Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Reason Behind the Big Switch - And the Woe of First Refusal

Recently I decided to ask for my rights back on three books from one publisher. You may have seen a few authors doing this and might wonder why. Here's my story.

In the summer of 2007 I received the contract for Princess Slave. I was over the moon. It was my first Sara York book ever accepted into publishing. I signed the contract, but I shouldn't have without asking for a few lines to be removed.

Princess Slave was released in the summer of 2008. One year for release. At the time I thought this was good. Yes, at one point in May of 2008 I had to ask if they were about done with edits, but that was the only time I had to ask on this book. I did keep all of the email correspondence with my editor which turned out to be a very wise move on my part.

Since Princess Slave was selling so well I decided to write and release Runaway Princess with them. Of course if you remember I signed a contract that I realized later I shouldn't have. Why? Because there was a little clause about Rights of First Refusal dealing with the character set and the setting. I had made a mistake.

I sent my editor, who I already had a publishing relationship with, the full of Runaway Princess in January 2009. I received the contract in August 2009. I should have pulled the book, but didn't want to be "THAT" author. After months of emailing, where I would spend two or three days, at the longest a week on edits and the editor would spend two or three months, in reality five months, with the edits for Runaway Princess. The book finally came out in August 2010. Yes, that's one and a half years from the time I submitted the second book in the series to my publisher for the book to come out.

I have to point out that both Princess Slave and Runaway Princess are novellas and this is epublishing folks. My other epublishers take about 6 months at the most to get a book out the door.

I sure as heck wasn't going to write another book in the Princess Series. Why would I? It would be ten, maybe fifteen years before the final book of seven came out. Now I'm publishing the series on Amazon and Smashwords for 0.99 US each. I decided to release the books on Amazon myself so I have control over each stage.

In early June I read a review from Lady Raven of Romance Novel Junkies on the Princess Series. Her review convinced me to ask for my rights back. So thank you Lady Raven.

What did I learn? Never sign a contract with rights of first refusal. You may think you need that contract or want that contract bad enough to sign anything, but don't. If you must go with a publisher ask them to remove that little clause because it might bite you in the end.

Blurb of Princess Slave
Princess Ava Timna is prisoner of the king of Zebulun, doomed to become his sex slave. Escape means certain death but staying only delays the inevitable, the loss of her virginity. To her people, her virginity is sacred, something to be treasured and given as a gift to her future husband. Giving herself to King Ean isn't an option. He's known for defiling women and casting them aside. She expects abuse and harshness at his hands, yet his gentle touch leaves her breathless and aching for more.

King Ean of Zubulun has a secret he’s not willing to share. He's not who others believe him to be and his secret identity changes everything. Keeping Ava prisoner weighs on his conscious. Keeping her means giving in to the lustful fire burning in his loins, knowing all the while he's lying to the one woman he wishes could be more than his princess slave.


Romance Novel Junkies said...

I'm glad to be apart of your decission to get your rights back. I really liked the series and hope to read the other remaining sisters. Let's us know for sure the other releases. And Good Luck!

Delaney Diamond said...

Sara, I understand your frustration. Having to wait that long, particularly when the books are in a series, is frustrating for the author and her readers (esp. avid readers like Lady Raven).

I don't actually think right of first refusal is such a bad thing, though. I had a lawyer review my first contract, and he explained it's common and there's nothing wrong with it.

Most publishers are vested in the book and want to be able to publish the series. Readers will follow a series, so that's good for the publisher and the author.

It might not be a bad idea to place a time limit on the right of first refusal. For instance, they have 60 days or something to let you know, after which time you have the right to move onto another publisher.

My three ebooks have taken three months or less to get released, so it sounds like your publisher wasn't doing a good job in general. You were smart to ask for the rights back and handle publishing on your own.

Sara York said...

You're welcome, Lady Raven.

Delaney, I think you have to be careful which publishing company you allow to include rights of first refusal. On the first book there were excuses about why it took a year. The second book, within 2 months I had a verbal that they wanted the book, but no contract. I should have made them put up or shut up. And of course once you sign that contract you have to pay to get out. Glad now that I have my rights back.

Jude Mason said...


It sounds like a nightmare. I do know with some of the bigger publishers, it takes longer to have a book released. It's understandable, they have more authors to juggle. But, you can ask them to add things into a contract as well as take them out. A time limit between the contract signing and release date for instance.

I hope you're happier now you have your books back! And, I hope you're writing up a storm!