An author that I saved from the grip of one of the undesirable publishing companies on the Web later submitted this article on his satisfactory self-publishing experience with Lulu.com.

See also my discussion of Lulu and other recommended POD printers and publishing services in "Your Self-Publishing Options with POD (Print-on-Demand) Printers and Publishers." (This article also names several self-publishing companies with shady reputations that you'll want to avoid.)

 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2000-2014 by Barbara Brabec. All rights reserved.

Author-Publisher Contracts from
Internet Book Publishers and
Self-Publishing Services

Do not sign one of these contracts until you have done diligent research on the Web and/or consulted  with someone who understands the legal and financial implications of every clause it contains.

by Barbara Brabec
Book Contract Consultant

IF THE BOOK CONTRACT you've received is from one of the many Internet book publishers or self-publishing services that are trying to get the attention of first-time authors today, I urge you not to sign the contract until you've done careful research on the Web or consulted with someone who understands how to interpret all the book publishing legalese and financial pitfalls it may contain. A regular attorney is not recommended here; instead you need someone who understands how the book publishing industry works and how authors can easily lose control of their work or receive diminished royalties because of one confusing clause or another.

Understand that there is a big difference between the publishing contracts being offered by traditional trade book publishers and those being offered by Internet book publishing companies that merely offer a variety of SELF-PUBLISHING PACKAGES for authors, some of which can cost $5,000 or more. For comparison, consider that authors can self-publish publish through LightningSource.com for less than $200 and have their book on Amazon sites all over the world a couple of weeks later, and soon after in all the databases of bookstores, libraries, and book distributors such as Baker & Taylor. (Read his article on my site for details. It links to many other articles on the Web that are related to getting a book published. The sidebar note in this article lists several shady companies you'll want to avoid.)

From reading some of the contracts being offered by Internet book publishing companies, I know how easily a new author can be seduced by a less-than-desirable "publisher" that may actually be just a printer or vanity press in disguise. Most of these companies operate legally, but some have racked up numerous complaints from dissatisfied authors. A few have renamed themselves as a result and gone on to operate in the same old way, while others have simply gone out of business, leaving authors with a legal nightmare and their books stuck in limbo. I've read and heard some sad stories that made me want to cry.

Like traditional brick-and-mortar book publishers, the Internet book publishers and publishing services work on a royalty basis, but their contracts are very different from traditional trade book publishers. Instead of offering an advance, copy editing, cover design, and direct sales to bookstores as traditional publishers have always done, the Web-based publishers charge the author for each service while offering royalties that may be ridiculously low given the publishing fee they're being charged. And the contract may lock them into a long-term arrangement that may be almost impossible to break.

These publishing companies emphasize they'll market your book by getting it into bookstores, but the fact of the matter is that they will be publishing a POD book, and no bookstore will put a POD book on their shelves. All these self-publishing companies and services can do is get your book into the computer databases of bookstores and libraries and set up product pages on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online booksellers. But every author who publishes independently can accomplish the same thing for less than $200 when they publish through LightningSource.com.

Understand that I'm not saying all these companies are bad—some appear to be excellent, in fact, if the testimonials from satisfied authors are any indication. I'm just saying that you may have better and less expensive and more profitable publishing options than the one you've just been offered.

If you're interested in working with one of the self-publishing companies on the Web and still have questions after reading this article and the other one I've linked you to, I'll be happy to critique the contract you've been offered and bill at my regular hourly telephone consulting fee for reading the contract and pointing out any problems I see in it. I'll also tell you anything I happen to know about that company from my own research, or what I've learned from other authors who may have worked with them. Believe me when I say I have no agenda here other than to help my fellow writers get published the best way possible. To me, that means getting published at the lowest cost and highest profit potential possible while also getting a great-looking book you'll be proud to have your name on. 

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