Many people have contacted us in the last few years about getting out of book contracts. Maybe they want to self-publish an e-book. Maybe the publisher isn’t promoting their book properly. Maybe their editor left and they’re unhappy with the new cast of characters. If you want out, the first step is to ask. If you dislike the publisher so much, maybe it’s mutual. Amicable partings can happen.
If that doesn’t work, feel free to send your contract to us at email@example.com for review. We’ll look it over—especially the termination clause—with an eye towards finding an escape valve. Failure to market your book, by the way, won’t be it. All publishers fail to market books these days. But maybe we can help you come up with an approach. On rare occasions, publishers will say you can buy your way out of the contract, or you can’t use any of their edits unless you pay them. On more occasions, they’ll say no. And that’s a battle you usually can’t win. Contracts exist for a reason, and that reason is usually to bind the parties to each other for better or worse.
So you may have to bite the bullet and plan to do better with your next book. (If your publisher has the right of first refusal on it, we can perhaps advise you on getting out of that.) Remember to have us review your next contract before you sign it. We’ll help make sure you have solid termination/out-of-print clauses, eliminate odious option clauses, and generally make the contract more author-friendly.
Barbara Mende is the coordinator of Grievance and Contract Division