There’s that saying out there that indicates you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket. And it sorta goes hand in hand with the whole “don’t count your chickens until they hatch.” Publishing is often a waiting game, and there’s nothing quite so lousy as announcing some wonderful news…only to find out a few days/weeks/months later that you jumped the gun and said item won’t happen.
Even aside from having to deal with disappointment, now you have to retract and that’s a frustrating feeling. (And potentially confusing to readers.)
But the egg and basket motif makes a fair amount of sense, particularly for writers and particularly in these changing times. After all, there are so many options out there right now – trad pubbing, indie-pubbing, self-pubbing, paper books, ebooks, etc.
Diversify the portfolio and all that. And really, this is where having an agent comes in handy – or at least knowledge of what you’re signing away when you do make a deal with a publisher. Namely, the right of first refusal clause – it’s not uncommon for a standard boilerplate to indicate that after an author fulfills the contract, his/her next work goes to that same publisher first for them to look at.
In my case I wrote three adult UF books for my publisher. My contract declares that my next work of adult UF must be submitted to them first (and they can decide to pub or pass. If they pass, I can submit it anywhere else.)
Which is nice in some ways, because I know my next work of adult UF will be looked at by at least one publishing house, but the problem is that publishers can take a long time to make a decision…and if you’re not happy with your current publisher, that sort of clause can trap you – particularly if the clause is broad – i.e. your next work of fantasy, for example. That could mean anything – YA fantasy, high fantasy, UF fantasy, etc – so you want to be very, very careful with that.
(If you’re a prolific writer, doubly so – publishers don’t usually release multiple books by the same author at the same time – if you’ve got a lot to potentially sell, you want to be able to get it out there as fast as you can, while keeping as many roads open as you can.)
Personally, I’m all for it if my publisher wants another Abby book. (or Melanie book – it’s quite possible I’ll change gears into a different character if I get the go ahead.)
But at the moment, I’m in a weird bit of limbo. Turning in the last book of my contract doesn’t mean the complete end – I’ll have revisions and copyedits and all that other fun stuff but it also puts me in a place where I can begin to pursue other avenues.
It’s a bit scary – but it’s also freeing. Writing under contract is much different than writing for fun. I could self-pub, or write a YA dystopian or a retelling of the Little Mermaid with pansexual robots (I hint at this robot mermaid thing a lot. Probably means it’s going to happen. Someday.) – but the point is that I’ve got that creative flexibility built in.. And as much as I love writing Abby and the gang, I also want to work on something new. (And I’ve been writing her story since 2008 at this point, so I think I’ve earned it.)
So I think I’ll see if I can’t dig up some more baskets…and see what hatches.
Unrelated: A Sliver of Shadow trading cards are now available!