Would you ever take a contract?

Ok, so this is sort of a take-off on Ms. Jami Gold’s recent post on Would You Ever Turn Down A Contract? And on that specific subject, Nadia Lee had some interesting things to say about that on Zoe Winters’ blog a while back. Because of course you might. There are some damned good reasons for doing just that.

However, what Jami’s post was really about was someone who was not interested in indie authorship/publishing basically saying that he couldn’t imagine anyone self-pubbing if they had a choice. Which you can either take as one of those “self-publishing is a last ditch effort of the inferior writer to get any kind of audience” things, or you can just assume, as I am, that this person simply has not thought about some of the things we have thought about.

So for those of us who have gone indie, perhaps especially for those of us who never queried and for whom indie publishing was a first choice endeavor, we’ve actually thought about those things a lot. We’ve done a lot of convincing ourselves that we’re doing the right thing for our work and our careers.

Maybe that’s where the backlash against Amanda Hocking came from when she “sold out” for a two million dollar deal. Maybe some of us have just convinced ourselves that hard. To be honest, I was exposed to very little of the nastiness first-hand because I didn’t go looking to read it, but as friends responded to it on their blogs, even I couldn’t help but notice it was going on.

And the bummer I got from that lingers on.

But anyway, the interesting thing is that when I got into this several months ago, a lot of people were talking about starting out in indie for the express purpose of getting picked up by a publisher, or at least starting to get some name recognition going to make themselves more attractive come negotiation time. That’s why Kait got into it, and even though she got sidetracked into being satisfied with staying indie, she ended up with an agent who came to her, who is interested in how the two methods can support each other, and Kait will probably end up very successful with great work in both worlds because she kicks ass like that.

Sorry, I think my waxing about Kait made me forget my point. :scrolls back up to find it: Oh, right. So the with so many indies saying they were doing it for those kinds of reasons and maintaining aspirations of eventual traditional publication, I was pretty astonished by the ugliness that followed Amanda’s news. Because here was an indie who did face rejection, went out a proved herself, got a fabulous deal that will give her security and freedom from stuff she doesn’t want to manage–she did good. It seems like just a few months ago people would have been happy about that.

But they weren’t? Is this how it is now? Are we really down to us and them like that?

How do you feel about traditional publishing? Are you indie but still hoping for that? Are you so indie you can’t imagine a contract that you would accept?

Do you think there’s been a significant climate change in our community, or that the sell-out crowd just barked louder this time?

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15 Comments

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15 responses to “Would you ever take a contract?

  1. I think it boils down to plain old jealousy. Because 99.9% of people are not going to have that kind of success, indie or traditional. And the naysayers have to bitch at somebody. A huge percentage of Stephenie Meyer’s detractors hate her because of her success. There are lots of people who treat this as some kind of Us vs. Them war, and believe that the indie movement as such is going to somehow overturn traditional publishing. The fact of the matter is, as you and I have discussed, Amazon and BN could decide tomorrow to switch to some kind of subscription service for publishing and only give us 15%, which then leaves most indies dead in the water for making a true living.

  2. This sort of thing happens all the time in music. Little band with dedicated following gets the chance to take their music to the next level. They take the deal, fans cry “Sell out!”. Band perplexed. That’s what the Amanda thing reminded me of. To me it’s about ownership.

    Up until now, she “belonged” to the indie movement. But going trad means she’s not the little indie that could anymore. It’s dumb and I don’t get it, but it’s an unavoidable side-effect of success.

    What Amanda’s doing and what Kait’s going for is how publishing is going to go. Why not take advantage of the pros from both worlds? Seems like a no brainer.

  3. I did turn down a contract, and I don’t even have a book out yet. I’d already sold myself on the indie route when a publisher said they wanted not just my book, but my whole series. Believe me, I looked at all aspects of that deal very carefully and compared it to what I’d get by doing it myself. Ultimately I decided that it makes the most sense for me to go indie. I like being in control, I want to make a living off my writing, and I don’t want to wait five years for all of my books to be available. That’s not to say that in the future I won’ t take a publisher’s deal if it’s the right thing for my books and career. But I’d need to be in a position of power before I’d consider it.

  4. Joe

    I actually got educated on the indie publishing thing right at the beginning of a planned round of agent querying. It was eye-opening enough that I ran the numbers, looked at the differences in control between indie and traditional publishing, and did a TON of research (oh, god, so much research), and abandoned the querying.

    I can imagine contracts that I would take, but I think they would be so atypical at this stage of publishing history that most publishers would choke on them–or simply couldn’t afford the terms, given overhead versus royalty issues for a decently-priced ebook.

    So, it’s indie for me. I’ll have my first book out this summer, instead of two years from now!

  5. Like I suggested on Kait’s blog, I’m guessing a lot of the negative reactions — at least those on Amanda’s blog — were a mix of readers used to paying low prices for her work and worried that she would quit self-publishing altogether and a few independent authors whose ideological constructs were built on assumptions, so much that when Hocking challenged those assumptions, she shook them all the way down to their foundations.

    I would accept a new book contract with NY only if I had a ‘throwaway’ series ready where I had the minimal amount of emotional attachment to the work. I’m still working on the emotional attachment part. 😉

  6. It’s hard to say either way, personally, but then, I’m a “never say never” kind of person. I’ll look at anything that comes my way, but right now, I’m totally happy being indie. Maybe that’s because I’ve run a business before, or maybe it’s because I haven’t yet convinced the world of my awesome writing prowess.

    Having said that… I did NOT go indie in hopes of attracting an agent or publisher. For one thing, I’m just not convinced I’m that good, or that I’m what they want/need/hope for. For another thing, I didn’t want to spend my life in that world of angst, waiting and hoping and wishing. I’m a lot happier when I’m doing, and being indie lets me “do.”

    Oddly, *if* I get to the point where I’m interesting enough for a publisher to look at me, I probably won’t want one. But again, never say never…

  7. Well it’s seems that the climate has shifted in the sense of more of us starting out indie without expectation of (and for some without interest in) it leading to trad. But from this very small, unscientific sample it seems like we’re still all reasonable people and those Us/Them haters were just some small segment that yelled loudly. So yay for that. Thanks for the comments.

  8. I’m chiming in a little late here, but I’ll put my two cents worth in anyway. I am soooo happy for Amanda. And I can’t believe other indies treated her like they did.

    I like the control indie publishing gives me. I don’t like to have deadlines set by anyone but me. But if someone offered me two million dollars? I’d take it in a heartbeat! Hey, it’s two millions dollars.

    • Seriously, LL. And what I really don’t get: we have no idea what’s in that contract other than 4 books and 2 million dollars. She’s very prolific. Why couldn’t she continue to publish on the side of that? Why couldn’t she go back to indie exclusively if she wanted to, once she’s had this experience and seen the other side of it. Especially for someone who can write at Amanda’s pace, they’re just books–she can write more. Why shouldn’t she take this opportunity if for no other reason than to see what it’s like? I don’t think I’d need quite as much as 2 million for that.

  9. Traditional publishing still had its merits. Still, it’d be like how people in music industry had been doing for years: go indie first and hope they get successful enough to be discovered. Yes, I’d take a contract but indie is promising, too. Maybe I’ll do both. It gives me more options.

  10. I think it’s the dollar amount. I don’t think half of these people would have complained about a few thousand dollar contract, but 2 mil? Frankly, I think they’re jealous, and jealousy makes people do ugly things.

    • Oh – and I’m replying frOm my mobile, so I could easily be repeating other comments…

      • I don’t think anyone else talked about the dollar amount, and it’s an interesting point. Because she’s not the first indie to get picked up. I heard that HP Mallory had signed…a 3-book deal? Anyway, whatever it was, it was said like a passing thing and it was the first I’d heard of it. So maybe it was part the fact that the amount made it big news (and that Amanda was becoming big news anyways). Thanks for the comment, Nicole!

  11. Hi Susan,

    I’m catching up on blogs this weekend, so I’m *really* late to the conversation. 🙂

    Anyway, thanks for the link to my blog and I’m glad to be of inspiration. You bring up a great point here, and I think we’ve talked about it a bit. That people are indie for different reasons – money, control, ideology (stick it to “the man”), etc. So everyone has different triggers for what would get them to change their mind and take a contract.

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