Author Gets Bad Book Deal

And here's what we're going to do about it.

Well, folks, Andrés Cruciani of Toho Publishing here, and we're deep in the process of translating our first novel, THE FATHER, into Spanish, so let's get straight to it.

I wanted to briefly talk today about one thing: rejecting a bad publishing offer.

When you are a first-time author (and even sometimes when you're not), the prospect of trying to find a publisher/agent can be incredibly daunting. That shift—from writing (an internal focus) to "marketing" (an external focus) is something we've talked about before—and it's a shift that doesn't necessarily come naturally to writers.

Someone can be a good writer or a good marketer, but it's rare that they be both.

So, when authors do make that shift—do put themselves on the line—and begin promoting their work (even if that promotion is just writing a query letter and sending that out there)—it can take a lot of courage, a certain amount of will, and a fair amount of resilience too. (We know this because helping authors with queries and agent/publisher research is something we here at Toho Publishing do!)

"But look," says shady publisher, "we have stock photos of happy people. How can you say no to us?

The result of getting over this initial fear is that authors are often thrilled with their first offers. Yet there are countless stories of, well, this: an author is super afraid to put their work out there, an author becomes jubilant when a deal comes faster than expected, that author accepts it prematurely so they don't have to keep querying, and then that same author regrets the deal a year down the line when they realize just how bad a deal they got. And that's just what we at Toho Publishing want to avoid.

I won't give the name of the publishing company (because there is a .1% chance that I'm wrong about my analysis), but yesterday, we had an author receive an offer from a publisher. The author was ecstatic, and rightfully so. And don't get me wrong: I was excited too; however, I was a bit more reserved because, frankly, the offer came to soon and the offer letter itself was short and generic. Here's what it said:

... congratulations! We are interested in publishing your novel. As you are aware, your contribution to promoting the book and holding book signings will be critical for its success.We have attached a contract for your signature. We need the contract back signed within two-week time, so we can slate it for publication.

Note a few things:

  • there are a few typos (no space after period, "two-week time", ambiguous pronoun, etc.)

  • the email doesn't even mention the name of the book OR the author's name

  • the email's generic, clearly a form letter

  • there's no talk of why they want to publish the book

  • the publisher doesn't even want to schedule a phone call!

So, as soon as I read the letter, I was hesitant. Of course, any publication deal (even a bogus one) is exciting—the life of the author is filled with so much rejection that we have to celebrate even the smallest of wins—but I consider it my job here at Toho Publishing to help and protect other authors, so we started researching the publisher. What we found was disheartening:

  • The webpage looks incredibly old (like it had been made twenty years ago) and has typos, well, everywhere.

  • There's no mention of who's on the team except for the founder. And even that person's name is a bit difficult to find.

  • They have published LOTS of books. You'd think this was good. But the next question is: are they marketing those books? Answer: NO.

  • They have very few news articles/blog posts/etc.

Continuing the search online, we found:

  • Very few reviews of them—anywhere.

  • They had only three reviews on Facebook, and one of the reviews was a one-star. (We're still waiting to hear back from the author who left that review.)

  • Frankly, the covers of their books look bad.

  • Their Amazon sales, at least at this moment, are horrible (most of their books are ranking worse than 1,0