Saying no to a contract

Saying no to a contract Lisa LickelLisa Lickel is a Wisconsin writer who lives in a 160-year-old house built by a Great Lakes ship captain. What a great setting for book! I can imagine all sorts of interesting and mysterious aspects a ship captain might build as part of his house.

Lisa is a multi-published, best-selling and award-winning novelist, and also writes short stories and radio theater, is an avid book reviewer, blogger, a freelance editor, and sometimes magazine editor. Be sure to visit her website at

Why did you write The Last Detail?

Award-winning author Lisa LickelI don’t mind genre romances, really, but I also like to read and write meatier stories. With my love of history and a load of “what if” I set about to write a story that not only told the juicy, sweet romantic side of courtship, but also the bittersweet of what comes next?…the “After the stars are gone, then what” part of a relationship. And if the relationship is between Christians, very public Christians such as a pastor and a business owner, how does that change the dynamics of the equation? I belong to book groups who enjoy a good discussion and I felt this topic would provide the basis of some deeper food for thought.

Did you work with a critique group or an editor to fine-tune your manuscript prior to submitting to publishers?

Absolutely! It’s hard, especially for newer writers, to discern good advice from advice that doesn’t work universally, but critique groups are important, not just for the one piece of work, but also for you to see the work of others and make some judgements. We all learn from each other, no matter the level, genre, or stage of writing. (In fact, get to know poets.) Once an author reaches a more comfortable state of learning how to hear from others, it’s a good foundation to learn how to read the reviews that are going to come your way as well after publication. After all, people who don’t even know you might read your book!

Getting a good story down is important, and then it’s a good idea to put the manuscript away for some time while you do something else. Get it out again a few weeks later and read it through. When you’re happy and others besides your mom are happy, submit it. But remember, if accepted, your work will undergo a good, thorough edit from your publisher. Sometimes you might find an agent who wants to work with you. You can also find and pay a qualified editor—an editor who won’t simply send you to purchase articles from his/her website on how to be a better writer (yes, had that happen to me once).

Many writers dislike marketing, but marketing our books is a major part of what authors do these days. How do you feel about marketing?

It’s not honestly my favorite part of writing—but it is a crucial part of the writing process. If you don’t know who you’re writing for (and God can only buy so many copies) then it’s hard to think that flat sales are worth bothering to write another book. I try to think about the people who are going to read my work while I’m writing. What do I want them to know, and how can they hear? It’s easier to format my press releases, tweets, interviews, and other promotional material when I have a goal in mind from the start. Be flexible, though—strange things happen all the time.

What advice do you have for writers concerning finding and gaining a publisher?

Finding a publisher or agent is like an audition. Dress up your manuscript, learn as much about the company as possible, have someone else read and critique or even edit your submission packet, follow the rules, and never give up. Don’t take things personally or burn bridges. But also be discerning and involve other knowledgeable folks in the process. I recently had the experience of turning down a couple of contracts—one was agented, one not—which helped me feel better about surrendering my work to strangers who might not have my personal best interest at heart.

How did turning down a contract help you feel better? Did it simply help you realize you always have the power to say no?

When I was in the first glow of publishing, I had no idea what would happen to my stories after signing a contract. I thought I surrendered the manuscript, then read the book when it came out. After years of both being guided through the process and learning the hard way on my own what happens in publishing companies behind the contract, I did learn that “being published” should never be a goal in itself. That means that even after a contract is offered, and signed, things can change, and we have the power to say, “that wasn’t what we agreed to,” or even at the time of the offer, “that isn’t what I think is best for me and my book.”

An example of what I went through can be found in my post at AuthorCulture. Since my very first publishing experience, agented, with Barbour, it’s been one of my missions to help authors understand that every offer is unique and rarely turns out perfectly.

What did you know going into the publishing process that helped you the most?

I knew nothing…and that was a huge mistake. I had taken a course from a reputable source and learned a lot—yet I had no experience, and worse, didn’t know anyone else to join with in this process. I was quite successful doing the things the course taught me, such as getting published small first (local newspaper/columns), then larger (national church magazine and even Writers Digest), then getting an agent and a contract with a large publisher, but when my first novels released with a multitude of issues, I didn’t even know the questions to ask to make it right.

I took off nearly three years to learn the presentation side of the art of being an author, and made lasting friendships and partnerships, and learned to read between the lines of even well-intentioned folks. I can’t stress enough that an author must have the gift of discernment or a close relationship with someone who does, a dedicated prayer life, a network of people (not just other authors) to bond with for idea bouncing, sharing a moment of crowing at the successes, and a moment of hand-holding at the disillusioning news. You will never know enough. Rejoice in the process. Be flexible. Have a back up plan.

What is the “presentation side of the art of being an author”?

It’s my fancy way of saying “Marketing.” Writing/being an author is an art, a visual and aural art, that must be presented to the public in a palatable way. We want people to read/hear our work, so we have to show our work to our audience in a way that encourages them to buy it, share it with others, and eagerly anticipate more. It means creating good stuff, yes, and showing the worth or value of what you have to offer. By the way, word of mouth is one of the more important ways of being “known.” I never saw this when it happened, but my sister-friend shared with me on New Year’s eve that she had mentioned two of my books in a public forum (including The Last Detail) as good reads for a book club when someone asked for referrals. That’s support at work.

Thanks for being here with me today, Lisa. I especially liked what you had to say about contracts. We don’t often hear much about that side of publishing.

Readers if you have a question for Lisa, put it in the comments box below. She’ll be checking in throughout the day to respond.

The Last Detail book coverHope, love, and loss meld two polar opposite personalities. How long can they keep passion for their ministry and each other after the wedding? Medical missionary and avowed bachelor Merit Campbell is wounded during a skirmish at his Mideast clinic and sent home to recover. Restlessness propels him to explore the happier moments of his childhood in Illinois where he meets Amalia Kennedy, owner of The Last Detail, who enjoys helping people prepare for their final years. Merit ushers in new life; Amalia ushers it out. Love? Obviously. Marriage? Check. Dealing with the family closet? Step back…

Amalia enjoys her predictable life in a quiet little Illinois town—until long-time intended, Hudson, finally proposes in a way that shows her boring and old are coming way too fast. When a mutual friend introduces Merit and Amalia, the spark of attraction makes Merit reconsider his bachelorhood. When he can’t return to the mission, he accepts a call as pastor to Amalia’s church. As the two grow closer they weather constant interruptions from ministry, business, and family, even at their wedding and beyond. When tragedy strikes, they must learn to rely on each other in ways they couldn’t have prepared for.

Available at: Prism Book Group, Illuminate:

Want to get published but don’t know where to start?

Maybe you have a finished manuscript or just an idea stuck in your head. Email me today at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com, and let's discuss how I can help you reach your dream of publication.


  1. I enjoyed The Last Detail. It brought a lot of thoughts to mind.

    • lisalickel says:

      Thank you, Gay…I appreciate it. I have to say your Sarah the love angel stories are wonderful.

  2. It’s interesting to read about Lisa’s journey in writing, and I have to say, I can relate to it. I’ve read The Last Detail and think it’s one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever read. I highly recommend it. Thanks for hosting Lisa.

    • lisalickel says:

      Thank you, Gail, that means a lot to me. Looking forward to reading more from you!

    • It has been a pleasure to have LIsa visit, and every author like’s hearing the praises of her readers. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. lisalickel says:

    Thank you for having me on today, Debra. I’ll check in periodically and answer any comments.

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