I mentioned this in my last post – Bookish Facts About Me – but I thought I’d talk about it in a bit more detail in it’s own post.
Some time in either March or April, I submitted the first three chapters of my novel ‘Beauty in the Breakdown’ to a publishing company. At this point, I had already self-published the book, something which I thought would come up as an issue with any company, but I still wanted to try anyway as I can take down the book at any point.
The company liked the chapters I submitted to them and I ended sending them the full manuscript. At the end of April, they offered me a publishing contract.
Becoming a published author is something I’ve dreamed about ever since I was seven. I’m serious. Writing has been the only thing I’ve wanted to do with my life since I was seven. And, at age sixteen, I was offered a publishing contract for a book I wrote between the ages of fourteen. The company described the story as “well-written with an absorbing narrative”, something which will become important later on in this story.
Being offered the contract was almost a dream come true. I say “almost” because of the type of contract I was offered.
Here is something from the publisher’s website about contract: “Initially all work submitted to us is considered for a ‘traditional publishing contract’. This is where no costs are incurred by the author and the whole cost for producing, publishing and marketing the work is covered by [publishing company]… Should we be unable to offer a traditional contract, but we feel the work has potential if we were to publish it, an alternative offer may be made. This offer is known as a ‘partnership contract’ and is based on a contribution, to be paid by the author, to cover initial production and printing of the work.”
If you’ve managed to keep listening until this point, you can probably guess where this is going.
I was offered the second contract, the partnership/contribution contract. That would’ve been fine if the amount of money I had to pay wasn’t £2,400. The guy from the company who was emailing me – apparently a chief editor – said this would go towards editing, production, and marketing. Nowhere in the contract does it go into detail about what that money would’ve been spent on.
I was given a month to sign the contract, if that was what I chose to do. I would’ve had an editor, production team, and marketing team, even if I wasn’t sure exactly what their job involved. ‘Beauty in the Breakdown’ would’ve been promoted to the press, book shops, TV, and radio stations. However, the book would’ve have been released until the full ‘contribution’ was paid over a course of ten months.
At this point, I would like to remind you all that I am sixteen years old. I have no job, no savings, and there is no one in my family who has that kind of money laying around who would be willing to give it to me, especially since it would be unlikely that I would pay it back. I would also like to mention at no point during my entire interaction with the company did they ask how old I was. This was the first sign that something wasn’t quite right.
My publishing contract excitement lasted for a grand total of two days before I discovered more things that weren’t quite right.
I did a little research. I put the company name in Google and clicked on ‘news’ and noticed that there’s only a handful of articles about them, only from ‘local’ news sources. Their website says that they are “completely dedicated to each of our authors, and work hands on with authors and media contacts in order to give every book the best start in life”, but the only media attention I’ve seen is the authors contacting the local news themselves.
I looked deeper on the website and read about how they take pride in promoting their authors and helping them to reach their well-deserved recognition, even going as far to say that the authors have been given ‘fame’, but neither me or any of my friends recognise a single name that has been listed on the website.
Then I found a review which mentioned the two things that I just did. Upon reading the comments, I noticed close to a hundred people who had been offered the same contract as me, and an identical email with only our names changed. Someone even mentioned that the company described their novel “well-written with an absorbing narrative”, the exact thing that I received in my email. Also, everyone received their email within a week or two of submitting their manuscript and, since the company claims to receive hundreds of submissions per week, none of us believe that anyone has actually read our manuscript, unless their company employs thousands of people which I know that they don’t.
I haven’t had the chance to contact any authors listed on the site, but on the articles I found, not a single person in the comments mentioned that they had received a traditional publishing contract from the company, rather than one that makes you pay thousands of pounds without a proper explanation why. The ‘contributions’ I saw ranged between two and six thousand pounds.
In conclusion, do your research before you even consider submitting your manuscript to a publishing company. Or find an agent, or at least someone who has some idea what is going on in the publishing industry.