Tuesday, 8 March 2011

News! Alas...

...not the news I was hoping to bring.

A few months ago, I sent the opening three chapters of my second to last book to a small American publisher. The Death and Life of Benjamin Harwood, if you're wondering. They asked for another few chapters after about a month. Then around late October/early November, they asked for the full ms. Result, I think, and send it. They reply - they have a couple of other books to read before mine, but they'll be in touch. I get on with going over TRG and working on the odd short story. I hear nothing from the publisher until the beginning of Februrary when I get an email with a contract attached and a brief message which is along the lines of 'we didn't hear back from you about our offer. Are you interested?'

There's a good reason they didn't hear back from me. I didn't get the email. As far as I'm concerned, the email is currently AWOL, probably on a desert island somewhere, working on its tan. So I of course replied to tell them (not mentioning the desert island bit) and asked for a couple of days to go over the contract. I tell my wife and resist the urge to tell the world I'm going to be published. Instead, I ask a fellow AW'er to have a look at the contract for me. She does and points out a few issues with it. Firstly, clause two is a little short. As in, short sections C and D. They're as AWOL as the original email. The clause goes from section B to E. You'd think I would have noticed this, wouldn't you? Anyway, a couple of other issues mainly to do with rights and copyright come up and while none of them were immediate red flags, they needed clarifying. So I replied to the publisher, asking if we could go over the missing sections and other issues. I hear nothing.

After a couple of weeks, I sent a gentle nudge. Still nothing. So after a lot of discussion with my wife and asking advice from a few published writers, I emailed the publisher yesterday and told them I was withdrawing my manuscript as it didn't appear they wanted to talk about the issues with the contract.

Here's the thing. This industry moves sloooooooooowwwwwwwwwwlllllllllllllyyyyyyyyy. I know it. I can handle it. While I wouldn't expect the publisher to drop everything to talk to me, I think I could expect at least a reply, a 'we're looking into this and we'll get back to you'. But since nothing came in reply, all I could take from that was they're weren't interested. And while that puts me back where I was with this book almost six months ago, I stand by my decision. Put it this way. Nobody would think it was a good idea to sign a contract for a job that didn't outline what the employer was offering for a salary, would they?

And if they offered a contract, somebody else might do the same thing.


  1. You are right. As slow as the industry moves, there is no excuse for outright rudeness. If one publisher loved your book enough to offer a contract, it is likely you can find another.

  2. Thanks, Ted. Here's hoping another publisher likes it enough to offer a (decent) contract.