Why I Turned Down a Book Deal, Part 4

Here’s Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.

At this point, my mind was swirling. There are aspiring authors everywhere for whom a book offer would be a dream come true. I felt very humbled and very honored.

book deal

At the same time, I battled pride, foolishly (and wrongly) believing this somehow bumped me up to a new level. The truth is, a part of me longed to join the ranks of other bloggers who were making the leap to “published author” status.

A huge part of me said I would be crazy to let the opportunity go. Would I ever have the opportunity again?

Let me be clear. I LOVE that publishers are seeking out bloggers (very smart move) and that bloggers are going for it!

Yes, this was an exceptional opportunity. But was this the right opportunity for me? Right now?

Was I pursuing this because I was convinced I could help more people if my time management tips were in “real” book form? Or was I pursuing this because I thought this was somehow going to make me finally “be somebody”?

Wacky, flip-flopping emotions aside, there were very valid reasons to pursue it. But there were also five nagging questions I couldn’t quite resolve.

1. Brevity: Could I really justify making it 7 times longer?

My ebook is about time management. I purposefully made it short so one could read it today and start implementing the tips tomorrow. Its brevity is what sets it apart from other time management books; I’ve said that publicly on numerous occasions.

I proudly adopted the tagline “What if you could change your life in less than 30 pages?”

Bottom line? It was hard to justify adding seven times the content just to make it fit into a traditional-sized book.

An interesting tidbit about book length:

Here’s a conversation about publishing between Michael Hyatt (former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers) and Seth Godin (bestselling author many times over and cultural pioneer). It’s completely worth listening to the whole thing, but 9:49 minutes in, this was the exchange:

Michael: I personally love the shorter books, because I think you can develop the idea…and the truth is, I shouldn’t say this either, but as a publisher, most books are full of padding, you know, to justify the retail price that you’re asking. I can’t believe I just said that, but that’s really true.

Seth: It’s true.

Michael: It’s a benefit, frankly, when your time and attention are rare.

I couldn’t agree more.

2. Affiliates: What about those who had already supported me so well?

The reason I’ve been able to sell as many ebooks as I have is because there are hundreds of people (affiliates) helping me spread the word. I am overwhelmingly grateful.

I have been outspoken about the benefits of partnering with affiliates and the need to treat them well.

Bottom line? Accepting this book offer would mean cutting off my affiliates. I simply did not feel right about ditching them because a big publisher came knocking.

3. Money: Did the numbers really work in my favor?

While the advance and the royalty rate were lovely, I was making a whole lot more per book selling them on my own. Granted, I had various sales causing my per book profit to fluctuate (sometimes dipping below what I would have made with the royalty rate), but from a purely business standpoint, the crunched numbers did not side convincingly with traditional publishing.

According to their forecast, the publisher didn’t expect my book to “earn out” the advance (the vast majority of books don’t, remember?). Only a very small percentage of authors are wildly successful and frankly, the odds were not in my favor.

Defeatist? Maybe to some, but in light of the traction I had already gained alone, and in light of what I was learning about the possibilities of self-publishing, I didn’t think so. At the time I was only projecting, now I know for sure.

4. Time: What about all the waiting?

As we know, traditional publishing takes a very long time. Whether good or bad, in the age of 140 characters and instant everything, a year or more is an eternity. These days, a lot can happen in weeks or months, let alone a year.

The lapsed time in the publishing process wasn’t a huge issue fifty, twenty-five or even ten years ago when everything moved at a much slower pace. But things are different now. I don’t think publishing as we know it will be able to keep up in the long run.

As Seth Godin says in the interview mentioned above (at :51),

“Right now, there’s a revolution going on and all these industries are changing. And our mindset is, ‘How do I hunker down? How do I get through this? When will it get back to normal?’ And my point is, this is the new normal. This is actually a chance of a lifetime. How do we reinvent what we do?”

While I waited for my book to roll off the presses, what opportunities would pass me by? Would my ideas still be fresh over a year later? I would have to stop my own sales. How much would be lost? Would I lose marketing momentum? I would have to put other projects on hold while I hammered out a full-length manuscript. What would I miss?

Bottom line? I didn’t want to wait and find out.

5. Marketing: Would I have to start over?

It also became apparent I would be largely responsible for marketing and promoting my book once it was published.

A common misperception among new authors is that the publishing company will handle the bulk of the marketing.

Here’s a quote from Michael Hyatt’s very enlightening Four Reasons Why You Must Take Responsibility for Your Own Marketing:

“In the old world…Authors created the product and relied on their publishing company to market it. But that world is dead. That doesn’t mean that publishing companies expect you to do everything. But it does mean that they are more effective if you have a platform already in place. It provides something for them to leverage.”

And from Copyblogger’s, 7 Dirty Little Book Publishing Secrets that Every Writer Needs to Know,

“Even if an enormous New York City publishing house publishes your book, you will have to market it.

A first-time author rarely gets help from the publisher. Accept that you will be on your own when it comes to marketing — a fact I’ve discovered first-hand, the hard way.”

And from Seth Godin’s, Advice for Authors,

“3. There is no such thing as effective book promotion by a book publisher.

This isn’t true, of course. Harry Potter gets promoted. So did Freakonomics. But out of the 75,000 titles published last year [this quote is from 2005] in the US alone, I figure 100 were effectively promoted by the publishers. This leaves a pretty big gap.

This gap is either unfilled, in which case the book fails, or it is filled by the author.”

I was already promoting my book. If I were to pursue the traditional publishing route, I would have to temporarily stop (you can’t promote something that’s not coming out for a year). Then I would have to start from scratch, by myself (especially if I had alienated my affiliates by then). It seemed like a pretty big step backward.

The bottom line?

In the end, even my excitement didn’t trump my questions.

So I declined the offer.

Next time, I’ll tell you what I would do if I were you.

By the way, has this series been helpful? If so, would you consider sharing it?

Other posts in this series:

Why I Turned Down a Book Deal, Part 1
Why I Turned Down a Book Deal, Part 2
Why I Turned Down a Book Deal, Part 3
Why I Turned Down a Book Deal, Part 4
Why I Turned Down a Book Deal, Part 5
Why I Turned Down a Book Deal, Part 6

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  1. says

    What can I say …. this article / blog, should be taught in every self-publishing 101 class. It’s that * expletive* valuable. This kind of info we as self pubs’ should memorize. Thanks blogging with Amy Lynn Andrews. I just completed my first Novel from a trilogy I’m writing, so this kind of stuff … is just priceless. I’m truly a fan.

  2. says

    This has been a fascinating series to read, Amy. Writing a book is on my “someday” list and I’ve learned so much from you.

    I absolutely believe that marketing a book takes more time than writing it, because I’ve experienced the same thing with my blog.

    Thanks again for all the great content. Off to share it on Twitter!

  3. says

    Excellent post! I first came to your site trying to figure out how to make an E-book, but I realized quickly that in order to market an E-book, a blog/website and following was going to be needed. Marketing a self published book of any kind is the part that is foreign to many people. I think writing is the easy part since most of us blog, but marketing on line is a whole new enchilada. Is there any advice you can give us from your experience? I have learned affiliate programs from you and much more. I have two book written and ready to either eBook or send to the “big buy”, but I am very hesitant as you were. $1 per book is the going rate and your advice is very accurate for using a publishing company. I hope you expand on what do to once you have the E book written, but do not have 2,000 followers yet to sell to. How did you go from the E book to marketing it? How did you use your blog and affiliates? Did you wait for a certain number of followers? Oh my.. so many questions! lol I think your decision was a very good one. And, your blog is just priceless! Thanks Amy!

    • Amy says

      Yes, book selling is mostly about marketing. The nice thing is, there are a lot of ways to market online. I hope to offer some resources for marketing but honestly, a big part of it is building your audience first. That makes marketing a lot easier.

  4. says

    I absolutely agree with everything you are saying. Your journey sounds a lot like mine. I saw the other side of publishing and I wasn’t convinced that it was worth it to have my name on a book: the speaking engagements, the marketing, the decreased pay, the changing of the manuscript and message. I think we, as self-publishers, are in a better place than authors were even just months ago. We can sell our ebook and cause enough of a stir to try to get a better deal. And, if we don’t want it then we are fine on our own. I’m not against publishing. I still want the cover. I just want it to be worthwhile when it happens.

    This has been a great series, Amy. I’ve really enjoyed it!

  5. says

    thanks amy:) very helpful info. lots to consider…especially since i don’t have a book publishers are craving:) i like having that info in the back of my head. who knows? it could happen:)

  6. Amandah says

    Wow! I’ll have to go back and read Parts I, II and III. I know many writers, myself included, that would have loved to have a book deal or deal for a screenplay. Interesting.

  7. says

    Outstanding series! You went to the meat of the thing in this post especially. I really appreciated the quotes from Hyatt and Godin.

    Now I am hoping you will do a series on marketing a book. I find the word “marketing” just a little too nebulous for my tangible way of thinking. Maybe Tawra at Living on a Dime could do some guest posting on the subject for you too. . .?

    • says

      Marketing will consume you! LOL

      Newspapers, Magazines, TV and Radio
      You have to send out press releases and often. Once a week or at least once a month.
      Send out review copies, for free, of your book with info. about you and interview questions. (We sent out over 400 review copies when we first started)
      You can get lists of the media online. Ours cost about $500 for each year.

      You have to build up your readership to your site.
      Write articles for other sites
      Send review copies for other bloggers to read, for free
      Do interviews with other bloggers.
      Do giveaways
      Giveaway e-books with a pop-up to sign up for your newsletter
      Have a newsletter and sell to your group.

      Really it’s all the stuff that Amy talks about. The thing is you just ALWAYS have to be doing it.

      When we were in Family Circle, we could account for 16 sales.

      When we were on Money Matters (a Christian finance radio show) we sold about 30.

      These were hardly anything at all but because we kept doing it and doing it then people would see our name all over and then eventually buy.

      I think someone said once that a buyer has to see your product at least 7 times before buying. I have no idea if that’s true or not but it seems true.

      For us we didn’t turn a profit until we had been selling books for 8 years. (we did it for a hobby until 4 years ago)

      The first profit check we got was when the publisher sold 100,000 books to a school book fair company and we got 24K.

      Now we are making enough so we can live on (but no extras like the car breaking down) but if you were to average the # of hours spent working on this vs. income over the last 15 years it’s around $2 an hour.

      You better be sure you love what your doing. :-)

      • says

        This information is awesome! How to market is a whole different creature than writing. I have written two books, but am at I standstill as to which path to go with them. Marketing is all new to me, but you and Amy are right on about using a publishing company. Thank you very much for your info above!

      • says

        Thank you, Tawra for all the info!

        I’m working on a book of my pencil drawings, specifically of one geographical area, so my market is easily known and reached. My hardest tasks (besides 250 pencil drawings) are finding a printer, finding a binder, learning to use Adobe InDesign, and, hopefully, finding a printer who can do the on-demand type of printing so that I don’t have to finance and store the books.

        I will definitely continue using some of the methods you outlined. It is the way I have s l o w l y built my business over the last umpteen years. It is exhausting to put more work into promotion than into the making of one’s product.

  8. Kris says

    I have enjoyed following this series, Amy. Here is my question, and perhaps you will answer it in the next part: Given the circumstances of your experience, and also given the information you have researched and shared from Hyatt, Godin, et. al, would you say there is a niche for certain e-books to become hard-copy published tomes, somewhere?

    My take on what you have written, especially following Godin’s work, is that the e-book market needs to be developed – and will be developed – more as times have most definitely changed. I had been chasing down the original “get published with a publisher” pathway, but I cannot ignore the explosion of e-readers, iPads, and e-book marketplace in general. So, I am very thankful for your all of your information, and I look forward to more “how-to’s” and “lessons learned” in e-book publishing from your website!

  9. says

    Amy, I came across you site recently and subscribed just in time to read this series. I’m not even publishing a book and I was completely hooked, “What do you mean, I’ve got to wait until tomorrow…arghh!” :)

    I think you made a bold decision turning down the book deal, most people would have seen the money and run with it. I think it’s fabulous that you stuck with your principles.,

    You’re right, it’s absolutely true about books being full of padding. The number of non-fiction books I’ve read where the author repeats the main point over and over again is so common, and quite frankly, usually turns me off the book. I hadn’t understood the reasoning behind it before, but it makes sense. I wish the publishers would realize that it makes the book a lesser quality!

    Anyway, great series. I eagerly look forward to seeing what post will show up in my inbox next.

  10. says

    When I first decided to write a book 15 years ago the best advice an author gave me was “Writing it is about 5% of the work. The other 95% is marketing!”

    At the time I thought how in the world can it be 95% I just spent 2 years writing this book!!!

    We self-published for 4 years and sold about 12,000 books, had a small publisher take over and sold 130,000 books (at a .25 royalty each) and now we are self publishing again.

    The money made self publishing has far exceeded what the publisher sold. Of course we still had to do all our own marketing with the publisher.

    Having said that the amount of work we (my husband, my mom and I) have done marketing and publishing everything vs. the amount of income really has yet to be worth it.

    Still today, if I were someone just starting out I would only publish e-books. Being a “real” author isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

  11. Sarah M. says

    I love this series. You know, a lot of your personal reasons for turning down the book deal are my reasons for deciding not to pursue blogging. I had a good idea, I knew it could be successful, but .”… was I pursuing this because I thought this was somehow going to make me finally ‘be somebody’?” I realized that it was more about ME than helping others. I wanted people to think that I was great. And that just does not jive with living for Christ. (This is not to say that this motivates other bloggers! This was just my situation.)

    I’m really glad I gave it up. I got pregnant with #4 and have had a difficult time with emotionally this time around. I’m thanking God for not letting me become a slave to my blog, to others’ praise, to the workload I’d have created for myself. I have plenty on my plate now with housekeeping, raising 3 little boys, and office-managing our family business. I am finding more contentment in doing these things well.

    Thank you again, Amy, for your ebook. Although I don’t stick to a schedule too well, the principles you laid out have definitely helped me to focus my priorities in all my different roles! May the Lord bless and keep you and your family. I look forward to meeting you in glory.

    • Amy says

      Yes, I agree with you. We each need to make the right decision personally. What’s right for me might not be right for you and vice versa. Thank you!

  12. says

    Incredibly good stuff here. I’ve learned SO MUCH…thank you! I definitely think you made the right choice. I love your blog…it has been such a huge help to me this year as I’ve (after four years of “Shlogging”) finally learned about real blogging. Amy, what can I say? You ROCK!

  13. says

    Wow, Amy! This series was so helpful (not to mention the suspense between posts!). I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the series and all of the helpful links and resources. You are so smart to have made the decision you made. Thank you for your honesty in explaining *why* the offer was attractive to you. I’m glad your brain (vs. your emotions) won out! Good call.

    • Amy says

      Yes, now that it’s been almost a year, I’m so glad I made the choice I did (it was hard though). Thank you for your encouragement. :)

  14. Christine S. says

    Amy, I’ve really enjoyed your entire website, and thank you for all of the wonderful and helpful posts. You’re an inspiration!