Saturday, November 22, 2008

I Turned Down a Book Contract

Ok. Not really. But sort of. One of my publishers was interested in a second book proposal on a specific topic and I wrote said book proposal. But when I got to the section that listed the competing books - I ran into a snag.

All of the competing books were really good. Written by good, knowledgeable people. And there were a lot of them. That meant that my little baby, my book, might only ever be a small fish in a big pond. Oh, sure, I would write my heart out and make it the best book I could. But the risks were that it wouldn't be as good as those other books. Some of them said *exactly* what I wanted to write about.

Could I write it better? Maybe. But there is a LOT of effort that goes into writing a long, non-fiction book. And I don't want to write a small stable of mediocre books. I want to write a selection of books that are very good. So that readers can have faith that my books will be well-written, well-researched and at the top of their class. They will be the big fish in the pond.

It's hard to get part-way through this book proposal (one that the publisher pretty much asked for) and say, "this doesn't feel right" because I could use the money. And suddenly I run smack into the words I've always said "I write for money". Now I'm not so sure. I might also write for the love of it, for the sake of a writing career, for the identification with other writers and for the desire to communicate with others.

And that's why I'm turning down a book contract.


Becky said...

Judging from your writing, I am sure that your books are probably very good and that you may be selling yourself short. I am sure that you are not the only author who has felt this way though.

As I have been searching through the web tonight, I noticed an author, Mary Patrick Kavanaugh, who after several attempts to publish her book, has been turned down. She is hanging in there and is actually holding a funeral for her unpublished book. You should check out her site, you would probably really enjoy it:

Carolyn Erickson said...

Very interesting. Once you accept the assignment, you have to write it, so it makes sense to me that you would consider things this way.

I can totally relate to your rationale, and to the desire to keep all of your work at a certain level of quality (as opposed to a "me too" type of book).

Still, it must be crazy-making to turn down a book deal! :D My guess is that there will soon be a PERFECT book for you to write - one that you would not have been able to take on if you had taken this one.

Neat stuff. Thanks for sharing it.

How to Party with an Infant said...

Tough decision!

Bobette Kyle said...

I think you were very smart to decline submitting the proposal. A big part of a book's success is it's position in the market compared to competing books. Better to spend your time writing a book with something different to say. Good for you!