This post, by JA Konrath, originally appeared on his A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing blog on 10/11/12.
A few years ago I wrote a horror novel called AFRAID.
I tried to write the scariest book of all time, and lots of people seem to think it is. But it wasn’t an easy sell. In fact, it took my agent six months to find a buyer. After many, many rejections, we landed a two book paperback deal with Grand Central.
I got a $20k advance. Not enough to support my family, but enough to keep me in the business. I hoped that AFRAID would be given a wide distribution, quickly earn out its advance, and I’d be able to grow the Jack Kilborn brand (that’s the pen name I used). To promote AFRAID, I did a blog tour, appearing on 100 blogs in 31 days. I also did a real book tour, signing at 206 bookstores in 12 states.
Happily, AFRAID managed to find an audience, and quickly earned out its advance. Between March 2009 and June 2012, AFRAID has earned me $75,882. Not too bad.
But all was not rosy.
Grand Central didn’t like my follow-up horror novel, LEVEL 6. They didn’t like the title, or the story, even though they published the first few chapters of it in the back of AFRAID, under a title I hated, TRAPPED.
So I rewrote TRAPPED, because even though I thought the book worked well, I needed the money.
They didn’t like the rewrite, either. I had fans expecting TRAPPED, but apparently they weren’t going to get what they wanted.
So I wrote another novel for Grand Central, ENDURANCE. This one they liked, but wanted changes. I told them no, and paid them back the advance I got for the second book.
Telling a major publisher off was pretty much unheard of at the time, and I believe I became the first author to reject a Big 6 deal in favor of self-pubbing. I published TRAPPED and ENDURANCE myself. Had Grand Central been smarter, they could have published TRAPPED and ENDURANCE and perhaps even more Kilborn novels.
So how’d I do on my own?