Thursday, 9 December 2010


I see it as one of my missions to open the eyes of the unwary author, telling it how it is, even if how it is sucks. So, I bring you a post from editor (and writer and margarita-drinker) Lynn Price, who talks here about the reasons why a contract might sometimes be cancelled.

She's absolutely right. It's never happened to me but on the several occasions when I've been writing a book after nabbing the contract, it's something that has scared me. What if the book goes wrong in the middle and I can't rectify it? What if what the editor thought she was going to get is not what I deliver? What if I am struck down by illness or other disaster before I've finished? What if the editor leaves?

So, go read Lynn's words, please, just so's you're warned. There are some things you can't control, but others you can. And if it does happen to you, yes, it's a kick in the guts, but you can survive and your book could easily - well, not easily, but likelily - transmogrify into another project another time.

There's one other lesson to take from this: do not have all your eggs in one basket - you should always have another idea bubbling away, or another book in progress. The book you are writing now is not the end of the story.

The novel I'm writing now has no contract because my agent and I haven't asked for one yet. When it's finished, we'll go for it. And I'm feeling so freed by this situation. It means I can write the book I believe in, not the one I think someone else believes I'm going to write.


Julia Crouch said...

So, so, scary... said...

Thanks for the linkie, Nicola. Julia, I wouldn't be too scared since this sort of thing isn't real common. But it does happen, and the idea is to be aware of it in order to avoid the sting. Good luck to you!

Stroppy Author said...

More worrying are some of the other reasons for cancellation - some that are totally outside your control and you can't always see coming. (It's totally inside your control not to write a shite book.)

This year I had a contract cancelled because the publisher was recession-hit and couldn't afford to publish the book. That has happened before, too, when the printer impounded and pulped the book because the publisher didn't pay the printing bill. And one that has been printed but I think won't come out as the publisher has gone bankrupt. (Do I seem to be bad at picking publishers?)

There was one I threatened to cancel because the book had been so badly edited it was a breach of my moral rights - ie the book was such total shite I didn't want my name on it. (A senior editor and I re-edited it at the eleventh hours, so that one was saved.) Oh, and I've had a publisher decide the story was too similar to something else *in their own list* (they might have spotted that one) and ask for substantial changes.

My point is... it's not always the author that does wrong and leads to a cancellation - sometimes it's the publisher. But still scary.

Melinda Szymanik said...

I have been in the position of having a book cancelled as a result of the recession and am currently dwelling in the contracted but not yet written position of potential cancellation. Just wishing these had a silver lining like weight loss or some major karmic credit.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Yikes. This is extremely valuable information and something I'm sure most writer's, including myself don't think about. Thanks for this.

Derek said...

I had a novel contracted to an e-publisher in the US and I asked for the contract to be changed. Before the revised contract was approved, my editor died suddenly - heart attack. The replacement editor disliked the book intensely and that was the end. The same book, 3 years later, was contracted to a European independent publisher and they went bankrupt. I'm hoping that 3rd time is a charm and I'm still looking!

Nicola Morgan said...

Melinda, the only silver lining is that when it goes right for you you will HUGELY much value it. Good luck.

Derek - blimey! But, exactly. Good luck!

Ebony McKenna. said...

Scary but salient lesson for us all.