Friday, September 16, 2011
"You'll Never Get a Major Deal Again!"
"You'll never get a major deal again!"
Sounds harsh doesn't it. Even cruel, especially when it comes from the mouth of a respected independent bookstore owner who operates one of the most successful bookselling operations out of Albany.
This was the scene: a year ago or so, said bookstore owner was lamenting the fact that my newest novel at the time, The Remains, was being published in trade paper and E-Book by an indie press. Due to the slowdown in paper sales because of E-Book sales and other economic factors, she didn't want to take the book on in the traditional manner by ordering it from the distributor. She wanted it on consignment. That way she wouldn't get burned down the road by having to hang on to unsold books.
When I explained to her that she could by all means return the books, she wouldn't hear of it. Ok, fair enough. These are trying economic times after all, and book stores are quickly going the way of the record store and the Blockbuster video store. Somehow our talk shifted to my original major deal with two Random House imprints back in '99 and 2000. I mentioned how my agent was going after another major deal based on the excellent E-Book sales I'd been experiencing thus far with The Remains. That's when she turned to me, looked me in the eye and said, "Vincent, you will never get a major deal again!" It wasn't like a slap to the face, it was more like a swift kick to the soft underbelly. She then backed up her statement by telling me the deal with RH had been fluke. The editors were tossing major six-figure deals around like confetti back then. Didn't matter the talent or the inherent value of the writing.
Wow, if I didn't already feel poorly enough about having to be on consignment at her shop, now I was made to feel like a total loser. I mean, I thought bookstore owners were supposed to prop up writers? Work with them? Live in harmony? You need me and I need you and all that...
Fast forward a few months.
The Innocent, Godchild and The Remains all hit the Top 100 on Amazon Kindles and eventually the Top 20. I started moving around 3,000 units per day. That's right. That's not a typo. 3,000 units. The Innocent hit the Top 10 and stayed there for seven weeks. In the meantime, I completed yet another novel, Murder by Moonlight. My agent wanted to go out to sale with it, hoping for the major deal said bookstore owner claimed would be impossible.
The Big 6 in New York all enthusiastically expressed interest in getting a read. So did another major publisher. A new major publisher that's emerged from out of Amazon. Thomas and Mercer. I'd heard about this publisher as not a major in the traditional sense, but more of a hybrid indie and major in which the author receives a terrific E-book royalty on top of being published in hardcover, audio and trade, and along with it, a nice advance or even better.
What makes this new publisher more enticing than the Big 6 however, is their direct connection to Amazon, the biggest store in the world. This publisher will not only sell your books but it is in their best interest to market them and even position them to sell. Something the Big 6 cannot guarantee.
I told my agent that if we did indeed get an offer from T&M that I wouldn't entertain a Big 6 deal, even if they offered me a much larger advance. I wanted to be at a home that represented the future of book selling. I wanted a place that would offer me security and a voice as an author. T&M, I was told would offer that and more. Then, when I heard that big name bestsellers like JA Konrath and Barry Eisler were signing contracts with T&M, that entirely iced the deal for me.
Just yesterday my agent excitedly forwarded my new contract from T&M to me for my review. There's a few details we're ironing out, but it looks great. I'm not at liberty to discuss the upfront money or the percentages, but suffice to say I'm back in the big leagues in a big way. Not only is T&M publishing Murder by Moonlight, but they are re-publishing five titles on my back-list, including The Innocent and The Remains--a first for my agent who has been in the publishing business for two decades. News will be forthcoming in all the usual trades: PW, etc. It's an exciting time for me and my entire family.
"You will never get a major deal again!" said the bookstore owner.
Sometimes I love proving people wrong.
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