Potholes on the Road to Publication - The Long and Winding Mystifying Mystery Tour - Part 2
I (thought I'd) made it!
A very well-known and legitimate publishing house wanted to publish my mystery! I was so excited.
I received the contract and started to get worried. It wasn't anywhere near as writer-friendly as the contract I'd signed with the US publisher for my romance. Then my lawyer read the contract. She wasn’t excited. She was angry. She confirmed my suspicions, said it was “a terrible contract” and advised me not to sign it. And I've since learned that another mystery author who was also offered a contract by the same publishing house received similar advice from his lawyer when he showed him his contract - his lawyer called it “the crappiest contract” he’d ever seen. He, too, strongly advised his client not to sign it.
Like so many other starting-out authors I had limited options and a difficult choice to make:
- follow my lawyer's advice and not sign the contract ... bu-bye published mystery, go back to square one
- insist on significant changes to the contract - I'd already been warned by the publishing company that they weren't keen on making changes to their contract, so insisting on the list of changes that my lawyer recommended would practically guarantee that I'd remain unpublished without any glimmer of other possibilities on the horizon
- sign the contract as is and take my chances that things would work out well
I rolled the dice and signed.
My book wasn't scheduled to be published until the publisher's next Fall catalogue, so nothing much happened for about a year.
Things ran smoothly through the editing process. An incredibly smart and nice editor was assigned to my manuscript. I liked her. She liked me. And, together, we polished the manuscript into publication-worthy shape.
Then I was sent a first version of the cover. It in no way represented what the mystery was about, so I politely made some suggestions. I was sent a second version of the cover. It actually related to the story, so I said “Let’s go with it.” A few months later, just weeks before the publication date, someone else in the company sent me the “final” version of the cover. It was a completely new design, one I hadn't seen before, and it was worse than the first version had been. I repeated my polite suggestions. We ended up going back to using the second version.
My cover story isn’t unique. Another mystery author with the same publisher wondered if anyone in the company had read her manuscript when she saw the first version of her book's cover. It was a close-up of a gun. Um … there weren’t any guns in her story. None. None of her characters threatened anyone with a gun, shot anyone with a gun, or got shot by a gun.
I told myself to forget about the cover issue; it was just a minor hiccup. A publisher had enough faith in my book's potential that they were willing to spend hundreds of man-hours and thousands of dollars printing, distributing and promoting it - that's what really mattered. They’d been in business for a long time and knew what they were doing. They wanted my book to succeed just as much as I did and were going to do everything they could to help make that happen … right?
The next hiccup came a week or two before the print publication date. A friend called and asked me why the book had been broken up into sections for the e-book edition. I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.
But I was about to find out...