Canceled Contract? WHAT IS THAT?? Find out from Author Brandi Hall

Hello everyone! Welcome to day 12 of the Sizzler’s anniversary month! We have already had some fantastic guests this month ranging in a wide variety of topics. Today I’m honored to have friend and author Brandi Hall with us. Her topic today is one that is not widely discussed but should be. It’s one of the horror stories that we all hope never happens to us but know deep down it could. But Brandi is proof that authors can forge forward and survive a canceled contract! So without further babbling here is author Brandi Hall and her discussion on canceled contracts.

The Tough Decisions No One Wants To Make—or Talk About

You know how they say, “be careful what you wish for”? Well, I now understand what that means. After finishing my first novel, my hopes and dreams of being published were just like any other debut author’s.   But along the way, I slowly lost sight of that bright and shiny brass ring and was willing to settle for an oddly tarnished one instead. I’m sure you’re asking yourself “but why?” The simple answer is: I lost faith. Not faith in the industry. I lost faith in myself.

After countless agent rejections from queries, partials and full requests, I came to the conclusion that I was never going to land an agent with my first manuscript. Yes, I revised and tweaked my ass off, but it was still never quite right. So when I saw a post come through the FF&P loop about a new publisher who was looking out for the “author”, I jumped at it. Low and behold, they offered me a deal I was only too eager to accept. 

Now don’t go thinking I was some dumb blonde who locked myself into a bad deal—because it wasn’t like that. I hired an attorney to help me work through it, and the contract was fairly decent in the end. But sometimes, it’s not what’s in the contract you have to worry about—it’s what’s not. The contract was surprisingly author friendly, but it was also filled more with more holes than Swiss cheese. Even though my gut said “run”, I still signed the deal because deep down, I hoped I was wrong. Well let me just say—I wasn’t. Always listen to your instincts!

After close to five months of promoting, cover designing, revising and editing, my book was just about ready for the copy editor. What I didn’t say is that during those five months, I was initially given an editor who’s never read or edited in my genre (huh?), I was deceived in numerous ways, and my release dates kept getting mysteriously bumped back because of funding. But still, I was pushing forward to release my book. But one afternoon, I started reading a few blogs from one of my dream agents—and I received the wake-up call I wished I’d gotten months earlier. Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency posted a blog called “Don’t Give Up and Sell Out”—and it most likely saved the life of my writing career. That afternoon, I wrote the most difficult email I’ve ever written, and I canceled my contract and asked for my rights back. Fortunately, my forceful email compelled them to return my rights immediately. But that might not be the case for other publishers. I’ve certainly heard horror stories of it taking more than two years to get back rights.

I’m not here to go down the path of bashing the publisher, because that’s not the intent of this blog. But if I can share my bad experience to help any unsigned/unpubbed authors from making the same mistakes I did, then maybe something good will come out of this nightmare. The most important lessons I learned from this are:

  1. Never give up on finding an agent. You deserve an advocate who will look out for you and your writing. They know what to look for and if something critical is missing, they’ll spot it immediately.
  2. If an offer seems too good to be true—it probably is.
  3. Research and ask questions. This is your career and anything unanswered will only eat at you—or bite you in the ass later when it’s too late.
  4. Don’t be afraid to say “NO!” If you have even the tiniest bit of doubt about a contract you’re offered, don’t do it! Once your name is linked with a less than reputable publisher, it’s on your resume forever.

 

I recently attended RWA Nationals in Orlando where something painful and embarrassing kept happening. Because I sold my book, I was given a ribbon to wear that said “First Sale”. Since I technically did make the sale, I decided to wear it, not realizing the can-of-worms it would open up. By the end of day two, I could no longer handle explaining that I canceled my deal—and why. Needless to say, each time I was asked something, it was like tearing the band-aid off all over again. Even worse, I was humiliated to mention the publisher’s name. I felt like a colossal idiot for falling into such an amateur trap. Trust me when I say, you never want to be in this position. You should be proud of the choices you make.

At the end of the day, you started out in this business with a specific goal in mind. So whether you dream of landing a huge publisher to make it big—or you’re simply trying to supplement your income—don’t settle for less than what you want, just to be published. It’s not worth it. Your writing career will only be as good as you make it. If your work isn’t strong enough yet to get an agent or solid book deal—work harder to make it the best it can be. You only have one chance to make a first impression on your readers.

 Thank you to Brandi for being with us today and discussing a very touchy subject!

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21 Responses

  1. Thanks for a really good post and great advice. Sorry National Conference was difficult. Look forward to seeing more from you in the near future. Thanks for sharing.

  2. OMG! What a cautionary tale! Thank you so much for sharing it with us. We unpubbeds have to remember that some things can be worse than getting rejected – gotta hold on and get the right contract.
    I know it can’t be easy for you to talk about, but you helped a lot of people today. Thank you!

  3. You gave great advice at your personal expense. Not many are willing to do so. That tells me you have not only the fortitude to wait for the perfect time and place, you also have the savvy to recognize it now. On this post alone I look for you to accomplish great things in your writing career!

    Thanks for sharing, Brandi! I like you already; so buying your books is a sure thing for me!

  4. Hey Brandi, me again! This is fantastic advice. It can also be applied to the agent side of the equation. Not going into that right now (because it’d take up about half the page here), but you’re absolutely correct. Writers need to use caution and gut instinct when dealing with their careers. It’s too easy to be blindsided by the possibility of publishing to follow your common sense.

    Everyone’s journey to publication is different and the bumps in the road are in different places, but in the end, when that publishing contract comes through…it’ll be worth every second of trouble.

  5. Hey Brandi- waving at you here from Pensacola- it was great of you to share your story. Your bump in the road was a pretty hard one and I’m glad you are hanging in there for the long haul. It was fun to meet you at National Conference and I hope to see you at many more AND in the author chair at the signings! Stay cool, girl. Sherry/Jillian

  6. I must admit…I’m a bit teary eyed right now from all the kind words. Thank you so much for the wonderful comments, and for the heartfelt support. It means more than you can possibly imagine. This has been such a painful experience…and it’s one I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

    In the end, I do believe that everything happens for a reason…so I’m sure I’ll find a better home for my YA urban fantasy series, BIRTHRIGHT. For now, I’ve put it on hold to finish two other urban fantasy books, but I’ll be making some revisions and throwing it back into the waters later this year.

    Sayde – Thank you so much for asking me to write this blog. It ended up being the best therapy money can buy. The support you and Bec gave me through this experience means the world to me. I would have never made it without you guys (even though some days it didn’t seem like I had (wink-wink). Thank you for everything. :o)

    Darlene – Thank you so much, and I look forward to meeting you one day as well. :o)

    Romancemama – Thank you—and you’re quite welcome. It isn’t easy to talk about, but if my story prevents anyone from getting into the same situation—it was all worth it. :o)

    Runere – Thank you so much. It’s words like yours that help give me the courage to keep fighting for what I want. :o)

    Danica – You are so right, girl! The journey is what makes us who we are. As long as we stay true to ourselves, we can’t go wrong. Even if it takes a little longer to get where we’re going. Thanks for your support…and it was great meeting you at Nationals. :o)

    Sherry – Waiving back from PA…lol. Thank you so much, hon. I’m not letting it get me down. Wounds are officially licked—and the healing has begun…lol. I had a great time getting to know you at nationals, and I still have that book for you. In fact, it’s sitting here on my desk waiting to be mailed. Thank you so much for the support, girl. You rock! :o)

  7. Brandi, you’re a courageous author. I had a similar experience AFTER I was multi-published. Some of us never learn.:)

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Hey Brandi! I admire your willingness to share what had to be a painful experience to help other writers. What good advice!

    I especially like #4 – “Don’t be afraid to say no!” As new authors, when someone finally takes an interest in our work, it’s really hard to step back and think. Your post is going to help people, I think. 🙂

    • Thanks Rebecca! You know firsthand just how painful it was. Thank you so much for being my lifeline through it all.

      And you’re so right. When someone takes an interest in your work, it’s so difficult to look at it objectively. But thank god I did before it was too late! :o)

  9. Hi Brandi,
    Wonderful post, and advice we all should heed. Funny, I wrote a similar “article” for my blog recently, and I guess I should point out that the lesson you and I have learned doesn’t just apply to first-time authors. I’ve been around the block more than once, yet I fell into the same trap as you did. It’s called trust! Unfortunately, sometimes we put our faith in the wrong people (person) and it comes back to bite us in the butt.

    Like you, I’m embarrassed to even mention the name of the publisher, and I don’t bash them publicly because that can lead to even more problems. Unfortunately, my book had been released and I had promoted the link to the site. I think we should also mention that asking questions about author-related issues caused the publisher to take down the author’s loop to avoid answering them. That was a huge red flag for me, and a slap in the face, since I was the one asking the questions. 🙂

    I’m very thankful for Eternal Press, who picked up the book and will release it in January 2011. I prefer to forget my association with “you know who” and just move on. Lesson learned. My nasty side would love to see them crumple in the dust, but for the author’s who remain, I hope that doesn’t happen.

    But hey! The best thing that came from the deal…I met you in the process.

    • Oh, Ginger…my compadre who made the same decision along with me. What a month we had! Thank you so much for your support. I KNOW we’ll end up ahead of the game in the end because of our bad experience.

      And you’re right…the best thing that came from the deal was meeting you. Thanks, Ginger! :o)

  10. ABSOLUTELY, Brandi.:)

  11. This was a wonderful post and very insightful. I hope all aspiring authors find this to read. I was very lucky as I’m just like you, a bit on the gullible-I-want_it_so_bad side. I had three offers for my first book and my gut led me to Champagne Books. The other two have long since folded and one of them even did so in a very publich way. I won’t mention names either, but I could just have easily been in your position. That you cancelled speaks highly of your courage. I sincerely hope you find the publisher of your dreams.

  12. Hi Brandi,
    Terrific blog. sorry I am a little late in jumping in here. I know how you feel as I have been caught up the same way and had to ask for my novel back, but hey, I met my talented friend Ginger because of it, so something very good came out of a horrible experience.

    regards

    Margaret

    • Hi Margaret.

      Thank you, and I’m sorry you went through the same painful ordeal…but I’m so glad you ended up with Ginger in your life the way I did. She’s awesome!

      :o)

  13. Unfortunately, many writers don’t listen to their gut and sign away their precious efforts to houses that are all for their pocket, how many authors can we sign, or how many books can we fill our bookstore with.

    The best thing for an author to do is after they’ve checked waring sites, is go to the publisher’s website, jot down some author names and emails, and contact those authors. They are the ones who can best give you their honest impression. Also, you should always be free to contact the publisher with a question. Gauge the response time, gauge the response itself if it’s one of those ‘government diplomatic answers’ that really don’t answer anything at all.

    There are far too many houses opening up who don’t have the best interest of the author and that’s a shame because it puts a hovering ugly taste on the small publishers who actually give two hoots about the authors.

    Really enjoyed your post. Thank you.

    • Hi Lea.

      You are sooooooooo right! Being able to ask the publisher questions is crucial. Unfortunately, Ginger and I weren’t able to. For me personally, I was either ignored, or I was emailed by the CEO’s assistant with “PR speak” to calm me down. If you can’t get a straight answer–there’s probably a reason for it.

      Thanks, Lea.

  14. Typo: Warning not waring. GRIN

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