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When Your Publishing Contract is Cancelled – How to Save Your Writing Career

what to do when your publisher cancels your contract

Deanna Proach – author, blogger, and writer extraordinaire!

As a writer, it’s devastating to discover your publisher wants to cancel your contract. In my case, I no longer wanted to work with my publisher.

“There are three difficulties in authorship: to write anything worth publishing, to find honest men to publish it, and to find sensible men to read it.” ~Charles Caleb Colton.

Colton couldn’t have been more right. Writing a book is tough; finding people to read it and love it is even harder, but finding a good publisher is just downright daunting. As an unfortunate result, many new authors get burned fast, including myself.

What to Do When Your Publishing Contract is Cancelled

Guest Post – Deanna Proach

When the acquisitions editor at PULSEpub.net, a small traditional publisher based in North Carolina, contacted me via email, expressing their desire to publish my contemporary YA novel, To be Maria, I was elated. My prayers for success had finally been answered; the right publisher had taken a chance on me and To be Maria was going to be a runaway success. Or so I thought.

PULSEpub promised worldwide availability; the contract itself was straightforward. But the only websites To be Maria was made available on for purchase, other than the PULSEpub website, was Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. And since it was released first as an ebook, it wasn’t available in several electronic formats, which it should have been. I had requested them to widen my book’s availability, but they never followed through. Then, for no reason at all, they stopped responding to my emails. I was anticipating the paperback release at the end of November and so were several people in my community, but my publisher never gave me a set release date. To make matters worse, they were not providing me with monthly sales reports. Working with PULSEpub had turned out to be horrid nightmare. I had to put an end to this stress. Fast.

At the end of November, I signed an agreement of termination. Now I am waiting for all of my book’s information to be deleted off the PULSEpub website, and off Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble as well.

Was this a setback in my career as a writer? Big time. But I’m thankful I have, in the meantime, opened the door to other (better) opportunities for myself, so I’m not concerned.

If I had taken the time to research PULSEpub before I signed the contract, I wouldn’t have signed it. But mistakes do happen. Yet, other authors have their contracts terminated simply because their books failed to sell well in an allotted period of time.

Regardless of who wants to terminate a publishing contract, it’s a horrible thing to have to go through. But does a broken contract make you a failed writer? Does it mark the end of your career as a writer? The answer to both these questions is no. Whether you write long fiction or non-fiction, there are other avenues of writing you can get into.

If you’re an emerging novelist and find yourself in this predicament, do not despair. It is not the end of the world and it is certainly not the end of your career as a writer. There are four steps you can take to save your writing career.

1. Have a Backup Plan

Whether you have a healthy sized fan base or not, you’re going to have to expand your writing skills into other areas; areas that pay well, of course. But first, you will have to figure out what direction you want to take your writing in. Sit down with a piece of paper and pen in hand and write a mission statement. What are your passions? What do you plan to accomplish in one to five years? Do you have expertise in more than one area?

I love writing fiction for teens because, not too long ago, I was a teen myself. Also, I know what it’s like to be the bullied outsider who wants to fit in really bad. I’ve been there, so that experience gives me an authority to weave such themes into the fabric of my stories. But I also love history: I wrote a historical novel set in 1793 France and recently, I started a blog titled Crusades and Crusaders. As you might have guessed, this blog follows the Crusades and will include vignettes and biographies of people who participated in these wars for the Holy Land.

The advent of writing ‘Crusades and Crusaders’ has opened up the door to better writing opportunities which has, in turn, enabled me to develop a backup plan for my career as a writer.

Once you have written down a mission statement for yourself and have a backup plan in mind, get to work.

2. Take Time to Recuperate and Grow

While you shouldn’t give up your publishing dream, it won’t hurt to put it on hold for a few years, or as long as you need to. It will give you enough time to break into writing plan B, build your portfolio, financial base and author platform. Besides, a few years from now, people won’t remember what happened to you.

Perhaps you might also consider looking for a literary agent to help you land a new publishing contract.

3. Promote Your Book

Just because your book is no longer in print or your publishing contract was cancelled, it doesn’t mean you should stop promoting it. You are going to need a readership base for your book before you can even think about approaching another publisher and/or agent. Out of fairness to your fans, you should let them know what happened. They are, after all, your fans, so chances are they will be willing to help you get the word out about your book to many more people.

In the meantime, submit excerpts of your book to literary magazines and query magazine editors with article ideas that are based on themes from your book.

4. Do Your Research Before You Sign a Publishing Contract

The most important lesson I learnt from my experience with PULSEpub is that new isn’t always better. When it comes to publishing, it’s much better to sign with a traditional (or self-publishing) press that has built up a good reputation. If you’re querying publishers unagented, don’t jump at the first opportunity that comes your way. Research the publisher’s background and credentials first. Go as far as to contact authors who have signed with that publisher and ask them how well that publisher is working for them.

If you get no response, look up the publisher on Predators and Editors. If Predators and Editors have not listed the publisher of your choice–the one who offered you a publishing contract–consult a writing forum. Absolute Write is the forum I use because they are brutally honest when it comes to these things. If the response you receive is not in the publisher’s favor, do not go ahead and sign the contract. It is far better to have an unpublished book than to be burned and ripped off by a scummy publisher. Trust me.

Having your book contract terminated sucks and it is a major setback, but it does not mark the end of your writing career. Pick up the pieces, follow another passion, prosper, and don’t ever settle for less.


You can find out more about Deanna Proach and her writing on her blogs, Deanna’s Writing  and  Crusades and Crusaders.

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Deanna also wrote 5 Steps to Writing a Killer First Chapter – How to Wow Readers, here on Quips & Tips for Successful Writers.

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17 thoughts on “When Your Publishing Contract is Cancelled – How to Save Your Writing Career”

  1. Thank you for sharing this, Deanna! I’ve only been offered a publishing contract once, and it ended up being cancelled by the publisher because of staff changes. I haven’t tried again because I was so disappointed.

  2. @Jamie–Thank you, Jamie. It was a very hard thing to go through, but I’ve since learnt and am now moving forward. Onward and upward as they say. My hope, through this experience, is to see other aspiring authors take precaution. I also wish you the very best of luck and Merry Christmas:)

  3. @Elinor- I sure do have a back up plan; have written it down in my journal and am excited for a new adventure in 2013 and beyond.

    @Hollis–very good point. A writer can become a fantastic writer, but in today’s publishing landscape, that doesn’t mean publication and best-sellerdom. That said, it’s up to the writer to determine whether he/she wants to continue on the path to publication or divert to a different career in writing. For me, I’m putting my novel on the shelf and I’m pursuing my back up writing career.

    @Willy–I’m happy to know I inspired you to take action in your own career. I sincerely wish you much luck in your career.

  4. This is something that everyone should ask themselves periodically, how their writing has changed or evolved over the years. Have they gained or lost something in the process of writing?

  5. One thing I like to add is that you could always publish your book on Amazon. It’s a nice side revenue and you will have to worry about annoying publishing contracts. You should always have a backup plan and Amazon is definitely the way to go. I’ll definitely do my research about some of the points you outlined in this post. Thank you.

  6. There are alot of set backs and disappointments when starting a new business, especially blogging. You are going to have a lot of ups and downs, and the only way to overcome them is to have a structured, and solid business plan. Always make sure to network and connect other writers, so you have a backup plan your writing contract gets cancelled.

  7. @Chelsea–thank you so much for those kind comments. I really needed to hear that. We all need to hear that. I’m also thankful that I am an inspiration to other writers like yourself and I wish you much luck with your writing career as well. Merry Christmas and a Happy Successful New Year.

  8. Any good author has experienced setbacks and disappointments, whether it’s with publishing contracts, bad reviews, low income, or writer’s block. I’m impressed at how far you’ve come as a writer, and already see you as a successful author. You’ve done much more than most of us and I admire that.

    Thank you for sharing how you’re saving your writing career.

  9. The beauty of these online days is that you can bypass the publishing process, which is fraught with flawed opinions and seemingly endless rejections, and publish online. That’s the route I’m going. Sure, it’s not as glamorous as seeing your book in the bestseller section of a leading bookstore, and not as rewarding financially, but I get to call the shots and don’t have to contend with such irritations as an over-zealous editor who wants to make my book more “readable”.

  10. Thank you for those kind words, Darla. I’m sorry you had to experience the same thing. It just makes me all the more happy to share this advice, just to spread awareness of the crummy publishers and what writers can do to avoid these pitfalls in the first place.

  11. Excellent advice! I had an almost identical experience with the publication of my first book. I wish I had read your post above at the time–I was so discouraged. I would also add that when publishers behave badly and you’re feeling the pain of loss, remember, it’s not you, it’s them. 🙂

  12. Thanks for publishing this, Laurie. Yes, even though I have irons in the fire for opportunities, it still was extremely stressful. But the best part of this experience: I’m more wise and mature as a result in that I’ve learnt what not to do.

  13. Thank you for this, Deanna! I’ve only been offered a publishing contract once, and the offer was revoked because I moved away from the city (it was a nonfiction book about the city I was living in, and the publisher thought it’d be better if the writer was living in the city).

    So I know how devastating it is to lose a publishing contract…but you really know how to bounce back!