Facebook Pixel

January 27, 2010

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part two)

This is part two about the pros and cons of writing for different publishers. Part one appeared yesterday.

Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers (part two) by Brenna Lyons

Choosing your publishers: Risk Management?

Bride Ball by Brenna LyonsSplitting your investments- This is actually another reason that many people choose more than one publisher. There are authors who have experienced the fall of a publisher and had to scramble to place all their books again. Understandably, they don’t want that to happen to them again, so they keep their eggs in different baskets. But…

Watch your percentages in high risk baskets– You have to look on choosing publishers as risk management much as you would view investing your money. What makes a high risk? A new company. A company that doesn’t have a full, competent, experienced staff. A company based on a “radical new idea” for shaking up the industry. An owner who doesn’t have a solid business plan. An owner that lacks people skills…or depends too highly on people skills and too little on business sense. A business that has already had financial and interpersonal blow-ups. You can take on some high risk, as long as you balance it with low to moderate risk publishers. It’s a good idea to weight your basket toward low and moderate risk companies and not high risk. Even the most aggressive planning doesn’t advocate putting all your resources in high risk. Placing all of your work with high risk carries the high risk of losing it all.

Do your homework with ALL publishers– Having more than one publisher does not make you all knowing. No matter how much you might like to claim you can, you cannot “spot a good company or bad” at a hundred paces, though it is usually easier to spot warning signs of a bad risk than it is to say with conviction that the company is a good one at a glance. You have to research all prospective publishers and assess their risk factors. For more information see my two part series about choosing a publisher. Part one. Part two.

New companies/old associates: does experience translate?– As I said earlier, it is never a good idea to choose a company just for…the company you would be keeping, though choosing not to work with someone you clash with may be a very good idea. Just because someone has good ideas for marketing her own book does not mean the person is capable of marketing an entire company. Just because someone was an EIC for five years does not mean that person is skilled as a company owner and will make the right decisions for the company when given all decision making. Not all experience is equal, and friendship is not business savvy.

You can actually hurt your chances rather than help them– Choosing the wrong publishers can hinder you toward your goals….which we will cover more in contracts. But, you can also hinder yourself by spreading your books too thin. Conventional wisdom says that it takes roughly three books with any publisher to start making a name with the company…and making decent money. It is almost impossible to break even and build an audience when you have one or two books each thrown in a half dozen venues.

Special concerns when you have more than one?

Contract provisions to watch out for– You have to be very careful, especially with the contract you sign. There are contracts that specify that the author is expected to keep a web site for only the publisher’s books…or that the publisher will not link to your site if you don’t comply. Forcing you to split your audience (or not giving you the same exposure they give every other author) is counterproductive to your aims of building an audience, and you should not sign something that does it. Always keep your contractual obligations in mind when signing a contract. Can you live to each contract you sign? How long will your rights be held up? How soon can you move to another publisher if things don’t work out? Do you have an “out clause?” Never sign a contract that gives blanket first refusal rights. Why?

Splitting series and related books– You do not want to be forced into a position where you have to split a series or related books from a series because you have signed first refusal to someone else. Keeping related books together is usually a good idea. Putting out shorts in anthologies that relate back to an established world somewhere else, while not overly appreciated by the anthology publisher in some cases, are a different matter. I look on them more as throwing out bait. It’s further exploiting the idea of bringing readers from one company home to another. Always spell out how far that “series” ranges in first right of refusal clauses. If you write the same world in another timeline and with new characters, is that still the series? If you write related books not on the same world (don’t you love science fiction?), is it still the series? The first is debatable. The second is arguably no, even if you see characters from the series there.

Pen Names– Never allow a company to own your pen name. That both steals your word of mouth from you and forces you to split your marketing. Instead of selling YOU and the books. You are forced to sell YOU and YOU and the books. This is a bad idea all the way around. The closer you can bring your pen names, assuming you aren’t writing in clashing genres like erotica and children’s, the better it is for you. It is always better to spend $100 promoting Brenna Lyons than $60 promoting Brenna Lyons and $40 promoting Brenna Stuart, with no apparent connection between them. If you are separating two adult reading genres, you may want a single site that splits into the pen names/genres. That allows for possible carry-over from one pen name to the other from regular readers. If your genres are children’s and adult, you may want two different sites entirely! In fact, it’s probably preferable that you do it that way.

Brenna Lyons is a bestselling, award-winning author in spec fic indie press. With 21 series worlds and stand-alones, it’s not a surprise that Brenna works with between six and eight publishing houses at a time and fields ten or more releases every year. You can reach her at her site http://www.brennalyons.com

Thanks so much for the informative posts, Brenna! If anyone has any questions just ask them in the comments section.


  1. Margaret Tanner

    Hi Brenna,
    Great article, very informative. You have added some very timely words of wisdom.

  2. Christina Phillips

    Thanks for such an informative two-part post, Brenna. Lots of points to keep in mind!

  3. Brenna Lyons

    Thanks for all the comments. Hopefully, this will help people considering having more than one or struggling with juggling more than one publisher.


  4. Jaime

    Great information to know and be aware of. Thanks for sharing it with all of us!


  5. Linda Acaster

    Most helpful and *very* illuminating. Many thanks for taking the time to share your experience.


  6. Kaye Manro

    Thanks for continuing with part two, Shelley. It is so helpful. And thanks to Brenna!

  7. Helen Hardt

    More great info — thanks, Brenna! And Shelley :smile:!.

  8. Linda Henderson

    I had no idea getting your books published was so complicated.

  9. RKCharron

    Hi Shelley & Brenna :)
    Thank you for the great posts!
    Very informative and filled with wise advice.
    I cut & pasted both & put into my writing folder to peruse over & over.
    Thank you Brenna for sharing & thank you Shelley for having Brenna here.
    All the best,

  10. Jean Hart Stewart

    Thanks, very timely for me. I’m looking for a new publisher and find it difficult to decide where to put some of my babies. You pointed out a couple of things I hadn’t considered. Jean

  11. Kate Pearce

    And don’t forget that one author’s experience at one publisher might be great but another’s might have been hell. So when considering a new publisher, make sure you get a few opinions :)

  12. Danielle Thorne

    Great post, Brenna. Thanks for sharing your valuable insight.

  13. Cari Quinn

    Absolutely invaluable info. Thanks so much…you answered some questions I’ve been wrestling with recently.

  14. Brenna Lyons

    Nodding to Kate. That’s why I have the two articles on choosing a publisher. I go into great detail on talking to several authors with or formerly with a publisher, checking the usual reporting places, and even buying a book or two and checking out the quality control.


  15. Christopher Hoare

    Hi Brenna:

    What about the author’s relationship with different publishers? Does one inform Pub 1 that you are intending to publish the next book with Pub 2?

    Does one then lose some rapport with the first?

  16. Brenna Lyons

    The trick is not signing first right of refusal, when you can avoid it. Some publishers try to sneak in first right of refusal clauses for a particular subgenre or for anything novel-length you write or something similar. I always tell people NOT to sign these, because that locks you into a publisher with new series and keeps you from taking part in something you might want to at another publisher.

    The most I advocate people signing is first right of refusal on a single series, noting only books in the same subgenre and world and timeframe, to allow for moving connected books and spin-off series away. And, I advocate that it should be stipulated that the first refusal they give you severs the line. So…if they put out books 1-3 and refuse 4, 4 and all further can go elsewhere, and you don’t have to go back to them with 5, 6…

    If your contracts are written this way, you are under no obligation to discuss where books not covered by first right of refusal are going. In fact, I don’t suggest it, in general. Most publishers/editors are adult enough to handle me mentioning in passing that something they knew I was working on does NOT fit the publisher and will be going elsewhere, but I’ve encountered a few that got rather miffed at you taking anything somewhere else, especially when you are a bestseller for the publisher in question. I don’t find that response professional, but it happens.

    So the short answer is “No.” You don’t tell them you are taking on a new publisher. It’s really none of publisher 1’s business.

    And “No.” That should not affect your relationship with the first publisher, at all. Any publisher using his/her head will realize that (a) they will not be able to put out every possible story you might write, (b) you have to use risk management and take advantage of other ways to advance your career, and (c) the surest way to get you to give THEM more is to treat you well and stay professional.


  17. Brenna Lyons

    A couple more things, now that I’m back…

    I mentioned not letting a publisher “own” your pen name. Don’t accept a first right of refusal on anything you write with a particular pen name. Anything that makes you split your marketing is bad. Also, don’t let them PICK your pen name.

    And, if you’re working with more than one publisher, you may end up with non-enforceable clauses. If you’ve already signed a straight-genre book to publisher A and plan more in the series, then you write erotic romance books from the same world, they will likely be signed to publisher B instead of A. A blanket first right of refusal on the world is non-enforceable. You need to specify erotic romance from that world instead.


  18. Suzanne

    Hi Brenda,
    Just a perfect post, so informative it makes one’s mind boggle. lol.
    I have read and re-read both posts, excellent. Thank you,

    Suzanne :)

  19. Brenna Lyons

    Anytime, folks. I always thought it was better to share information than to let someone else stumble around in the dark. That’s what networking is about.



  1. Cruisin’ the Blog & Member’s News « Romance Writers of Australia - [...] has a very interesting post ‘Pros and Cons of Writing for Different Publishers’ Part one and Part two by…