When your publishing contract falls through

I have a confession to make, I have kept some exciting publishing news to myself, waiting for just the right moment to blog about it. And now I think it’s about time. I received an offer to have my book Under a Different Sky published by a small traditional press called RRPI in the US! Yes!! Hooray!! Party!! But before I get carried away with myself, I have to let you know:

The contract never went ahead.

Why you ask?

Long story short the small publishing company that had offered to publish my book went under and dumped all their authors. But the way they went about it was pretty unprofessional.

Short story long I created my website with WordPress in November 2015, with the aim of connecting with all the wonderful writers, reviewers and book fanatics in this community so I could have some support while self-publishing my first novel. But as you’ll see in this post: Submitting your manuscript to the big Aussie publishers, I decided, what the hell, how about I submit my manuscript to a few publishers while I’m at it?

Confident in the face of 0.01% statistics

confident cat

I sent my manuscript through to one of the Australian Big 5 and then submitted to a small, slightly obscure, US traditional press I uncovered in a #pit2pub related post. And BAM! Exactly 2 weeks after submitting to the US Company they replied telling me they ‘loved the manuscript and were very interested, but could I make some revisions and resubmit?’ I was more than happy to oblige, and a week or so later I sent off my revised chapters, and another 2 more weeks after that they sent me an offer to publish my book!

No freakin way!

idea cat

Ecstatic barely explains how I felt at finally achieving my life-long dream of getting published. I was so excited I immediately told my entire family, had a party to celebrate with my friends and then announced the news to everyone on Facebook. That’s 800 people. Dear god. It was a complete newbie error. I should have waited until I had the final signed contract in my hands. But on the positive side I finally came out of the closet as a writer. Even some of my closest friends I’ve known for years didn’t know I loved to write.

Look at me everyone, I’m a writer

weird cat

The communication with the ‘Managing Director’ started off well enough, though when he sent the contract through I did a bit of research and discovered that there were a few red flags in some of the terms, not to mention they wanted to acquire ALL of the foreign rights (even though the book would essentially only be produced for an American audience). I also discovered that I would have to wait 18 months – 2 years before they could publish my novel.

Waiting, waiting, waiting

cat with wagging tail

I consulted with my family, and in the end I decided I was prepared to sacrifice my first book to get a foot in the door of the publishing industry, however small the gap. The US market is pretty big anyway, so I wasn’t too concerned that I would most likely achieve next to no sales in my home market.

A week after receiving the contract I sent it back to my new publisher. And this is the response I got:


You can just imagine my initial reaction.

I just don’t understand what he’s saying…

confused sad cat

To explain a bit, I’m an Australian, so I obviously signed the date as an Australian would (day-month-year), instead of the American way (month-day-year). But that’s beside the point. His email was completely baffling to the point of insanity.

Is he for real?


I didn’t understand how the director could reject my book in such a cruel fashion. If my novel sucked, sure I could live with that. I’d just work harder on my next novel, and the next one after that. I’m under no grand illusions that I’m a good writer. But to tell me that the ‘signs’ weren’t right?

This was my response:


After sending my reply I immediately did a ton of research (that I should have done earlier) and discovered that I had submitted to a company with pretty bad reviews – with several huge red flags on their website that I had failed to notice.

Run away!

run away

It should have come as no surprise that I soon began to hear of even more authors who were having their contracts terminated by RRPI, usually through less then kind means in my opinion. I was soon alerted by the wonderful people at absolutewrite that RRPI had closed. I’m guessing they went under due to the managing director’s inexperience. One of the authors I came across was Samantha Paulsen who outlined in a blog post her rather unfortunate dealings with RRPI.

But that’s all behind me now right?

One thing I learned, it’s a very good idea to do your research and find reviews on the publishing company before you sign away the novel you’ve spent months or even years working on! I know, I know, it’s an obvious one, but as they were listed on the #pit2pub site I automatically assumed they were reputable. Never assume!

From now on I’ll avoid submitting to the smaller traditional presses in the US (even though there are many great ones out there – I just can’t take that chance again) and instead I’ll do what I always originally aimed to do, I might finally have a good go at self-publishing! 🙂

Just keep reaching and you’ll get there.


My next post will most likely be… ‘how the hell do you self-publish – with cats’

Gifs sourced from: ohmagif.com, gifak.net, catgifs.org, 4gifs.com, gifsoup


84 thoughts

  1. OMG. I cringed as I was reading. I’m so sorry this happened to you. The managing director sounds like an insufferable douche. Signs? Give me a break.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Millie,
    Thanks for writing such a great blog post. I feel for you but I am so glad that you dodged that bullet. I’m an aussie too and I wouldn’t have thought about the date thing either. I think your written response was perfect and appropriate – especially that guff about reading the signs! What the…?
    If you’re interested in becoming published by a big US publisher, I’d like to suggest that you start connecting with David Farland. He’s an american fantasy and sci-fi author and teacher too with over 40 years of experience and over 65 books published. He’s worked in Hollywood and he can tell you exactly how to find a reputable agent, how to find the right publisher for your genre and where to go to get that information. He is a wealth of information for serious authors who want to publish in the US. If you’re interested, check out his website: mystorydoctor.com.
    I hope this helps and that you have every success with your novel regardless of self-publishing or traditional.
    Kind regards,

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Millie, I am so sorry this happened to you. I think in the end it turned out for the best. Imagine not knowing how we write the date. Amazing. I lost a contract back when the global financial thing happened from a rather big house who pulled the plug on all new offers. I was devastated so I feel your pain. Here is another Australian writer loving your blog.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Another Aussie!! Thank you means a lot. Oh dear your story sounds even more soul crushing, I can’t even imagine losing a contract from a big house! Like far out. Cheers to losing contracts & still surviving & thriving ! 🙂


  4. Still in the midst of my own writing struggles I can completely understand your dilemma. I am so very sorry that you had to undergo such highs and lows in such a short time. But as you said it taught you an abundance of how to deal with the industry. Best of luck ahead for much better times. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’ve had a couple of “opportunities” to either share my content, or publish over the years, and all of them have turned out to be some kind of racket. I will say though – I used to known Catherine Sanderson (Petite Anglaise), who got outed by the newspapers after getting fired for what she wrote in her blog. She *did* get a book deal out of it though.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s great news! As you would have read in my post, make sure you do as much research as possible so you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into – though even then you can still get into a pretty sticky situation. But I’m sure the odds are in your favour ☺️ Anyway, good luck!!


  6. A novel of mine was in print for about two weeks before the publisher folded. I never even received a copy. The work–A Heroine’s Journey–was picked up elsewhere and eventually made it into print again with a new copy-edit and lots more work. Hell of a profession. I love your cats. Best of luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Millie,
    May I suggest you stay with the “big 5”?
    If you concentrate on those proven publishers, your only regret will be missing your dart board.
    Keep them then as your target. Throw every dart at them.
    Did you write 10,000 times to Harvard and never got a personal response? ( They only want to hear from global dignitaries) Then write 10,000 more times!
    For others reading this, here is my well grounded advice and not in chronological order.
    1. Know your subject . If it is photography, then do not submit an article with blue ice caps giving away the fact that you cannot compensate exposure.
    If you are a camper, then do not spend 1500 words on prices at CABELA’S camping gear.

    2. Know the rules! If you are Socrates, then break the rules,by all means-have at it! but know the consequences…Hemlock.
    3. Work on your ‘grabber’ not grammer. Your publisher will work on the grammer; you work on the grabber. The GRABBER is the opening line. If you do not get the reader’s attention in that first line, you’re done!…and your first reader will be an assistant to the editor. Bwa haha!

    Look at these examples of opening lines and choose one you would spend time reading further :

    I have a degree and a lot of experience ( field work ).

    I was the fastest runner in my hughschool days and still pretty swift today ( many agree ).

    “Lash her down, lads! We are headed into that maelstrom, Today we set a difuhnt haden!”

    Remember that your publisher is opening hundreds and hundreds of submissions every week.
    There will be many with colorful envelopes and ribbons tied around them. Please do not do this. It will not help you get your submission read.
    Your targeted publisher has a staff that screens submissions and while they truly do want to find your submission worth passing up to the editors, they have to literally plow through painful piles and shoddy stacks ifsome really really bad prose and poetry :
    Hark! And for sooth! What hear ye, my love? Oh, sky above! Sky, sky, above my love.

    If you stay with the ” big 5″ you will have set a target worthy of your talent.
    If you are worthless, then throw your darts at worthless targets.
    Be honest with your self; if you have something to offer-worthy, to others, then keep throwing those darts. You will hit it! You will.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. There’s some sharks out there and it’s possibly been a good thing that you’ve had your fingers burnt early on without you signing your life away.
    As a profession writers can be a desperate bunch and we can all fall into the trap of believing the first person who shows an interest.
    I quite often see writers getting very excited at being ‘published’ but when you dig a bit deeper, they aren’t getting paid and aren’t really getting any exposure.
    As you’ve said, take your time and do you homework. It always annoys me that people are willing to exploit the dreams of writers but it’s the world we live in.
    Good luck, this experience will only make you stronger and you can laugh about it when you finally sign a real publishing deal.

    If you do decide to go down the self publishing route, take your time and ensure you get every element right. I’m delivering a workshop on it in a few weeks time for a literature festival and doing the presentation today has reminded me how much work is involved. Self publishing is very easy, self publishing well is a little trickier but it’ll all be worth it when you get that first copy in your hand.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I’m seeing some great links in these comments… busily writing them all down… can I add another link? You might want to check out absolutewrite.com. It has a section for publishers, both recommended and shady.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Great post, Millie, and what a nightmare! How ridiculous, you definitely don’t need to take any of that as a reflection on you (I’m pretty sure you haven’t anyway). Self-publish! Do it. I run a small business publishing indie authors, and if you have the time and resources for marketing I would say you should go down the indie route. You’ve already got a good following on your blog, and Facebook, which is a good starting point. You can still keep approaching traditional publishers as well, but in the meantime you can get your book out there in the hands of readers.
    Good luck!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks so much Kath, I really do think I’ll have a go at self-publishing. I’m just so keen to get it out there in the hands of readers, as you said! Marketing will be he tough part, but I’m looking forward to doing a bit of research and having a go ☺️ thanks again!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. I think it’s the dream of many people on WordPress to have something published one day, so I can well understand your initial excitement. I’d have been ecstatic too. I’m sorry things fell through, but I can’t help thinking it was fa lucky escape. The letter you received from the company was beyond weird. I don’t blame you for wanting to stay a million miles from them.

    Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow! Don’t be embarrassed about shouting the news from the rooftops, that would be my first reaction too! You’re proud of yourself and your work, so why not. I have no words for the behaviour of the ‘managing director’, that’s a big red flashing neon sign right there.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thanks Lisa ☺️ I was pretty happy to discover they went under a few days ago. People like Aaron Hughes really shouldn’t be in the industry but I think he liked feeling self-important by the looks of it haha ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  13. He liked two of my tweets during Pit2Pub and I submitted my work to him and got really excited. I am so saddened to hear that he was like this. But I am also very glad for posts like your’s to let people know what type of publishers are out there. I wish you all the success Millie, Your time will come!

    Liked by 4 people

  14. What a rollercoaster ride! I feel for you, that’s a horrible experience. Thanks for sharing it, Millie. There’s a lot of sharks out there who want to take advantage of aspiring authors, glad to hear you managed to escape his clutches. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  15. Congratulations! I believe you really have had a narrow escape. May I just suggest that you see a lawyer and get formal copyright on your novel. May I also suggest you keep an eye on that publisher in case he/she decides to publish without you.
    One of the blogs I follow is the ‘Business Rusch’ written by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. She posts about the pitfalls of contracts and agents for both Indies and Trad. Pub. authors. Worth reading. http://kriswrites.com/category/business/

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Cool thanks for the link! Yeah I was a bit worried the publisher would turn psycho and suddenly decide to sign the contract. Luckily they only ever had the first 3 chapters! Fancy signing on an author without even seeing the whole manuscript… 😂


      1. Phew! I’m so glad you didn’t send him the whole lot. I’ve read about people who did [to very BIG publishers] and were diddled. And yeah, anyone can become a publisher these days. It really is the wild wild west, that’s why I’m glad you’re going to self-publish. Win or lose, at least you’ll be in control. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  16. I would automatically be suspicious of a small US publisher expressing interest in my work. If you think about it, books don’t sell unless they are extensively marketed – a small press doesn’t have the resources to do much marketing and so it is very unlikely they would take a risk on an unknown author from another country. Name recognition or local connections are hugely important.
    Live and learn!

    Liked by 3 people

  17. This was a frustrating and disappointing experience for you, but thank you for sharing it so candidly. It helps others be aware of what they will face in the arduous journey of finding a publisher. It also highlights one of the advantages of publishing your own work: total control and total ownership of your work. On the other hand, self-publishing can be rewarding, but it’s a path just as prone to embarrassments and misfires as trying to find a publisher. Good on you for keeping a positive attitude, learning as you go, and persevering – and also forgiving us Yanks for our screwy system of writing dates 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  18. You have to be really careful with small publishing companies. These days many of them go out of business – like mine! I think you should feel glad that managing director is so superstitious.

    Liked by 3 people

  19. Ugh! I’m so sorry for this hideous experience. I agree, it’s good they flaked out before the contract went through, given the email exchange, it was a question of when, not if. Good luck to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. That’s absolutely atrocious — what ridiculous behavior! I’m so sorry, Millie but glad you flew the coop while you still could. If you decide to go the self-publishing route, here’s a good place to start: https://janefriedman.com/self-publish-your-book/ I’m going that route simply because I’m impatient. The book’s for my kid (and other kids like him), so I don’t care to do the 2+ year traditional publishing circuit.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. I am glad you dodged a very flakey bullet there. Thanks for the reminder of being cautious about deals for content or publication. I have had one online NE content provider want me for contributions. I wrote back to them with questions after looking at their website and vision. Never heard back. So in a faint way, I sympathize. You will make it! Keep plugging away and good on ya!

    Liked by 3 people

  22. Once bitten, twice shy, I hope. A good publishing lawyer should see a contract before you sign it, lucky for you, you caught the red flags. There are scammers and idiots out there. Good luck with the self publishing. If I can help, check pigeon post on my blog .

    Liked by 2 people

  23. I’m glad you dodged that bullet, Millie, but I’m so sorry you had to go through such a spirit-crushing disappointment! Like you, I have been in the closet about my writing for years. In fact, I still have numerous friends who have no idea that I write.

    I can’t imagine telling the world about my excitement, only to have such a let down!

    However, I’m sure you will recover nicely and succeed as a self-publisher. Even this short blog post shows that you know how to tell a story–and keep readers on the edge of their seats!

    Best of luck with Under a Different Sky!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. A great post about a dreadful and I have to admit a bit bizarre experience. As a retired accountant I always try to do due diligence before doing business with someone but I never ran into anything so strange. Most of the publishing people I know are from the science fiction genre and no one that flaky did I ever meet. Small presses are famously obscure and fnancially unstable and I would encourage you not to give up on self-publishing. Check out the booklife dot com website Publishers Weekly launched, specifically geared to self-publishers. It is interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Keep at it and best of luck. Yeah, I’d say it was better you didn’t go with this publisher. I’m as shocked reading their emails as you are probably to have received them.

    That wasn’t professional at all but thankfully you didn’t sign with them.

    Cheers! ^_^

    Liked by 3 people

  26. I like your reply. Perhaps you need to follow-up with the same message in tea leaves. Good grief. I’m still gobsmacked that a professional would make a decision based on ‘signs’.
    But as an American who has lived in Australia for almost 40 years, here’s how I would write today’s date if I had any inkling the recipient might be American—16 August 2016. No mistaking that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Tea leaves – exactly right! I could have totally been more creative in my answer hahaga. I’m glad it wasn’t just me overreacting, it was just such a mind boggling email. All I can say is my forgetfulness definitely worked in my favour this time! If I hadn’t of forgotten about the different dates I’d never have seen their true colours, but definitely changing how I write dates now ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  27. I’m very curious which publisher happens to be. After watching from the sidelines on Instagram the fiasco that was Underwater Mountains (and all their weird ‘imprints’), and stories of writers not receiving their money, plus some really scary things, like sexual coercion.

    I’m not in the market to publish for reasons which are explained on my website, but it would be nice to keep a lost of places to avoid, should I venture into traditional publishing sometime in the future. Or at least avoid supporting them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’ve never heard of the underwater mountains fiasco before, doesn’t sound good at all!! I wasn’t sure if I should name the publisher here on my blog, though I would like to. I have added a negative review though on absolute write etc.. So if anyone ever researches them they should pick up the red flags, hopefully!!

      Liked by 1 person

  28. Don’t give up, Millie! Speaking of ‘signs’ he plastered a big one over this entire experience. I’ve noticed many of the small presses going under and people having issues getting their payments and their rights back, so you definitely dodged a bullet here. Cause for celebration, I say!
    Hold out for a reputable publisher or go the self-pub route (I did and haven’t regretted it)
    Good luck!

    Liked by 3 people

  29. Sorry you had to go through this emotional wringer, Millie. Such excitement and joy then the crazy letter!! Definitely best for you in the end and thank you for sharing here – a warning for us all to be aware and do lots of research. Best of luck with self-publishing…I’ll be watching how it goes for you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Annika!! It was such a stressful time for me but I’m looking forward to doing some research on self-publishing, I know it’s a lot of work but I’m looking forward to getting stuck into it! Thanks again ☺️

      Liked by 1 person

  30. Wonderfully open and honest Millie. Eye opening too. What kind of idiot decides the date is wrong when, on other shores, it’s ‘them’ that get it back to front? Do we pick that apart? Or the fact they can’t spell properly either? Pedantics really and if that is an example of how they operate then you have indeed made good your escape. Thank you for sharing that and I will certainly take heed with eyes wide open when it comes to trying to find a publisher!

    Liked by 2 people

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