Silver-Lined Silver Lining
A story of inspiration
I signed with a small press to release my first children’s novel. I’d been waiting for this moment since I was seven years old. I’d toiled for a year on this manuscript. And I was rejected 98 times out of the 150 agents I queried. But then, I got the contract.
Caveat emptor – the buyer beware
The contract seemed to lean in favor of the publisher, but what did I know? Immediately, I contacted Linda Bernfeld for advice. After sharing some of the red flags with me, she sent me to the SCBWI website to download a resource tool: THE BOOK – the Essential Guide to Publishing for Children. I spent the next four days dissecting the contract by:
- Requesting additions — The contract lacked detailed marketing plans, a clause for the author to get out, and a clear description of what ‘the next work’ meant.
- Requiring deletions — I couldn’t sign the contract unless clauses demanding the author cover the costs upon termination or phrases such as ‘in perpetuity’ or ‘now known or hereafter devised’ weren’t removed first.
- Suggesting changes — I suggested ‘exclusive rights’ become ‘first option’ and ‘full-term of copyright’ change to ‘twenty years’ based off THE BOOKs suggestions.
I pulled my hair out trying to understand the contract’s every word. And when I finally did, I presented my terms to the publisher and was told, “This is an industry standard, non-negotiable contract.” So what did I do? Did I take the deal anyway? After all, what if I didn’t get another one? I couldn’t sign the contract, not after everything I had learned. I politely declined, then spent two days crying. Until the owner of the publishing house called.
A bad contract coated in honey is just a sticky, bad contract
The owner said she’d meet my terms, and she hit nearly 90 percent. After my attorney gave the okay, I signed the contract, and the honeymoon began. The cover was revealed. The proofs were mailed. Press releases were sent. It was a dream come true. One Sunday, my pastor mentioned the desire to build a new church. They would need 100K to build the new facility. I felt a stirring in my heart and talked with my pastor. I told him I was going to sell one-million books so I could tithe my ten percent, or 100K, to build this new church. I planted a faith seed that day with my pastor as my witness, and expected big things. But three weeks before my release, the owner experienced a personal tragedy in her life and disappeared from the grid. What did I do?
- Reviews — I sent books to mommy bloggers nationwide for reviews & giveaways
- Promotion — I submitted and published to Writer’s Digest online
- Selling — I sold class copies to two schools
- Buzz building — I tried creating buzz by bombarding my social media sites
The owner returned a few days before the release. Nothing had been done in her absence. She had to get a full-time job to make ends meet. And my first weeks sales came in at two books sold…yes, two! She said that it was normal because they were slow and financially struggling after her tragedy. I was told they could no longer afford to market the book, including the 150 blog tours I was guaranteed and the personal publicist. How was I supposed to sell a million books? I had forgotten that when you give something to God, forces rise up against you. But when you give something to God by faith, He always returns on the investment. I took out my contract to see what rights I had in the situation, and discovered that the publisher was in breach…big time!
A stitch in time saves mine
I learned several things right away:
- The exact places my book should’ve been submitted for review
- A list of events I should have been appearing at
- The marketing tools I should have been provided with
I emailed the owner requesting a paper trail of her marketing efforts, copies of the reviews she’d received, email requests for the appearances she’d arraigned, and asked for reimbursement for the over two-grand in marketing tools I’d personally spent. Her response? She telephoned and said she was releasing me from my contract. Which told me there was no paper trail. She went on to officially void my contract, yet the next day released an audio book version of my book on Amazon, without a contract between me and the cover artist. My attorney became involved once again, and a cease and desist order was sent out. Unfortunately, the audio book is still active and I’m working on getting it removed. I HAVE NO AFFILIATION WITH THE AUDIO BOOK, so please don’t judge me if you’ve listened to a sample.
And the point of the story is…
If I hadn’t received direction and resources from the SCBWI, I would be stuck in a bum contract without ownership of any of my rights. Sure, I could sue for the many breaches, but for what? I own my rights again, I have possession of the formatted files, and I now get 100 percent of royalties for doing 100 percent of the marketing. I have to believe God has a plan which is much greater than anything I could have expected if I had stayed with the publisher. And the funny part is the theme to Clifton Chase and the Arrow of Light is that there is a power greater than us orchestrating our lives.
Would I have done things differently? I don’t know. I feel very blessed that everything worked out as smoothly as it did. Sure, it’s been a major headache to go through, but I had covered all my bases by not taking the first contract that came my way, and utilizing the guild to help me negotiate the deal. And since there’s been such great buzz and reviews from the blogs I’ve submitted to, I’m self-publishing the exact same novel so I wont’ skip a beat. The best part is that someone reading this may learn a thing or two from my story that keeps them from entering into a bogus contract. And if it took my hitting this speed bump to help you out, I’d call that the silver-lined silver lining, for sure.
I gave this book to God from the beginning and I know He is in control of every aspect of it. Doors have opened for me that I could never have opened on my own. It’s been a truly amazing experience. I still have faith that I will sell enough books to be able to tithe that 100K to my church. Why? Because God provides my needs and meets me where I’m at when I take a leap of faith. Has this ever happened to you? I would love to hear your stories of how God has taken a disaster in your life and turned it around to glorify Him. Feel free to leave those in the comment box below.