1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

What Will You Stand For?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Mindfire, Sep 3, 2012.

  1. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    2,888
    470
    83
    Something I mentioned in another thread and I wondered if anyone else here felt the same. Do you guys have any "non-negotiables", things that you'd stand up to a publisher over or terms they'd have to agree to before you signed a contract? Because I do.



    • The ethnicity of characters will not be changed, and I will insist that they be accurately represented on the cover, or else not at all.
    • Any perceived religious references will not be toned down or removed. If it's there, its there for a reason.
    • I will not tone down any sophisticated vocabulary that might appear, because I have this insane notion that the reader is not, in fact, an idiot.
    • I will not add vampires, dragons, or anything else just for the sake of commercial appeal.
    • I will not add sex scenes or romantic subplots for the sole purpose of pandering to the female demographic or to gain readership. Because no.


    So, anyone else feel similarly about "executive meddling"?






    RE: Mods- Not sure if this belongs here or in publishing.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2017
  2. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,940
    163
    None really that I'm outright opposed to. In fact, I'd be very interested in hearing what their content editors have to say to improve the story appeal.

    In reality, if you're so staunchly opposed to making the above changes you should probably just self-publish. There's nothing wrong with keeping your story the way you want it to be kept. However, you're telling publishers who will be investing significant money towards your book that they aren't allowed to influence some pretty major themes (sex, religion) that have a lot to do with potential commercial appeal. As an unknown, first time author, you don't have that kind of clout. It's unlikely that you'll find a publisher willing to invest so heavily in you & abide by all of your restrictions.
     
  3. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,259
    3,604
    413
    A good reason to self-publish, because you retain complete control. If you go with a traditional publisher, you have to understand they are running a business and going to be expending money on you on the front end. If you aren't willing to compromise, you don't make a very good business partner for them.

    With respect to cover art, for example, I've heard from authors who already have a couple of novels behind them that they didn't like what the publisher did with the cover. That leads me to believe that even if you have a little bit of a track record, you're not necessarily going to get much say on the cover art, at least not with the big publishers. They have marketing departments that handle that. I suspect that if an unknown author had a bite from a publisher like TOR and wanted clauses in the contract that gave veto power over things like this, the author would be as likely told to take a hike as to get the deal.

    I've related before that another published author, who got a three book deal from an established publisher, was told to play up the romantic subplot for marketing reasons. She did. Had she not, it was likely the publisher was going to walk.

    None of which means you can't insist on whatever terms you like, but you also have to be realistic about it and be cognizant of the impression you are giving a potential business partner you are soliciting (which is essentially what you are doing) when you are intransigent on a number of issues.

    As for me, with some of my works I'd likely be happy to accommodate the publisher. With others, I might feel more protective.

    EDIT: Ninja'd by T.Allen.Smith, who said it more succinctly :D
     
  4. SlimShady

    SlimShady Troubadour

    128
    10
    18
    I shall not change character personalities too make them more well-liked. Ethnicities are untouchable as are religious themes. The grittiness of the plot will remain, as will the depressing darkness. Other than that anything goes, except I will not add anything new to the world just because someone says so.

    Other than that, I would be pretty open.
     
  5. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,940
    163
    So characters, plot, & a major theme are unalterable. I wouldn't describe that as "pretty open".

    If you came to the table with these types of demands/restrictions, your potential publisher that you worked so hard to attract is going to laugh and walk away, never to return.

    These deals are, at best for you, partnerships folks. Until you're in the ranks of Stephen King, JK Rowling, & Nora Roberts, you might as well forget these lofty ideals. When you sign with a traditional publisher you're signing some of that precious control away.

    Get comfortable with it or understand that self-publishing is the only avenue that provides the control you vehemently desire.
     
    Steerpike likes this.
  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    3,064
    1,815
    163
    I'll never say never. I'll listen and I'm willing to be flexible because, in my eyes, it's a partnership. You put up the time to write the book. They put up the capital to get that book to the readers. (A bit simplistic but...) It's in both your interests to be profitable.

    I mean think about it. The author gets an advance, yippie, they get paid. If the book doesn't turn a profit, the publisher, is the one left holding the bag. This doesn't mean I'll do everything they ask, but I'll definitely keep myself open to hearing them out.
     
  7. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,259
    3,604
    413
    It's kind of like this:

    Author (approaching publisher): Hey, I want to go into business with you. Here's my story. I'll need an advance, and I'll need you to front the money for cover art, distribution, whatever marketing you want to do, and so on.

    Publisher: No problem, that's what we do. Let's have a look....Hey, this isn't bad. I think we can work with this.

    Author: Great! There's my list of non-negotiable demands on the table.

    Publisher: OK. There's our door.
     
    Caged Maiden likes this.
  8. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    2,888
    470
    83
    I've pretty much accepted that this will make my work a harder sell. But I think it's worth it. But having said that, I don't think these will really come up. With the exception of cover art, how likely is it that a publisher will object to or mention any of these? How often does a publisher really say "you have to add vampires/dragons/sex/romance"? Or "your use too many big words"? Or "make this character white"? Or "take out the religious undertones"? The only one of these I see really causing friction is the cover art issue, and I'm giving them a way out: don't put characters on the cover.
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2012
  9. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,940
    163
    The content editing portion of work will take a long time & be very in depth. This is one of the reasons that it may be a couple years before your book is on shelves after you sign your deal.

    I'd say it's highly likely that all of those issues will be scrutinized and brought to a discussion.
     
  10. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    11,259
    3,604
    413
    Mindfire:

    Setting aside everything else, from the authors I've talked to I think it is unlikely you'll have even that much say over the cover art (e.g. don't put characters on it or do it my way). In most cases, it looks like the input from the author is slim to none at all. At least, with the major traditional publishers.
     
  11. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,580
    413
    83
    I have similar concerns as yours, Mindfire, and frankly for reasons already mentioned I'll probably self-publish anyway. I want more control over my product too.
     
  12. Kim

    Kim Scribe

    28
    3
    3
    I understand what you mean, Mindfire. There are some things in my books that I don't want to change. Fortunately I have found a publisher that likes the stories I write, but I think I don't have any chance to be published by a Dutch publisher that is considered one of the big publishers in the Netherlands. Thats the choise I made.

    But I think you should listen to the publisher before you put your demands on the table. I have changed a lot after my publisher had read the story. I am sure his suggestions made the story better, some times the story was more how I wanted it to be after the changes.
     
  13. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,940
    163
    It will be much more difficult. The odds of any new author attracting a traditional publisher's interest and actually signing a deal are slim at best. Placing further restrictions and limitations that would be likely to queer any deal, changes the chances to infinitesimal levels.
     
  14. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    2,888
    470
    83
    Maybe. But if they didn't want to publish the book I wrote in the first place, what's the difference really? The things that i listed are pretty much the heart and soul of the work (except for the cover obviously). If they make my main character white, or take out the religions I painstakingly built, or add dragons and sex just to attract more readers, it's not really the same book is it? It'd be like they'd never published it at all. The only difference is the money. And I'm not writing for money.

    Also, I'd like to believe, however irrationally, that publishers know better than to display gross racial insensitivity.
     
  15. ShortHair

    ShortHair Sage

    217
    26
    28
    If you have any qualms about how a publisher will handle your work, publish it yourself. That is all.
     
  16. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    4,044
    1,940
    163
    If these things are that important to you (and it's obvious they are) then you should stick to your guns.

    I'm not trying to dissuade you from following your desires. I'm merely trying to point out that it may be unrealistic for that publishing model.

    Either way, I wish you success in the endeavor.
     
  17. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

    2,624
    882
    113
    What if the publisher points out that your novel can be perceived as an attack against a major real world religion? One of your points was that they couldn't alter your religions. What if the "evil" religion was too close to a real world religion? Don't they have the right to ask you to alter the religion as it may exclude a certain significant consumer base?

    Also, I understand that black characters are very thin in the fantasy realm. I've always wondered about that. But why do you think the publishing company would portray your characters any differently than what you describe them as?
     
  18. Chilari

    Chilari Staff Moderator

    2,049
    638
    113
    While there are several things I'd ideally keep as they are in my WIP, if it came down to it I'd negotiate with the publisher over certain things. My main character is aromantic, for example, a decision taken in part to distance myself from the train wreck that is The General's Secret and in part in reaction to the fact that everything has a romantic sub-plot. But if a publisher wanted me to include one, and would walk if I didn't, I'd do it, but try to do it my own way. Then if they, say, ask me to make all the main characters white or try to get me to make characters fit into more archetypal roles, the evil king, the comic relief, etc, I would have the negotiating capital to say no. I don't see why a publisher should be willing to back down on their requests if I'm not at least as willing to accommodate them; it's about compromise.
     
    Mindfire likes this.
  19. Jabrosky

    Jabrosky Banned

    2,580
    413
    83
    In all honesty, Mindfire, I'd be shocked if a modern publisher insisted on racially whitewashing characters you explicitly describe as black. I'd think they would appreciate diversity in their books' content. The only reason I could see the issue coming up at all in your case is because your world's major black culture (the Mavarians) has a strong Egyptian flavor, and for better or worse ancient Egyptians are stereotyped in popular culture as lighter-skinned. Even then, you could claim Nubia rather than Egypt as your inspiration.
     
    Mindfire likes this.
  20. Mindfire

    Mindfire Istar

    2,888
    470
    83
    Honestly, I'm less concerned about a publisher suggesting changes because I seem to be attacking a real world religion than I am about them suggesting changes because I seem to be supporting one. I don't "preach" in my books at all, but certain elements do have a Judeo-Christian flavor, much like Lord of the Rings (if you'll pardon the comparison).

    As for why a publisher might whitewash my characters, I don't know of an incident where it's actually happened, so I might be paranoid, but I have heard about this. Whitewashing is a distasteful business.
     
Loading...

Share This Page