canceled book contract

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Bret:
I am under contract with a major American textbook company to write an upper-division college book for them. The book was completed prior to the deadline and was reviewed by the company’s editors, who thought it strong enough to pass along to external, peer editors without changes to the text.

Through the whole process, my editor has been enthusiastic about the work. The external editors were, over all, positive and made some intelligent recommendations for revisions. This past June, we discussed cover designs and the first three chapters were edited, with the assurance that the book was ahead of schedule and would be ready for press in mid-fall. Throughout the early summer, my editor continued comments to the effect of "I'm excited about this work" and "Keep it going!"

I just learned that the company is canceling my contract. A "business decision" of theirs has determined that they no longer want to do books in this series. They changed their mind. (My book was the first in this series.) They are "very, very sorry" and told me that the rights to the manuscript revert to me, but that they are under no further obligation.

My head is spinning. I did not see this coming. Have you heard of such a thing? Any advice?

Northwest transplant:
Bret,

You must be in shock. What a terrible disappointment for you.  I'd suggest you take a very careful look at the contract to see if they really aren't under any further obligation to you.  If you have any question at all, a consultation with a lawyer specializing in contracts is appropriate.

If they are off the hook (and I'm guessing their lawyers always write in contingencies like this), you have a great piece of property to take to another publisher. Your original publisher incurred a lot of the pre-publication expense so you have a near-complete manuscript to offer. Look for publishers in the same topic area and start calling around.  

Good luck.

Jane Steele, MA:
As the person who answered before me said to you, you really do need to speak with a lawyer who specializes in writing/book contracts or a lawyer connected with a large school system who works with AP teachers or community/junior college teachers who have seen this before. Also larger universities that have colleges or schools of education could advise you about this also. And if all else fails there is NEA and AFT. Good luck.  

Jane Steele, MA

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