Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Okay, so it's a rant on unscrupulous authors.

There's a disturbing thing happening among authors which affects us all. I doubt it is a new phenomenon but seems to happen more with the smaller press. A few authors are going through the submissions and acceptance process, the editing, getting their cover...everything. They're being easy to work with and then within a week or two before the release date, they pull their title and self-publish it in it's new polished form.

This is wrong on so many accounts. Many of the editors, who work on royalty percentages of books sold, are completely screwed over. Some of the artists are finding their artwork bastardized or in some bold cases--outright used as is with no compensation. In my mind this is akin to theft. The publisher staff, editors and artists work in anticipation of being paid when the book starts selling.

Now I do know not all publishing houses work this way. Many small pubs do. They cannot afford to hire on staff and editors and pay them wages or flat fees for services. I'm lucky enough to have a mix of the two: Damnation Books pays flat fees for art but everyone else works on royalties. Eternal Press is royalty based for everyone.

So, how does this affect us all? It makes for tougher decisions for everyone involved. The one solution I see is publishers including early termination fees in their contracts. It's not a tactic to screw the author but to protect themselves and their staff from those few who want to abuse the services they provide. At least those persons who have put work into the book get something for their efforts.

Additionally, publishers are including a clause in the termination section of the author's contract which guarantees a work will not be republished anywhere in any form for 6 months to a year after the story rights are returned to the author. That's skirting a fine line with author rights but one that's sadly become necessary to discourage the unscrupulous few.

How prevalent is this? I can speak from my own experience in that in the year I've been a small publisher, I've had it happen twice and believe I have warded off one more. I have also lost good authors with incredible stories because they wouldn't sign a contract with early termination fees or no publishing guarantees included. We all lose in the long run.

Even the authors who pull their titles and self-publish lose. Most of them are not taking account promotions, publisher reputation and distributions...all of which will become stumbling blocks for them if they are not careful. The publisher won't ever take them on again and others will see what happened and avoid the author as well. I'll never understand someone hurting their own future in publishing that way but it's happening. A lot.

I'm counting on you not being one of those few. I did want to discuss the subject to explain why fees and guarantees are now showing up should you run across a contract with them. As a publisher, I don't want authors to terminate their contracts. I want to publish and sell the books.

2 Comments:

At 4:47 PM, Blogger Kathryn Magendie said...

I'm flabbergasted! I had no idea this kind of thing happened....!

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger Karen L. Alaniz said...

Wow. That's crazy! As if it's not hard enough to get an agent/publisher- now they have another reason to not take a chance on a newbie. Boo!

 

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