Columns > Published on August 5th, 2014

Path to Publication 3.0: I Have A Book Deal Again!

After being dropped by my first publisher, I've found a new home—my debut novel, New Yorked, will be published by Polis Books in June 2015. Once again, I will attempt to chronicle my path to publication...


As faithful readers of the previous incarnation of this column might know, June was a real kick in the teeth.

Earlier this year, Exhibit A Books, the crime imprint of Angry Robot, had agreed to publish my first novel, New Yorked, and the follow-up, City of Rose. I was one of several new authors they signed up—a crew that included folks some of you are probably familiar with, like Nik Korpon and Patti Abbott. We were being billed as the “new face” of Exhibit A.

Then, after months of stringing us along, Angry Robot abruptly shut down Exhibit A (as well as its YA imprint, Strange Chemistry) and kicked us to the curb.

I should have guessed. The advance check kept on getting delayed. They agreed to buy my second book off the synopsis but never sent me a contract. We were six months out from publication and I still hadn’t gotten my edits. But I was so high on having a book deal I figured it would be okay. Anyway, I work in publishing. I know the wheels turn slowly. 

Losing a book deal is a horrible feeling. Here’s this thing you work your whole life for, and you actually achieve this goal, and then it gets taken away from you.

The icing on the cake was the statement they put out afterward, calling themselves innovators, and saying nothing of the authors they left in the lurch. 

And that was that. I had gone from a two book deal to a zero book deal. 

The day after

Losing a book deal is a horrible feeling. Here’s this thing you work your whole life for, and you actually achieve this goal, and then it gets taken away from you. Two days after I learned the news, I went to my brother's engagement party, and I spent the whole day telling beaming relatives that no, I don't know when or where they could buy my book. That's a special kind of low, the likes of which I've never felt before. 

So, what exactly happens when a book deal falls apart?

On the personal end of things, it was a lot of sitting on my couch and playing Titanfall and drinking and being melancholy. While I was being sad pretty much everyone else was being awesome. My agent, Bree, got right back to work. She treated it like what is was (a speed bump) and not how it felt to me (a twelve-car pileup). Having that rational balance was a big help. My wife, too, gave me just enough space without letting me wallow too deep.

A lot of people reached out to me—family and friends and readers. One of my idols sent me an e-mail and told me to not give up hope. Stuff like that kept me going, and that's the benefit of being part of a thriving community of writers. 

On the business end of things, it was a hard reset. I was lucky that Exhibit A didn’t actually do any work for me, because it meant we didn’t have to worry about an orphaned series. Say, for example, New Yorked came out before the collapse—I would have zero support from the publisher on selling that book, it's unlikely they would revert the rights back to me, and another publisher might be hesitant to pick up the second book in the series. So the series could very well have ended up dead in the water. 

So, silver linings. The contract was straight-up canceled and all my rights reverted back to me.

And we didn’t have to start at square one. It was more like square 2.5. Within days of the announcement, I had a couple of publishers get in contact with me or my agent, expressing interest in looking at the book, or wanting to make an offer. Because I had been vetted, and I was a known entity, suddenly people were willing to play ball. 

I was a free agent for nearly a month. And it was a tough month. I hated being out on submission the first time. Being back there was fucking terrible. The waiting and the not knowing were keeping me up at night. And of course, everyone's telling you some variation of this: 

"Chin up! It sold once, it'll sell again, and you're going to get an even better deal!"

And no matter how good their intentions—no matter the fact that it's true—all you hear is this: 

"It was a good run. Maybe take up basket-weaving?"

Luckily, all that hand-wringing was for naught, because like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I am back in business. 

Let slip the dogs of war

Ultimately, we had a couple of offers on the table, and we went with Jason Pinter at Polis Books. He's buying both New Yorked and City of Rose. The first entry is tentatively scheduled for June 2015. New Yorked was supposed to come out Dec. 31, so it's getting delayed six months. Given the long lead time of the publishing world, that's essentially a rounding error. Plus, with a baby due Jan. 28, it'll be nice to have six months of breathing room. More silver linings. 

So, here's a funny story about Jason: I first told him about this series outside a bar at a crime fiction convention last year in Albany. He was intrigued, and asked to read New Yorked. And then he came back and wanted to pick it up.

But at that point, Polis was getting off the ground and they were only doing eBooks. Jason is a smart, passionate guy, and I like him a lot. His philosophy with Polis was very forward-thinking. So it really bummed me out to turn him down. An eBook-only deal is a compromise I wasn’t willing to make. I struggled with that decision. I've got nothing against eBooks, but for my first published novel, I needed to be able to hold it in my hand. 

Sometimes you have to take what you can get, but sometimes you have to stick to your guns. 

Jason, being the professional that he is, didn’t take it personally. And around the same time Exhibit A dropped me, he was moving Polis into doing print books. He immediately reached out to both me and Bree with words of support—and to put his hat back into the ring. His enthusiasm for me and my work has always meant a lot to me, so this time, especially with a real-deal print run on the docket, it was easy to say yes. 

And there's one more big silver lining to all of this. 

One of the things I had to agree to with Exhibit A was to put the book out in mass market paperback as opposed to trade paperback. I am not a fan of mass market. I tried to be. I convinced myself that I liked it, and it was for the best. It was a book I could fit into my pocket! But I don't like books I can't hold open with one hand. I hate the paper quality and the limitations for layout (I'm a nerd for things like that). It was a compromise. 

I went into this process with the understanding that the likelihood of scoring a hardcover deal was pretty low. Hell, I didn't even really want a hardcover deal—the hill to success is way steeper. But not getting trade—well, sometimes you have to take what you can get. 

Now, for trade to be back on the table, it proved the thing I was having a hard time hearing during my month without a home: I did get a better deal, because now I have even more of what I wanted than when I started this whole thing. 

So now it's time to get the gears of war back into motion. I've got a little less than a year before the book comes out. I'm back to planning. I'm hoping that, now I'll have more to write about—because in the last incarnation of this column, I was left with a lot of space to fill, since I wasn't getting anything due to me in a timely fashion (or, at all). And luckily, all the material I was planning for my release is still in place. I just have to pivot on a few things. 

We're back to this. I'll write about the process every month. If you have questions, let 'em fly. 

Otherwise... it's good to be back.

About the author

Rob Hart is the class director at LitReactor. His latest novel, The Paradox Hotel, will be released on Feb. 22 by Ballantine. He also wrote The Warehouse, which sold in more than 20 languages and was optioned for film by Ron Howard. Other titles include the Ash McKenna crime series, the short story collection Take-Out, and Scott Free with James Patterson. Find more at www.robwhart.com

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