brenna aubrey

In which I explain why I turned down a three-book New York print deal to self-publish

Over the past several months, I’ve been called brave by some and stupid by others when they discover that I did the “unthinkable” and turned down the promise of a “good deal” for print from NY in favor of self-publishing my debut novel AT ANY PRICE.  Aside from giving some vague particulars, I haven’t said much.  But now that the novel is out in the world, I feel the need to share its story.  Because there is a story behind this story.

Before I continue, I’d like to put it out there that I don’t think there is any one correct path to publication. I want to be clear that I respect the institution of traditional New York publishing—that same institution which has brought me hundreds of books that I have enjoyed throughout my lifetime.

That being said, recently I turned my back on one of the biggest author dreams (or at least one of mine, anyway) and chose to pursue something I had no idea I even knew I wanted at the beginning of this year.

Last year I signed with an agent to sell my historical romance novel and while it went on submission, I resolved to put myself hard to work on a new novel—in an entirely new genre.  The idea had been nibbling at my brain for months and months and I had to let the story out, finally.  And what better time to keep myself occupied than while I was on submission? So I cracked open a new Word document and 12 days later, I had the fast draft of a new book.  Yes you read that right.  I wrote the first draft in twelve days.  It took another month and a half to get it in better condition by the third draft and ready to take out on the town.

It all happened amazingly fast and the more I wrote, the more I was on fire to write.  I discovered these compelling new characters–Mia, Adam and their friends and family–and they sucked me into their world. I couldn’t stop thinking about them.  When I wasn’t writing about them, I was thinking about the next time I could write about them.  It was probably one of the most intense writing experiences I’ve ever had in the many years that I’ve been writing stories.

After crafting the story and finding that my historical romance novel had come to a dead end with New York editors, I went on submission with AT ANY PRICE (titled “Love At Any Price,” at that time), a New Adult contemporary romance.  Within a month, it went to auction with New York publishers.  Four houses wanted it and the bidding reached six figures for a three-book print deal.  However, like Mia, the heroine of my book, I learned that auctioning yourself to the highest bidder isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

I had discussed the issues I had at length with my agent before we decided to let her shop it to New York. In the mean time, after returning from RWA National conference in Atlanta and feeling empowered and keen on the idea of self-publishing, I made a back-up plan.  I reserved a talented cover artist and a copy editor and started doing my homework.

I was up front with my agent when I handed over my manuscript:  I wanted a one-book deal only, I would not sign a non-compete of any kind. I would not sign an option clause.  And lastly and most importantly, I wouldn’t accept just any offer.  I wanted to be clear on these things ahead of time.  Some might say that for a debut author, I was asking for a lot.  I know I was.  But as with any type of negotiation, you are usually most successful when you ask for more than what you really want and “settle” on your own terms.

So we went on submission, prepared for the long wait and, for a few weeks, heard nothing.

Then week four hit, and my life was suddenly swept up in a whirlwind. Once things started to happen, they happened very fast.  First emails came in: second reads, then an offer, then another offer.  Several Big 5 editors wanted the book and decided to fight over it.

Oh, the irony—an auction on a book about an auction.  Very meta.

The ending bids by the two remaining contenders were very tempting.  I agonized over the decision.  But this wasn’t just about me.  There was so much to consider: my family, my career, my goals.  I spoke with experienced friends who were both traditionally and independently published authors.  Hugely successful authors who had hit the big lists with their books.  They were open, objective and, above all, supportive.

I took the offers I was given from the auction and weighed the worth of my rights with the net-present value (if you haven’t seen this blog post by the positively brilliant Courtney Milan, then you should read it).

And I also weighed all the wonderful pluses that came with being traditionally published by a Big 5 house—including having a “team” behind me every step of the way, having the “clout” and prestige of having finally “made it,” being able to reach a wider audience through print distribution.  And also, of not disappointing others that were closely connected to my career.

I pondered. I discussed. I even cried. What a thing to cry about, right?  The indecision was killing me.  But in the end, it boiled down to three very important things.  (There were other factors but these are the big three):

1) The Non Compete Clause.  For those not up on the lingo of publishing. A non-complete clause prevents an author from publishing with another house or even self-publishing while under contract with the house in question in the same genre or under the same name. Some authors have more restrictive clauses than others. And some authors are forced to take on a pen name in order to get around an NC clause.

My goal has been to become a hybrid author because I can write faster than what any house would contract from me.  This deal would have been a very good step in that direction. I could publish this trilogy, as I’d planned it (and yes, I’d compromised early on my stricture that it would be a one-book only deal), and then put things out on my own as well.

However, how could I be a hybrid author if an NC prevented my putting out any books independently in the meantime?

The houses that bid for me have required aggressive NCs from their authors. As there was going to be a delay in getting the books out (see #2 reason below), this would have effectively prevented me from putting out any New Adult contemporary romances as an indy author in the foreseeable future.  The idea of being handcuffed creatively really bothered me. I was told that an NC wouldn’t be a big deal even though I knew authors from the houses in question (we authors talk!) who were being told they could not publish any tie-ins, even short works, with anyone other than their house.  It was implied to me, also, that anything within my “brand” (i.e. tying in geek culture with New Adult romance) would be considered a clash of the NC clause.

2. Release schedule.  Of course, this is the nature of the beast when you go with NY.  As with most corporations, the wheels turn slowly and it is to be expected.  Too few people are responsible for putting out a lot of books.  I get it.  But the schedules were such that AT ANY PRICE would have been released in October of 2014 with the two follow-up books being released in the spring of 2015.  All three books follow the same couple (though the only cliffhanger is in Book 2) and this delay was not acceptable to me.  I will be independently releasing those books in the spring of 2014 instead.

3. E-book pricing.  One house was absolutely inflexible on this and very old school with their marketing. The other was a bit more flexible and has done quite well with the NAs they have acquired, though most authors were successful indies at the time they were acquired.  Those authors came with their audience, though in signing with their traditional house, they gained many more readers.  My main concern as a debut author was…who would buy my book at $8.99 when they’d never heard of me before?  In this market, at that price, most readers will not take a chance on an unknown.  To say nothing of the multitude of independent authors I would be up against, who could afford to offer their books at a more competitive price.  I liked the idea of being able to control my pricing, set my own limits.

Ultimately it came down to the appeal of having control.  Many of my traditionally published author friends do not have that luxury.  As and indy author, I have control over my covers, pricing, promotion, marketing, placement.  The list goes on.

And I wanted that control.  AT ANY PRICE is a special book, in my humble opinion, and it deserves the best I can give it.

So in the end, I swallowed that cold ball of fear in the back of my throat and walked away.  There were no middle fingers involved (as much as that badass image of me appeals on some level).

My path is not your path or any other author’s path.  I’m sure I’ll make some stupid decisions along the way.  But they are mine to make and I won’t have to live with anyone else’s stupid decisions.  Just my own.

I can live with that.

So now, AT ANY PRICE releases into the world, officially, today though not all retail outlets are available yet.  Some readers will fall in love.  Some won’t.  I hope the readers who love Adam and Mia as much as I do will stick with them until the end.  Just like with the publishing journey of this book, their story will be a heck of a ride.


63 comments to “In which I explain why I turned down a three-book New York print deal to self-publish”

  1. Carol Bodensteiner
      · December 10th, 2013 at 1:14 pm · Link

    Congratulations! On getting the offers so many authors dream of. And for being bold enough to know yourself well enough to walk away. Good luck with AT ANY PRICE.

    • Brenna
        · December 10th, 2013 at 4:59 pm · Link

      Thank you for your good wishes, Carol, I really appreciate it. It’s definitely a “long term view” sort of decision.

      • Ana
          · November 1st, 2014 at 9:31 pm · Link

        Hi Brenna, I see it’s been almost a year since you wrote this article. I’m curios how self publishing At Any Price has worked out for you and if you are still glad you made the decision you did. Love the article, thank you!

        • Brenna

            · November 3rd, 2014 at 10:10 pm · Link

          hi Ana, thanks for your comment. I’m going to post something closer to my 1 year mark that will be sort of a review of the first year as a self published author Thanks for your continued interest in my publishing journey!! ~ Brenna

  2. Monique Martin
      · December 10th, 2013 at 2:11 pm · Link

    Thank you for sharing your story!

    I’m confused on one point. I know NCs can be the poison in an otherwise good contract, but the section above almost reads as though you didn’t actually see the NC clause in the offers. It sounds hypothetical, as if you’d heard about them in other deals, but had not read the actual clause in yours. Am I misunderstanding? If so, did you agent hit a brick wall when trying to negotiate those terms?

    • Brenna
        · December 10th, 2013 at 5:01 pm · Link

      Monique, thanks for your question about the NC. I was talking about the houses standard NC clauses as they were presented to me by my agent. We never made it to the negotiation phase because it was made clear to me that going without an NC would not be an option.

  3. Kimber Leigh Wheaton
      · December 11th, 2013 at 2:10 pm · Link

    Wow, what a difficult decision (though the euphoria of so many offers must have been nice). A few months ago I had to make a choice between a small publisher and an agent for my debut novel. I ended up going with the small publisher for a variety of reasons. They had a loose NC clause that I liked and the royalties were decent, as well as the release time-table. I wasn’t ready to self-publish at that time, but I definitely see myself doing it in the future. I’m beginning to see that self-publishing is the wave of the future. I mean how much longer will there even be physical shelves to house books? Most of the bookstores in San Antonio have closed with the exception of a few Barnes & Nobles.

    Congratulations on your release! I love your Gamer Name generator, I’m New Slayer which fits me quite well. At Any Price is spotlighted on my author site Kimber Leigh Writes tomorrow. Can’t wait to read it!

    • Brenna
        · December 11th, 2013 at 9:28 pm · Link

      The euphoria was amazing. It felt good to be wanted after having gone through the rejection mill with the other manuscript. Congrats on your decision to make the right publishing decision for you. Self-publishing might not be the only wave of the future but it definitely a growing wave and it is my believe that traditional publishers will have to change their approach to how they handle their authors and what control they afford them or else they will lose many more potential and already-signed authors before many years have passed.

      Thanks for being a host on my book blitz! I’ll be sure to visit. I hope you enjoy the book. All best, Bren

  4. Terah Edun
      · December 12th, 2013 at 1:23 pm · Link

    Thanks so much for sharing your publishing process Breanna!

    • Brenna
        · December 12th, 2013 at 3:43 pm · Link

      It’s my pleasure, Terah. I wish you luck on your own journey!

  5. Bruce
      · December 12th, 2013 at 11:15 pm · Link

    It amazes me how the traditional publishing companies still hold the hard line with their outdated rules, let alone their sluggish publishing pace. At this rate, they will be gone before long, so it’s probably best to steer clear. I mean, if my rights were tied up in a company that will go bankrupt, that would be another bunch of headaches to deal with in just getting the rights returned. I think you thought this through well, and I wish you the best of success with your books!

    • Brenna
        · December 13th, 2013 at 12:53 pm · Link

      Bruce, It’s true that traditional publishing is called that for a reason. They strongly hold to their traditions. But today’s world is a very quick-moving world, publishing-wise and so those traditions are holding up as well. I do think that they will wise up very soon but they’ll probably have some hard lessons along the way before they do. I pray that they do. We need traditional publishing. We still need the NY establishment. We just need for them to move in the direction that we are moving in. It will happen eventually, I have no doubt.

  6. Pete Morin
      · December 13th, 2013 at 8:59 am · Link

    I don’t read romance, but I am inclined to buy several copies of your book to give to those who do, just because you made this decision. Congratulations. I hope you have great success.

    • Brenna
        · December 13th, 2013 at 12:57 pm · Link

      Pete, you’re so kind to say that. If you think someone you know will enjoy the book, then by all means, I appreciate your gifting it to them. :-) Having said that, I don’t feel like anyone is responsible for supporting me financially in my decision. Your good wishes are more than enough. Thank you.

  7. Mia Kayla
      · December 13th, 2013 at 9:15 am · Link

    Oh, what a great story! Seriously, thanks for sharing. I have my manuscript to a couple of publishers who have requested a full. I didn’t realize it would take 6-8 months for them to get back to me. I’m so new in this world of publishing and I’m learning everyday.

    In between the waiting game, I’ve decided to self publish because at the end of the day, I want control of something that I’ve created. Even if it means harder work on my end. Your story confirms just that.

    Congrats on your success and I just purchased your book because it’s just my type of read =)

    • Brenna
        · December 13th, 2013 at 12:59 pm · Link

      Mia, I’m glad that being open about my journey has helped you with your decisions. It really is a tough call. Nothing about the choice is easy. You just need to educate yourself in the best way you can. The way I did that was in reading from others’ experiences. This is what made me decide to share my own, to that someone might read about my journey and it might help them. I wish you the best of luck on your journey!

  8. Claire Merriam Hoffman
      · December 13th, 2013 at 10:26 am · Link

    Bren, The Passive guy picked up this post. Lots of great comments. Thought you should know. Congrats.

    • Brenna
        · December 13th, 2013 at 1:00 pm · Link

      Hi Claire, thanks for letting me know but I figured it out from my stats. Also, Hugh Howey blogged about me today as well. It seems this little post of mine is well on its way to going viral. Amazing…

  9. Louisa Bacio
      · December 13th, 2013 at 3:39 pm · Link

    So very proud of you! Much success!

    • Brenna
        · December 13th, 2013 at 5:34 pm · Link


  10. Libbie Hawker
      · December 14th, 2013 at 6:09 am · Link

    Great story. Good for you for not falling prey to the mindset that you must be “accepted” by a publisher to be legitimate, and for sticking to your guns and thinking long-term about your career. I’m sure you’ll have a long and fantastic one!

    • Brenna
        · December 14th, 2013 at 3:54 pm · Link

      Thank you, Libbie! I really appreciate your kind comments. It really is true, that mindset that we as authors have had for so long that a publisher needs to accept us in order to be a legitimate author. We have more choices and are more empowered than ever before, as long as we can see past that old mindset.

  11. Van Thaxton
      · December 14th, 2013 at 6:36 pm · Link


    Like Pete, I’m inclined to buy your book because I can tell by this post alone your are a rockstar writer! I’m passing your post along to my writers’ group too. There is much to learn from it. Thanks!


    • Brenna
        · December 15th, 2013 at 10:39 am · Link

      hey, thanks for the words of support, Van. A rockstar? Hardly glamorous enough. I hope the writers in your group find something useful in my blog post. I think the most important take-away is that every writer’s path is different and no less valid than another’s. :)

  12. Liliana Hart
      · December 14th, 2013 at 10:16 pm · Link


    First, I want to tell you congratulations and how impressed I am by your business savvy. I know these aren’t easy decisions to make, but good for you for knowing what you wanted ahead of time and sticking to your guns. I love hearing stories like this from other authors, because this is a tough business and sometimes there is frustration, heartbreak, and tears.

    Everything you said in your post was spot on. There’s nothing wrong with exploring all the avenues and looking at the NY deals that might come your way. I encourage it. This is business, and smart business people look at every avenue before making a well-informed decision.

    Congratulations again, and I’m headed to Amazon to grab a copy of AT ANY PRICE. Can’t wait to read it.


    • Brenna
        · December 15th, 2013 at 10:44 am · Link

      Lilana! Thank you SO much for stopping by my blog. We met super briefly at RWA and I attended your AWESOME morning workshop on indie publishing. And of course, I read THE NAKED TRUTH ABOUT SELF PUBLISHING. All of those things were factors that helped me feel “empowered” as I wrote above. Thank you so much for being so open about your journey and willing to share the keys to your immense success with newbies like me. I was inspired to write about my journey because of the frankness and honesty that you have shown, along with other indie authors.

      One thing you said during your workshop that REALLY stuck with me is how we have to view our fellow authors as allies and support rather than competition, that we should reach out and support each other. Thank you SO much for reaching out to me on my blog. I’m tickled :-)

      I’m crossing my fingers that you like AT ANY PRICE. I would be beyond thrilled if you do. I love your books!

  13. Slytherpuff
      · December 18th, 2013 at 10:53 am · Link

    I found you via Hugh Howey’s blog post.

    I’m buying your book. Not because I have a burning desire to read it (though it does sound good!), but because I applaud your convictions.

    You have a great head on your shoulders and made some hard decisions in a difficult business.

    Congrats on self-publishing your first novel!

    • Brenna
        · December 19th, 2013 at 9:58 am · Link

      Thanks Slytherpuff, for your words of support and the compliments! I appreciate the warmth of this indie community we are a part of. Everyone has been so wonderful and supportive. I wish you all the best!

  14. Bob Mayer
      · December 19th, 2013 at 8:36 am · Link

    Bravo. So many writers see a NY Deal is the be all and end all, not realizing it can be a career killer. You evaluated your options and made a decision. Most people react.

    I don’t understand the non-compete clause– when we publish a hybrid author we feel it’s in everyone’s best interest to promote all the author’s books. The better the author does, the better everyone does.

    Many writers don’t understand that signing a contract and getting an advance is essentially giving up your rights. You become an indentured servant. Maybe a well paid one. And if a writer is happy with that, great. But they have to be aware of it.

    And they have to think long term– five to ten years down the line, where will publishing be and where will their career be?

    Good luck with your books.

    • Brenna
        · December 19th, 2013 at 10:01 am · Link

      hey Bob, thanks for the great comment. I have no doubt that traditional publishing houses will wise up soon. They aren’t stupid and if they continue to lose authors (both debut and long-established and even the potential authors who choose not to approach them in the first place but go the indie route right out of the gate), they will understand that NCs hurt BOTH the author AND the publisher. Limiting the output of the author can only be harmful. Readers, once they find an author / books they love, will buy EVERYTHING that author puts out, whether traditionally-published or indie-published. From the reader’s point of view, it matters little how those books came to them, just that they enjoy what they enjoy and want more. In my mind, there’s no way an author can compete with herself. Each new book that comes out promotes all the other book she/he has already written!

  15. beverly ignacio
      · December 27th, 2013 at 1:24 am · Link

    i admire you for being brave, some authors will jump to this opportunity and thank you for thinking about your readers. i just finished reading at any prize and it was amazing. good job

    • Brenna
        · December 27th, 2013 at 7:30 pm · Link

      Beverly, thank you for the kind words and for taking the time to tell me you loved the book. I really appreciate it! All best, Brenna

  16. Eleanor Tomczyk
      · December 29th, 2013 at 1:35 pm · Link

    Brenna: I learned about your story via Hugh Howey’s blog. It was very encouraging to learn about your journey. I have recently published my first book (Monsters’ Throwdown) after an unsatisfying tangle with a small-print publisher, and so far it is doing well. Just wanted to let you know that I plan to buy your book to support your courageous decision. I think the smugness of the Big 5 and many of the literary agents that support this soul crushing system need a wake-up call. I would love to see you succeed at your gamble. You go girl!

    • Brenna
        · December 31st, 2013 at 6:40 pm · Link

      Eleanor, thank you so much for your comment and your good wishes. Things for the book are looking very good so far… top 100 for New Adult Romance since release week. I’m blown away by the outpouring of support from the indie community and I’m so glad my post has inspired/helped other indie authors. Have a wonderful New Year and good luck to you on your publishing journey!

  17. Paul Levinson
      · January 1st, 2014 at 11:18 pm · Link

    Congratulations – you made a brave and, more important, the right decision.

    • Brenna
        · January 2nd, 2014 at 4:25 pm · Link

      Thank you, Paul. I appreciate the vote of support!

  18. Paul B. Kohler
      · January 2nd, 2014 at 7:37 am · Link

    Thanks for sharing, Brenna! I love the step by step approach that you narrated about your dealings with the NY publishers. I have recently (Sept.2013) self published my own book one of a four part series. I also had the dream of being published by some big NYC publisher, but in the end, I went straight to self pub. I didn’t even solicit an agent or a publisher. After months of research, I felt self pub was best for my future, based on a lot of what you experienced here. Great inspiration!

    • Brenna
        · January 2nd, 2014 at 7:54 pm · Link

      Thanks for the comment, Paul. Hooray for you doing your homework and knowing what you wanted from the start! In many ways I wish I had done that but my journey was a bit more roundabout. I wish you tons of luck with your indie published book. Keep writing!

  19. Lawrence Block
      · January 2nd, 2014 at 7:51 am · Link

    I made a similar decision from a very different position, Brenna. After 55+ years in the business and well over a hundred books published by traditional publishers, I chose to self-publish The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons—for several of the reason you cite, though a non-compete clause was never an issue, as I’ve published with a variety of publishers for years.

    But scheduling was certainly a part of it. The idea of waiting a year and a half to see my book on sale did not sit well with me. I wrote it on a five-week cruise during July and August, and it went on sale Christmas Day after a two-month pre-order period at Amazon. If I’d gone with a commercial publisher, I’d have another year to wait.

    E-rights were certainly an issue for me. I was not about to let some publisher have them forever through the illusion of keeping the printed book in stock; HarperCollins maintains a deathgrip on my strongest backlist titles in this fashion. I wanted to be able to adjust the retail price as I see fit, and I wanted the high royalty rate self-publishing gives me.

    I wanted, too, to forego a hardcover trade edition and instead bring out a deluxe hardcover limited edition. And I did, and most of the several hundred people who ordered copies got them in time for Christmas, and the book itself is just gorgeous. (And I’m not the only person who thinks so!)

    You and I are at opposite ends of our careers, Brenna. You know you’ve got a lot of books to write, while a year ago I thought I might be ready to stop. And that’s another big reason for my decision: a big motivator in writing The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons was the desire to self-publish it, and when it came time to make my decision, I knew I had to dance with the gal who brung me; otherwise I’d always regret it.

    Will either of us make out better financially by doing it ourselves? For me, it’s certainly too early to tell. It won’t be in many bookstores, and library sales will probably be less than I’m used to. If everything clicks, I’ll more than make up that loss through online sales. But you know what? It’s almost beside the point. I’m having more genuine fun than I’ve ever had in over half a century of free-lance writing.

    I wish you the same.

    • oakbark
        · January 2nd, 2014 at 1:59 pm · Link

      Hi Lawrence
      I am sure we will see trade moving into quicker agendas but it might be too late when they get their wheels into gear.
      I like the point you make about publishing freedom making writing fun again!

    • Brenna
        · January 2nd, 2014 at 8:04 pm · Link

      Lawrence, thank you for sharing your story. I hope you have lots more stories left in you than you think you do. And I wish you every success with your newly released novel. Someone described this ride as the “indie-coaster” and I think it’s accurate. But it’s so exhilarating to be able to have control over things like price changes, covers, categories, keywords, marketing. I’m learning tons of new things thanks to the experience of other indies out there. It’s been an amazing experience so far. Here’s to a wonderful 2014 for both of us!

  20. Missy Lyons
      · January 2nd, 2014 at 11:45 am · Link

    I think this is going to be happening more and more, especially as New York publishers try to retain the writing talent with nasty things like those broad non-compete clauses. The road of an indie author isn’t easy and it’s not always paved with gold. Sometimes it’s lined with dirt, sweat and tears but most the time I have seen something for all my hard work or at least learned something.

    Bravo for sharing your story and thank you!

    Wishing you much success and many sales.

    • Brenna
        · January 2nd, 2014 at 8:13 pm · Link

      Missy, thank you. I think your observations are spot on. What I really love about this community is that we can all learn from each other, too so we don’t all have to make the same mistakes twice. And you’re right, it isn’t easy money. It’s hard-earned money but it’s worth it.

  21. oakbark
      · January 2nd, 2014 at 2:04 pm · Link

    It takes guts to step off the trodden path and know what you are worth, specially as a debutante.

    Best wishes on your journey!

    • Brenna
        · January 2nd, 2014 at 8:14 pm · Link

      Oakbark, thank you so much for the well wishes. I so appreciate it. Happy New Year to you!

  22. Stefan Ellery
      · January 2nd, 2014 at 3:08 pm · Link

    Congratulations on getting the offers and being brave to forge a path that you think is best for you. I hope you do well.

    • Brenna
        · January 2nd, 2014 at 8:14 pm · Link

      Thank you, Stefan. Happy New Year.

  23. Seb
      · January 3rd, 2014 at 3:38 am · Link

    I have strong suspicions that lawyers are messing things up for publishers they are trying to be ever so clever by screwing authors in the contracts, but good authors just aren’t that dumb, and the pool for the traditional publishers is getting smaller and smaller. I’m someone who was mighty proud to be accepted by a “real” publisher and for awhile I sneered a bit at all these self publishers who I assumed couldn’t get it accepted, but now I know that’s not what it’s about at all. The deal for self publishers is just too good and publishers response is to make their terms worse and worse (I mean I’m hearing this from so many many authors) um offering worse and worse deals to try and stop authors from being hybrid is so not going to work for you guys. Get a clue.

    • Brenna
        · January 6th, 2014 at 8:59 am · Link

      Yes the response to losing talent should not be to “tighten the grip” so to speak. I completely agree. Terms have to be fair or authors will walk, especially with the transparency available in the indy community. Yes an advance is “guaranteed money” versus theoretical earnings/royalty for a self-published work but everything is a trade-off and there’s always a risk. An author just has to be willing to ask him/herself whether the terms are worth that risk or not.

  24. Rosie Dean
      · January 4th, 2014 at 4:42 pm · Link

    Well done!

    I truly think this approach will be adopted by authors in the future. Authors will choose their marketing team, their designers and their editors. And why not?

    They might even choose their agents, and the agents will be glad they did.

    • Brenna
        · January 6th, 2014 at 9:00 am · Link

      There is a big shake-up in the works. The advent of ebooks is akin to the advent of the printing press in the 1500s and will probably prove to be just as revolutionary a change in publishing as that was. This is truly an exciting time to be an author (or just about any type of artist, really).

  25. Pamela DuMond
      · January 5th, 2014 at 9:16 pm · Link


    Where were you 20 years ago when I married the wrong guy for the right reasons? (I think a post like this could have talked me out of that contract and saved me an ugly divorce.)

    Anyhow – great post about your experiences. My first book was published by a small press at the end of 2010. Thank God I only had a 2 year contract. And there wasn’t a non-compete clause. I took back the rights and self-pubbed that book and have self-pubbed 5 more.

    I was thinking about querying my next NA to agents for trad publishing. But I’m reading posts like yours as well as The Naked Truth about Self-Publishing. While I too would like to become a hybrid author, perhaps this isn’t the right genre or the right time.

    So best of luck to you! I followed you on Twitter, I’ll cheer on your progress and I’ll pick up your book.


    • Brenna
        · January 6th, 2014 at 9:04 am · Link

      LOL Pamela… You know, you bring up an excellent point that signing a contract like this is very similar to a marriage, of sorts. You aren’t just marrying one person, but an entire team: a cover artist, an editor, marketing/publicity team and your agent. If you aren’t willing to enter into a 30 year relationship with those people with regards to your work then you’d better consider that before you sign on the dotted line. As indies we do need to make sure we avail ourselves of professionals in those areas of expertise. I’d never think to design my own cover or publish unedited work. But the great thing is that we get to choose our own team and we get the final say on just about everything. I’m loving that freedom right now.

  26. Billy
      · January 8th, 2014 at 1:05 am · Link

    Congrats on your success. It still in the top 100 of New Adult (kindle) after 30 days of release. That’s a very good sign.

    Would you consider writing a follow-up about the first 30 days that At Any Price has been on sales? I’m sure many people are curious about that, especially sales figures if you’re willing to share.

    • Brenna
        · January 8th, 2014 at 7:19 pm · Link

      hey Billy, thanks for the congrats. Yes the book is still doing rather well. I’m so thrilled!! It’s getting such a wonderful response from readers, too. I love hearing from people who enjoyed the book and can’t wait for the next one.

      I absolutely will be posting my numbers for the first month. Thanks for the suggestion. Today marks 1 month from the official release (It soft-launched with no promo a few days early so I’m not going to really count those days). As soon as I have tonight’s numbers, I will post on a Kboards thread over there. I’ll post a breakdown of # of sales and average royalties. Be on the look out tomorrow for that.

  27. Patrice Fitzgerald
      · January 12th, 2014 at 10:52 am · Link

    Brenna: Very belatedly catching up with this. I read both PV and Hugh Howey, so I guess I was just busy! So much exciting news coming out every day in indieland that it’s tough to keep up with it all.

    Thank you for sharing your story; I’m self-published as well, after several years of chasing the perfect trad deal (came close but never made it, and at this point I’m glad). I think one issue that often doesn’t get discussed is how agents, no matter how well-intentioned, may not be equipped to negotiate with the Big 5 and other publishing houses. I’m an intellectual property attorney, and making tough deals and sticking in ironclad contract terms is what lawyers do. Agents, on the other hand, tend to be a bit intimidated by that (certainly not all) and of course they have a conflict of interest in attempting to represent a particular author but still stay in the good graces of the publishing house. It’s a system that has never worked very well, and it’s breaking down now.

    Your book sounds like great fun, and I’m going to pick up a copy. My daughter is way into geekdom, and she’ll enjoy one as well. Good luck and keep us apprised of how you’re doing on your “indiecoaster” ride!

  28. Michael J Sullivan
      · January 13th, 2014 at 5:25 pm · Link

    It think you made the right decision. I was in a similar situation, although not nearly as conflicted. When I got the “actual” contract for my six-figure deal and read the non-compete I knew it was a deal breaker. My agent and my business manager (wife) worked for about six months trying to get it de-fanged and they eventually did…but I would never have signed as it was presented.

    I’m now a hybrid author but I’ve had to be work very carefully with my contract language for the two series I’ve signed traditionally. You have to really pay attention to make sure that you can publish what you want when you want. To me the holy grail is the “print-only” deal. Where the author keeps the ebook rights and has the publisher deal with the distribution of paper. Those are not easy to get, but I did so with Hollow World (coming out April 15).

  29. David T List
      · January 18th, 2014 at 7:39 am · Link

    You had me at two words – Creative Freedom. I’m glad I made the choice to go indie late last year… before being tempted by big dollar signs and prestige. I’m absolutely thankful for every agent or editor that’s ever told me No.
    It must be good to have the validation that your books are exactly what the ‘market’ wants… so much they’re willing to auction for them. That would empower me in my quest to indie it up. As it is, I launched a successful Kickstarter to independently produce my debut. That success is a good bit of what’s fueling my fire.

    David – Regarding Silexare

  30. Angel
      · February 14th, 2014 at 3:35 pm · Link

    I’m thrilled for you and join the others who have applauded you for standing by your convictions. I was extremely fortunate when I sent my first book out to three publishers and received a contract back from all three. I had no idea what was acceptable for the publisher to ask for and told them so. One took me through the process step by step telling what a seasoned author would negotiate on – including the NC clause. I’ve no regrets and it sounds like you don’t either. I am very happy for you.

  31. David Ryan
      · February 15th, 2014 at 9:21 am · Link

    Congratulations on your courage to step off the ledge and challenge yourself in an important way. How empowering.

    What did your agent tell you as you were pondering this, and what did he/she say when you broke the news? Do you even need her services now?

    Secondarily, how are you promoting your book?

  32. Ramon Somoza
      · February 16th, 2014 at 11:36 am · Link

    Brenna, I perfectly understand the dilemma you faced, and congratulate you not for going to self-publishing but for standing up to what you though was best, even if taking a huge risk.

    I actually never even considered going to a publishing house after talking to several established authors. Based on the feedback I got, I understood that going with a publishing house would be pretty close to slavery: I would lose all control of my work, it would take ages to get published (if at all), and would not be able to publish a novel even if they publisher decided not to publish it at all. And yes, the NC clause would have really hurt, as I have 9 books in the pipeline.

    So I went indie. Since last summer I have published a romance and three novelletes (in Spanish) and a technical ebook (in English). Working hard to finish the second book, hoping to publish at least two or three books this year. I might even have the time to translate them into English.

    My book is not a bestseller, but I could not care less. I am not writing for money, it is my pastime to write while I travel (which I do very often). My reward is that I have readers out there who have read and enjoyed my work.

    And only fools would believe that a man is rich only if he has a lot of money…

  33. Chris Behrens
      · July 2nd, 2014 at 11:41 am · Link

    Great info. Best of luck, and I will plan to read your work. I like the fast pace that you say you work at. I just released my first book, a children’s story, middle grade. I had been to a few Conferences and received great feedback and almost got an offer. After trying to get it picked up, I decided to self-publish. Their were trials and tribs. along the way: hired my own editor and illustrator! But in the end, all was worth it, especially after receiving a positive review from Kirkus.

    I stumbled across your info. on Hugh Howie’s Blog!

  34. Kirk Alex
      · December 10th, 2014 at 7:21 pm · Link

    Brenna, Brenna!

    Already ‘voiced’ my support on KB, but am doing it again. Wow-wee. Great. It sounds like it was so tough to do, but you did it. I believe you’ll do just fine. We no longer need them. They are to be avoided like the plague. Let those mighty editors go out there and work for a living finally. Over-the-road truck drivers are always in short supply; not to mention cabbies & dishwashers––that’s all they’re good for. (And I do not mean to dis cabbies, truckers and/or dishwashers, either. Just sayin’.)

    You guessed it: I see trad-pub as creepo exploiters of the worst kind.


  1. Buzz Worthy News: December 16, 2013 | Cuddlebuggery Book Blog
  2. The Indie Files, Part 1 – Trad vs Self | Byrne After Reading
  3. AT ANY PRICE by Brenna Aubrey | Hugh Howey
  4. AMAZING News 12/29/13 - Amazing Stories
  5. Indie VS Traditional Publishing: Round 1 | I Wish I Can Fli
  6. Brenna Aubrey: A Case Study | Hugh Howey
  7. The Tower View
  8. It's Not About the Money...It's About the Contract, Timing, and Price - Amazing Stories
  9. Weekly Links & Wrap-up (Jan. 26, 2014) - Here There Be Books
  10. Why can't an author make a living wage? | One Handed Writers
  11. The Report – Hugh Howey on Author Earnings | Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite!
  12. Comparing self-publishing to being published is tricky and most of the data you need to do it right is not available – The Shatzkin Files
  13. Revenu des auteurs – le rapport / la révolution de la publication des livres en marche – les chiffres « La Grotte Du Barbu
  14. Hugh Howey shares “The Report” | Dave Temple
  15. A Must Read Report | C. R. Myers - On Writing
  16. Real Data about E-books and Self-Publishing | tracycembor
  17. Author's Earnings - Amazing Stories
  18. Author Earnings | Sun Picayune News Journal
  19. Author’s Earnings Part 1 -“Don’t quit your day job” Amazing Stories | Hey Sweetheart, Get Me Rewrite!
  20. How To Publish Your Book: Self-Publishing: Amazon KDP, Debut Status, and All That Fun Stuff | Teens Can Write, Too!
  21. 5 Reasons I’m Not Interested in Traditional Publishing | Ninja. Writer.
  22. Why I’m Self-Publishing | Fearless NA Fiction

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