It's no secret that the publishing world is full of "Nos." They have form rejection letters that they send out because they say no more often than they say yes. At first, the rejections slide off your back. You shrug your shoulders and say, "It's okay, someone will like it." Then, after countless rejections and your confidence sliding down the drain, you become desperate. You think, "Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I'm a horrible writer." You beg and plead in your mind for someone to pick up your story.
Then, you finally get a "yes." All of the negativity melts away and you are floating on air. You knew it all along; you knew your book was good. That moment is very exciting, and it does make the whole ordeal worth it, but you still need to keep a level head. Just because a company is reputable, that doesn't mean they are good. Here are some things to do before signing the contract.
1. Read the contract through word for word. Make sure you understand everything in it. If you don't, ask questions. Have a lawyer or contract specialist look through it, especially if you don't have an agent. It might sound pompous, but this is your work, your career, make sure your rights are protected. Again, if anything arises, make sure to address it with the publisher.
2. Contact some of the authors and see if they are happy with the publisher. A company can look great on paper; they can have tons of sales and hundreds of books, but how happy are the authors? Does the publisher answer emails in a timely fashion? Do they get their royalties when they're supposed to? Little things like this can make working for someone incredibly stressful and frustrating. Most authors are more than willing to share their experiences, so shoot them an email and find out. I recommend talking to at least three or four.
3. Follow your instincts. If you've done both of the above and still think the company is great, then go for it. But if there is any doubt in the back of your mind, do a little more research, continue to send the manuscript out. Having a bad publisher is NOT better than having no publisher. Being angry and stressed out because the publisher is not holding up their end of the bargain can take its toll on your writing life.
In the end, it boils down to what is going to make you happy. While having a book published is the ultimate high, dealing with a horrific publisher will completely undermine everything you've worked for. Always do your research and make sure the company fits your needs and will make you happy. Sometimes, that means dealing with a few more rejections or putting your novel away for a while so you can work on the next one. As hard as that is, it will make everything better in the long run.
Pembroke Sinclair has had several short stories published. Her story, “Sohei,” was named one of the Best Stories of 2008 by The Cynic Online Magazine. She has novellas and a short story collection forthcoming from Musa Publishing and eTreasures Publishing. Her two novels, Coming from Nowhere (adult, sci fi) and Life After the Undead (YA, horror), are available from eTreasures Publishing, as well as Death to the Undead (YA, sequel to Life After the Undead), which is forthcoming. Life After the Undead was a Top Ten Finisher in the Preditors and Editors Reader’s Poll in the YA category and the cover art category.
Under her real name, from March 2008 to January 2011, she wrote scientific articles for Western Farmer-Stockman. She has a nonfiction book, Life Lessons from Slasher Films, scheduled for release in summer 2012 from Scarecrow Publishing (an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield).
Pembroke has her Master’s in English and is a freelance content editor for Musa Publishing, as well as a content and line editor for eTreasures Publishing. You can check out her blog at pembrokesinclair.blogspot.com.