From author Brenna Aubrey:
Over the past several months, I’ve been called brave by some and stupid by others when they discover that I did the “unthinkable” and turned down the promise of a “good deal” for print from NY in favor of self-publishing my debut novel At Any Price. Aside from giving some vague particulars, I haven’t said much. But now that the novel is out in the world, I feel the need to share its story. Because there is a story behind this story.
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Last year I signed with an agent to sell my historical romance novel and while it went on submission, I resolved to put myself hard to work on a new novel—in an entirely new genre. The idea had been nibbling at my brain for months and months and I had to let the story out, finally. And what better time to keep myself occupied than while I was on submission? So I cracked open a new Word document and 12 days later, I had the fast draft of a new book. Yes you read that right. I wrote the first draft in twelve days. It took another month and a half to get it in better condition by the third draft and ready to take out on the town.
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After crafting the story and finding that my historical romance novel had come to a dead end with New York editors, I went on submission with AT ANY PRICE (titled “Love At Any Price,” at that time), a New Adult contemporary romance. Within a month, it went to auction with New York publishers. Four houses wanted it and the bidding reached six figures for a three-book print deal. However, like Mia, the heroine of my book, I learned that auctioning yourself to the highest bidder isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
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I was up front with my agent when I handed over my manuscript: I wanted a one-book deal only, I would not sign a non-compete of any kind. I would not sign an option clause. And lastly and most importantly, I wouldn’t accept just any offer. I wanted to be clear on these things ahead of time. Some might say that for a debut author, I was asking for a lot. I know I was. But as with any type of negotiation, you are usually most successful when you ask for more than what you really want and “settle” on your own terms.
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The ending bids by the two remaining contenders were very tempting. I agonized over the decision. But this wasn’t just about me. There was so much to consider: my family, my career, my goals. I spoke with experienced friends who were both traditionally and independently published authors. Hugely successful authors who had hit the big lists with their books. They were open, objective and, above all, supportive.
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And I also weighed all the wonderful pluses that came with being traditionally published by a Big 5 house—including having a “team” behind me every step of the way, having the “clout” and prestige of having finally “made it,” being able to reach a wider audience through print distribution. And also, of not disappointing others that were closely connected to my career.
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The houses that bid for me have required aggressive NCs [non-compete clauses] from their authors. As there was going to be a delay in getting the books out (see #2 reason below), this would have effectively prevented me from putting out any New Adult contemporary romances as an indy author in the foreseeable future. The idea of being handcuffed creatively really bothered me. I was told that an NC wouldn’t be a big deal even though I knew authors from the houses in question (we authors talk!) who were being told they could not publish any tie-ins, even short works, with anyone other than their house. It was implied to me, also, that anything within my “brand” (i.e. tying in geek culture with New Adult romance) would be considered a clash of the NC clause.
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[T]he schedules were such that AT ANY PRICE would have been released in October of 2014 with the two follow-up books being released in the spring of 2015. All three books follow the same couple (though the only cliffhanger is in Book 2) and this delay was not acceptable to me. I will be independently releasing those books in the spring of 2014 instead.
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My main concern as a debut author was…who would buy my book at $8.99 when they’d never heard of me before? In this market, at that price, most readers will not take a chance on an unknown. To say nothing of the multitude of independent authors I would be up against, who could afford to offer their books at a more competitive price. I liked the idea of being able to control my pricing, set my own limits.
Ultimately it came down to the appeal of having control. Many of my traditionally published author friends do not have that luxury. As and indy author, I have control over my covers, pricing, promotion, marketing, placement. The list goes on.
Link to the rest at Brenna Aubrey and thanks to Jinni for the tip.
No publisher has ever provided what PG considers to be a cogent reason for a non-compete clause. In fact, nobody has even come close to anything clear, logical and convincing. For him, it’s one of the bizarre business idiocies of traditional publishing.
Brenna also points out one of the more frustrating aspects of traditional publishing for an indie author – it’s sooooo slow. By the time the second book comes out, the memory of the first has pretty well faded for most readers.
One of the most common purchasing behaviors among book buyers when they read a good book is to buy more books from the same author. Who wants to wait a year for another book? That’s another reason why the non-compete clauses make no sense. The books an author self-publishes will help sell the books that are traditionally published.
Which raises one more issue: In the post, Brenna talks about authors who use a pen name to get around non-compete clauses. PG warns all that doing so will be a violation of a competently-drafted non-compete clause.
PG was about to disclose one of his discoveries about non-compete clauses, but he won’t do so because, once revealed, it might induce attorneys working for publishers to rewrite their clauses.
He will just say that, speaking in general terms, publishing contracts are most ineptly-drafted class of documents he has worked with during a long legal career. Other types of contracts are litigated more frequently, which is the single best way of disclosing their weaknesses.