Monday, December 13, 2010

A Near Miss

A little while ago, I received an acceptance letter for one of my novels, "Frontier Jump." The book relates the tale of the far future, where people are grown en-masse in rearing facilities, and natural conception is outlawed. It is told from the perspective of a "Nature Born" teenager, who falls in love with a genetic reject (someone whose genome didn't meet manufacturer's specifications) and runs off with her aboard a ship of smugglers, hoping to escape to a distant frontier world, where they will not be persecuted for their genetic imperfections.

Now, before you break open the champagne to celebrate, I must inform you that I had to decline the acceptance.

Hilliard and Harris is the company that wanted to publish the book, but their contract was simply unacceptable. First, they wanted to purchase ALL RIGHTS to the work; not just publication rights, but everything (copyright, movie rights, etc...) for the duration of the contract (7 years). This is not standard procedure these days, as most publishers simply buy exclusive publishing rights.

Second, there was a clause stating that I had to purchase 100 copies of the book at a 50% discount. This is something I could not financially afford at the moment, and it is somewhat underhanded. If they want to be a subsidy publisher, they should be up front about it.

The third (and most egregious) problem was a "non-competition" clause, which said I couldn't try to sell any literary work that is "similar" to the novel, or might "harm sales." The vagueness of the clause could be easily construed to say I couldn't publish any other books with any other publishers for the duration of the contract. That may not have been the intent, but it was far too dangerous a possibility!

I pointed out these problems with their standard contract in a polite and professional manner, and I requested that they be changed. Sadly, they were inflexible, and refused to budge in these areas, so I had to turn them down. I really had no choice. I wasn't going to give them all rights to my work, be forced to buy copies I couldn't afford, and be barred from publishing other novels for the next 7 years. It really is a pity, but truly unavoidable.

I haven't given up on "Frontier Jump," and this near miss has only steeled my resolve to get it into print. I already have it sent out to another publisher, and hope to receive another acceptance in the near future. It's a good book. All I have to do is find the right editor.

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