Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

AT ANY PRICE by Brenna Aubrey

You can’t make this stuff up. A book entitled AT ANY PRICE goes up for auction with major New York publishers, and the author of the book finds out that she can’t be bought. Not with certain contract restrictions and other considerations taken into account.

This is an amazing story. Brenna had one book out on submission, and while she waited, she did what every writer should do: She started the next book. This new story totally swept her up, and in 12 days, she had a rough draft. Another month and a half later, she had a book that she knew was special. Read her account of what happened next. It’s riveting.

What jumps out at me is the community of authors she turned to for advice. Everything I’ve heard about RWA — and having had the pleasure of hanging out with some of the top romance authors in the business — it makes me feel a little inept at how savvy and hardworking these authors are. They are prolific, skilled, professional, and brilliant. They make me feel lazy, if you can imagine that.

Turning to her colleagues for advice, Brenna found the sort of new information that is just emerging about her potential paths to publication. She knew from Courtney Milan that she should consider her net worth. She knew to be wary of non-compete clauses, which are poisonous for both publisher and author and yet still persist. She knew a multiple-book deal was a bad move. She knew the long lead-time to publication would hurt her. She knew high e-book prices could prevent her from breaking out.

What really moved me about her story is how familiar it all feels. These are the exact same things that I wrestled with. This is very similar to the position I found myself in. Yeah, Brenna, I know what it’s like to cry over good news. It’s baffling to feel miserable about an offer you have dreamed of your entire life. And that’s this nether-where that we find ourselves in right now as an industry struggles to cope with a new paradigm.

And it will cope. Publishers are coming around faster than other industries have. We are seeing reduced e-book prices from major publishers as we speak. Some publishers are getting rid of the non-compete clause (smaller publishers, anyway). Some have taken huge risks on terms of license or print-only deals. There is progress. More will come.

I’m just delighted to see that the community of authors who are figuring all of this out are there for each other, sharing what they learn, so everyone can make the best decision for themselves. I think Garth Hallberg made the right decision to go with a major publisher. The book he wrote will do better in bookstores and with a major marketing campaign (and I plan on reading it). There is no one solution for all writers. We each need to have a good cry and make the best choice we know how.

Speaking of a good cry, I’m expecting one of Brenna’s book. Yeah, I just bought a copy of AT ANY PRICE and sent it to my Kindle. I don’t think Brenna will need my two bucks in the grand scheme of things, but I’m happy to do my part. I hope she makes every penny of that 6-figure offer back and then some.

18 replies to “AT ANY PRICE by Brenna Aubrey”

As someone familiar with the Amazon publishing channels, how does the CreateSpace model look to you? I don’t pretend to be a lawyer (though I’d like to play one on TV) but it seems to be pretty friendly to the writer. One thing that’s not too clear is whether the end product (digital anyway) is DRM free. If not, I’d like to be able to offer my stuff on Smashwords or somewhere similar. Thoughts?

Hey Kurt,

Createspace is for the print editions. The DRM would be on the digital edition on KDP, which you can opt in or out of. I use both of these services and swear by them. Both are 100% free to use, and the author retains all the rights to their work.

-Hugh

Hey Hugh,

Thank you so much for talking about my journey on your blog. I was nervous to put that out there but in the end I was truly inspired by the openness of the “pioneers” of self-publishing like you, Courtney Milan and the Indie Voice authors who have been so transparent and open to share their journeys in this new publishing world we find ourselves in.

So thank you for sharing my post with your readers but also thank you for being such a strong voice in the indie community. I would not have been able to make this choice without people like you who had already blazed that trail and then come back to tell us that everything is okay on the other side. :)

P.S. I hope you like the book!

Oh, hell. So if you regret this decision in a few years, it’ll all be my fault! :D

Congrats on the release. I look forward to reading it. And here’s a dirty little secret: I wrote my first novel in 7 days. Don’t tell anyone.

Yep! We are all going to blame Hugh for his hair-brained ideas about self publishing when things don’t pan out for us indie authors! Got to blame anybody but ourselves, right? =p:::

j/k

I have to wonder how much lawyers are at fault for misleading publishers that these things are a good idea? These maybe be attempts for the lawyer to look clever and like they are doing something to earn their money.

I remember when my husband, a friend and I were considering buying a business. The business owner’s lawyer wrote up a ridiculous contract that was set to screw us six ways from Sunday including, saying that we would have to pay all future payments to pay off a work van that still had money owing on it, but that HE (the old owner) would own the van- just ridiculous stuff.

We met this lawyer, who had a permanant smirk on her face, she thought she was so clever. But what was the result for her client?

We did not buy the business. Her client got no sale. He was never able to sell his business and died without selling it.

So publishers…. many of.your lawyers suck. You listen to them telling you to screw over authors….you will lose. Authors are not stupid.

I ran into a situation last year where a publisher’s lawyer ruined an opportunity for myself, the publisher, and the reader … for no reason whatsoever except that they needed to lawyer up and prove they were needed.

Always encouraging to read about authors who find themselves come out on this side of the debate.

It just occurred to me that you have written so much about the process of self-publishing, maybe you could consider making some kind of FAQ on your site with a list of your favorite posts about the subjects? Basically a simple guide or overview to self publishing. Maybe I’ll give it a go when I have a chunk of spare time, but I guess you know better than anyone what you’ve written :)

Just read Brenna’s account. that’s pretty amazing. She has guts, like “Fake Sign Language Interpreter at Mandela’s Funeral” guts.

I have a question for you though Hugh – if an author doesn’t care too much about a noncompete clause, would that be a swing factor? For example, I’m a pretty slow writer. I haven’t published a book in more than 2 years because I had to trash an entire manuscript I finished a year ago and start all over with a new book that (I hope) is much better (and is just about finished). A sequel i have planned will probably take a year to write. And so a quick release schedule isn’t all that important to me either.

Beyond the general “it’s great that we can all publish” mentality, what other specific factors would you say an author should look at in making a decision like Brenna made (which I’ll tell you right now – I wouldn’t have done it.)

-David

I think it’s less of an issue for slower authors. But there’s also what I feel is a shared responsibility. These clauses help no one. They’re born of fear and distrust. It’s publishers being pricks just for the hell of it. So even if it doesn’t impact you, it makes it easier to pass that clause along to the next person.

If we had a REAL writers’ guild (instead of a group that seems intent on fighting for the rights of publishers and bookstores), our president would demand that no author sign a contract with a non-compete clause until they were banished and dead for good. Since we don’t have that, it’s up to us.

Other things I would fight for: Finite terms of license. Books are available forever, which is a new development. That demands a change in contracts. Publishers aren’t going to promote books forever and bookstores aren’t going to stock them forever. Take the rights for 5 years and then return them. Another thing our hypothetical president should fight for. (Instead, Scott Turow fights against Amazon, which has done more for readers and authors than any other entity in modern times).

I love AT ANY PRICE and I love the story behind the book. As an author, this just makes me happy. When Brenna explained the reasons she turned the contract down, I absolutely agreed that she did the right thing. Now all I want is to see this book do really really well. She deserves it.

I was one of The Indie Voice authors Brenna came to for advice. Ultimately, besides going back and forth over an extensive pro and con list, the decision for any author should be to listen to his or her intuition, then have the courage to follow it. I’m so very proud of Brenna for being brave enough to take the more difficult path. How awesome that she’s already reaping the rewards of that choice (which isn’t always the case.) May this be the beginning of a stellar career!

Wow, just read Brenna’s Blog Post about her deal rejection. Great info. Best of luck to her. I will read her stuff. Reading Wool now. Sorry been deep in Children’s Lit. for quite awhile. Have a messy first draft of man adult novel, that I hope to finish-so getting back into that reading world!

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