The Day I Turned Down a Book Deal
What happened with my book deal: Over the summer, I published my second book - Balance and Your Body: How Exercise Can Help You Avoid a Fall. I was really happy with how it turned out, and I’ve gotten great feedback.
I’ve almost sold out of my first printing her in Ottawa (but I can order more at any time, if you’re interested in purchasing a copy!), and it’s selling steadily on Amazon. It was time to move on to my third book.
In early September, I received an email through my website about Balance and Your Body. An editor at a New York-based publisher had found my book on Amazon and wanted to know if I was interested in updating it and re-releasing it with them, or writing another book on the same topic for them to publish. I asked around about this type of occurrence — i.e., a self-published author being headhunted by a publishing company — and although it is rare, it does happen from time to time.
I hopped on a call with the editor to find out more. From the first contact, I had always been willing to walk away if the proposal didn’t work for me. We exchanged many emails while she prepared a pitch for the larger editorial team. Then we hit radio silence. I figured her pitch had been rejected, so I moved on with my own writing/self-publishing timeline, and more or less forgot about it.
Fast forward to October, when another person from the same publisher reached out, explaining that the first editor had left for another job. Was a I still interested in producing a balance/exercise book with them? Sure!
More emails and phone calls, as they outlined how the book would look different coming through their publishing house. This included me producing and sending to them lots of sample photographs of the exercises (I had used illustrations in my book, to keep costs low, and to make the exercises seem more approachable to all).
Again, another lapse of time after their pitch and an eventual follow-up with me. I honestly thought I was being ghosted for a second time by the same company.
Late last week, I finally received an offer and a contract to review. I already had the names of several literary lawyers to contact, should this day arise. Yesterday, I spent one hour on the phone with one of these lawyers, going through the contract line by line. At the end our call, I had five pages of notes: sections where she recommended I have them strike portions, amend others, and have frank discussions with them before signing.
The advance they were offering was going to be chewed up by a photographer that I would be hiring to do photo versions of all the exercises. There were also a lot of restrictions around publishing other books—and I currently have three more in progress—as well as ownership and rights around the book I would be producing for them.
The original “Balance and Your Body” was meant to be a small book, so I was happy that it came in just under 120 pages. As my future collaborator, Dr. Barry Franklin, said, I’m writing “little books with BIG impact.” I love that sentiment, and I love that my books are accessible. Balance and Your Body is 16,000 words, while they wanted to update it to a tome of 40,000 to 45,000 words. And part of the deal would have meant delisting Balance and Your Body.
I was on the fence during the call with the lawyer. But deep down, I realized that I’m happier carving my own path at the moment. So I told them thank you but no thank you; that I wanted to stay self-publishing my books and being in charge of my catalogue.
And they were really gracious when I turned them down. Here’s part of her response to me: “If anything changes in terms of your scheduling preferences or you come up with another idea that you think would be better suited to more traditional publishing, please feel free to circle back with me, as we’d be open to talking.”
Never say never, who knows if I’ll come up with an idea that I’ll want to publish with them. In the meantime, I’m chugging away on my first novel, and the germ of an idea for my next novel popped into my head as I walked to work early this morning!
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Amanda Sterczyk is an international author, Certified Personal Trainer (ACSM), an Exercise is Medicine Canada (EIMC) Fitness Professional, and a Certified Essentrics® Instructor.