As of last week, I signed my life away on a three-book deal with TZPP. I’m expecting the first round of edits for my novel, The Dream Box, sometime this weekend. The project’s tentative release date is Black Friday.
This is my first experience dealing with a younger press as opposed to the industry giants in New York, and I have to admit that I’m pretty happy with it so far. I’ve always been a “shoot for the moon” sort of guy, but as you may have read in Rejection: Greatest Hits, some of these larger, more established presses can be surprisingly unprofessional. All things considered, there are some real advantages to signing with an underdog, which I shall attempt to illuminate:
1) The Contract and Your Rights
I can’t speak for every small press, but my publisher made it clear to me going into the signing process that nearly every aspect of my contract was negotiable. I confirmed with Professor of Great Renown that it was an industry standard contract save for a few sticking points, which I came back and successfully negotiated with no issues. My royalties, which I won’t share publicly, are fairly generous. I didn’t need to find a literary agent (what a joke so late in the process, right?) to hustle for me. Nor did I have to deal with the kind of silent treatment I received from a certain unnamed mega press who one day shall be named on this blog and shall live forever in infamy. But not today. ‘Tis not yet the time for naming…
2) Personal Connections
Frankly, it feels amazing to know your publisher believes in you and to work with editors who seem to really want you to succeed. My publisher has given me gentle nudges (and the occasion kick in the rear) to get me writing again after personal mishaps–and this after generously promoting me on an anthology cover when he could have picked from a dozen other authors. Several of the senior staff members at TZPP (including my publisher) began following this blog after the press accepted just one short story, and we’re always promoting each other personally through social media and other avenues as opposed to staying on our respective sides of the “professional” fence.
Before I had my foot in the proverbial door, this was the sort of interaction I absolutely coveted.
At present, I’m not feeling any of that “cutthroat” mentality you read about–rather, there seems to be a true sense of loyalty. Not those patronizing shenanigans, either. Loyalty. I hope it holds.
3) Valued Input
After I signed, I did that thing all rookies do: “You know, I have some ideas for the cover design…” I did this knowing that most publishers could care less what an author thinks about the way a book is marketed. After all, it’s the author’s job to write and the publisher’s job to figure out what will sell, right? Wrong–although it’s a common misconception. The author first has to write something salable and pitch it to editors and/or agents, but seldom does he (or she!) get any credit for being sales oriented. There’s usually a sense of “You’ve brought it this far, but we’ll take it from here.”
My publisher, on the other hand, was kind enough to let me submit my input for the cover design for all three books. I was really surprised. Even some of my heroes have complained about the cover art they’re stuck with looking absolutely nothing like their original vision. I think every writer dreams of having some kind of creative control beyond just the words on the page. I didn’t imagine it would come this soon.
4) Collaborative Opportunities
TZPP has been assembling a team of writers to create an installment series through collaborative world building. I’ve been interested in this project since the get-go, and it sounds like it might finally be getting the green light. I haven’t had the opportunity to create by committee since college. Not to completely geek out here or anything, but those meetings in bars where we closed Mill Avenue down trying to figure out what a Postmodern version of hell would look like to Frank Herbert were more fun than most of the college parties I attended at ASU. Getting paid for the sort of thing you’d do for free during your college days is the very definition of living the dream.
Every mega publisher out there today (before having a conniption about Kindle) started as a small press. Joining an already successful conglomeration wherein your book deal–your dream–might have been nothing more than some high-powered agent’s proviso for some bigger book deal would leave me wondering if I really made it on my own steam. The idea of helping a younger publisher grow and receive renown, on the other hand, hardly leaves room for that sort of doubt. Every writer seeks (needs) validation–whether through publication, sales, reviews, awards, a cult of die-hard fans willing to commit seppuku over the end of a book series, or–my favorite–all of the above.
A sane person would try to prove it to him- or herself before proving it to the world, but unfortunately for most of us, the process only works in reverse. Authority (i.e. being an author) isn’t something that can be assumed–it must be granted, bestowed. Only an audience can do this. The opportunity to grow with a publisher is probably the purest way of proving to the world that I was meant to do this.
Then, perhaps, I will have proven it to myself.
Uh, yeah. Thanks Bae–err, Voldemort, err, He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named!
-Whew!- Close call!