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I've had several authors ask why I signed a contract for the first book in a new series, and I thought I would answer here all at once ;D I'm going to give a little backstory first, so bear with me.

I was previously agented with one of the top agencies in the country, and I'd had an offer for my Urban Fantasy Series, BREATH OF FIRE (It's down in my sig line). The problem was the offer was from an epublisher and my agent didn't want to handle the contract because she didn't think it was worth it for her. She also hated the boilerplate and pretty much everything about the contract. My response to that was, "Yeah, but contracts are negotiable. Go negotiate."

The contract sat on her desk for three months, holding up both me and the publisher, and she kept telling me the contract was with the agency attorneys. Now, I wasn't in a hurry for any kind of deal because I make way more money on my self-pub books than any traditional offer has even come close to, so I let it sit longer than I should have. And I've had a few offers from big houses that I had no problem with turning down. But I was hesitant to self-publish this new series because I was afraid the genre change wouldn't carry over with all of my readers, and I knew a broader distribution would help this book. It's a good book, one of my favorites I've ever written, and I didn't want it to languish in obscurity. So I waited for her to negotiate the contract, and I'd already decided on my end what I would and wouldn't take in the deal.

Finally in December she sent me an email saying, "Yeah, I just don't want to handle this contract. I don't like the deal and it's too small potatoes for my time." You can imagine my response, especially since we'd been waiting so long for her to get back to me. So I emailed the publisher and apologized and told them I'd be handling the negotiations, but I had some problems with the offer and the contract. They told me to send them a list of everything I wanted, so I did, and BOOM...within a couple of hours they'd agreed to everything I asked for. EVERYTHING. And don't get me wrong, I'm not naive enough to think they're not getting something out of it too. I have a built in fan base most first-time authors they sign don't have, and I sell a lot of books on average, so they're going to make money off of me. That's fine. It's the business.

So needless to say, I parted ways with my agent from the big agency. I'd been there for two years, before I started self-pubbing, and when I hit the half-million-books-sold mark I was still having to ask to have foreign rights shopped. And the answer was always, "We'll get to it." I kept telling her that I could feel a shift in my sales and that something big was about to happen, only to be ignored. Not to mention I had a manuscript she'd been sitting on for a year that I could have self-published and already made 6 figures on (that book is coming out in April), but it never got shopped. So I finally told her I thought it was best to part ways. I'd decided at that point that I just didn't need an agent any longer. That was on a Friday. On Monday of the next week, I hit #1 in the whole Barnes and Noble Store and was in the top 10 at both Apple and Amazon. I hit the USA Today List a week later. I wanted to send her an email that said, "I told you so," but I somehow refrained ;D

But then I started getting foreign offers and I knew I needed a new agent. I had no desire to mess with foreign contracts. They are uber complicated. There was one agent only I was willing to go with, and it was because he was really getting great deals for self-pubbed authors. He'd done a few of the print only deals and was representing big names in the self-publishing world. In the meantime, my inbox was being deluged with offers from NY agents, most of whom I'd queried at some point in my career only to be rejected ;D It was my turn to send out rejection letters. I should mention the big agency I'd just left also sent me any inquiry, wondering if I'd found adequate representation yet. I couldn't believe the audacity.

Within a day, the agent I wanted emailed me to let me know he'd read three of my books and enjoyed them and was willing to represent me for any offers and was also willing to shop new trad deals if I wanted. An agent who will work for you on an a la carte basis is a huge deal for self-pubs, and it would have been a deal breaker for me if he'd wanted a percentage of my US self-pub sales (A lot of agents are asking for this now. Don't do it. Look for those who will offer a la carte services). So now I have a new agent who is one of the most respected in the business and has clients so huge I can't even believe I'm on his client list.

All of these good things started because of a contract I had to negotiate myself. At the time, it didn't seem like a blessing at all, but a nightmare. The publisher I went with has a huge distribution, which is going to help me out because I don't have any other UF books in my catalogue. Sure, a lot of my readers will buy it just because they buy everything I write, but I know I'll lose some readers too because of the genre shift. I asked for a lot of things in that contract, and I'm really happy with the way it turned out. And I always have the option of self-publishing the rest of the series if it doesn't turn I the way I planned. But doing it this way was purely a business decision based on the perspective of gaining a broader audience. Because with their distribution, I'm going to gain new readers for my self-pub books as well.

There are a lot of hard decisions to make in the business, but it's important to always go with your gut and do what you think is best for your career. I always look at my options from a business perspective first because I'm running a company. I might be making slightly less of a percentage with this deal, but in the long run it's going to be worth it because of the readership.

 

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Wow.  Thank you so much for posting this.  Very interesting and informative.  Congrats, it seems like things are going great!  Funny how sometimes the toughest things turn out to be blessings in disguise.
 

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LilianaHart said:
I've had several authors ask why I signed a contract for the first book in a new series
tl;dr Answer: It was a personal business decision. ;D

Congratz on getting what you wanted and the best of luck to you!
 

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Conratulations, Liliana, on your success and your newest venture :). It's always good to be see where the writing business is heading and all I see is blue skies for indies ;).

You go, girl!
 

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Congrats, Liliana! I read some of your stories a while ago and your writing style is superb. No wonder that you sold so many books! Thanks for sharing your story, and best of luck with your new UF genre!  :)
 

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Wow what an insight into traditional pubbing. I know it's not always like that, but to have that happen with a big agency is just crazy. In the days before self-pubbing, things like this must have destroyed authors.
Well done on getting where you are and your successes :) :)
 

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Thanks for posting this, Liliana and big congrats! This sort of insight is extremely helpful and a happy ending to a story is always a plus.  :)
 

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Good for you! I'm so happy for you. And I'd like to say I'm surprised your old agency contacted you, but I can't say that I am. That takes giant bowling balls though. ;)
 

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Liliana, thank you so much for being willing to share your thoughts around your journey!

I kept saying "Good for her! Good for her!" through that whole post until Roomie was finally like, "What they heck is going on in your computer that's so awesome??"

CONGRATS and may the UF knock their socks off and bring you lots of reader love.
 

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Smart decision, and congratulations. It just irks me when people to whom I've given work say, "I'm working on it. I'm working on it. I'm working on it. I'm-- Whoops! I actually did nothing for three months. Sorry!" You are more patient than I.
 

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I still don't get it though - if the issue is negotiating contracts - don't you need a lawyer rather than an agent? I thought the agent was supposed to get you the deals in the first place - if you already have those -why give an agent a percentage: surely you'd be better off paying an lawyer on an hourly rate?
 

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What a minefield!  Congrats on picking your way through and emerging on the other side to such awesomeness!  Very, very cool!  Thank you for sharing all of this!
 

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Congrats!  I'm so happy you were able to get what you wanted.  :) 

May I ask a question about the first agent?  I really know nothing about these things yet, but I'd read that agents will try to get a percentage after you have left them, if they were handling the deal first.  I hope this isn't true, but I've heard that agency contracts are getting really grabby.  I would love to hear your take on this and also how newbies can avoid these kinds of traps. 

 
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