Independent Success! Breakthroughs in Publishing
Your Money and Your Life: Read the fine print in e-publisher contractsIt is a new century and new millennium, and I for one applaud the authors who are taking back the publishing industry. We are the producers of the very product that drives this industry and it is about time that we have something to say about how this business is run. Therefore, the trend towards e-publishing is a good one for authors, with many benefits. However, wherever there is an industry, there is a scam.
In the same way that the short, chubby girl-next-store is a super model for $500 at your local modeling school, so can any "writer" become a "published author" these days with the glut of e-publishing companies aggressively marketing themselves to the na‘ve and lazy. Additionally, an even more insidious threat looms than a shoddy book and the loss of money for authors with a prolific and profitable future.
Has anyone taken the time to get out their trusty magnifying glass (or turn up the font) and really read the fine print of some of the e-publishing contracts of late? I mean, really read it? Some authors are finding out the hard way that not only did they sign away their rights to their current book, but any and all future bursts of creativity, brainstorming sessions and day dreams that may have marketing potential. Most authors just want to write and get published, and to hell with how it happens. Publishing is a minefield of legalese and slavery if you don't know what to look for. It is time that authors take responsibility and realize that if they really do have the bone structure of a Cindy Crawford, they don't need to pay for modeling school, the big boys in the business will be happy to pay them (metaphorically speaking, of course).
Since I have been writing this column I have been contacted by several "e-publishing innovators" who have wanted me to profile them because they had such incredible offers for authors. Each ended up being little more than an easy way to scam novice writers. Sorry, this nut is hard to crack, and I take it personally when someone tries to use my writing to scam other writers. They didn't like what this writer had to say, or the no-nonsense way this Jersey girl had to say it.
You too can spot a fraud and stop them dead in their tracks! (Jersey girl accent and attitude is optional and may require intense mentoring or Soprano viewing). Knowledge is power and your best defense. So grab your manuscript and let's get started. First, decide what type of e-publisher you would like to work with.
Know Your Target
Commercial - This type of e-publishing is the closest to traditional publishing. In fact, they are often run by traditional publishers. These publishers do not accept all submissions, but for those submissions that they do accept there should be no cost. They pay authors with royalties and provide formatting, editing, marketing and retailing services. These types of publishers may work best for authors who have a track record of published work, are a public figure, have a timely idea or have been a working journalist.
Subsidiary - These publishers have the widest variety of services and costs. They often charge fees, will accept any submissions and provide little to no editing, marketing and retailing. These type of publishers may work best for novice writers who have had a hard time breaking in with the commercial e-publishers and do not have the capital to self publish. They allow authors to establish a sales record and presence that will give their next manuscript more weight with a commercial publisher.
Play It Safe Or Daring Devil?
Go commercial and hurry up and wait or take your chances with a daring subsidiary? The benefits of going with a commercial publisher would seem to be the same as those of with going with a large traditional publisher. You receive many services, no up-front cost to the author, and the benefit of their marketing and retailing force. Subsidiary publishers do vary wildly, and often have a bad reputation for being scam artists. But there are many out there that are not. Authors can receive excellent services, fast publication and high royalty rates. Some even offer marketing, editing, print-on-demand and formatting services.
Be The One In Control
The real difference lies in control. There is a silent, insidious form of slavery that many authors have either overlooked or chosen to ignore in their haste to be published. Some have signed outrageous contracts that have literally made them slaves to e-publishers for life. It is not uncommon for authors to sign away rights to future works that spring from their current work, rights to any and all forms of media that exist now or will exist and any future works they will ever write. That isn't a contract -- that is literally putting a harness on a writer! I want to grab those writers and shake them and say "Did you even READ this!?!" Don't think this isn't possible -- it happens all the time, even to working journalists. (Check out the web links provided below.) Unfortunately, these types of contracts were once standard with commercial publishers and writers seemed to rush to sign them. No matter what publisher you chose, read your contract and realize what controls you are giving up.
Success Is A Series Of Choices
This does not have to happen to you. There are plenty of reputable publishers out there that are looking for talented writers and are ready and willing to take you as far as you want to go. Here is what you want to look for:
* Check out the publisher's website. How does it load? Do you enjoy navigating it? Can you easily click and buy the books that are advertised on it?
* Do a background check. Find out who the publisher is. There is NO excuse for an author to say they had no idea that a publisher had a bad reputation. There are plenty of resources to check out publishers.
* Go right to the source. Get the contact information of several authors and contact them. More than likely, they will be happy to share.
* Go Shopping. Your ultimate goal is to be a successful author. The best-case scenario is a publisher that offers your book all over the Internet. Amazon.com lists anything with an ISBN number, so that doesn't count (and don't let a publisher sell you by telling you they will have you listed there-it isn't a big deal). Pick several authors, from several different genres, and pop the book name in to a search engine like google.com. See where it takes you and see where the publisher is taking the author.
* Know what you own. Your most important assets as a writer are your ideas and your rights. Never take anyone's word, never shake hands and always get it in writing.
* Do it yourself. There is always self-publishing. If you know your topic and can buzz it, you may do better off just getting your manuscript prepared and selling it yourself.
It is a big, bad world out there my friends, and writers should be scared. With some publishers willing to infringe now and meet you in court later, it is up to you to protect and enforce you rights. However, this doesn't mean you are doomed to the hell of the unpublished, paranoid writer. Careful research and thorough negotiation can get you well on your way to cyber success!
Check out these links for further information including articles, warnings and further resources: