canceled book

canceled book

when your publisher changes it mind

Wait, are you saying my book could get canceled even though I signed a contract?

It could, yes, but it’s probably not going to. Worrying about having your contract canceled is the least productive thing you could do right now, especially since it’s pretty unlikely, but I had to post something about it just in case you end up in that boat. How does this unlikely situation come about? Well, I know a few authors whose small publisher folded before publishing their contracted books. It’s also possible that something like artistic differences could prompt you and your publisher to go your separate ways. But I think that in general, everyone will work really hard to find a way to get your contracted book published.

***Just know that there is a really cool club of authors whose books have been canceled, and that if your book gets canceled, you can join us–I had a book canceled once (before my debut came out) so now I’m heading up the snack table at club meetings and wow, you are going to like the spread.***

Could my second book in my two-book contract get canceled?

Yes, it could. You could write a manuscript, and your house could decide they don’t really like it. You might revise it, or write another manuscript, and find that your publisher still isn’t excited. Most likely, you and your editor will work together to figure out just the right project to fulfill your contract and get that second book out there. But it’s just possible that you won’t find something you are both crazy about. And so you won’t publish a second book with them after all. That might feel dismal, or you might feel like you’re happy to start over with another publisher.

The thing is, this is a fickle business. You can go from up to down in no time at all. But if, after a terrible experience like having your book canceled, you find that you still love to write, then you’re going to be okay. Honestly. Like I said, I’ve had this very experience. I had a book canceled years before my debut came out. But I kept writing because I love it so much. I found myself writing a book I really loved, and then (thanks to my amazing agent) I found myself with a contract to publish that book–with a bigger house than the one that was going to publish my canceled book, and for a lot more money. The nice thing about that experience was that it taught me to expect outrageous vicissitudes. Don’t get too excited about good publishing news, but don’t get to down about the bad stuff either. Your contract can get canceled, but no one can stop you from writing a book you really want to write.

But what about the money?

Unless you are the one who initiated the cancellation of the contract, you should be able to keep the money you’ve been paid. You won’t get the rest of your money, though. And you might have to pay back some money to your publisher if you publish your manuscript elsewhere. It all depends on what your agent can wrangle for you.

I’m joining the Canceled Books Club. Where do we meet?

You think I would post that info here for all the un-canceled yahoos to find? Our snacks are limited. Email me.




two different book formats

Will my book come out in hardcover or go straight to paperback?

I’m guessing you would know if your book is going straight to paperback, as that would have been made clear upon signing the contract. Here are some advantages of going straight to paperback: 1) They’re cheaper, so people will be more willing to take the risk of buying a book by an author they’ve never heard of. 2) They tend to take less time to produce and release. Here are some drawbacks of going straight to paperback: 1) Libraries might be more hesitant to purchase them because they’re less durable. 2) Paperbacks are nominated for fewer awards.

Will my hardcover book eventually be printed as a paperback too?

Maybe. If you go to your book’s Indiebound/Amazon/BN page you will probably see a listing for your paperback and maybe a projected date for its release (usually one year after your hardcover publishes). But your publisher might decide to delay your paperback, possibly even “indefinitely.” Some paperbacks get delayed because the hardcover is selling so incredibly well that the publisher wants to keep on selling it (because hard covers have a higher profit margin than paperbacks do). Some paperbacks get delayed because so many hard covers have gone unsold that the publisher doesn’t want to start putting cheaper paperbacks on the market knowing that no one will then buy those more expensive hardcovers that are still floating around.

If my book gets a paperback edition, when will that edition go on sale?

Usually around one year after the hardcover. But your publisher may try to publish the paperback at the same time that your second book comes out, or even a few months before. That way, as buzz builds for your second book, readers who haven’t yet discovered your first book will pick up the paperback. Plus, Barnes and Noble, who probably stopped stocking your first book after a few months or so, will likely now stock your paperback for a few months around the time your second book comes out.

Will my paperback get new cover art?

Probably. New cover art means a second chance to appeal to readers who didn’t discover your book the first time around. Then again, if your first book’s cover art is already working well to appeal to readers, it might not get changed.



when you are criticized online for a harmful portrayal in your novel

Someone (or a lot of someones) called out my book on Twitter. What do I do?

Wait–I know you want to defend yourself against a call-out. I know that you did not intend to write something racist/sexist/otherwise harmful. But please take my advice: Do Not Defend Your Work. Do not attempt to explain why you wrote what you wrote, or what you meant or didn’t mean by it. “But my work is being treated unfairly. People are misunderstanding it. It’s being taken out of context. I didn’t mean any harm.” Even so: Do Not Defend Your Work. When someone calls you out, they are not looking for you to clarify your intentions. They are looking for “I’m sorry. I will find a way to redress this.” Any other response will prompt your critics to call you out again, this time on your defense of your work. Your defense might also cause further (unintentional) harm. This isn’t what you want. Trust me, I have seen all kinds of responses to call-outs; when someone responds by trying to explain their work, the situation becomes worse for everyone involved. If you don’t feel you can say “I’m sorry, I will find a way to redress this” then don’t say anything at all right now.

Okay, you’ve told me what NOT to do, but what should I do?

1. Get offline. Read the criticism when you are ready, or have a trusted friend relay it to you. You don’t need to delete your account; just step away from the computer for a while so you can reflect before you react.

2. Make sure your supporters know not to defend you, because well-meaning defenses can make the situation worse. And some defenses will not be well-meaning at all and will be quite hurtful.

3. Consider tweeting something like, “I’m listening and reflecting right now.” Otherwise, do not respond at all right now. Above all, do not contact the person who called you out.

4. Contact your agent and let him/her know what’s going on. Your agent will definitely have some wise perspective. Also, your agent needs to know about this stuff.

5. Do not announce that you are receiving hurtful messages from a third party as a result of a call-out, even if those messages are vicious (e.g. suggesting self-harm). It is truly terrible that someone would send you such a message, but bringing it up publicly deflects from any pain your work may have caused others and puts the focus on the pain you are feeling, which won’t resolve the situation. Give a trusted friend your twitter password and have them mute accounts that are tweeting vicious things at you.

6. When you are ready, reflect on the criticism. Ask somebody who understands the criticism to help you understand it. (Again, do not ask anyone calling you out to do this.)

7. Figure out how you can redress any harm you have done. This harm was probably unintentional on your part, but even unintentional harm must be redressed. Consider making changes to your novel pre-publication, or if it’s too late for that, ask for changes to be made in future printings. There are other ways to redress harm, but I leave that to you.

8. Do not defend your work. Do not explain why you wrote what you wrote. Don’t try to tell people that you never meant any harm.

But why do I need to do any of those things if I never meant to hurt anyone or if I don’t think my work is hurtful?

This is a topic I cannot adequately address here. Please check out the Helpful Links for longer thoughts on this topic.

Helpful Links

Misa Sugiura’s blog post on “When Your Book Gets Called Out…” Part 1



signing (books)

you know, applying your signature to a page in your book

How can I sign stock of my book at bookstores?

Drop by a bookstore when they’re not busy, check to make sure they have your book on the shelf, find a manager, and say something like, “I’m an author with Prettycool Publisher and I noticed you carry my book–can I sign your stock?” (I would recommend naming your publisher because the minute you say “I’m an author” the manager will wonder whether you are a self-published author looking to sell your book in his/her store, and that will just lead to confusion–just my two cents.) I’ve only ever had great responses to this nerve-wracking proposition. And usually, the employee I’m talking to will then want to introduce me to other employees. Everyone feels very happy and you’ve just made friends with a bookstore. I recommend tweeting after you leave the store (“I just signed copies at the wonderful Bestybest Bookstore!”); it’s a nice way to give the bookstore a shout-out.

How exactly should I sign a book?

It seems odd that I have things to say about this, but I do. Here you go:

  • Where: Sign on the one title page that lies flat when you open the book. I once signed on a different page and the bookstore manager told me that I was doing it wrong, and she seemed pretty grieved by it. I’m sorry to everyone who has a copy of Where Futures End that I signed on the wrong page. I’m not sure why I’m sorry, but I am.
  • How: Some people say your author signature should be different from your legal signature to avoid identity theft or something like that, but I bet your internet passwords are an easier target than your signature, just saying. In any case, you should pick an author signature that is quick and easy to sign. You won’t believe how hard it is to sign a book when the buyer is talking to you at the same time.
  • With What: A pen with ink that dries quickly and won’t smear when you close the page. Most authors I know use Sharpies. Do you care that Sharpies are not archival quality? Then use something else. Some authors do very extensive pen-testing, but that’s way too much pen-anxiety for me–ymmv.

Why should I sign books?

Signing stock at a store is a great way to start a relationship with that bookstore. It also means your book will get a shiny sticker (Signed Copy!), which might help it sell faster or get displayed more prominently. Some stores will keep your book on their shelf a little longer if it’s signed, but some stores have no qualms about sending unsold, signed copies back to your publisher. Obviously if a reader asks you to sign their copy of your book you’re going to say yes (right?), and that’s a great way to make a connection with a reader who will probably go on to buy your future books. And if you find yourself at an event where you don’t have books to sell or sign, sign some swag and hand that out! I used to be shy about signing swag because I hate to get all Gilderoy Lockhart on people, but readers kept telling me they really wanted me to sign the swag I gave them. So do that.

Dang, signing books makes me feel like a rockstar. How can I do more of this?

Set up some visits. Arrange to do a signing at a conference or convention. Drop in on bookstores while you’re traveling. Win “Witch Weekly’s Most Charming Smile.”

Publishers Marketplace

Publishers Marketplace

a website where new book deals are reported

When will my book deal be announced on PM?

Some agents report their sales right to PM right away. Some like to wait until the contract is signed, which can take months. Some wait to release the news after some sub-rights have sold so they can make the deal look bigger and more exciting. Some agents don’t report sales to PM at all. Honestly, it can be fun to see your book reported there (although you’ll have to have someone screenshot it for you if you don’t subscribe to the site), but I’m not sure it really makes a difference whether it’s reported or not. Sometimes it’s a good way to advertise your book to industry people who are looking to buy sub-rights, but I can’t think of any other reason you’d need to be bummed if your book isn’t reported.

What is the secret code for PM deals?

Your book deal announcement may or may not include some code words to signal how much money your book sold for (example: “Writerface McClackety’s debut, THE NICE WORDS, to Smug Publisher, in a very nice deal”). Here is the deal key:
Nice deal = $1 to $49,000
Very nice deal = $50K to $99K
Good deal = $100K to $250
Significant deal = $250K to $499K
Major deal = $500K and up


(publishing) timeline

my attempt to pinpoint when stuff will happen in your publication process

Is this timeline bound to vary widely?

Why yes, yes it is. But here’s my best shot:


Month 0: You accept a deal to publish your debut novel. Much celebrating.

Month 2-3: You sign your contract. Your first installment of your advance is on the way.

Month 6: You receive your edit letter.

12 months before publication: You see your cover art. Book goes up on Amazon for pre-order.

6-9 months before publication: ARCs go out. Cover art might start to appear online.

6 months before publication: You book a venue for your book’s launch party. You sign up for blog tours if your publisher isn’t arranging that.

0-3 months before publication: Trade reviews of your book start to go up online.

1 month before publication: The brunt of your book’s promo begins. You send out postcards, if you want to.

0-3 months after publication: More promo. You might do some bookstore/library/school visits.

3 months+ after publication: The spotlight shifts to the next season of novels. You are are too busy writing your next book to care.

6-9 months after publication: You receive your first royalty statement.


(school/bookstore/library) visits

when you make an appearance at a school/bookstore/library to promote your book

How can I do school/bookstore/library visits?

If you’re high on your publisher’s priority list, they might schedule some visits for you. Otherwise, you can schedule your own by contacting schools/bookstores/libraries and letting them know you are available for appearances. You can do this by email or with postcards (see also SWAG). You might start by contacting local places. If  you want to travel to other states to do visits, you can try asking the venue to pay for your travel expenses. In general, you can ask schools and libraries to pay for you to visit them, as you will do a presentation for students/patrons. Bookstores will not pay you but will try to sell your books during the event (and after).

Are visits worth the time/energy/cost?

Yes? They can be fun, they promote your book, and they help you build relationships with booksellers, librarians, teachers, and readers who might continue to promote your book long after your visit has come and gone. You can make money from school/library visits. You might sell books at a bookstore visit. Plus, you can always just do one or two visits, see how you like them, and then decide whether you want to do more. And your visits can be sporadic, booked around your personal schedule.

No? Preparing for and traveling to these appearances takes a lot of time away from your writing (not to mention your personal life). They’re exhausting and sometimes not fun. Bookstore visits are a toss-up: few people will be motivated to come out to see an author they’ve never heard of–you might end up paying more for parking than you make from book sales.

You might try joining up with a group of authors to do your visits so that you’ll be more likely to draw attendees and/or so that you can share some of the travel costs. You can turn your visit into a panel, which might be more fun for you anyway (yay for writer friends!). You might also try doing visits at bookstores that already have teen reading clubs in place so that you are guaranteed some kind of turnout.

See also: Tour.