DEBUT AUTHOR JOURNAL: Receiving a publishing contract!

Poppy Nwosu, Debut Author Journal: Receiving a contract!

As we launch this new blog series in 2020, Poppy Nwosu is the published author of two young adult contemporary novels, Making Friends with Alice Dyson and Taking Down Evelyn Tait. Yet back in 2018, she had just signed her first publication contract for her debut book, and she really had no idea what the future might bring.

This collection of blog posts (originally written by Poppy between March 2018 and March 2019) chronicles her experience during that strange year of limbo between signing a contract and seeing her first book released into the world by Wakefield Press.

For today’s post, Poppy speaks about how it feels to finally receive a publishing contract (and what you should do next).

Post written by Poppy Nwosu

Poppy Nwosu, Debut Author Journal: Receiving a contract!

April 2018: Receiving an actual contract! Um… what do I do with this?

Well, sign it obviously.

Except nothing is ever quite as straightforward as that.

My very first thoughts after being offered a contract was mfmfmghuiewhieuwfjghb!!!!!

I was pretty excited.

​And basically, I couldn’t hold a normal conversation with the nice people at Wakefield Press who were offering me a contract. (I spent a lot of that meeting with my head on the desk sort of freaking out happily. They are super nice so didn’t judge me.)

My second thought after receiving that contract was…

What the hell do I do with this?

I went home and, heeding EVERYONE’S ADVICE EVER, decided to get a professional to assess my contract to ensure it was all fine.

This is a very normal approach, and is a good idea for all authors. It’s not about suspecting that publishers are trying to pull one over on you (I’m pretty sure they generally aren’t trying to do that at all), but it is about figuring out the best version of your contract to sign (and also just making sure you actually understand what you do sign).

I wasn’t sure what a lot of the clauses in my contract meant exactly, so that is why I decided to get someone knowledgeable to look it over for me.

Which is a great approach.

Except what they don’t tell you is this service is EXPENSIVE!!

I’m a member of my local writers centre, but they don’t offer this service unfortunately, so I looked up other avenues.

This led to the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) where they do offer the service but again … money.

Another option is independent agencies, who can look over your contract for a fee.

So basically, unless you have an agent already, who will negotiate your contract on your behalf, you kind of need to pay for this service.

I don’t have much knowledge about the business or contract side of things, and I felt much safer to have a professional look over my contract, so basically, I was just going to have to bite the bullet and pay the money.

The thing was, I didn’t really have any.

Due to pay checks and timing and bills and my husband being a full time student … the timing wasn’t great, and my precious contract was going to have to wait multiple weeks to get reviewed.

Luckily for me, Wakefield Press were cool with this.

​(I’m not gonna lie, I kept having fears they’d change their mind during those weeks but that totally didn’t happen!!)

I will also admit that honestly, I felt a bit sad that it looked like getting my contract assessed was going to cost nearly as much as I was being offered for selling my book. So basically, although I was so excited to finally be selling my book, I definitely wasn’t making any money …

contract

Except, by a total miracle, a really nice South Australian YA author I had met a couple of times at book events/ launches around the city, offered to put me in touch with her agent to see if she would review my contract for me and also look at my other work.

Why did that author do that?

Look, this is the thing I learned early on … authors are nice! There is no rivalry, everyone welcomes you to the YA community, they support each other and help each other out. They help newbie authors getting started in the industry.

It kind of made my day, and it made all the difference for me as money is certainly not something I am rolling in.

So basically, through networking with my local community of writers, I managed to solve this issue.

And the agent gave me feedback on what I should ask to have changed in my contract and, lucky for me, my publishers were totally happy with that, so I didn’t have to try and negotiate on anything (which I doubt I’d be very good at) and things went very smoothly.

But … obviously, the fact that this scenario worked out so well was a total fluke, and super lucky for me.

Literary Agents don’t normally help you with your contract for no fee and with no strings attached, but again, this agent was really lovely and because she wanted to take longer to review my other work to see if she would represent me but she knew I was on limited time with that particular contract, she just went ahead and did it.

Amazing!

People are sometimes just so nice!

contract

My main takeaway from this experience is … contracts frighten me a bit. I think a lot of writers will totally have the right mindset and business smarts to handle their contract negotiations themselves, but I realised that I was not one of them.

I am the kind of writer who wanted a literary agent.

But I’ll get into that story in a future post. 🙂

​Well that’s it from me folks!

Thanks so much for reading!

🙂

Poppy Nwosu is an Australian YA author. Her debut novel, Making Friends with Alice Dyson, was shortlisted for the 2018 Adelaide Festival Unpublished Manuscript Award, and for the 2019 Readings Young Adult Book Prize. It will be published by Walker US in 2020. Her second novel Taking Down Evelyn Tait was published in April 2020.

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