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Published with Multiple Houses

There’s a huge trend these days of authors being published with more than one house—sometimes three. And while I can see why some authors desire this, I can also see where it can become a problem. Not surprisingly, publishers don’t like this new trend and are doing whatever they can to discourage it (option and non-compete clauses are just two strategies).

One thing I have noticed is that whenever a publisher expresses even a passing interest in a submission/client of mine, the first question asked is what the author’s other commitments are. Interesting. Before even considering making an offer, they want to know how scheduled the author is. So what does this mean? Frankly, it means that if the author is already being published with one or two houses, or committed to other option clauses, it’s going to affect the way the negotiation and even the offer goes. It’s even possible the publisher will choose not to make an offer because they feel it’s too big of a risk that the author won’t make due dates. Another downside is that what might potentially have been a multi-book deal now becomes a one-book deal simply because the author already has three other books committed elsewhere.

While I know that authors feel there’s a safety net in publishing with more than one house, I think it’s also very important to consider all the implications of spreading yourself thin. It’s also interesting to note that most of today’s bestsellers commit their careers to only one house at a time.

—Jessica

Category: Blog

10 comments

  1. I don’t think a publisher can blame an author for looking for sustained employment, considering most authors can’t make a living by writing. I live in fear of the no-compete clause because I have completed manuscripts I want to see published, and it’s not likely one house would consider them all. (Different subgenres.)

  2. I can see the wisdom of going with one house at a time when you’re established – you have a track record, they know your worth, they’re eager to keep you. But when you’re still establishing yourself, I would think it might be beneficial to (a) get your product out there as much as possible, (b)work with as many editors as possible, and (c)learn which houses are the best fit for you, workwise. I would think all of this would make it easier to find the right house to commit to when the time comes to be a bit more exclusive.

  3. I’m not sure it came through enough in the post. I’m not against multiple houses and do think there are advantages, but you also have to be careful. Things to consider, how willing is a publisher going to be to help establish your career and promote you, and sell you, if they know another publisher is doing the same? It’s an interesting debate so I’ll be interested to hear everyone’s thoughts on the subject.

  4. Your comment about one publisher being less enthusiastic to promote you if another house is doing the same is a very good point. Does this generally apply even if the genres are totally different?

  5. Loralee–I think it would depend. If it were two single title subgenres of romance for example, probably. But if it were romance and science fiction they might look at it very differently. I would assume though that yes, they would hope the other house is spending the money and they can just reap the rewards.

  6. I will admit I’ve done a complete one-eighty on this subject. When I first signed with Kensington I still felt a need to submit elsewhere, thinking in terms of the security, I guess. I come from an “ebook/small press” background where it’s hard to earn enough income with just one publisher. Now, though, working on my eighth title in less than a year for one publisher, I can honestly say I wouldn’t be able to fulfill my obligations to Kensington or promote successfully if I were trying to keep up with more publishers. I’ve definitely backed off on the idea of trying to split myself between more than one house. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do it well.

  7. This is an interesting discussion–one Jessica and I have had recently, in fact. Personally, I’m a little old-fashioned and I believe in loyalty. I like the idea of writing for one house and building a strong relationship there. Whether that vision is a naive one remains to be seen, but it also happens to suit my circumstances at the moment.

    I do believe loyalty should be a two-way street, though:-)

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