hypothetical one that might come along. I'm inclined to agree -- after 18 months on sub, all I want is someone to put the thing on shelves. I don't care about advances or publicity tours or anything like that; all i want is someone to publish the damn thing.

Now, the vanity press thing is a different story, but I doubt that's what the agent meant. I'd imagine s/he was lamenting that this book deserves better than it's getting, but at least the book is getting offered something. And maybe they were frustrated with their client for not seeing that, or having a virtual slug of whiskey to commemorate it.

Old Hack
07-06-2016, 07:51 PM
There's a big difference between not getting the sort of deal one hoped for, and being offered a bad deal. Some contracts are toxic, and getting entangled in one of those is a lot worse than just not getting the marketing your book deserved. They can screw up your entire writing career.

quicklime
07-07-2016, 07:25 PM
You'd have to define bad deal. The agent was probably saying they had a book that hadn't gotten the interest that s/he thought, but a deal on the table is better than any hypothetical one that might come along. I'm inclined to agree -- after 18 months on sub, all I want is someone to put the thing on shelves. I don't care about advances or publicity tours or anything like that; all i want is someone to publish the damn thing.
.


to be fair, a good many people do NOT just want the damn thing published. Being published to abysmal sales because of a sub-par book sub-par deal, or sub-par agent can all impact any future sales you may or may not have, so an offer on the table isn't automatically better than any hypothetical any more than leaving a bar with the first guy/girl you meet is better than waiting to see if there is a hypothetical where you actually have some level of chemistry.

Bad deals are still deals you willingly made, and if they lead to shitty, shitty sales, or a book in print which could have been far improved THEN sold, or lead to a book in print which simply brands you as an awful writer....these are all bad deals and deals which can diminish your future chances. I'd sooner not take a deal that branded me "hack" just so I could make a few thousand bucks and/or "just get the damn thing out there".....there are absolutely bad deals and bad ways to be published, and vanity presses are the most glaring, but not the only ones.... YMMV, of course, as may your ultimate objectives, but for many, these are valid concerns. Ones that go way beyond the assumption any deal beats a hypothetical deal, or waiting.

Toothpaste
07-08-2016, 02:53 AM
I think a lot of authors who have never been published just think to themselves, "I don't care if anyone ever reads it, I just want it published!" And so they cannot fathom what a bad book deal might be (so long as it isn't a scam and they are losing money). But having watched some friends go from that position journey to the realisation what it means to have no distribution, a terrible cover, an inability to get one's rights back, I can say with absolute surety "I just want it published" is never good enough. And oughtn't be. I have never ever seen an author content with being poorly/badly published. Even if it was just a hobby, even if they just wanted a small audience. It is heartbreaking to watch. Worse, I imagine, to experience.

A bad deal is absolutely worse than no deal. Without question.

Cyia
07-09-2016, 04:04 PM
Yo I'm inclined to agree -- after 18 months on sub, all I want is someone to put the thing on shelves. I don't care about advances or publicity tours or anything like that; all i want is someone to publish the damn thing.


Here's the perfect example. Published, even legit published, =/= "on shelves" in all cases. Physical shelf space is premium property. Many books are put on digital shelves, which is why distribution and understanding what you're signing is so important.

And no. A bad/toxic/predatory deal DOES NOT mean "this book didn't get the interest we hoped."

Toothpaste
07-09-2016, 05:44 PM
Indeed. I'd also add that getting a book onto a bookstore shelf is one of the trickiest and most frustrating things about being an author. A book on a shelf is not a forgone conclusion. And even if your publisher isn't an ebook/POD publisher (POD pretty much guarantees that a bookstore won't stock your books since they can't return them), if it's small it might have a devil of a time to convince stores to give it a shot. Worse still, while you might not want any marketing or publicity, marketing is THE thing that gets your book on shelves. The rep going to the small stores to tell them what they have new in stock that the store owner should order, going to larger events to talk to the big box bookstores. Heck marketing often works directly with the big box bookstore purchasers on what the cover of the book should look like.

So you can say all you want is your book on a shelf, and I understand that feeling, but in order to get a book on a shelf your book must be published well. By a publisher who knows how to publish books and how to promote them.

Old Hack
07-09-2016, 07:06 PM
Agreed. If you sign a print deal with a publisher which does not have a full distribution contract then your book isn't likely to sell more than a few tens of copies. It doesn't matter how well you market your books, or how hard your publisher works: without that distribution deal (and note, this is NOT the same sort of distribution which is usually talked about by self publishers) your book won't sell.

J.J.PITTS
07-09-2016, 07:35 PM
My goodness, so many points I never thought about.

What an interesting thread and so glad I had an opportunity to read it.

Ravioli
07-09-2016, 08:49 PM
Keep in mind that once a contract is signed, your book is stuck with the bad deal publisher and you can no longer try and look for a good deal.

Sage
07-09-2016, 08:58 PM
The advice goes throughout publishing too. A bad agent is worse than no agent (because the bad agent won't get you the good deals).

zmethos
07-11-2016, 02:24 AM
Something is not always better than nothing. If you go out with the intention to catch a butterfly but then a snake slithers up and offers to go home with you instead, even if it promises not to bite, well, you might still rather go home without a butterfly OR a snake. Come out looking for butterflies on another day.

I speak from some experience. While I won't say I have a "bad deal" for one of my books, I've learned that I might've done better. So I'm more cautious now. (The snake wasn't venomous, but turns out I have very little use for a snake, and I keep having to feed it anyway...)