Hello my darlings and welcome to another Friday with me, April. How is everyone? You made it through the week! Aren’t you excited! The weekend is on the horizon and we are seriously lucky to have our lives and our health.
Today my dear ones I am here to talk to you about publishing contracts.
More specifically the red flags that one should look for in these contracts.
Why? Because there have been so many small vanity e-publishers that are popping up that I feel that it’s time that the red flags of contracts should be tossed out there for all to see.
Tymber Dalton did a couple of GREAT posts on this very topic a few years ago:
http://tymberdalton.com/a-bad-publishing-contract-deconstructed-part-1/ (this is a 3 parter) and http://writeyourassoff.blogspot.com/2013/07/publishing-contracts-red-flags-and.html but I’m going to add some more to this.
So, let me give you a few tips before I give you the red flags…
- TALK to the FORMER and CURRENT authors of this publisher – especially the former ones because you will want to know why they left.
- Talk to the publisher to ask them what their marketing strategy would be with your book, or if it would all fall to you. I know that with most publishers it all falls to you, but this is a question you can ask them. (Not on every contract you sign with the publisher of course but when first signing with a new publishing house – certainly!)
- Look at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other e-retailers and see what sort of online presence that they have there. Look at their books and see what their overall book sales rankings are. If they are all in the millions – run.
- Look at their “biggest sellers” and again – look at their books on e-retailers and see what sort of presence they have. Again, if they are ranked in the millions – run.
- Now we go to Social Media. You want to look for the publisher on SM and see what sort of following they have on Facebook, Twitter, Triberr, Pinterest – if the publisher doesn’t have fan pages that are in the 10k plus range at least on Facebook – run. If they don’t have Fan pages for the publishing company, only a “personal page” – run.
- While on SM you want to look and see what sort of posts that they’ve been running. You want to see that they post for their authors, that they post their releases, cover reveals, excerpts, and just general positive posts about their authors and the works that they have out there as well as the upcoming works. You also want to look and make sure that they are posting equally for all of their authors.
Okay, so now onto the red flags that I wanted to write this post for. I’ve been around the block for a while and I’ve sadly seen and lived through some bad contracts.
Some of these points will mirror the tips, and it’s because the tips and the flags really go hand in hand. So here we go…
- If you talk to a prior author and they refuse to tell you WHY they left the publishing company, it might not be a company you want to publish with.
- If the publisher has their contract available to look at before you can sign it, LOOK IT OVER CAREFULLY!
- You want to look for publishing term length (DO NOT sign a contract where they want your book for more than five years)
- Look for what media outlets that they want to publish your book in – ebook only? Audio? Etc. DO NOT sign a “blanket” contract where they have the rights to publish your book in any format or language that they want.
- Check and see what their royalty terms are like – if they are offering to pay you X% of net sales you need to know how often they intend to pay you these royalties and HOW they intend to pay you.
- Make sure that you GET A ROYALTY STATEMENT WITH EACH CHECK YOU GET! And make sure that Those terms are in the contract, it should be – if it’s not – RUN. If you sign a contract and it states you should get a RS and you don’t get one – this is a breach of contract and something that you, with the help of an attorney, will able to get out of your contract, if you need to. Some publishers don’t grasp how essential these are to authors. If you make a penny or a million dollars you SHOULD receive a Royalty Statement.
- Check and make sure that you have full control over editing, are able to have input on your cover, and release date. If not – run.
- If you aren’t given a date for the release of your book, you shouldn’t sign the contract. You should at least be given a month and year and not just be left in limbo with the book.
- If the publisher doesn’t have their contract available to view, ask them to view it before you are willing to sign it.
- If the publisher doesn’t have a Facebook “Fanpage” (for example my publisher’s Fanpage: https://www.facebook.com/evernightpublishing/) then you shouldn’t sign with them because they haven’t put in enough work yet on their publishing company to think through everything that they need to do.
- Check the publisher’s website. If the publisher has a website that is hard to navigate or looks like it was put together by a high schooler – you might want to rethink what you are doing. If they still have the “wordpress” or “blogger” at the bottom of their website – run! Seriously! If they can’t even host their own website – RUN! Because they obviously have NO long-term goals or they just don’t care. You want a publisher with a great looking, easy to use website. Again, take Evernight’s website for example. (evernightpublishing.com – super user friendly and easy to use)
- If the publisher only promotes part of their authors and not all of them, this is a red flag, one that you need to talk to other authors in the publishing house to find out why this is. It’s not a “run” situation – but one that you need to investigate to find out why. ** This could be something as simple as the authors asking for promotion where others don’t. Thus why this isn’t necessarily a run situation but an ASK situation. (**For example, my publisher, Evernight Publishing, is AWESOME about promoting their authors – ESPECIALLY if you ASK them to. Prime example, I asked for them to do a cover reveal my my latest book and they did – like the next day!)
- Again – talk to other authors, especially the previous ones because they are the ones that will know if this publisher is a good one or not.
- If you notice that an author walked away from a series –mid series– then contact them and find out why. This is a HUGE red flag! Seriously, this is something that you need to know. You can approach them in a way that will make them want to talk to you, not an off-putting way. (*add on to this…. It could be that the author simply hasn’t finished the series, started on another track or started a new series or the series is complete in the authors mind, so when you do contact the author make sure that you approach them with the question of – hey I’m thinking of signing with XYZ publishing and I noticed that you didn’t complete TJH series and I was just curious as to why, does it have to do with the publisher?)
- If the publishing contract has the copyright in the publishing house favor – RUN! The copyright should always be in the author’s name and should always be registered by the author – always.
- If there is ANY charge to you AT ALL – do not sign. Seriously! If a publisher wants to charge you for ANYTHING, including EDITING, COVERS, etc – DO NOT SIGN!! This is all a part of them taking the larger portion of the royalties! I mean seriously!! DO NOT SIGN!! Steer clear of these presses because this is NOT what you want. There are a lot of presses out there that don’t charge you for these features. (HONEST PUBLISHERS!) I can name off at least three if you need for me to!
- If a publisher has a clause in their contract where they can negotiate “on your behalf” any and all other mediums such as screenwriting, audio, radio, etc – DO NOT SIGN! This is a huge red flag. Do not sign anything where you are giving away your rights to negotiate anything on your own behalf.
- If a publisher only wants to talk to you on the phone or via Facebook and not give you their “verbal commitments” (ie: marketing budget, print books, ebooks, etc) via a written clause in the contract – RUN.
- If there is a clause in your contract that an owner or someone with authority will be a “mentor” of your books, this opens it up for them to put their names on your books as “co-authors” even if you wrote the entire book – do not sign this! This is a HUGE red flag! Don’t do it. I’ve seen authors getting ripped out of their entire series AND their PEN NAMES because of this little gem right here!!
I’m not an attorney, I’ve never played one on television and I don’t pretend to know everything – I just have been screwed over more than once and I want to educate as many people as I can about bad contracts.
So please my darlings – do your research. Talk to people. Listen, watch, learn and so on!
One other thing to note… when you are talking to previous authors from said publishers I need you to make sure that you take them with a grain of salt – sometimes there are some bitter rivalries with authors / publishers so talk to more than one former author when investigating a publisher that you are interested in – just as you want to talk to more than one current author.
I think that about covers everything that I wanted to touch on. I know that there is a lot that I didn’t touch on and I hope that if you have something you would like add to this post you will comment below. If you’ve had a bad experience – please tell us what happened – just leave out the publisher name.
Until next week my darlings!
Remember always be good to each other, and never be a mean girl.