So you're an author. You've written a novel, a short story, an anthology of your own work, heck, even a piece of flash, and you want to sell it. You want to be published. You're going down the route of selling the story yourself. You're agent-less. That extra % is going in your pocket.
THE FAME. GLORY. ALL HAIL THE HYPNO-TOAD.
You've got to sign a contract.
Gotta be done.
Okay... but do you know what you are really getting into?
For those of you that know me and the blog, you'll know I've fallen foul of the signed contract. The Human Condition was signed under a small press. Editing: done, cover art: done, Blurbs (really, really, awesome blurbs at that): done. Then the press falls foul of something that I (the author) have nothing to do with nor know much about, and functionally falls off the face of the planet.
Taking my book with them.
So I look at the contract. There's no get out clause aside from the one in mine that says (and I paraphrase) "we have 5 years to publish this".
Where does that leave me? It's two years later. No book. No contact.
So, I'm not a legal boffin, but here's my advice for what it's worth:
Remember: This is Business.
And by that, I mean you have your reasons to want to be published, and the publisher has theirs. Theirs will be gain. They will publish your book to make money, build a business, gain recognition. Whatever it is, they will not be publishing it because you are friends, nor that they think it should be "out there". It is a business transaction, and no one does business to lose.
What does that mean you ask? If it's not written down, it doesn't exist. I know it sounds callous, but trust no one.
Have someone non-bias to look over the contract.
Ideally someone who is a legal boffin. But I know the financial restrictions of that, so someone you trust who knows something about something. Another writer perhaps? Someone at work?
Make sure you understand it.
"I didn't know" does not stand up.
Don't sign contracts for work that mean something to you with a publisher with little or no track record.
I know, everyone has to start somewhere, but new starters are sometimes non-starters. Look for a track record. Someone that's "going places" may never get there, but someone that's "halfway there" is a better bet.
Not everyone is out to get you and you can ignore this advice most of the time.
Most people have their heart in the right place and will either publish your work or release you from the contract. It's sort of an unwritten agreement between civil human beings. In which case, if the worst happens just ask them to release you from contract. Most people will give you the nod (in writing, of course) and you are free to tout your wares.
Well, it was hard work, and many people have sweated buckets on it, but those that wished to publish the Human Condition have ignored me and my requests to be released from contract (It has been edited by two professional editors (who did it as a favor to me), I have a string of blurbs from established authors who I'm sure have better things to do than to read my book just to give a one line sales pitch to me, and the cover art work is my desktop background and not much else.)
I'm seeking legal advice now.
*On a side note my debut novel Shutter Speed is coming out at the end of this month and Redemption a novel I co-wrote with author Charles Day is coming out next year.
When it all goes wrong, keep at it.
And worst case scenario? 2016 isn't that far away....