Occasionally I reach points in my life where I need a crystal ball to see if a given decision will turn out well. That was true when I bought my house, when I got married, and when I start a new job. In all these cases, I just want a glimpse of the future for reassurance, to know I'm on the right path, and to get a heads up about problems so I can deal with them. Of course, that never happens and 95% of the things that could go wrong often don't; instead I get tripped up by the things I'm wasn't expecting, which argues for that quick glance with the crystal ball.
But now I've reach such a point again. The question this time is this: Do I sign the publishing contract presented to me? I'm thinking yes, but I've not decided for certain. Not yet. I will soon so let's go over the pros and cons.
If I don't sign, I go back to the world of self-publishing and hope someone takes notice of me. I can continue to submit my work for publication with other small presses, but if I'm going to do that, why not just take the deal in my hand?
A writer friend of mine argues that the whole tend of publishing is going to the self-publishing model, that small presses are irrelevant, and that this is good because I keep my rights with me and receive more of the share of the revenue. My response is what revenue? I've got lots of folks who have done free downloads of the samples but no one has purchased a copy of anything for months. So people are interested but they have not purchased anything. And they are not likely to if they've got a big pile of material to read.
I would also argue that small presses are not irrelevant. They can help with book signings, ads, and artwork (all of which I need help with). More importantly, depending on the small press, they can help create versions of the story in foreign languages or for the blind; a large print version, an audio book, and other versions of the story are also possible. Without the small press, there is no way I could do all that unless I stop writing, which I don't want to do. And in fact, because they do all that, I can keep writing and finish the next books in the series.
But that doesn't mean I shouldn't be careful here. I don't really know the publisher who has offered me a deal and if I make a mistake here I will regret it for a very long time. So I will be showing the agreement to a lawyer to see what he will charge and (assuming I can afford it) to have certain legal questions answered.
All this would be unnecessary, of course, if I could just get that friggin crystal ball. But that's not going to happen so I will just do the best I can and hope I make the right decision. Wish me luck. I'm going to need it, I think.