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Why POD Contracts Could Be Bad For Authors

Ed Bott recently wrote in a Forbes article:
“Over the years, I have read hundreds of license agreements. But I have never, ever seen a legal document like the one Apple has attached to its new iBooks Author program.  I read EULAs (End User License Agreements) so you don’t have to.  I’ve spent years reading these, looking for issues or just trying to figure out what the agreement allows and doesn’t allow.  I have never seen a EULA as mind-bogglingly greedy and evil as Apple’s EULA for its new ebook authoring program.  Apple, in this EULA, is claiming a right not just to its software, but to its software’s output.”

Well, Apple is not the only one who is greedy, it seams Mr. Bott  yet hasn’t seen the contracts between most POD service companies and authors:
Some POD publishers will do anything to make it financially and logistically impossible for you to switch to another POD publisher if  you are unhappy with their services or if you want to become an independent publisher.  Their contracts might include a clause, buried in the middle of their contract that states they own all rights to the materials you have paid them to create:

  • Editing,
  • Cover design,
  • Custom interior illustrations or
  • the final edited and formatted copy of the interior of your manuscript.

Imagine paying someone hundreds, or even thousands of dollars,  to edit or format your book but not getting a copy of the final, edited version for your own use?  Why should any author pay for something they will not be able to take with them and use it elsewhere?

Most authors don’t read the fine print or don’t let it check buy an attorney – an essential step in every business dealing.  They only realize that they have signed over all their production file rights to the POD publisher until it is too late.  Here are some samples of contracts, which seem to be fine, until a legal advisor explains what they mean:

Company 1
Charging $1022 POD fees
: “We may agree to provide you a file containing an image of the cover of your Title (‘Cover Image’). Contingent upon your receipt of such Cover Image, we hereby grant you, during the term of this Agreement, a worldwide, royalty-free right to use the Cover Image for any lawful purpose related to promoting your Title.”
You think this sounds fair?  Think again… It means, you can only use it to promote and market your title while they’re publishing your book and, per the wording above, they aren’t required to give you a copy at all. If you use one of their templates, they own the rights to that file, too. This means you can’t use the cover you paid them to create if you move to another publisher in the future. A No-Go!

Company 2
Charging $1517
for Cover design and interior formatting:
“We will retain in our possession all of the materials submitted by you. We will have no obligation to provide to you any submitted materials or production files at anytime or for any reason.”
Do not sign this!

Company 3
Charging $1972
for their POD services
“The Author acknowledges and agrees that (publisher) retains all property rights and all ownership of all data, files, and materials that (publisher) prepares for the publication of the Work, including but not limited to production data, files, and materials, whether or not completed, in the possession of (publisher) and/or on (publisher)s’ computers and servers. This means:  files and data that have been generated by (publisher) (i.e. design files), are the property of (publisher).”  First of all they are not publishers, but a ordinary service company.  You pay for it – and they own it….
Not a good decision to sign this in a contract!

Company 4
Charging $1324
for their POD services
“We will retain in our possession all of the materials submitted by you. We will have no obligation to provide to you any submitted materials or production files at anytime or for any reason.”
A No-Go!

Company 5
Charging $999
for their POD services
“Author shall have the right to purchase the text (for sums, between $300 and $1,500!) and cover digital production files of the Work in PDF format upon the effective date of termination of this agreement.”

This means: You pay them once to create the files, and you have to pay them again to receive a copy of it from them. This seems to be the most ridiculous and greedy contract clauses in the entire POD industry!

What you just read are excerpts from the most popular POD companies’ contracts:  CreateSpace, AuthorHouse, Xlibries, Trafford and iUniverse….  

Author beware!  It seems to be much safer to hire your own editor, graphic / book designer and formatter, than to go through POD services – as these companies are charging pretty high fees, and on top of it all they earn  royalties from each of your book that is sold.

If you compare POD services to other contractors you hire, for sample to have new roofing on your house:  What would you say if the roofer has a clause in his contract that he owns the roof (for which you paid him top dollars) and if you want to sell your house later, you would have to pay for transferring the roof into your possession – if this is possible at all…  Not a good thing.

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Hyper Smash

 

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How to Choose an eBook Publisher – or DIY


There is quite a difference between a real e-book publisher who pays an advance and then publishes your finished book or an e-book publishing company which is in reality often vanity publishing and takes a certain commission from your book.

And then there are author service companies who charge small fees to produce your ebook, but then do not tap into your royalty and where you can earn 100 percent of your ebook whole sale price.  In all three variations the e-book retailers (Amazon, B&N, Apple, Sony, Diesel etc.) always get a percentage of the e-book sales, mostly around 30%, for providing their sales platform, point-of-sales cost, money transfer fees, workforce, marketing etc.

Compare e-book publishing company commission rates.|
E-book publishing companies hook you to have your book published without investing a dime, but as they act now as the official publisher they retain a big portion of your e-book sales to themselves – which is often not a good deal for you. They offer free ISBN numbers, an amount that is negligible ($25), and then take 15% commission (Smash Words).  If your book becomes successful you lose out on a lot of money!

Your investment will not be more than $500 and $900 if you research for professional, yet inexpensive editing, cover design, ISBN number (free in Canada), book formatting and uploading.  Author service companies such as BookBaby.com offer all these services, but don’t act as publisher and don’t take any commission from the whole sale price. You receive 100%.

Read the fine print; know your contract.
Before you commit to publishing an e-book with any company, always read the fine print.

Contact a lawyer who is specialized on publishing contracts and copyright issues and who can check your contract before you sign!

Research copyright details
Every publishing company plays by a different set of rules. Make sure that the e-book publisher you use allows you to retain the rights to your work.

This is another reason why you need to let a lawyer screen your contract.

Screen the e-Publisher
E-publishers can be anything, from very amateurish to very professional:

  • Is their website professionally designed and easy to navigate? Is the text well-written and formatted? The website is the publisher’s shopping window, and should reflect professionalism.
  • Does their staff have publishing, editing, or marketing experience? Beware of publishers that don’t provide this information on their websites.
  • How long has the publisher been in business?  Are there any complaints about the publisher or its staff? A web search on the publisher’s name (and words such as “complaint”, ”issues”, “problems”, “caution”) will sometimes turn up information–often on authors’ websites or in their blogs.
  • Are other writers happy with the publisher? Contact a few of them, and ask.
  • Order a couple of the publisher’s books. Are they of good quality? Professionally presented? How’s the cover art? Do they show signs of having been edited? Have they been proofread? What’s the caliber of the writing? Bad, poorly formatted, and/or sloppily-edited books do not encourage readers to return for more.
  • For print books, if the publisher produces them, the royalty rate will be lower, but shouldn’t be less than what print publishers pay for trade paperback books–7%-10% of list.
  • What’s the optimum price for an e-book? There’s no consensus, and prices are all over the map. The big print houses charge as much as $14.99, while independent e-Publishers tend to stick to the $4.00 to $7.00 range.
  • How does the publisher market itself and its titles? As noted above, e-book authors are expected to shoulder a lot of the responsibility for marketing and promotion, but a professional e-Publisher will actively support its books–for instance, investing in some form of meaningful advertising to attract readers to its site, sending out press releases and advance reading copies, and attending conventions and book fairs.
  • How forthcoming is the publisher? A reputable e-Publisher should be willing to answer your questions about things like sales figures and formats, give references, make its contract available for your review, and in general to provide information about itself and its publications (preferably on its website).
  • A publisher that charges a fee or requires you to buy something as a condition of publication is either a vanity publisher or a self-publishing service, no matter what its claims to the contrary.

EPIC, an association for electronically-published authors, has a helpful list of contract clauses to watch out for. Explore their “Red Flag List” to find clauses that could become an issue with your future publisher.

 

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Victims of Vanity Publishers

                                                                                                                                               
I just read another rather shocking contract from one  of these self-called “publishers” and it makes me really mad to realize how they screw writers, using the fact that it is very hard to penetrate the book market – at least it was in the past.  

Now with e-books and such distributors as Amazon, Google, Apple and many more it became easier for writers to self-publish. But as for paper books they are prone to fall into the trap of one of these scam artists.

Reading the ads of “publishers” very carefully, you will find out that in 99 percent of all cases they are VANITY PUBLISHERS or self-publishing firms, who lure in innocent authors with visions of best-sellerdom and who over-charge for their services.  Real publishing houses do not have to advertise, they are overwhelmed with pitches and manuscripts.

Real publishers sell to readers – vanity publishers try to sell to writers!

As soon as you, the author, is asked to pay ANYTHING, this company is NOT a publisher! Rather a savvy (and scrupulous) agent for printers, freelance editors and cover designers.

The expression “publisher” should be legally protected and it should be forbidden by law to call themselves publishers!

 Here are some voices of screwed and angry authors that I read in the past in chat rooms:

DO NOT USE …. UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES!  It is a mistake I will be paying for, for a long time. It took them 12 months to form my manuscript into a book. In that time they merged with ….. and after that time it was impossible to get anything done unless I kicked and screamed my way up to the Vice-President!  I foolishly signed the 10% royalty agreement because I thought they would incentivize the bookstores to buy my book, but they haven’t done any marketing of my book to this point. Only trying to sell their current authors more services… I paid for the Premier Plus option which was at the time the highest and most expensive service they offered and they have not fulfilled much of what they said they would do. I also think they are now screwing me on the sales of my books as well. I can’t get a royalty report from them and they say they have to wait until (months after the close of the quarter) to get their reports.”

“I am their client too and very much disappointed with the way my book is handled, unless it is the matter of grabbing money, it is difficult to get a response.”

“I SHOULD HAVE SEEN THIS WEBSITE MUCH BEFORE .I HAVE READ ALL THE COMMENTS THERE IS NOT A SINGLE INDIVIDUAL HAPPY. I PAID OVER $6000, THEY COULD NOT SELL A SINGLE BOOK ALL THE TIME I AM BUYING MY OWN BOOK…”

“The flag ship of the vanity/POD industry is sinking herself. HMS …. is going down the toilet.”

“I wish I had seen this site (and many others popping up out there) before paying … to destroy my four years of hard work.”

“Stay away from those people, do not invest a penny in …. Save yourself time, money and frustration! Buyer beware! Author beware! Writer beware!

 

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