What Happens if You Nail a Publishing Deal

Nailing a book publishing deal is no easy feat, but for some first-time authors, it can seem like the only way to go. After all, who wouldn’t want their hard work and effort to be rewarded with a prestigious publishing contract? 

However, for many people, nailing that deal might not be the best thing for their career. This post will explore what happens if you nail a publishing deal and why so many first-time authors are better off going the self-publishing route.

How Do You Get a Book Deal?

To begin, it’s important to understand how authors get book deals with traditional publishers. There are three paths to getting a deal.

  1. A publisher scopes out the competitive books in your genre and subgenre, determines who is publishing what, and contacts you about buying your work. This happens most frequently if you write in a hot subgenre or have fans that you interact with through email, your website, and social media.
  2. You send query letters directly to publishers. This is not considered good practice due to the number of other authors doing the same thing and sending in unpolished works. If you do choose to go this route, make sure your query is stand-out and professional, which is why you should go directly to the next steps.
  3. Sign with a literary agent. This person has relationships throughout the industry and knows what publishers are a good fit for your book. More than that, an agent will help you to get your book in good shape before submitting it to a publisher.

Is Your Book Deal Good?

For many authors, the real question is not if they can get a book deal, but if their book deal is good. This boils down to two questions:

  • Do you like your publisher’s contract?
  • Does your publisher have the clout and platform necessary to sell enough copies of your book?

Book publishing contracts vary widely, and it can be quite difficult for authors without legal training to navigate them and find the best terms. This is why you will want an agent you trust.

Remember, your agent will get a cut of everything you make, so negotiating a good deal is in their best interest.

As mentioned, contracts vary. Digital sales are also different than print sales. Some contracts might offer a flat $1 royalty rate for each sale versus 10-25% of the sale price. Other books might have a low up-front royalty but offer extra cash if your book exceeds sales projections.

Negotiating a Book Publishing Contract 

When negotiating a book publishing contract, you must balance being transparent with being respectful. You want to be forthcoming about your expectations and how you might compare to other authors who have gotten contracts. But at the same time, you have to understand that other authors might have a stronger fan base than you, or their book has broader appeal.

If you are a first time author and nobody else is interested in your book, you may not have any choice but to accept whatever deal is offered. If you have multiple published books, good sales, and several publishers interested in your work, then you will be in a stronger position to get a better deal.

What Rights Do You Give Up?

When you sign with a publisher, you give up several rights to your book. These include:

  • The right to sell your book
  • The right to publish a sequel
  • The right to decide how the book is advertised or sold
  • The right to adopt the story to a screenplay, comic, or another medium.

The consequence of giving up these rights is that you cannot directly manage or promote your book. Publishers will handle this for you, but they will likely use their platform and contacts. This means you will not have as much control over the success of your book or how it’s sold.

How to Terminate a Book Contract

If you are interested in terminating your book publishing contract, the process is somewhat complicated and not without financial risks.

Start by reviewing the termination clause of your contract. If there is cause for termination, such as documented malice or breach of contract taken on the publisher’s part, you may be able to regain the rights of your work from the publisher.

However, if you simply want out of the contract to get a better deal elsewhere, or you want to take your book in a different direction, you are likely out of luck.

Before doing anything rash, make sure to speak with a lawyer about your options and next steps.

Marketing and Publicity for Your Book

One of the biggest complaints from first time authors is that publishers do very little to market and publicize their book. Indeed, your publisher will likely only spend as much as necessary to get your book onto store shelves and then hope it takes off on its own.

Of course, if you already have a sizable audience and other books under your belt, you might be able to leverage this fan base toward marketing and publicity efforts for your new title.

But many authors find that promoting their book independently is the only way to get it in front of readers.

Should You Self-Publish?

The primary benefit of nailing a book deal is that you get the formal stamp of approval from an establishment reputable publisher – not just anyone can publish with Random House, HarperCollins, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc., so getting picked up by one of these big names assures your audience that they are buying into quality.

While some people who self-publish were rejected by every publisher, many also choose to self-publish for a number of reasons, including wanting to get their work out immediately, not wanting to give up rights, or simply because they love the self-publishing process.


If you want to publish with a prestigious publishing house, it is not easy. Whether you’re new to the game or have written a number of books, getting a publishing deal takes patience and persistence – but there are options out there for tackling this process from different angles.